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Be a budget conscious tech owner

Money is tight but there are many ways to cut costs when it looks like it’s time for a new computer.

There are improvements you can make to your own computer to delay purchasing a new system. Improve performance quickly and inexpensively by increasing RAM. Increase capability by adding or replacing a video card, or by adding a DVD burner, media card reader or wireless. An operating system reload will take your computer back to “like new” performance. If you just need a new look, recycle that outdated CRT monitor and replace it with a slim LCD monitor.

Watch for sales on computer systems. Now that we have survived Vista and are settling in with Windows 7, stores are anticipating stronger demand for computer systems. Use caution when purchasing tech products at unbelievable prices. Expect that you may be buying economy models, and some are built especially for those rock-bottom prices. Know that at discount pricing, computer manufacturers may be forced to find cost cutting alternatives to their standard components. Manufacturers may also cut costs by not providing replacement hardware for bargain models.

A less common alternative is purchasing a rebuilt computer. Many times these are computers formerly used in a corporate environment, and should be completely clean of previous activity. Unless you will be adding Linux, an “alternative” operating system, the rebuilt computer should always come with a valid Windows operating system sticker with the product key. A competent seller will provide at least a 30-day warranty and offer an extended warranty for a small fee.

A rebuilt computer is a good option if you prefer XP over Windows 7. While the newer operating systems require at least 1 to 2 GB of RAM, XP performs quite well with 512 MB (.5 GB.) The processor is the computer’s key component and should be around 2 GHz or better on a rebuilt system. Expect an 80 GB hard drive, which will be sufficient for typical data files and operations. Additional hard drive space is needed for more advanced graphics operations, or extensive storage of music, videos or photos.

When purchasing a used computer, you need to be certain that any software installed, including the operating system, is a legal copy and includes the license number. Software can be pirated, and a buyer should make sure that product keys are included. Legitimate sellers will provide product keys, or may install other “shareware” software which is available free of charge. Be sure to install and activate anti-virus software before exploring the Internet.

If you chose to cut costs and purchase a rebuilt computer, be globally responsible by trading, selling or donating your old computer. Goodwill and Salvation Army may accept your donation. Visit to find drop-off times for electronics recycling.

Do you have questions you would like answered or topics you would like to see addressed in this column? Please send in your ideas for future tech columns to patty@

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277.