Janesville21.5°

Upgrade or replace that sluggish computer?

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JAMES P. LEUTE
February 29, 2008
— Brad Neumann likens a home computer to a pickup truck.

If you add 5 pounds of rocks to the pickup’s bed every day for a year, you’ll still get acceleration for the first few months.


“But at the end of the year, that pickup will hardly move,” said Neumann of S.E. Computers in Janesville.


Sound like your home computer, which roared out of its box but now just whimpers as you wait … and wait … and wait?


Neumann and other computer experts say a variety of upgrades under your computer’s hood could provide the pep you’ve been longing for without the price of a new machine.


“It all depends on what you want your computer to do and where you intend to go with it,” Neumann said.


Those are questions computer owners need to ask and answer realistically when deciding whether to upgrade their machines or buy new, agreed Jacob Schoberg, a member of the Geek Squad at Best Buy in Janesville.


“Step one is what you do now,” he said. “Step two is what you want to do better.”


If your machine is slowing down, it’s most likely because it’s getting bogged down, and nothing helps better than adding more memory.


“Adding (random access memory) is one of the best and least expensive upgrades you can make,” said Rick Garcia, branch manager of Milwaukee PC in Janesville.


Neumann said protection and anti-virus programs have healthy appetites for RAM, a sad but necessary state of Internet computing.


For gamers, a better video card, more processor power and memory are the most popular upgrades, although serious gamers find themselves looking at a new machine every couple of years to keep up with technological improvements, Schoberg said.


Those interested in digital imaging might consider more hard drive space.


And for general reliability issues, computer owners might want to take a good look at their computer’s operating system and decide whether an update there will take them where they want to go.


Schoberg said desktops are easier to upgrade than laptops, and Garcia said some manufacturers limit the potential for upgrades and add-ons so a consumer will buy a new computer.


“A machine is obsolete when it no longer serves the purposes for which you bought it,” Neumann said. “I still have customers doing just fine with machines they bought back in the 1990s.


“They’re not running the latest operating systems or the latest software, but they’re doing everything they want to do.”


If your machine isn’t doing what you want to do, upgrades might get the job done, but Neumann said cost eventually becomes a factor.


The computer industry tends to turn over about every five years, he said. After two or three years, upgrades might make sense, but closer to five years, a new machine might be the best option.


“My rule of thumb when looking at upgrades is if the cost is more than half of the replacement cost, upgrades don’t make sense,” he said. “If the cost of the replacement is $500, the minute you exceed $250 in upgrades is the minute you should be thinking replacement.”



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