How to avoid problems when buying a computer

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Christmas is coming – it’s only about a month away now.  As happens every year, a lot of people will be getting a new computer.  That’s exciting!  But before you go out and get a new laptop or desktop computer as a gift for someone (or for yourself), you should know what to avoid.

Not all computers are the same inside.  Just like anything else, there are certain features and specifications that you should stay away from in order to get the best value for your money.

emachine logoE-Machine is a brand name for computers that target the “cheap” end of the PC market.  The E-Machine company was started by a guy in Michigan in 1998.  In 2004, the Gateway computer company bought it.  Then, in 2007, Acer bought Gateway. So the E-Machines, Gateways and Acers all come from the same company – and when you combine the sales of all 3, they are still below the sale volume of HP or Dell.

E-Machines focus on competing in one area: price.  For a new computer, you probably won’t find a cheaper one (key word: cheap).  If you go to Walmart, you will see E-Machines there.  Why are they so cheap?  Because they are made cheaply.  The internal parts are of lower quality, and the computers themselves are assembled using the lowest-cost labor in Mexico, China and Korea.

I’ve done repairs on these low-end computers, and I can tell you that I would not buy one.

Celeron processors
celeron logoThe “brain” of your computer is the processor, so you want to make sure you have a good one in there.  Probably the worst processor you could get would be the Celeron.  They tend to be slow and error-prone.  So why do people buy computers with Celeron processors?  Because they are cheap.  When you see an new E-Machine advertised at a really low price, look at what type of processor it has.  Yep, it’s a Celeron.

Windows Vista
Windows Vista logoWindows XP was (and is) a really great operating system.  It will be supported by Microsoft until sometime in 2014, so if you have an XP computer that you like, it should be fine for a good while.  The newest Microsoft operating system is Windows 7.  It is very good also – has some great features, and it doesn’t require much memory (Windows 7 will actually run on 1 gb of memory).

In between those 2 versions came Windows Vista.  It seems that Microsoft kind of rushed Vista out the door without really thinking it through or polishing it up.  Not many people like Vista.  One of the worst things about it is that it requires a huge amount of memory to run properly – 4 gb is probably the minimum but even more would be better.  If you buy a new computer today it won’t have Vista, it will have Windows 7.  But if you think about a used computer, don’t get one with Vista installed.

Of course, there are exceptions…there are probably people out there using an E-Machine with a Celeron processor and Windows Vista, and they’re saying, “What are you talking about? My computer runs fine!”  I’m just relaying what my experience has been (and most techs will confirm my findings).

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Steve Bristol
November 24th, 2010

I have vista running now and want to install windows 7 instead. Is this easy enough that I should be able to uninstall vista and load windows 7? Can you load the software on more than one computer od do you have to buy a new os for each computer?


Steve Bristol

Scott Johnson
November 24th, 2010

The first, and probably most important, step is to make sure everything important is safely backed up on a separate drive. Also, some versions of Vista can use the “upgrade” option to 7 – this is the most ideal since it keeps all of your files and programs that are already installed. If that is not an option, you will need to use the Windows 7 disc to format the drive and install itself (meaning all of your data will be wiped out and have to be restored afterward). Here’s a good site with some info from Microsoft: