Fighting obsolescence: Make your PC last
By Jay Dougherty Jul 21, 2006, 15:43 GMT
Washington - When you buy a new personal computer, the last thing you want to think about is replacing it a year from now. Yet obsolescence seems built-in to most PCs.
Faster processors, new graphics cards, more powerful software are always just around the corner - and sometimes they all seem designed to make your new PC feel old and slow, quickly.
But you can fight back. True obsolescence is rarely imposed from the outside. The fact is, you can take steps to keep your existing or new PC feeling young and agile years into the future.
- Keep it simple
First, avoid overloading your personal computer with memory- resident programs - ones that run automatically every time you start your PC.
You'll find that most office suites, utility programs, and antivirus programs, among others, install memory-resident programs that eat up precious system resources and ultimately slow down your computer.
For example, run the default installation for Microsoft's Office, Symantec's Norton SystemWorks, and Roxio's Easy Media Creator - three popular Windows programs - and you could wind up with eight or more memory-resident programs that load each time you start your computer. Almost instantly, your PC's performance will drag.
To get rid of these pesky, resource-wasting programs, you could uninstall and then re-install the applications, using the 'custom' isntallation option, and make sure you deselect any option to load memory-resident programs.
Even better, you could download the freeware program Startup Manager (http://www.pcsoftland.com/utilities/configuration/StartUp- Manager.htm), which shows you exactly which programs are loading behind-the-scenes every time you start your PC and provides an easy way to get rid of unwanted memory-resident programs.
- Be suspicious of new software
If you see no glaring deficiencies in your current software, think carefully before upgrading to the latest version or adding programs whose functions you can live without. Newer software is almost always larger - and slower - than older software. In fact, new software is the main culprit behind early obsolescence of PCs. You won't need a faster computer if you don't buy new software that slows it down.
Let's say, for example, that you're surfing the Internet just fine now using Internet Explorer 6.0. To avoid a slow but sure obsolescence of your PC, stay where you are - don't upgrade. Or let's say Word 97 is still doing everything you need for a word processor. Do you really need to upgrade to Word 2003?
Better yet - look for ways to 'downsize' your software when possible. Keep an eye out for smaller, faster programs that perform essentially the same functions as some of your large, bloated applications.
Or tap into the trend of using older versions of popular software programs. The site OldVersion.com (http://www.oldversion.com) offers free downloads of older versions of many programs - everything from instant messengers to media players. Compare an old version of AOL's AIM instant messenger with a new version to realize just how much bloat tends to creep in to new software, and you'll quickly appreciate the fact that sometimes older is better.
Above all, avoid software with system recommendations far beyond your own. A lot of the latest and greatest software is just too hard on slower machines, and most of us rarely use all of the features in new products anyway
- Avoid hardware upgrades
Computer component manufacturers love to sell you on the idea that a new part here or there will make a substantial difference in the performance of your PC. Usually, it won't.
Processor upgrades, for instance, provide incremental improvements at best - and cost a lot of money. The same can usually be said of graphics cards upgrades. Buy the computer you need at the outset, and avoid pumping more dollars into an old system as time goes by.
Upgrades that do make sense are those that allow you to double the performance or capacity of your PC without throwing out existing hardware. Adding a second, external hard drive, for instance, can be cost-effective as your data storage needs grow.
- No obsolescence in the future?
When you do have to upgrade a computer, plan on cushioning the financial blow by selling off your old notebook or PC by using the online auction market. Old notebooks, especially, can bring a decent return. Just be sure to keep as much of the original packaging material and paperwork as possible so that you can offer potential buyers good value.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur