Do We Recommend the Purchase of a Used Computer?

In the past we have arranged for customers to purchase used machines,  but these machines have not generally lasted as long or been as stable as we had hoped they would be.

Buying a used computer I now think is worse than buying a used car.  Sure everything appears to work ok when it is purchased, but it will come with almost no warranty and is generally much closer to a hardware failure of a component than a new one would be. Also pretty much everyone charges too much for used machines.  They lose value quickly and in my view are always priced about $100.00 too high.

Some folks end up doing this because they want XP or Vista when Windows 7 is the only easy choice on a new machine.

Your local computer place, especially if you can find a good mom and pop shop, can build you a new machine and install these older operating systems if that is what you need;  but it is going to cost a couple of hundred dollars more generally than if you were just able to buy a new machine off the shelf.  I am referring to Desktop computers here, as it will become increasingly harder to put older operating systems on Laptop computers because it is difficult to get the right drivers.

If you need a Laptop with Vista or Windows XP today, then you will likely need to buy a business class machine such as the Dell Latitude.  You will pay a little more, but drivers for the older operating systems will still be available.  Also you will need help potentially getting the older operating system on the machine, as it will still come with Windows 7 by default unless they have an option to change that at purchase time.

We are now recommending to our customers that they purchase new machines if they need the older operating systems still. It costs more up front, but will pay for itself on the back end with increased stability and machine life.

Is an All-In-One Computer in a Screen a Good Idea?

I am something of a traditionalist when it comes to computers, which means I pick what is tried and true over the new fangled thing quite often.

If these newer things worked a little better in general I would not be as concerned, but these newer configurations (different from the traditional desktop or the traditional Laptop) seem to have more than their fair share of issues from what I have seen.

Today let’s take the case of the big computer in a screen.  I am not really sure what this idea is all about.  The machine is not portable, yet it crams all components into an extremely small space as if it were a portable.  With a wireless keyboard and mouse it has no other wires other than the power cord, but all the wires of the traditional desktop are usually out of everyone’s way so I do not see any real advantage there.

Plus you cannot ever get a bigger screen, you are stuck with the size of the screen you bought.

Of course all the parts inside are going to be proprietary in a design like this, which means if a componant fails outside of warranty it will be expensive and probably cost prohibitive to fix.

I cannot see any advantage for a machine like this for the consumer.  Get a traditional desktop (NOT a slimline) instead.


Did you know that Windows has a process to Check your Hard Disk?

Checking the hard disk in your computer for issues is not something that a lot of folks ever think about doing, at least until there is a real issue with the machine.  It should be done from time to time (at least annually I would say) as a preventative measure.

How to do it?  Well as with all things in Windows there are several ways to get there and none of them are wrong, but I like to right click the Start button or Orb and choose “Explore” or “Open Windows Explorer”.   Once the Windows Explorer appears then I like to find the C: drive on the left side and then right click on it and choose Properties.

On the resulting dialog box there is a Tools Tab.  Choose that.  The top button on the resulting dialog is the Check Disk button. Press that and I like to make sure both Checkboxes are checked.  Then press check now.

It will not actually check it now,  but it will ask if you wish to schedule a check for next boot.  Say Yes to that.

The next time you boot or reboot the computer then the check disk will run, and it could take an hour or so depending on the size of your disk, so do not do this when you are facing a deadline and need your computer.  You can watch at least the first part of the disk check,  if errors are thrown it is usually obvious even to the non-techie.  Once the disk check is done then Windows will start as usual.

Should You Worry if your Hard Drive is Clicking?

In a word: YES.

Now just because a drive is making noise does not mean that it is dead or even about to die, but noise is not the usual case for most drives, especially if it has been silent in the past and is suddenly making noise now.

First and foremost, if you do not have all the data files on this drive backed up please stop reading this immediately and go and back up your files.

There is a disk check option in Windows that you can use to get a feel for how the disk is doing. There are several ways to find it but I like to right click start and choose Explore or Open Windows Explorer. Find the C: drive and right click on it and choose properties. Then choose the Tools Tab. The Check Now button is at the top. Press that and mark both check boxes within. Windows will ask if you want to schedule this check for next boot and you will say yes.

The next time your computer reboots you can watch the disk check. I like to listen to the drive during the check as well and see what kinds of noises it is making.  If you are not sure about the noise you are hearing, get a professional opinion about it.

Does your computer start fast and then turn slow?

I recently got a Laptop computer in where the owner reported that his 7 month old Laptop with Windows 7 would boot ok and run ok for 5 to 10 minutes but would then become unusably slow.  Normally if a machine is slow this is apparent from the start.

After troubleshooting the machine we determined that the source of the issue was the hard disk. It was not completely dead and indeed we were able to get all of the files off of it and stored in a safe place, but running a scan on it produced more than a thousand errors.

A dying hard drive is the last thing that folks think of when their brand new computer has an issue, but if this user had not sought help when he did, that drive could have completely died before we were able to copy off all the files.  Hello thousand dollar guys, or the clean room data recovery folks.

The moral of this story?  If your computer is doing something weird, do not wait around to get it fixed . . . and also backing up all of your data to a secure place is always a good idea.

Welcome to the Redesigned Awesome Computer Help Website!

Our thanks to local Graphic Designer Jan Stephenson for helping us out with the new format of the website.  We intend to use this blog space to share ideas with our customers and the Internet at large. Watch this space for new and interesting things!

For today let’s talk anti-virus.  We have recently withdrawn our recommendation for any of the free anti-virus products. We used to recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, but we believe that asking someone who you are not paying to protect you from hundreds of thousands of malware traces in the world might be a lot to ask and a lot to expect.  We now exclusively recommend Vipre, and you can find it on the Best Antivirus page.