Author Topic: We need to buy a new desktop.  (Read 10421 times)

MayDay

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4003
We need to buy a new desktop.
« on: June 19, 2014, 05:34:30 PM »
Help?  I know a bunch if you know way more than me about computers. 

Our last desktop was bought 5 years ago and is very, very near death.  Monitor/keyboard/etc are all fine, we just need the tower. 

My main questions are:

Where can I get the best deal?  My brother mentioned building your own, but only if you have a coughfreecough way to get Windows, which we don't.


What do I need in terms of ram, processor, etc?  We want it to last awhile, but mostly do word processing, internet, YNAB, etc. No gaming, no movie watching, no giant music library.  H does occasionally run engineering software (process simulation stuff) but it is rare enough that we don't need it to go fast, we just need it to not die.


Should we buy office or just use some kind of open office?  For daily use we don't care.  Concerns are if H has a job interview and needs to do a PP presentation and wants it to be compatible.  But I assume all the open office stuff is compatible, right?  Other question is kids school stuff- our oldest is starting 1st grade, so by the time this computer dies he will likely be using it extensively for school stuff. I don't know if there are any issues with open office and compatibility with whatever it is kids do these days on computers. 

I found a dell with an intel i5 processor, windows 8.1, 8 gb ram, and a 1tb drive for 549.  Does that seem like enough or too much both in terms of power and price?

Icecreamarsenal

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 519
  • Location: New Jersey
  • Burnt
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014, 05:48:25 PM »
It's more than enough in terms of power. Price wise, you can find something cheaper, especially if you go i3, 4gig, and 250mb. Maybe in the 350 range.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

data.Damnation

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
  • Location: Madison
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2014, 05:55:35 PM »
There are so many desktops for sale on craigslist for cheap. If you don't need to do any gaming or multimedia, you can use basically any system that runs windows 7 or later.

Open office and google docs both work great and are both free. The only way I'd recommend getting office is if you need to save documents or open documents in Excel/Word/Powerpoint format (Office uses very proprietary file settings that other programs have a hard time duplicating).

AlanStache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1867
  • Age: 39
  • Location: South East Virginia
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2014, 05:58:13 PM »
This level of computer is a commodity, try costco, amazon, newegg.com etc.

Yes open office (and probably google docs) should be compatible but it sounds like you might not want to bother with compatibility hassles and just get MS office.  Students instructions will be written for Office too.

I have not heard much positive about win8, win7 is 100% usable and dare I say even good.  Dont feel the need to get 8 because it is newer.

MayDay

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4003
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2014, 06:20:14 PM »

Yes open office (and probably google docs) should be compatible but it sounds like you might not want to bother with compatibility hassles and just get MS office.  Students instructions will be written for Office too.


Compatibility hassles will drive me up a wall.  Up.a.wall.   Plus with the student instruction issues (obviously we could help him, but I would rather him be able to do it without *needing* help, you know?) I am thinking I agree with you.  I heard a rumor that we can get the student version through our school district.  I will have to compare prices and see if that is a good deal.  Of course it may be impossible to get over the summer anyway. 

I didn't know anything about Win7 vs 8.  It seemed like when you go to the non-base level specs, they all went to Win8.  But I agree with you that if we can save money with 7, that would be fine. 

Doomspark

  • Guest
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2014, 06:28:15 PM »
buying a used computer can be fraught with peril.  You may get all kinds of malware, and if extremely unlucky might end up with a load of kiddie porn as well.  If you don't have the wherewithal to completely wipe and reload the OS, you're potentially buying a string of problems.  I REALLY don't recommend it.

On the other hand, computers go obsolete incredibly fast. Buying a new high-end box is most-likely a poor choice for what you want.  Look for a mid-level box.  Lenovo (and I admit I like that brand so I'm a bit biased), has some decent boxes for under $500.00

Oh, one more thing. Have you looked into having your current box repaired?

AlanStache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1867
  • Age: 39
  • Location: South East Virginia
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2014, 06:48:41 PM »
I would not use a second hand computer without wiping the hard-drive and reinstalling the OS, even then...  Saving a few hundred is not worth the risk, and you would not save much if you had to buy a new copy of Windows.

