Mr. Modem
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Buying a New Computer

Technology has advanced so much during the past few years that any entry-level computer is going to have more than enough "horsepower" for the average computer user. So the days of being concerned about the size of the hard drive and speed of the processor have pretty much passed into history. A good computer help tip is that RAM (memory) is still vitally important so I would not recommend any new system with less than 512MB. 1GB is even better; and if you've got your eyeballs set on the full, bells-and-whistles version of Windows Vista, 2GB will warm the cockles of Mr. Gates' heart.

One topic I always encourage when giving out computer tips and help to shoppers is to purchase locally, if at all possible. Virtually every community has one or more reputable computer shops that build computers. There are many advantages of purchasing locally as opposed to going through mail order or online through Dell, Gateway, HP, Compaq, etc. First and foremost, service is generally outstanding. A local retailer that builds your computer will typically provide extraordinary service, help you with any computer questions, and answers your computer problems. Any local business understands that its future depends on its reputation within the local community, so it will generally bend over backwards to help.

I usually purchase two new systems a year, each one built for me by a local computer builder/retailer. A good computer help tip in that regard is based on my experience with local computer builders in that I've found that if I have computer problems, answers are found quickly, with minimal or no "down" time, no 800-number calls to Bangalore, no bureaucracy, no messages that let me know how important my call is, only to advise me that my approximate waiting time is 37 minutes.

Another computer help tip is the fact that many local computer builders will deliver and install your new system. Some will even copy data from your old computer to the new; and some will include an hour of training so they can show you how to use the CD-DVD burner or answer any computer issues and questions you may have. But the primary benefit is cultivating a relationship with a local computer builder/repair service so that you'll always have someone to turn to if a problem arises.

If you purchase your new PC from a local retailer/builder, there's also the benefit of keeping your hard-earned dollars right there within your community. You'll be supporting the tax base while at the same time supporting your local merchants. How good is that?

If you're not sure who to turn to for your new system, start making some inquiries; talk to friends, ask at local computer clubs for computer tips and help, and check the Yellow Pages and the business section of your newspaper. Keep asking and you'll discover that there are always one or two names that continually come up.

Another advantage of having a computer built for you is that you can get exactly the system you want. Or, if you're not sure what you want, you can discuss with the builder how you use your computer and benefit from the builder's suggestions and recommendations.

When you purchase off-the-shelf or online from a national outfit, your brand-new system will generally arrive loaded with all kinds of software that you'll probably never use. The first time you connect to the Internet, many of those programs will automatically register with their respective vendors which will open the door to pop-ups and nag screens galore, all inviting/harassing you to sign up for a variety of services, upgrades, etc., which creates unnecessary computer problems. Answers to any issues like this will always be to buy locally. I've never understood the philosophy behind loading up a new computer with gratuitous software. To me, that's like buying a new car that the dealer then drives for a thousand miles under the pretense of testing it out for you. By the time you get it home, it's a used car! Why accept a new computer with a hard drive that's already infested with software that you'll never use and probably never even know what it's for?

When I purchase new computers, the only thing I permit to be installed is Windows-though these days I prefer dual-boot Windows/Linux systems. This gets rid of many computer problems, answers all my computer questions about what was installed on my computer, and allows me to pick and choose what I want installed. By only permitting the operating system to be installed, and whatever drivers or programs are necessary for any peripheral devices I might purchase, I know I've got a squeaky clean hard drive and anything that gets installed on that computer will be installed by me. Doing this also ensures that I'll never look at my Programs or other folders and scratch my head wondering, "What's that program?"

Another one of my computer hints, tips and recommendations is if your computer builder normally installs a plethora of programs, review a list of programs beforehand and tell the builder which ones, if any, you want installed. It's your computer; you should decide what's installed or not. Once I setup my new computer, then I'll install a few of my favorite 'can't-live-without-'em' programs, and I'm good to go. You'll find a list of Mr. Modem's Favorite Programs in my Web-based Library.

Last, but not least, when purchasing a new computer, tips and help I always give out is to obtain the original Windows installation CD. Some of the big-boy retailers won't include the installation CD or will place a 'restore utility' on a drive partition, which serves no useful purpose if you experience a drive failure. Obtaining the original Windows installation CD is rarely a problem with local computer builders. In most cases, it's automatically included, but it never hurts to mention it, just to be sure. If you ever need to reinstall Windows or if a file becomes corrupted, or if you need to reinstall a component, you're pretty much out of luck unless you have the original Windows installation CD.

If you do obtain specs for a new computer and you would like to review those with me or discuss anything about your possible new purchase, if you subscribe to my weekly newsletter, simply send me an email and let's discuss it! If you're not a subscriber, visit for complete information or to subscribe so you can get more computer hints, tips and most importantly, real information.

Computer tips and help and personal answers to your computer questions are always just an email away.