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Computer Care: When is it time to replace your PC?
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Here we are in the middle of the annual tax-free shopping weekend. You’re back from vacation, ready to go back to work or school and wonder if it’s time to upgrade your computer.

My laptop initiated its self-destruct sequence this summer when I needed it the most. While creating a slide show for the camp I was working for out of town, the motherboard suddenly died on me. There are many things I can repair, but a motherboard on a five year-old laptop was simply not cost-effective. So I now have a new Sony Vaio that I have wanted for years.

The inconvenience of finishing that slideshow on an old XP machine was less than efficient or enjoyable. I should have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It was an oncoming train and it hit me hard.

But you’ve got to ask yourself how much you want to invest in repairs, while also considering the age of the computer. Often the repair is absolutely worth the expenditure, sometimes not. Should you need additional RAM (system memory) or a new hard drive, I say go for it.

If you have an infection such as a virus or malware, why toss a perfectly good machine if it can be fixed?

Even upgrading your operating system is a viable option to consider. If the computer is not too old but you are running Vista (or XP), purchase a Windows 7 CD. Even if that computer eventually dies, you can still install the OS on your next or another computer.

If your motherboard goes out on an older machine as it did for me, it’s time to go shopping.

Always check to see if you are still covered under a warranty before making a decision. Even if you are not and your computer is only two years old, it may be worth replacing the motherboard (or display or hard drive) before you head to the electronics store.

That said, should you find yourself wherever you get your home electronics, there are many deals to be had this weekend. Even if you miss the tax-free break currently being offered, Labor Day is just around the corner and sales will abound then as well.

I always start shopping on the Internet, even if I end up in a brick-and-mortar establishment for the purchase. Do your research. There are websites like, bizrate, pricegrabber, logicbuy or finderscheapers that do comparative shopping for you, finding you the best deals out there.

First, you need to decide what type of computer you need if it is time to replace what you have.

I used a desktop only, for many years. Then I became a laptop guy. I still like to use my desktop with its dual-monitor array when I do a lot of photo editing.

Desktops are generally less expensive than laptops because of the size. (The smaller the technology, the more it costs). But with that in mind, desktops come with only the box, no monitor as in the old days. You’ll get a mouse and keyboard, but that’s it.

Your old XP printer may not work with your new system, so that is something else to consider. There are simply few device drivers to match XP and Win 7 technologies.

I found many laptops, notebooks, ultrabooks — call them what you will — that start at $300. Keep in mind these are the 10-12 inch displays with low-end processors, little memory and small hard drives.  For another hundred bucks or more, you can find a nice mobile system. As always, technology has gotten slicker as the prices continue to drop. My first laptop cost about $1,500. I paid a fraction of that for my Vaio last week for technology that rivals that of the Mars Rover.

Many consumers have gone the way of mobile computing. As much as I use my Android, it will be a long time until I forfeit my laptop for mobile-only computing. I prefer a tangible keyboard and a screen larger than my glide pad.

So that brings us to the tablet category. If they only made a 10-inch tablet with wireless Internet and Bluetooth that was also a phone, I’d get in line, but they don’t.

What they do have are Acer, Samsung, Asus, Sony and Motorola tablets that start around $300. If you don’t mind typing on a virtual keyboard and have a way to carry it around (I don’t have an attaché or a man-purse) then this option may be for you. Talk about portable. These devices weigh next to nothing and are tiny.

For example, I found a Motorola Xoom refurb (yet another option to consider) for $239 online at with free shipping. Seek and ye shall find.

So if you only need to eradicate a malware infection or replace your hard drive, spend your money on that. If your computer is older than your shoes, now is the time to replace that relic.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on

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