I’ve heard a rumor that Santa has already gathered his elves from their vacation in the tropics, brought them back to the north pole (what’s left of it since the big meltdown, anyway) and is busily constructing all the computers we will receive this year. Santa builds all shapes and sizes of computers so over the next few weeks we will talk about the different kinds, what you get for the money, what features to look for, what brands are reliable and which ones stink. Lets touch on some of that today.
Before the turn of the century, computers were bulky, expensive monsters that ate a ton of electricity and chewed big holes in your wallet. Today, many are still boxy and bulky but cheaper, slimmer models are coming on strong. “All-in-one” computers, which integrate all the parts of a computer into the flat panel display and minimize “cable clutter” are also on the rise.
Netbooks are all the rage now (I talked about these in a recent column) and have 10- to 12-inch displays and weigh about 2 to 3 pounds. They aim to be your second computer, the one you use to surf the Web and check e-mail while traveling, or a child's first system. Florence City Schools will soon supply all 11th and 12th graders with one (woo hoo!). But their small size imposes tradeoffs in computing power, options and viewabiltiy – especially for those of us with over-forty eyes.
Before you look at a new computer, ask yourself if you really need one. We often hear of people who buy a new computer “because the old one got infected.” A new computer is nearly as susceptible to viruses and spyware as an old one. So try these steps to beef up the performance of your old computer first: Delete programs you no longer use. Update your antivirus software and perform a virus scan. If that isn't enough consider adding 1 GB of RAM. Adding memory can be an inexpensive and easy way to make your computer much faster.
If you're running out of space on the hard drive, burn your old music, photos, and videos onto a CD or DVD and delete them off your hard drive. To add a lot more storage space, consider adding an external hard drive. External USB drives are so easy to install that even my dumb big brother could install one. Once you've cleared all your old files and moved any files to an external hard drive, run the Disk Defragmenter that's bundled with Windows. That will help your hard drive access files faster.
If none of that works, and the computer is more than four years old, it's probably time to replace it. Be sure to recycle your old computer. The City of Florence has an electronics recycling station located on Terrace Drive near downtown. If you choose this route, don't forget to wipe your hard drive first. We recommend a free program called Darik's Boot And Nuke, available for free from www.dban.org.
Wow! I’ve only just begun to talk about buying a computer and I’m already out of space. Let’s talk more next week, shall we? Ho ho ho!