Chris needs our help!

My laptop just bit it. It’s giving me a striated screen and is crashing like a kid after eating a bag of sugar. I was told this is a “hardware” problem and that it means it’s new computer time.

So, I need some help figuring out how to get something new and good and cheap. Restrictions are that I have Microsoft Office for Windows and it’s only 2 years old, so I won’t want to rebuy it for $150 to get an Apple. Also, I don’t think I need a laptop anymore, so I can probably get a desktop (and I have a decent screen, so that’s not an issue – I’d only need the tower).

If you or your computer-competent friends (you can have people argue on your site) have any suggestions, please let me know. Especially if you suggestions are to get an Apple and get a pirated Office or whatnot. Thanks in advance

16 thoughts on “Chris needs our help!

  • 2/6/2008 at 10:20 am

    I know how to turn on my computer and that’s about it, so any advice on minimum requirements of hardware is appreciated. The only speed requirement is that I need it to run big Photoshop applications fast… Please help.

  • 2/6/2008 at 10:49 am

    Chris, I recommend a Mac Mini. Getting the newest Office for it should be a non-issue.

  • 2/6/2008 at 11:04 am

    Yeah, I talked with Mike, thanks. What’s your opinion if I bought the dirt bottom Acer or Dell for the processor, Vista, fan, and then upgraded all the memory and whatnot myself?

  • 2/6/2008 at 12:11 pm

    Chris – here’s my list of what NOT to do.

    1. Get a Mac. It feels a lot like getting punched in the face for no reason…constantly, and without warning. But at least it’s reliable.
    2. Get anything with Vista. Vista is basically Windows’ attempt to emulate Mac function, but without all the reliability, and possibly even less software is compatable with it.
    3. Try to upgrade ANYTHING in a Dell. Dell has custom-made everything inside your computer case to ensure that if you ever want it to work better, you’ve got to buy another Dell.
    4. Listen to Ryan Schenk. Seriously, this guy is crazy.

    What you SHOULD do –
    Build your own computer. As long as you have Office and Windows CDs, you’re made in the shade. It’s crazy cheap, you get exactly what you want, and way easier than people think to do. I’ve built all of my home computers for around 7 years now. Then anything that needs upgrading just drops in, and all your existing stuff is still good to go.

    Photoshop? That’s cake. Get a decent ATI video card with 128MB onboard (AGP is fine, but PCI express is pretty kickin these days – I haven’t caught up yet), a Pentium 4 at not even 2GHZ, a couple gigs of Corsair DDR, I like Gigabyte mother boards but they’re kinda whatever as long as their ratings match up with the proc specs, a Lite-On all-in-one drive or two (mine are 7 years old and still going), and BAM for under 1K you’ve got a computer that’ll work great for 5 years no problem.

    Alternatively, you could get a laptop from IBM with it all built in – decent warrantee policy, and solid as a rock. But $$$

    Welcome to hell!

  • 2/6/2008 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks, Sander. The price issue is driving me in the Chris the Builder direction. Although, we’re no experts, so I was thinking of getting a case with the processor and copy of Windows but with crummy memory and video card and whatnot – and then upgrading them off Do you have any recommendations from where I should get my base if you think Dell is not the way to go?

    Computer magazines on the net seem to like HP.

  • 2/6/2008 at 3:50 pm

    Don’t skimp on memory, especially because it’s so cheap now. I would get lots of memory before getting a faster processor. Games aside, very few programs will need to max out your processor, but every program will be vying for memory.

    Windows XP on a 32 bit processor can and will address 4gB of memory. Since most people don’t have 4gB of RAM in their computers, Windows puts addressed memory that’s not currently being accessed onto the hard drive. This is called virtual memory, as opposed to your real RAM, which is called logical memory. You may notice on a computer without much RAM/logical memory, when you change programs, your hard drive clicks and clacks away — that happens because it’s got to bring a ton of information stored in your virtual memory and stick it into logical memory and vice versa. This is called swapping, and it is what is slowing down your computer, not your CPU’s processing power. Having more logical memory means having to swap to disc less, and having to swap to disc less means a significantly more responsive computer for normal day to day tasks.

    I would get at least 2gB of RAM if I were you.

  • 2/6/2008 at 6:35 pm

    I was planning on getting 2GB or 3GB RAM and making out on memory because it is so ridiculously cheap.