Go play with win8 at Best Buy see how you like it.

gimp

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2348
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2014, 07:05:33 PM »
I worked at Intel... we made awesome chips. 500-person design teams pushing new tech every year. Ridiculous reliability. I worked on the server chips, not client, but I know my shit, and my shit says:

For a budget, buy AMD every time.

Under $500 gets you a completely standard, commodity PC. It's going to be reliable, come with an OS, lots of hard drive space, enough memory to run any normal program you want. It will have on-die graphics (meaning no separate graphics card), a decent power supply, a decent motherboard, a fine CPU in the $100 or so range. It will last you about 5 years.

Here's how you buy a budget PC - or rather, two methods. One, do a bunch of research to see what's on sale, check out what gamers on a budget are buying, etc. Two, figure out precisely what tasks you are running, and expect to run for the next five years - chance are, it's going to be an office suite, a browser, and some light games - and find the cheapest PC that can do all of those things (every new PC can do all of those things). Then add about 25% to the price to account for the next several years.

Be aware of how modern consumer computing products are sold today. You have the same model, and three options. The first is the cheapest. For some more money, you can get something a fair bit nicer. For a more money than that, you can get something slightly nicer. Nobody buys the top-end version; it exists to sell the middle-end, since people want the top-end, can afford the bottom-end, and compromise on the middle end. Usually the cheapest is the best value. Especially because a PC can be upgraded piecemeal - in two years, spend $50 for more RAM or a new huge hard drive or a new really fast hard drive.

One more note. A solid-state drive will make a lot of tasks really, really fast. If you were to splurge on anything it should be an SSD. Faster ram is worthless to you and more ram is probably worthless too (though 8gb ram is probably a requirement.) A faster CPU is a great idea until you realize it's idling 95% of the time in your common workload of office-browser-netflix.

TL;DR Ex-intel employee who loves intel chips tells you to buy AMD; buy pre-built; buy cheap; maybe treat yourself to an SSD.

Jack

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4734
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2014, 07:35:55 PM »
First of all, what's wrong with the computer you have? I'm sure not all of it is "very near death;" it probably just needs a good vacuuming and an OS reinstall. Even if a part actually is going bad (due to bad capacitors, etc.) then it's probably just one part and not the whole thing.

only if you have a coughfreecough way to get Windows

here ya go.

Otherwise, Windows 7 is better than Windows 8.

What do I need in terms of ram, processor, etc?  We want it to last awhile, but mostly do word processing, internet, YNAB, etc. No gaming, no movie watching, no giant music library.  H does occasionally run engineering software (process simulation stuff) but it is rare enough that we don't need it to go fast, we just need it to not die.

Anything. No, seriously, any new computer at all will be fast enough for what you describe.

Should we buy office or just use some kind of open office?  For daily use we don't care.  Concerns are if H has a job interview and needs to do a PP presentation and wants it to be compatible.

Use OpenOffice and either export the presentation to PDF or similar, or test the completed presentation with a "friend's" copy of MS Office.

I found a dell with an intel i5 processor, windows 8.1, 8 gb ram, and a 1tb drive for 549.  Does that seem like enough or too much both in terms of power and price?

Too much.

I say keep/fix what you have; it's probably fine. Otherwise, follow gimp's advice ("buy AMD; buy pre-built; buy cheap; maybe treat yourself to an SSD"). 8GB RAM is worth it, too (but I say that because I keep way too many browser tabs open).

gimp

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2348
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2014, 07:53:17 PM »
I reciprocate Jack's agreement. My laptop is 5 years old; paid $1100 for it in 2009. I'm a hardware engineer. It still runs faster than most people's brand new laptops. Hell, I've seen people buy a better laptop than mine, after I bought mine, and replace it, all within the time I've had mine.

Why does mine run fast? Why is a hardware engineer ok with a 5-year-old laptop? I mean, I'm not just office-and-internetting on it, it's a full-time dev machine - software, hardware, firmware, batch image processing, CAD, whatever.

