I recently received a question from Frugal Living NW reader, Harmony about computers. I know nothing about computers. All technology decisions are left to my husband, Will, who takes great pleasure pouring over specs and prices and sales and all the boring stuff to find our family and every other person we know on the planet the very best deals.
Here’s Harmony’s question:
I was hoping you guys may be able to give me some advice on getting a new desktop computer. I have a really old laptop I have been using and its on its last leg. I don’t need anything fancy, but want something that will last. I mostly use it for internet and storing photos and documents.
I saw a Lenovo at Office Depot for $399 that had 8GB memory and 2TB. Any help or guidance you may have is greatly appreciated! My top price I can pay is about $450, but of course the lower the better :).
Alright, Harmony. I unleashed Will to tackle this purchasing dilemma for you:
Most all of the package deal computers at any big box store are lightning fast by this 40-year-old’s standards. 8MB RAM and 2T hard drive is insane. I can’t find anything that beefy that comes with keyboard, monitor, mouse for that price. Buy it. The only thing that you might want to upgrade (and it can be done any time — craigslist, etc.) is the size of the monitor, unless this item you mentioned is an “all-in-one” where screen size is fixed.
These low end computers will all last a long time unless they break. If it’s going to break, it will happen early on within the 90-day store warranty period. I have seen a power supply burn out after a few years and have to be replaced, but this is EASY and not too expensive.
And remember, check to see if your computer can be fixed for less than purchasing a new one. You can read about our experience fixing Angela’s laptop here.
Here are a couple great deals on desktop computer bundles:
Acer Aspire AXC-603-UR16 Desktop & S200HQL 19.5-inch Display Bundle — $379.99 (Amazon)
Dell Inspiron I3847-2310BK Desktop & 23″ IPS LED Monitor Package — $499 (Best Buy) Larger monitor and much higher quality.
Great deals on all-in-one computer:
Lenovo C260 19.5-Inch All-in-One Desktop — $309.99 (Amazon)
LG – ChromeBase 21.5″ All-In-One – Intel Celeron – 2GB Memory – 16GB — $349.99 (Best Buy)
Here is a good deal on a replacement power supply:
A note about storing photos:
You should never, ever short photos on your computer. It’s just way too easy to lose them. This should be done in a piece of hardware outside of your computer.
You have a couple of options of places to store your pics:
- Online at Shutterfly or Snapfish or the link. These are free options, but you are depending on the companies staying in business.
- Use Dropbox or Picasa or another place that stores data in the cloud. These are free up to a point and then you have to pay a monthly or yearly fee. Dropbox is free up to 2GB, which most of us will fill up within 3 months of a baby’s birth. You can upgrade to infinity space for $99 per year. If you create your Dropbox account through this link, you’ll get an additional 500 MB of space.
- Buy an external hard drive that you can fill up from any of your computers or phones directly via USB cable. Then, when your computer breaks or phone screen stops working, you still have all your photos stored and can easily access them with your next computer or smartphone. It’s best to store your external drive in a fireproof container or a gun safe.
Here is a the cheapest deal on an acceptable 1T external hard drive for storing your photos and videos:
Toshiba Canvio 1.0 TB USB 3.0 Basics Portable Hard Drive — $60.99 (Amazon)
If you have questions on tech stuff or tools, Will can answer it for you! Just send us your question and he will get right on it!
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