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Glazer: Repair or replace your computer?
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If your computer is more than 4 years old, chances are you’ve considered replacing it.

This is a good idea if you’re running Windows XP or Vista, because it’s not just the age of the operating system you need to consider, but the age of the hardware — the computer itself.

Sure, XP is an old operating system, but your aging hard drive with all your stuff on it will be the first thing to fail if you have an old system. Hard drives die; that’s a rule of computing. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Most last no more than five years. If you have no backup in place (whether local or in the cloud), you stand to lose all your data: your photos, videos, music and documents, should your hard drive fail.

Other failures to consider are memory modules, the power supply, fans or any component on the motherboard. All it takes is one of those elements to quit, and it’s simply not cost-effective to replace it on a dated computer.

Why spend $200 or more to fix an old computer when $400 or less can get you a new one?

That said, a new version of Windows will be like a breath of fresh air. XP was great in its time, but that was more than a decade ago and if you have Vista, well that time was hardly a high point in Microsoft’s history.

But if you have Windows 7 as I do, all you may need is a tune-up and you’ll be good to go.

I love Win 7. It’s like XP on steroids: fast, smart and clean. Often it even fixes itself. But alas, it too requires cleaning as all computers do.

Pull that desktop or laptop into your technician’s garage and let him change the oil and rotate the tires. Every computer requires regular maintenance just like your car does. Aside from the computer’s motherboard and fans gathering dust, the operating system itself gathers junk that requires regular vacuuming.

Windows is like a 9-year-old boy who leaves a trail of what he’s been doing behind him, and it doesn’t clean up after itself either. If your system doesn’t get cleaned, it will get worse over time. And Windows will eventually trip over itself. Occasionally it will fall.

There are histories, caches, temporary files, unused applications, damaged system files, bloated storage and possible infections of adware, pop-ups and spyware — all malware, as well as Trojans and viruses. Your registry may be corrupt and your hard drive heavily fragmented. Has your search engine or home page been changed without your authorization? Do you search for one page, yet end up on another?

All of this can be easily remedied and doesn’t warrant a new computer. Your old machine will run good as new once tuned.

Now if you simply want a new computer, knock yourself out. But realize the controversial Windows 8 is nothing like its predecessor. Many users have expressed their displeasure with this version of the operating system. Microsoft has read the writing on the wall and has supposedly moved the release of Windows 10 (there is no 9) to the fall of next year. And from what I hear, it’s supposed to be magnificent.

But if a new computer is what you want for the holidays, I would wait a year. Go to the store and try a Win 8 machine and you’ll see what I mean. The interface has changed completely.

It was designed for a touch screen and although a mouse will work, it is different. Until the most recent update, Win 8 didn’t even have a start button. I spent 20 minutes looking for the control panel.

Historically, just about every other release from Microsoft has been a good one. Unfortunately, we are currently in one of those down times. Windows 98 was innovative; Millennium (ME) was a debacle. XP was great; Vista, not so much. Windows 7 was superb; Win 8 — meh! Do you see the pattern?

So sure, some computers can be kept alive with simple maintenance, but if they require life support, I say pull the plug. Remember, by replacing that old computer, you’ll not only get a new operating system but upgraded hardware as well.

Current high-end systems ship with fast quad-core processors and have terabyte (1,000 GB) hard drives for more than ample storage and have 8 gigabytes of RAM (memory). If you’re upgrading from an XP machine to one of these, it’ll be like driving a Ferrari after having a Gremlin.

But if you insist on hanging on to that relic from the turn of the century, just make sure you have a good backup in place. You’ll need it.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville.

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