- OS. As Jack said, a clean wipe and install of an OS does wonders. I partition my hard drive and once every couple years I get a new OS, slowly transfer data off the old one, and eventually shrink it to about 30 GB (under 5% of the disk size) and leave it frozen in case I ever need anything from it.
- OS. Okay, so I'm cheating: I run linux. I upgraded from one major release to the next and it actually ran faster. When did windows ever run faster on the same hardware after an upgrade? Right. Also when I upgraded to a new cut-down distro that was a derivative of the old one I used, I went down to a 10-second boot time... with a traditional hard drive.
- I clean it. Every couple months I open my laptop and blow all the dust out.
- I upgraded the ram once. 4GB to 8GB.
- I got a new HD once. First one was dying since it was brand new; it got bad right during the time the HD factories got flooded so I got fucked. Still, a new hard drive helped too, though it's not really necessary...
- I get rid of the cruft on my operating systems often. Yeah, I have windows installed; it runs fast because I don't let it get bogged down in bullshit.

So I can take just about any old PC and vacuum the shit out of it, maybe see if it needs a new fan (usually not but my laptop had bad luck with fans), do a clean wipe and OS install, and keep malwarebytes and windows defender / whatever antivirus you use regularly active.

One more thing. Get a $10 flash drive. Get a free program called Unetbootin. Use it to install an Ubuntu live image to your flash drive; this is free; ubuntu is another OS. Now turn off the computer, plug in the flash drive, boot it up, and you get something that sort of looks like a cross between windows 7 and a mac.

Use that to watch porn.

Seriously - porn is probably the #1 reason a computer slows down. Now, I know, I'm not implying your computer is being used to watch porn, I'm not implying ownership of the porn, I'm just saying, if someone watches it, then use the live image. All the malware and viruses and trojans that try to run - well, #1, they can't because they're almost all written for windows; #2, the live image erases any changes you make every time you reboot so it's always clean, #3 it would be an insanely impressive virus that will run on your live image, skirt under the pretty damn good security of linux, recognize it's a live image, and infect your windows partition.

If none of that made sense, don't worry. Just do that other thing. I guarantee it'll make your computer last years longer than it otherwise would.

Also don't install any toolbars...

zolotiyeruki

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3187
  • Location: State: Denial
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2014, 08:34:51 PM »
Another geek here.  My suggestion?  An i3 (or AMD equivalent) with 4GB of RAM will do nicely for you for now, *especially* a refurbished one from Microcenter or the like--I'd put you in the budget category of around $350.  Upgrades aren't expensive now, and they'll be even cheaper in a year or two.  The 8GB of RAM that costs $75 will be $50 in a few years when you might actually need it, and processors will similarly drop in price.

Only buy as much computer as you need TODAY.  It'll be cheaper to upgrade in two years if your needs expand than it will be to buy a higher-spec computer now.

taekvideo

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 264
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2014, 08:45:16 PM »
I'd also recommend sticking out the one you have now until it either dies completely or you really can't use it anymore... just make sure all your important files are backed up incase the hdd dies (that's important for new computers just as much as old ones..)

If you do decide to go with one... then for your purposes there's 2 things I'd recommend:
An SSD.... at least 64gb (preferably 128 or 256) as the primary drive.  It makes everything seem so much faster... a cpu or gpu upgrade isn't nearly as noticeable as an SSD when you're used to magnetic disks.
At least 8gb of ram... as the machine ages the first thing that starts hurting its performance is lower than average ram, so it's worth getting more now and avoid having to replace your sticks with bigger ones later (and it's really cheap these days anyways).

TreeTired

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 449
  • Age: 135
  • Location: North Carolina
  • I think we can make it
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2014, 09:06:38 PM »
I bought a Dell desktop at the President's Day sale (back in February)  for around $290.   Just the box -  which was very small compared to all of our previous desktop computers -  and it came with a keyboard. We used our old monitor.  I don't have the specs on the computer, but it is more than adequate.  Windows 8.whatever takes some getting used to. 

Zillo7

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2014, 10:21:39 PM »
If you're willing to wait for the shipping, this one is really good for the price. I got one to test for some project I'm working on and for web browsing and stuff, it's nice.

MayDay

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4003
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2014, 05:53:46 AM »
I have been reading all the advice to H.

