Computer Shopping

I’ve mentioned this before, but my friend Jenny goes through computers like crazy. She bought a Dell in 2011 and it failed just after the 1-year warranty expired. She paid to have the hard drive replaced by Dell in May, with the repairs being warranted for 90 days. So promptly when that time was up, the hard drive failed again. I have no idea why, but when the computer tries to start up, the hard drive makes a clicking noise, which I told her is the “click of death.”

Also her son’s computer is essentially dead after the CPU came unglued form the heat sink, so it shuts off and there doesn’t seem to be any way to fix it that would be cost effective. So she was on the market for a new computer.

Today’s circulars seemed to have some pretty good deals on notebook computers (I don’t know if there is really any reason to get anything else), with some being around $300 and some pretty decent ones for around $400. I told her about some of the deals and eventually she told me to just buy something and she would pay me back. Office Depot had a Toshiba with a big 17″ screen on it for $429. The other upgrade was that it had 6 GB of memory instead of 4 GB like all the other ones I saw. She has had some bad luck with HP and Gateway computers, so Toshiba is a new brand to test.

Extended warranties on notebooks are very expensive, and with a computer this cheap, I think the idea is that if it fails, you just buy a new one. However, I think Toshiba has a 1-year warranty on parts defects. And my credit card has an extended warranty on it which will double the manufacturer’s warranty for up to one year (sort of, in the second year you have to pay a shop to diagnose the computer and provide an estimate which can cost $100, but that’s still cheaper than the extended warranty from the store). Also, I get 1% cash back on the credit card, but you get extra points at certain stores and Office Depot is giving 4% cash back.

I went to Office Depot and got the notebook and turned down all the extended warranty, turned down having them make a recovery disk for me, turned down upgrading to Microsoft Office. The guy acted like I was crazy to turn down all those great services, especially on a Toshiba which he acted like could explode at any moment.

The processor is an AMD A6, which I don’t really know much about. I did some research just now and it seems kind of lame, about like some Intel Celeron or Core 2 Duo processors (like I have on my budget notebook bought 4 years ago). But it is also pretty efficient, giving a 4.5 hour battery life instead of 3.5 hours advertised for some Intel i3 computers. I mentioned before it has 6 GB of RAM. It also has a 500 GB hard drive, wireless 802.11b/g/n, webcam and microphone for Skype, SD card reader, HDMI out for a TV, and DVD writer (not Bluray).

Once I got the computer to my house, I wanted to get it off to a good start. It came with Norton Internet Security for free for a month, so I used an extra license I had to extend that to 6 months, then downloaded 100 MB of updates for Norton. Then I downloaded 300 MB of updates for Windows 7 and got those installed. Then I created a System Recovery Disk, which really is just a bootable disk that lets you restore the software archive hidden on the hard drive, but I also copied a 30 GB system image in case the whole hard drive goes bad, and stored that on an external drive I have. So hopefully I’ll be covered if there is a problem. I uninstalled the Google toolbar for Internet Explorer, set the default browser to Chrome, uninstalled Norton Anti-Theft which was only good for a month anyway, some junky Amazon bookmarks and Wild Tangent game software too. I realized later I should have set up an admin account for myself just in case.

I took the computer over to Jenny’s house tonight and it seems to be working so far. Also I asked what kind of credit card she used to buy the Dell and to call her credit card company to see if they offer extended warranties. If so she might be able to extend the 90-day warranty of the hard drive replacement as well as take advantage of the 1 year extension of Dell’s general warranty (turns out she does have extended warranty through her credit card). Otherwise it might be worth it for her to buy yet another hard drive, though I’m not sure where the software would come from.

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