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First Published: 12/25/2006
Last Revised: 6/21/2008
Author: Patrick Yau


Rules of Computer Investments


Steps to consider and evaluate a prospective computer investments are listed at the Steps to buy computers section on this page.

==The goal==

Computer Investments must be long lasting, cost effective, easy to manage, affordable and has been carefully considered before they are made. Investment should be frequently utilized. It is not recommended to upgrade any hard drive or memory investment on a more than 3 year old computers - it doesn't help because you are going to retire it anyway as you may have other components of the computers not functioning anymore.

  • Cost effective clause: Never ever spend on anything that is a big investment for just little improvement. Compare the prices to make sure the item you are buying are not overpriced. As a trend, the later you buy a piece of technology product, the cheaper it is.
  • Easy to manage clause: Never ever spend on things that are hard to manage. A 60gb harddrive is easier to manage and worth more than five cheap 10gb harddrives. i.e. Never buy two or more if you can buy one (unless you are going to do RAID or dual video cards. If you don't know what are RAID and dual video card, follow this rule strictly).
  • Frequently utilized clause: Never ever spend on things that are not used frequently, or the meaning of item to you would be lost due to infrequent usage. Do not buy things that are overkill to your demands. Sell the stuff that you don't use as soon as possible if you don't use it anymore to get as much as money. The more computing hardware asset you own, the more money you lose. Investing on computing hardware is just like an negative interest bank.
  • Long Lasting clause: Never ever spend on anything that will last a short time if there are alternatives.
  • Carefully considered clause: Never ever spend on anything that you will regret buying it. Be a conservative when buying things even if the items are returnable, but be reasonable to yourself and to anyone else.
  • Affordable clause: Don't spend on anything you can't afford. Try to avoid paying interest by all means.

==How to achieve such a goal==
  • Experience gathering
    Reading Review and recommendations online is very important. Others experiences and your previous experience with the seller/product is considered in your decision.
  • Price Trend
    Read the trend of the market and compare the prices. Allocate time to consider the prospective purchase is important.
  • Time to cool down and budget
    Cool down and also ask real person (preferably a techie) for advice before you buy. A real conscious person will determine whether you are thrilled about a product so that you are going to buy such a thing unconsciously (Like some people think that some versions of ipod and Mac is just a hype). Using calculator is important to figure out the cost. Do not overspend. Do not rely on credit card for borrowing money, and avoid paying interest by all means. If paying interest is unavoidable to achieve such a purchase, you and your friends should know exactly what you are doing before you commit to your decisions, just like what you should do when you have a chance to buy a house.

==Steps to buy computers== (same theory applies to buying any computer investments.)

No matter where you are going to buy computers, these steps apply. These rules are for your reference only. That is exactly what I have followed to buy my Toshiba Portege too.

0.1 What are the options available? Why do you need a laptop? Why not a Desktop? Why not a PDA? Cellphone? Slate Tablet PC? Convertible Tablet PC? Again, do you really need a new laptop? Or, upgrading what you currently have will it do you any good? (One example is: Upgrading the hard drive of an old computer.)

0.2 What kind of computer/hardware do you need? Read wikipedia topics like "laptop","desktop computers". There are a lot of form factors like "Ultra portable","small form factor", "ATX", and perhaps "Big mama" (joking). Are you anywhere between high-end to low-end buyer spectrum? Don't feel bad if you are low-end buyer. Everyone just get what they need. Sometimes I buy low-end product just because I don't think I use it frequently nor I don't care about the quality for just getting my job done.

1 Rule of thumb: read seller's feedback from previous customers for at least a page. Customers complain if they have defective/fake products, poor packaging, shipping mistakes etc etc.

2 Read specifications and presentations from manufacturers who sell your candidate computers.

3 Ask your friends and especially techies for advice about reputation of computer manufacturers. Your friends and techies may sell you computers or make a desktop computer for you. Who knows?

4.1 Search review online and read.
4.2 Read review about manufacturers
4.3 Read wikipedia about the manufacturers and laptop models (e.g. Toshiba Portege, if possible)
4.4 Read reviews on cnet, amazon.com, overstock, newegg, bizrate, tabletpcreview, laptop magazine, PC magazine, and epinions.
4.5 Read user support forums on manufacturers' websites (so you know the computer's problem well enough).