We are currently running Vista, so he wants to know if you guys think it is worth upgrading to 7 or 8. 

He thinks the hard drive is going.  We are floating the idea of vacuuming it out, replacing the hard drive, upgrading the RAM, and reinstalling the OS.  I have no idea if we have a hard copy of the OS.  I need to price stuff out, I guess. And figure out if ram, a HD, and a new OS (if needed) comes out cheaper than buying a whole new machine. 

Thank you for all the tips!  I am reading and rereading and trying to soak them all in! 

Jack:  I took a Linux class in college, back when I was tech savvy and not a 31 year old old lady.  It was overwhelming then, I doubt I will be any better at it now!  I am define tiny one of those people who wants to open the box, plug in the computer, and just use it.

Also:  pretty sure there is no porn ;). I am the one more likely to be watching porn, and the one time I thought about trying on the computer, I gave up because I was afraid of viruses and also totally creeped out by all the illegal/nasty stuff. 
« Last Edit: June 20, 2014, 05:58:20 AM by MayDay »

Doomspark

  • Guest
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2014, 06:08:05 AM »
Vista is the spawn of the Devil.  Windows 8 is the Devil's step-child. Upgrade to 7.

AlanStache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1867
  • Age: 39
  • Location: South East Virginia
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2014, 06:13:33 AM »
If you do replace the HD, and dont need the massive volume of modern drives get a SSD.  Did this with a net book and my newish desktop, is the single biggest improvement you can make.  Things are lightning fast on them - if you can deal with only having 100gig.  If volume becomes needed you can add a second HD keeping the OS on the SSD and most of the speed benefits.  Most all of what I do is off the SSD, when I click over to the traditional drive I can here the computer revving up like some nineteenth century battleships boiler.

Ubuntu: is great for web surfing and easy to install, very fast easy to use.  BUT you will be using something like OpenOffice

Edit: yes MS office can sort of be run in ubuntu but this will take work and if you are getting windows/Office anyway just use those if you are agnostic about OS's.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2014, 06:17:05 AM by AlanStache »

ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3954
  • Age: 28
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2014, 06:15:58 AM »
Looks like this is the direction you're going, but sprucing up the old PC makes the most sense to me.  Upgrade it to 7, vacuum it out, up the RAM, and you should be good for years.  My 2008 PC is still faster than plenty of people's modern PCs.  Computers have not done nearly as much progression in the past ten years as the previous ten.

frugaliknowit

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1662
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2014, 06:23:39 AM »
The only reason to get windows 8 would be if it were touch screen.  Otherwise, I recommend avoiding 8 and getting 7.

What makes you think your pc is about to die?  Is the performance bad?  Have you considered adding memory to it?

Make sure important files are backed up.

Jack

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4734
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2014, 07:19:40 AM »
Jack:  I took a Linux class in college, back when I was tech savvy and not a 31 year old old lady.  It was overwhelming then, I doubt I will be any better at it now!  I am define tiny one of those people who wants to open the box, plug in the computer, and just use it.

Linux has changed a lot since you were in college. Try it again.

neo von retorch

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3340
  • Location: SE PA
    • Fi@retorch - personal finance tracking
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2014, 07:20:29 AM »
I had a ~6 year old laptop and I put an SSD in it (still running Windows XP!) and it was quite nice after that. The price on these dropped a lot in the past 6 months. I prefer Samsung because of good experiences, and the free software they provide that quickly and easily lets you transfer your OS image exactly as it is to the new SSD. (This requires a SATA USB dock or dongle. Other brands likely have similar software, but I make no promises!)

Windows 8.1 actually has some performance improvements over 7 (like booting very, very fast), will receive more / longer support from Microsoft, and it can do everything 7 can do. It just has some additional interface elements that surprise people. Some of these can be turned off. The rest can be ignored (or enjoyed, by some). However, saying that, 7 is still a safe choice. (With either choice, you can make use of OneDrive.com for 7GB+ of constantly sync'd backup for your most important files. 8 has this integrated natively but it's a trivial advantage.)

