Bits & P.C.s: The question

There have been many times that I am asked the question, “Should I buy a new computer?” Let’s take a look at determining the correct answer.

The first thing that you need to determine is whether you can afford to purchase a new computer. Many people are still paying off the computer that they bought three years ago when the retailers were giving huge rebates when you bought a computer and signed up for an on-line service. If you still owe money, you probably shouldn’t buy a new computer and add to your debt.

The second thing has to do with what you are using the computer for. If you have young children, the 5-year-old computer should be able to handle the educational software without a problem. If you have teenagers, they will want the newest and faster computer available to play the very graphic intensive games.

This is also true if you would like to do video and photo editing. A word processor or a spreadsheet does not require much computing power, but desktop publishing does require a more capable machine.

As computers have gotten faster, devices such as printers have become dumber. By this, I mean that this is using more of the computer’s power to run the printer. In the past the printer contained the circuitry necessary to interpret the data that the computer was sending to it to print. Today, many of the printers are not much more than a print head and motors to feed the paper as the computer tells it exactly what to do.

The same can be said for dial-up modems and other devices. A faster computer will help these devices to perform better. Along with this is that more memory will make the computer run faster. While the maximum useable memory in a Windows 98 computer is 512 MB, an XP computer can use 2 GB or more.

If you are looking to replace computers in your office or workplace, try to determine the amount of time that you wait for the computer to perform an action. Let’s say that it takes 12 seconds to recalculate a spreadsheet on a 500MHz computer. In theory, a 2 GHz machine should recalculate that file in three seconds, saving nine seconds. Every six recalculations would save about a minute, 60 would save 10 minutes. If you did this every day for a week, you would have saved almost an hour.

This is where it becomes easy for you to decide whether you should buy that new computer. Currently, a 2GHz Pentium 4 computer with a 40GB hard drive, CD Writer and 128MB RAM is selling for less than $500. In fact, Dell was recently including a 17" monitor in the deal.

If you are paying an employee $10 per hour, you will have gained 50 hours of production time over the year, which works out to $500, which equals a free computer. If you have an automotive shop that charges $60 per hour, the savings would amount to $3,000, or five free computers.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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