  • 2/6/2008 at 11:42 pm

    After reading this comment, I guess it’s OK to listen to Schenk sometimes……..
    He does know a lot about these kinda things.
    If you have a budget, I could spec out a decent system for you on newegg (where else???).
    As I said, 2GHZ is uneccessary but at least 2GB of RAM is where it’s at.
    In fact, I need to update my own measly 1GB (not so long ago, 1GB was pretty bitchin).
    In addition, 7200RPM hard drives are starting to see some outdating with faster units, and theoretically (though I’m not sure if this is really true or not), the tighter things are packed onto HDDs, the faster things ought to be brought to you from different sectors…though I might be just imagining this effect.
    Additionally, there’s alot of debate between Athlon and Pentium (and within Pentium – the old standby of P4 is being replaced with Duo) which I don’t know alot about – but I’ve used Pentiums for all time and they’re just fine with me.
    The thing you will want to also consider is a good FSB rate – though honestly I think mine’s just 266MHz, and with 1GB of single-channel RAM and my photoshop runs fast enough for me, even when running a rendering on a decent-sized image. FSB is the conduit between the processor and everything else on/connected to the motherboard – it can also slow you down now and then.
    Graphics cards are the biggest choice, probably – I run dual monitors, but even a cheapie ATI card can give you that advantage (I’ve also used 3 monitors before, which is ridiculous, but something you gotta enter stuff into an Access query from an Excel file AND a sql database or something and you’ll wonder how you lived without them), but if you’re not a big gamer then a nice reliable one without too many frills is fine for you.

    Good luck!

  • 2/7/2008 at 9:25 am

    Some of these comments are kind of outdated. First off people should know what you want to do before you ask for them to recommend something. If you just want to run office and surf the web then you don’t need something special. Seeing how your computer knowledge is limited to turning on your computer, don’t even worry about things like FSB or how much memory windows can handle. If you plan on building your own computer from scratch I recommend you find someone local who can do it for you or give you a helping hand otherwise you’d prolly be better off buying a pre-built one. For the average Joe a Dell or HP will suffice. As for recommendations (under the assumption you just want something for email/web browsing/office/occasional photoshop) here’s what I would recommend:

    CPU: any Intel Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2 will suffice. Obviously the faster the better but with that comes price. You’ll have the ability of dual core and these will have no problem running your daily applications. The Core 2 cost a little bit more but I would recommend them over the X2’s.
    RAM: 2GB of RAM should be more than enough
    HDD: get at least 320GB, more if you feel it’s necessary
    Video Card: if you aren’t going to be doing any 3-d graphics then onboard will be fine. If you want to watch high definition dvd’s on your desktop then I would suggest at least an nvidia 8500gt (this only applies if you have Vista as there are no drivers for acceleration in XP).

    Only buy a Mac if you have lots of spare cash or want to look cool (you’ll need to buy a black mock turtleneck and tuck it into your jeans too).

  • 2/7/2008 at 10:01 am

    Also Chris, keep in mind that unless you own a copy of Windows, you’ll need to factor that into the cost of building your own computer. The OS alone can make it worthwhile to buy a pre-built computer than make your own. I think XP costs around $90 now.

  • 2/7/2008 at 10:56 am

    Right, I was thinking of buying a low priced computer with only the CPU and RAM I need (this way it also comes with a genuine copy of Windows) and then buying a lot of memory afterward. I don’t do gaming, but I plan on stepping up my Photoshop art which takes a lot of layering and took a very long time to work through on my old laptop (may it rest in peace). This is why I’m looking for something fast, so I can actually get used to working in a flowing manner and not needing to wait and get frustrated. So, two major questions still remain:

    1) Do I jump in and get Vista?

    2) What base model computer should I get to throw stuff into?

  • 2/7/2008 at 11:10 am

    Couple of questions: What were the specs on your laptop (cpu, ram, hdd speed)? How much are you willing to spend?

    You might as well just buy the computer with the amount of memory that you want right off the bat rather than buying it knowing that you are gonna add more, mainly because there are limited ram slots in prebuilt configurations and they may have already of used them up. As for Vista, I’d say why not. Unless your a real power user Vista will be fine for you. There are some changes in the interface but nothing too drastically different. The worst case here would be that you buy XP only to find out that the new program you want will only run on Vista and now you have to go out and buy Vista. Just make sure that the key accessories that you use (ex. printer) have Vista drivers available.

  • 2/7/2008 at 12:58 pm

    I’d like to spend $700 maximum (I don’t need a screen).

    My laptop was really fast for 3 and a half years ago, so I’m expecting the base model components today are what were put into my laptop then.

    As for Vista, yeah, you’re right, I’m just going to have to check compatibitlities.

  • 2/7/2008 at 2:17 pm

    I just took a quick glance on HP’s website and you can build a desktop pc for $700 with the following:

    -2.2 Core 2 Duo (do NOT get the dual core pentium’s, they are terrible)
    -500gb HDD
    -2GB ram with 2 extra slots for 2x1GB sticks if you want to expand later

    Doesn’t seem like a bad deal to me.

  • 2/7/2008 at 2:30 pm

    That doesn’t sound bad at all. I might end up getting that.

    Thanks everyone for helping me figure out what I need in a computer. I feel like an informed shopper now.


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