Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Shopping Day

Now that you've opened your new shiny toys what are you going to do with them?

Many people will have gotten things that can be upgraded.  Computers mainly, but there are other items you might need like cables and so forth that you are considering.   Having just gone through that with my neighbors, Mother and Son both getting each other PCs for the holidays, I was asked by both what they may need to use it "better".

The answer is another question - how exactly do you intend to use the thing.  Almost all PCs out of the box are set up with a lot of crapware, trial software and annoyances that once you remove them they go faster.  The exception seems to be the Thinkpad from Lenovo and the Dell Business PCs.  Luckily one of those machines across the street is a Dell Business, the other was a Dell Home.  The difference was night and day.

If you are going to use it to Surf the Web, do Emails, get onto a site like Facebook or any of the other social networking sites, some word processing and spreadsheets, maybe get your finances done, Stop Here.  You're probably good to go with that new shiny computer as it was out of the box.   Maybe stop into a big box store and get some of those memory sticks so you can store your documents and save the money.  Take your family out to dinner with the savings and enjoy your new PC.

But if you've decided that you're going to upgrade that new shiny little PC then today and tomorrow especially and through until the new year will be good times to shop.  You just have to remember to look online and look aggressively.  Don't go to the first big box store's website and pull out the credit card.  One And Done online means you're probably spending more than you should.

I was looking at the online shopping sites and there are a lot of liquidation sales going on, and thought about upgrading one of my PCs since it is the one I use for graphics production.  The memory I need is now $29 a stick for 2GB sticks so for $60 I could have 4GB of memory to wallow around in.  Great, I know that Windows 7 64 Bit will work with that memory and help my video editing and graphics production go faster. 

How do you know if your computer will accept that much memory even at a "liquidation price"?

On Windows, click start and find the "run" box.   Type in the run box "winver" and hit enter.  It will come up and tell you what your machine is running, and may give you more information.  If it says 64 Bit anywhere, you can install as much as your machine will accept - and by now you realize that you will have to find out from your manufacturer by digging into their support sites whether the machine will handle what you intend to upgrade to.  Go ahead and search... you'll need to know.

If you did look and found out you can put in 4GB or 8GB then you may be able to upgrade safely. 

If you have 32 bit windows - it doesn't say 64 bit anywhere in that little windows, you are limited to accessing 3GB of memory.  Don't go past it because you're wasting  your money.

There are a couple of other "don't bother" things to worry about. 

If your new PC is a Netbook it will be very difficult physically to upgrade.  Some of the older ones even had the only memory stick it had soldered to the machine.  Research this and find out whether it is worth the effort.  Netbooks are notorious for being very flimsy - you may get that machine open and never get it working again.  A Netbook simply is not a Thinkpad, they are built for the absolute bottom rung of the market to be sold at a cheap price.  They're the feeder fish of the PC Aquarium.  Great for note taking but don't expect to even use the thing for watching HD Video online.

If you see "Windows 7 Starter Edition" when you started the machine up or looked in winver - don't go above 2GB of memory since it won't address it.  Spend your money on an upgrade to Windows 7 Home or Windows 7 Professional if you're going to use it on a work network with a domain.  Windows 7 has the "Windows Anytime Upgrade" wizard that will do it all automatically, then once your machine is upgraded to a "real" version of Windows, you can fully decide if you want to go with more memory.  Keep in mind, your machine will run Windows 7 Professional slowly if you only have 1GB of memory.  I have a 3 year old Thinkpad that is running Windows 7 Pro with 2GB and it is acceptable and that machine's hardware is still being sold new.

Now that you have negotiated all the Gotcha's where do you find the sales?

I started looking at and and found that is running a sale as well as and which is a good start. 

Dealnews and Techbargains are a good start since they go out and find all those discounts for you and cut some of the work out.  They are those aggregator sites that I was talking about.  They also make sure that the vendors that they are listing are valid and will show you discount codes that may get you free shipping or another discount on top.

Once you order, and the piece arrives, then the fun begins.  If this is all over your head, find yourself a 15 year old kid that will do it for you or throw some money at your neighborhood PC shop.  It may be worthwhile to have someone else do the research for you and just pull the parts out of their parts drawer instead of doing it yourself. 

For the most part, I've had good luck finding on places like instructional videos of how to pull apart machines, upgrade them, and do all sorts of repairs.  If you can find an appropriate video, it will be worth your viewing time.

There you go!  Are you confused yet?  Good and good luck!

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