5.1 Customize the laptops/desktop/hardware on websites (for wherever apply). Compare prices with bizrate, pricegrabber, and/or nextag. Usually you need to compare prices yourself.
Think about the shipping too. It is possible for ebay sellers selling you a supercomputer for $0.01 and $99999 as your shipping.
Think about the balance between prices and reviews. Don't let the reviews make you feel down. Remember: No laptop is perfect.
Think about a little enhancement on your investments like whether you are going to pay $20 extra to increase the size of the harddrive (good deal), evaluate the proposed enhancement using this guideline too.
5.2 If you want to earn points from credit cards, ask to credit card companies and/or inquire their websites. You may be able to earn triple points. Patrick encourages only healthy credit card practices.

6 Ask your friends and techies even if you are sure what you are going to buy. (I am a techie, so I ask another techie!) Chill down! Think again. Question your decisions and reasoning. Think: "Why not do this? and why not that?" Stop being impulsive on buying products. Either you will regret your choice or you will get mad for any of your excessively impulsive buying. Don't be thrilled about your final choice. You might change your final answer! You should be able to explain everything about your decision by now.

7 Review shipping date, REBATES, credit card/bank account balance that you are going charge on. Do not feel bad because you can explain to your friends and yourself why you need this such a thing and explain the price if they ask you. Well, most of them won't care. You have your reasoning. Now go buy it!

8 Review your order again, so that nothing is missing. Don't forget the rebates, print them out immediately after you place the order. Keep track of the order. Test thoroughly once you receive the item. Get support and go to user forums. You may have to register and/or activate software products (like office/windows). You may have to register your computers/hardware (for your warranty good sake). You may have to update the software through the manufacturer website*, install software that you like. Check whether all the software are reinstallable when you reinstall your windows (or other OS) as soon as possible and complain to manufacturer if any of the installation packages they provided are missing. For computers, you may want to buy recovery CD/DVDs from the manufacturer.

*if you buy on third party auction sites like ebay, you should be able to get your software update drivers from manufacture website. You can still register your computers.

==What does the rules imply, for example==
==Buy a laptop that is long-lasting, and don't be so mean to yourself==
Make sure you have your candidate laptops have a free RAM slot, so you can add RAM and don't waste any RAM that you owned when you upgrade. (I bought 1*1024Mb RAM in my Tablet PC, so I know there will be a free RAM slot for new RAM. The 1GB of memory is in 2x 512Mb sticks and fills both slots. To upgrade, I would have to waste the 512's and get new 2x 1GB sticks.)

If you predict your needs of software is increasing, and if you can afford it, DO NOT buy an investment that just tight fit into your current demands. Remember softwares updates may demands more of your laptop but updates are necessary to maintain your laptop. I know that for those who considered refurbished laptop will not buy a laptop every year. It usually cost more (I think) to buy two laptop every year than a laptop that last 3 to 4 years, and your time and energy spend on reading review are quite considerable too. Not only this rule will apply to any laptops but any other computer components.

==For windows users==
If you have a slow computer, consider using faster anti-virus software like Avast anti-virus, or AVG anti-virus. Scan you computer for spyware and adware. Clean unnecessary files with ccleaner. Fix registry errors with WinASO with other software. Check the drives with chkdsk and do all the updates (Especially Windows/Microsoft update, and also other software updates). Defragment the drives. If it happens that you have reinstall windows and your computer is still slow after you have installed everything you want to install, it is time to buy a new computer. Do not wait or it will just slow down your productivity. After you buy a new computer and transfer all the data to the new computer, it doesn't hurt to try linux (e.g. Ubuntu or fedora distribution) on your old computer. The speed of Linux may surprise you.

As of Jun 2008, in my humble opinion, you should partition your harddrive(s) on your computer(s) BEFORE you install ANY windows. I recommend to reserve at least 30Gb for Windows XP and all your various applications. For any versions of Windows Vista, reserve at least 40Gb (not counting your documents, media files, and backups). You will need even more if you store media files, but if you have a big external harddrive then save most of your documents and big files on the external harddrive then. (Laptop harddrive space cost more than an big external harddrive because Laptop harddrive spend less energy to read your data, lighter, and smaller in size.)  Have your Windows and Program files on one partition, and save your documents on another partition. For XP, you can move your documents/picture/video folders easily by click properties and change the places that these special folders reside. For vista, simply drag the folder to another partitioned drive on your harddrive. The advantage of doing partition is once your windows fail on you, your documents have a better chance to survive, ask your techie why!

For windows XP, 512Mb of RAM is the minimum or you are going to wait an IE or Firefox for a long time (10+ seconds is probably annoying). For Windows Vista, probably 2Gb RAM is desirable.


Buyers are getting smarter Huh!?