As the economy still struggles to recover, retailers across the land are upping their advertising with shiny new bargains for rock-bottom prices. Before you are enticed by splashy signs and promises of that perfect computer, consider wisely.
What are you buying? Know what processing speed, RAM and hard drive space you will need and the difference. Research the current deals, and compare it to the requirements you determined you needed. You can also save money by opting out of the newest options, such as Bluetooth, Blu-ray, and wireless-N. Wait a year or so for those prices to drop. For now, enjoy the improvements that have already dropped in price, such as a web-cam, DVD-RW and low-cost RAM.
Is there a warranty? Most stores will supply a minimum 30-to 90-day warranty with a computer purchase. An extended warranty of one to three years will be an additional cost. For laptops, there are accident warranties that cover everything from drops to broken screens. Ask about that early or they might ask you when there are 10 anxious shoppers waiting behind you.
“Special Purchase”: Beware of systems created especially for a sale or for a discount store. Manufacturers may meet low-cost requirements by cutting corners on components. As a seller of components, we know that lower prices often pan out to shorter life or lower performance. A more severe consequence -- replacement parts availability. We recently had a service customer in need of a motherboard for their 13-month-old desktop computer and the part was not in existence. The model and serial numbers indicated that the computer had been manufactured specifically for a discount chain. Even if parts can be found, they often have limited availability and carry a premium price.
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Tech Support: Take a moment while you are in the store to try to contact tech support for the computer you want to purchase. This might give you an idea of the wait time required with that manufacturer. There are companies with excellent tech support, provided by phone, at their site or yours. Talk to others or research on line to find the best support. Another option is to find a good deal at a small store where they will provide support face to face.
Antivirus: After any computer purchase, be sure to get your anti-virus and anti-spyware up and running before you surf the web. Most new systems come with an anti-virus trial that expires in a short time. These anti-virus programs often are cumbersome using a lot of system resources. Some brands also run programs in the background for their own benefit and can be very difficult to uninstall. We recommend AVG as an anti-virus solution, which does a thorough job, runs cleanly and costs less.
There are times when a bargain basement computer will come in handy, but if you will be supporting your business with this computer, or managing highly valuable files, you might want to reconsider. As always, old computer or new, run a regular back up for your valuable files.
Michael Shaffer, owner of Computer Renaissance of Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.