A FEW ARTICLES...
NEED A NEW COMPUTER?
How long would you like it to be before you hate your new computer like an old pair of shoes or old car tires - because you WILL be sick of it eventually. They all start out great but they age at different rates based on quality and design. A little quick advice now can give it a longer life. There are a few features that matter a lot: the processor, a solid state drive, memory, brand name and model. (See more details in a later section below.)
You can buy a cheap computer more often or a good computer less often, and you'll spend about the same on them over the years. But on a cheaper computer, you'll spend more money on setups and repairs plus you'll be frustrated and fatigued by it daily.
The money you save on a cheap computer now you'll pay me many times over to keep it running in a tolerable way.
Do you know what's more expensive than a computer? Time. If you're waiting for your computer to catch up with you, you're probably wasting money by NOT buying a better one. Your computer should be waiting for you, not the other way around. Here's some math. Figure 1 second of your time is worth 1 cent. That's (a very conservative) $36.00 per hour. (Burden your overhead into the hourly labor rate for employees. For the self-employed, you rate is at least twice this.) If your computer causes you a 5 second delay every 5 minutes of an 8 hour day, that's costing you $4.80 per day in efficiency ($.05 x 12 x 8), or $100 per month. You could pay for an $1800 computer in 18 months, yielding 100% ROI on a three year straight line depreciation. Even though we don't depreciate minor capital this way anymore, the point remains the same: you'd be wasting money by NOT buying a better computer. Adjust these numbers to your actual situation, and the results are likely similar.
I'll help you chose and order the right computer for you, and then set it up and transfer your files from your old computer.
Routine security against computer viruses doesn't need to be expensive. It's straight forward these days. But you still need a disaster recovery system in case of ransomware or a hard drive crash. Luckily, this is inexpensive and straight forward today, too - if you pick the right ones.
There is still some annoying stuff called malware you can't easily block automatically with software. (That's why bad people make it.) This requires occasional on-site or remote cleanups.
Having your email on your phone, iPad or tablet is wonderfully convenient - even if they're not as productive for documents as your regular computer. Usually, the email on these smaller devices can be setup to sync with your main computer so it's all there for you whether desktop, laptop, one of each, or even more.
You can also log into your main computer remotely from anywhere cheaply and easily, often at no cost. This can be especially helpful when you need to work from home on the computer at the office.
The cloud is the most reliable place for your emergency backup and disaster recovery. Ransomware can't get to your documents there, even though it can ruin everything on your computer and on your local backup drive. (So much for that idea.) A cloud backup will also protect you from a fire, a theft or a hard drive crash. The software is automatic and doesn't have the usual human factors such as accidentally copying it backwards, trying to finish something else first, getting distracted by a phone call, or just not feel like it right now. You can have another local backup in your office, but that's just for convenience, not for reliability. Go with the cloud, and pick the right one because they differ in quality and cost, especially for multiple computers.
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS
Here are a few things that matter when ordering a new computer.
The Processor: This is equivalent to the engine in the car. The Intel i-series is the best line of "engines" (with the AMD Ryzens also acceptable with generally less power for less money, but some gamers prefer them). In the Intel i-series, the i3 is a "four cylinder engine in a sedan" and NOT good enough to keep up with traffic on hills, in this analogy. It will age quickly. The Intel i5 is like a six cylinder engine and the i7 is like a V8. There's also now an i9 that's like a V10. At the very least get an i5 to have any decent productivity at all. You'll be better off in the later years of the computer with an i7. If you do seriously heavy multitasking, routinely run financial software, or frequently edit video and graphics, you could justify an i9.
A Solid State Drive (SSD): The older model of hard drive in use for decades has a spinning magnetic disk (like old-fashioned audio or video tape but circular instead of long) with a moving read head inside to select various tracks (like an 8-track player but with thousands of tracks). It can only go so fast, and nothing more. Even the slowest computers passed them up in speed long ago. Therefore, if you get a nice new computer with one of these standard old hard drives (which you can still get - and can get by mistake quite easily), the old-style hard drive will just drag the speed of everything else down to its level. Today's super fast parts will be constantly waiting for the hard drive to catch up. The answer is to use a Solid State Drive instead. It's all chips and no moving parts. They've gotten so fast in recent years that they're even faster than cables can handle. So now they're plugged directly into the motherboard (which is the M.2 connector you might see in a computer's SSD spec). SSDs tend to be smaller in capacity than old-fashioned hard drives due to cost, so be careful not to get one that's TOO small. I recommend 512 GB for the average user, which leaves a little wiggle room just to be safe. (That's also called a half-Terabyte.)
Memory: There are two types of memory: RAM and the SSD (Solid State Drives, the successor to the old-fashioned Hard Drive). The SSD (or HD) is like your file cabinet. It's where the computer goes to pull out files when it needs them and where it puts them away when it's done. To work on files, the computer moves them from the SSD into the other kind of memory, the RAM (Random Access Memory - going WAY back, Core Memory didn't used to be "random access", you had to pull out a whole block at a time to find the data you wanted, so the invention of RAM was such a big deal that the name stuck). RAM is to a computer what the top of your desk is to you, your actual desk top, where you really do your paperwork I mean. That's the analogy. If your desk is too small (which to your computer is like having too little RAM), you'll find yourself shuffling papers around more often just to make room to work (in and out of the file cabinet more often, which is slow compared to just moving papers to the side if there's room). When it's time to work on your taxes, your normal desk surface space is probably no longer big enough and you have to move to your dining room table because you need more room to spread out your big stack of records and forms. Moving to your dining room table is the same as your computer getting more RAM - there's more room to work without having to shuffle files back onto the SSD (or HD). That's what this section is about. How much RAM should you get? The easy answer for now is 8 GB for the average low power user. It goes up from there, but don't get less.
Brand and model: Even within good brands, there are good and bad models. One thing that makes a given model bad is its cheap parts. For example, you might notice that the advertised specs (processor, RAM) on different product lines are identical but the prices are different. This is generally a reflection of the quality of what goes into them (very much like cars in this regard). The performance difference would be easily noticeable in a side-by-side comparison. The cheaper one would also age faster. Similarly, one thing that makes a given model especially good is the care with which it's designed and manufactured. At least one American computer manufacturer (Dell) has flagship lines of laptop and desktop computers that are designed and built by their own engineers in the USA. It's their pride and joy and it shows. If you want REALLY top quality, get one of these.
And finally, should you get a custom built computer rather than a name brand? Short answer. No. That would be like buying a custom car that someone else built and hoping it never needs repair. But it will. Then what? You had better have a few extra buck to throw at it. Plus, consider this. The person who built it, did they do what's best for you, or what's best for them before they sold it to you? Did they maximize their profit with cheap parts? (I've replaced a lot of lousy power supplies that went out early in custom systems.) Or did they buy high quality parts and lower their profit just as a favor to you? The best you can realistically hope for is something in-between. You wouldn't want to pay what it takes to do a custom one-off REALLY right unless you were a true fanatic, just like with a custom car. It's less risky, better value and better supported to stick with a name brand computer (brands vary in quality, just like with cars). And no, I don't use a name brand computer myself. I built my own like a computer Jedi.
That was a lot to digest, I know. The next computer you buy you'll use for years. Let's get you one that you'll enjoy using without breaking the bank.