Nov 21, 2005

Mis-Behavin' PC: Repair or Replace?

Over the years, people have replaced their PCs only because they became too buggy. I'm sure a lot of people do this because, not having an intrinsic interest in PCs and software, as I do, it's easier. But it's an expensive way both in terms of money and effort to rebuild your content. Here are my suggested alternative to total replacement:

  1. Buy a flash stick with enough capacity, like 128 MB or more. Put your content files on it so if the whole PC crashes and burns, you at least still have your files. Usually, this just means copying the huge file "My Documents" onto your flash stick. Even if you do decide to move to a new PC, you can load all your files onto the new one easily. This should cost about $40-50. You COULD use a CD to do this, but flash sticks are useful and easy on a continuing basis for file transfer.
  2. Copy to a blank CD those applets that you've added to your PC after its initial installation, for which you don't have CDs or are not on your installation CDs. This would include your browser customization, cookies, etc. Such things are a PAIN to reproduce and some favorite applets have been retired and are gone for good except on your hard drive. Unfortunately you'd also be copying some of the software problems. If you copy your entire Programs file onto the CD, you should have 'picked up' all these little applications. Blank CDs are cheap, like fifty cents or less. There are web-based storage that you can back-up to, then download again, but I'm paranoid about privacy.
  3. Now, take your PC to Fry's or another competent PC repair place and ask them to diagnose your hard drive (about $60-70 dollars). Sometimes, they can 'clean up' your hard drive, get rid of 'offending' software including possible bugs, viruses or erroneously executing programs, increase your RAM (this chip can cost up to $70) ... and make your old PC work better.
  4. If they cannot diagnose/fix the causes of your problems, they can reformat your drive, then reload your original software. Then you PC should be like the first day you got it. You reload your content from your flash stick (which may restore your bugs also.)
  5. If the source of your problems is a damaged hard drive, then a drastic step is to replace your hard drive. New drives, depending on the capacity, a new PC drive can cost $50-$100 and having a pro reload your software is probably another $100.
For between $100-$300, you can over-haul your PC. The end result won't be as good as a brand new PC, one with new software, better features... but it also doesn't cost $500 which is the price for the least expensive, minimal configuration DESKTOP. [Saw an ad for $300 desktop, with rebates.]

The decision is alot like for cars: repair or replace? I have seen bare-bones new laptops for less than $1,000. And I know people who've been very happy with their 'pre-loved' laptops, or eBay bargains.

Your old PC is probably fully depreciated by now, and your time, effort and emotional state are worth a lot too. A brand new PC for Christmas can feel just great!

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