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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Computer Woes: A Frugal Solution?

In addition to the usual summer slackerdom that afflicts us, we have been plagued by computer woes. Hence, no posts. Basically, our 4 or 5 year old Dell started melting down about 2 weeks ago. The dreaded blue screen kept popping up. Eventually, complete meltdown.

So: what's a frugal family to do? At home we have Frugal Son's MacBook, which is his alone. We also just bought him a teeny eeepc netbook for his semester in France. And we have some desktop in Mr. FS's study that is not hooked up to the internet. The teeny computer has been hooked up to a keyboard and a mouse, so I can type this post. Thanks family!

At first, Mr. FS thought we might take the melted down Dell to the Computer Geeks, where, for $250.00, they will restore the computer to its original state. We have all work saved on a flash drive. This would tide us over till we bought a new computer.

Then, Frugal Son exclaimed:

It isn't worth it to spend $200 (plus extra costs for parts and labor if there were any hardware problems), which is 1/5 to 1/4 the cost of a new Mac desktop, to prolong the life of an old desktop which will probably continue to give us problems.

I agree! I tried to avoid a huge dental expense by getting an expensive filling, which, of course, didn't work. This seems the same.

Anyway, we seek your comments on this. We will not be getting a Dell, because when we bought our current one, we received bad customer service from them. Like the Swedes in Beowulf, who waited 50 years for Beowulf to die so they could exact revenge, we have long memories, and vowed never to get another Dell. This isn't revenge, in my opinion, just an appropriate response to abysmal and time-consuming customer service.

Frugal Son thinks we should go with a Mac, mostly because they are comparatively trouble- and virus-free, but also because they are aesthetically nicer and take up less room on our desk.

So help, Dear Readers. What should we do?


Seth said...

Macs are now getting to where they have more "frugal" options, but they're still more pricey than an equivalent PC.

As far as frugality goes, I recommend HP. I've been an HP owner since 1999 (with a small gap in the middle where I built my own). In fact, my original HP from 1999 STILL WORKS with only minor modifications.

They have great customer service (in my experience) and much more reasonable prices than Dell.

Duchesse said...

We have been a Mac shop for 24 years. If price is the only consideration, many people will buy a PC, such as HP. However, joy of use and peace of mind is worth a lot to me, since the two of us make most of our living digitally. We are also fans of beautiful industrial design.

So we have three Macs and a big hybrid PC for one son's games.

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

Does the Dell run at all now? My Dell is older than that and was acting up (blue screen, slow, hot, etc). I downloaded some free software on a recommendation, ran all of the utilities on it, and I am running so much faster, more stable, and even less hot now. If you can download on another computer and install it on the dell, it is worth a try. It claims to have fixed literally thousands of problems. Who knows, but it definitely worked. Good luck!

Funny about Money said...

Sorry to hear of the PC's demise. Dell has a reputation for excruciating customer service, and since we get plenty of that from other sources, we don't need to fork over some more cash to buy more of it.

I've been thrilled with Apple's customer service. I bought the AppleCare lifetime service contract, which covers the machine forEVER. Literally: as long as the thing can be kept running, you get free service. The service at an Apple store defies belief!

The Mac has run pretty much trouble-free (except for the MobileMe fiasco), with a minimum of demands to update this and update that and update the other thing. It has some serious built-in protection from viruses and malware--though it may not be perfect, it sure beats the hoops you have to jump through with a PC.

On the other hand, installing Windows and MS Office software is a pain. I never got around to doing it, because of the expense and technical expertise it takes. You can get Word and Excel for the Mac, but Word for Mac is not very good--almost no keyboard commands, so you're constantly pointing and clicking, an extreme annoyance. Both Word & Excel for Mac run slowly and can hang your computer if you have more than a couple of programs running at once.

I guess that when I have to hand in the university's borrowed Dell laptop on Canning Day, I'll replace it with a Minimac or maybe even a MacBook and then pay someone to install Windows and Office. Unfortunately, the Apple store won't do that, so you have find a way to get it done on your own.

BTW, you can buy refurbished second-hand Macs--sometimes they're even available through the Apple store.

Suzy said...

What a choice! I had a laptop fry(water and keyboards don't get along too well)and my desktop wasn't working well. I decided to buy another laptop(made the mistake of buying through a friend of a friend - never again!) and for another $100 he said he could spruce up my desktop. Well it worked pretty well for about 4 months then overheated. The fan, etc was pretty old and didn't hold up. Of course I probably should've been turning it off when I wasn't home but oh well live and learn I guess.

I don't know about Macs but my friend/coworker found PC laptops for around $400 last Christmas and they were good ones.Her daughter/stepdaughter haven't had any problems. So next time I need one I'm gonna have her look into where to get one since she's a great shopper and I'd definitely pay $200 more for a new one than to fix the older one but when you start talking $400 plus difference it gets harder to decide. Basically I use mine for internet and some simple games so the latest and greatest isn't essential for me.

Logan Leger said...

Definitely get a Mac. Not only can you save ~$200 using your education discount, you can also get a free iPod Touch right now during the Back to School promotion. And, of course, they're totally rock solid and overall a better user experience.

Alison said...

No-one has mentioned the ultimate in frugal operating systems, Linux. If there's nothing wrong with your hardware, which is difficult to say without more information about why it is crashing, installing Linux (the best version, known as a "distribution," is called Ubuntu) could potentially get your old computer running like a top again. Linux is lighter on hardware resource requirements, so it will run faster, plus it is nearly impervious to viruses and other malware, which may be what has brought your computer down in the first place. Best of all, it is completely free.

You can download and burn a Live CD to try it out before committing to installing it, to see if you like it.

Feel free to email me if you have questions about Ubuntu!

Frugal Scholar said...

@All--Thanks for all the advice. No decision made yet. Leaning towards Mac.

SLF said...

@Alison: I was actually planning to at least try installing a Linux based OS if I could wipe the HDD but unfortunately I could not. The computer is so fried that it won't operate long enough to reformat the HDD and I can't even reinstall Windows from the disc provided.

--Frugal Son

Alison said...

@Frugal Son:

You don't need to wipe the HD before installing Linux. As long as you can get the computer to boot (and set the BIOS so that it attempts to boot from the CDROM before attempting to boot from the HD -- which it may already do), the Linux install disk will take care of wiping/reformatting the disk for you.

The fact that you can't reinstall Windows does not bode so well, but Linux still might be worth a try.

ruth said...

we have a mac mini it is small and light enough to sit on my hand and is so quiet i don't know that it is on. not so good for computer games though - my son has a dell for that. mac pro's do cost a lot here in england. even if reconditioned there is very little difference in the price between a new one and the reconditioned - but it comes with a guarantee.

ruth said...

get a mac. we have a mac mini that is so small and light it sits on my hand. it is so quiet i don't know that it is on. and we watch tv via the internet on it - it is truly wonderful. son has had a small and the cheapest available mac lap top that is now 3 years old. all our other lap tops over the years were spent in about 2 years. we run linex on the mac mini and open office. everything just works. ruth