Should You Repair Your Computer or Replace It?
The dilemma that every computer user ultimately faces is whether to repair, upgrade, or replace their computer system. Of course, there’s no right answer to this question, as there are many variables and individual situations to consider.
Although we are a computer service company, we also sell computers, so my perspective isn’t to try to talk everyone into repairing everything. It’s really important that you completely understand the pros and cons of both repairing and replacing your computer before you make a decision.
The key to making a good decision is by clarifying your financial circumstances and understanding what your computer needs are, and by carefully researching market prices. It’s important to clarify why your computer’s performance may no longer meet your needs.
Some of the typical ‘upgrades’ to a computer system include the following:
- Add more/faster RAM (memory)
- Install a new hard drive with more storage capacity
- Add a higher-end graphics or sound card
- Get rid of that old clunky CRT monitor in favor of a flat screen LCD monitor
- Upgrade your operating system
You can do any of these upgrades for less than the cost of a new computer. However, if there are several upgrades you are considering, it would be wise to research prices carefully and consider purchasing a new system.
Often times, folks that are in a hurry go out and buy a new computer assuming that it will solve all their problems. It’s entirely likely that it won’t solve your problem; it simply changes your problem and can come with a few hidden expenses you hadn’t thought of. What I mean is that your problem went from having a computer that had everything just the way you like it but wasn’t performing properly to having a computer that doesn’t have any of your programs, documents, address books, e-mails, printer drivers, bookmarks, pictures, music, video, WiFi settings or a host of other items that you weren’t really aware were important.
What you must evaluate is if the actual cost (and the associated pain) to replace your computer is preferable to the cost of repairing it. This greatly depends upon your ability and/or desire to do all the work to get your new computer to look like your old computer.
Make sure you aren’t making your decision based on these common misconceptions:
Misconception #1: The advertised price of a computer is the total price!
Very few people can actually make use of a computer advertised at $300 because it’s usually a pretty basic, low-end computer designed to get you into the store so they can up sell you.
Here is a list of items that often add to the ‘advertised’ price:
- Upgrades to memory, processor or hard drive space to make it suitable for your working conditions
- Antivirus or other security programs (watch out for ‘trial versions’ that expire in 30-90 days)
- Monitors (for desktop computers) if you need a new one
- Higher capacity battery (for laptop computers) as some low cost units come with a small capacity battery
- Transfer of data from your old computer to the new one (up to $200 if you don’t know how to do it yourself)
- Updated versions of your programs (if they are older)
Misconception #2: Microsoft Office comes with Windows, doesn’t it?
Sneaky computer manufacturers have fed this misconception to customers over the years. Computers may be pre-loaded with a trial or limited-use ad-displaying versions to trick buyers that aren’t paying attention.
This isn’t a problem if you have your licensed copy of your old software and it will run on the newer operating system, but this leads to another ‘oh %@#$#’ moment: you don’t have any idea where your old program disks are which means you have to buy new disks (a $50 – $500 surprise) or switch to a free alternative that doesn’t work the same.
In early versions of Windows, you could copy programs from one computer to another and they would generally work, but today you must install each program you wish to have on your new computer.
Misconception #3: I have all my important files backed up!
This one comes from 10+ years of working with customers that get a new computer; everything I care about is in the My Documents folder right? Not always!
Depending upon the programs that you have installed, your critical financial files, for instance, could reside within the programs folders far away from the My Documents folder. If you have multiple user profiles for different member of your family, you need to make sure the data that resides in each person’s profile has been backed up.
Misconception #4: Copying my old files to the new computer is all I need to do, right?
Even if you have done a good job of backing up all the data for each user, your new machine doesn’t know anything about your old computer or the various profiles you created on it. If you had 3 profiles on your old computer, you need to recreate what are essentially 3 computers on your new computer if you want it all to work the same way.
Getting a new computer to look and work like your old computer is a lot of work, especially if you make the mistake of getting rid of your old computer before you get your new one completely setup.
I’m not suggesting that repairing your computer is the best decision in every case, I’m simply pointing out all of the things that have caused many a new computer buyer to say ‘I wish someone had told me before I bought this new computer’!
Environmental impact of repairing or replacing your computer:
Contrary to what you might think, computers are one appliance that should be repaired for as long as you can. According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, the manufacture of brand new computer models uses more than four times the energy and resources it would take to extend the life of an older machine for another few years. It’s a very resource-intensive process, using more than a few toxic materials that are difficult and dangerous to recover during the recycling process. When it comes to repairs, though, some things are easier than others. Adding physical memory is reasonably cheap, as computers go-1 gigabyte goes for less than $100 these days-and it’s a great way to boost performance on an old machine.