RAM can be a bit of a crap shoot - I built a desktop several years ago while DDR2 was still popular, and I only put 4GB in. To upgrade now is actually pretty expensive because DDR2 is in short supply and DDR3 is cheap and plentiful. 4GB is fine even for Photoshopping a bunch of images and a bunch of browser tabs, but 8GB gives you breathing room. (Is that anti-mustachian?!)

ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3954
  • Age: 28
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2014, 07:51:05 AM »
RAM can be a bit of a crap shoot - I built a desktop several years ago while DDR2 was still popular, and I only put 4GB in. To upgrade now is actually pretty expensive because DDR2 is in short supply and DDR3 is cheap and plentiful. 4GB is fine even for Photoshopping a bunch of images and a bunch of browser tabs, but 8GB gives you breathing room. (Is that anti-mustachian?!)
Hah, definitely not.  I dropped 16GB of DDR3 in my desktop 2.5 years ago with a new motherboard and the RAM cost a total of $60 (Mobo and CPU were a total of $30 after selling my old CPU).  RAM is getting dirt cheap.  Only 4GB of DDR2 in 2008 was something like $70.

neo von retorch

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3340
  • Location: SE PA
    • Fi@retorch - personal finance tracking
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2014, 07:55:56 AM »
I think you misunderstood me. I mean that "not buying it now" is gambling because the price may go up later. Although, right now it appears 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR2 is as cheap as $37 at NewEgg. I may need to look up what kind I need and finally upgrade. Last time I researched, it was much higher.

Thegoblinchief

  • Guest
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2014, 08:09:43 AM »
I haven't followed computer gear in about a year, but I'd be another vote for upgrading the OS to 7 or 8.1 and installing it on an SSD. The SSD and fresh OS will give the computer the "new" feeling for far cheaper than a new computer that has an SSD in it.

Linux Mint or Ubuntu are both pretty easy to pick up, but i don't know if YNAB has a Linux client or if it plays nice in WINE. Your DH's engineering software almost certainly won't but it is possible.

ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3954
  • Age: 28
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2014, 08:09:43 AM »
Ah yes.  Everything in the world of computers trends down in price, except older tech RAM.  It's bizarre.  Of course I look it up now, and DDR4 is coming soon.  At least my motherboard is maxed at 16GB of DDR3.

ivyhedge

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 290
  • Location: United States of Farse
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #25 on: June 20, 2014, 08:22:42 AM »
Another vote for doing some in home refurbishing. My machine is > 7 years old and still crunches models better than most friends' machines for which they paid silly money. (I have added storage, however, b/c of cost.)


BUT! It sounds like you're leaning toward buying a new machine and "plugging it in". If so, then the echoes for Costco (or the like) are great. Good prices; reasonable selection; and, returns (if you're going to have an hardware problem any problems will reveal themselves in the first few weeks).

eil

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 246
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #26 on: June 20, 2014, 08:33:20 AM »
Wow, this thread has really devolved into a bunch of geek-speak technobabble. To the OP:

How far you go with this depends on your level of expertise and who is available to help you. A five year-old computer is probably fine hardware-wise, but if backing up your data, wiping the hard drive, and installing a new OS is frightening to you, you may be better off getting a new cheapie from Sam's Club or Costco or Dell with windows pre-installed and calling it a day.

If you get rid of the old one, have someone trustworthy wipe the drive first, or remove it and destroy it yourself.

I totally understand the Mustachian principles of saving some bucks through intensive DIY, but the ins and outs of computer technology are not something that can be learned in an afternoon marathon YouTube session.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2014, 08:35:10 AM by eil »

hybrid

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1673
  • Age: 53
  • Location: Richmond, Virginia
  • A hybrid of MMM and thoughtful consumer.
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #27 on: June 20, 2014, 09:59:35 AM »
I work in IT, my side gig is helping home users with their IT needs. I've traveled this path often with folks in exactly the same boat. My thoughts....

If the OP knows how to load the OS from scratch, that is the answer. I suspect that is NOT the answer here.

I save out the user profile, load the OP and drivers from scratch, load Microsoft Anti-Virus, Adobe Reader, Java, and all patches and service packs, and restore all the relevant data and set the unit back up for a flat fee of $150 for my clients. It takes me about four hours to do start to finish, much of that time is spent waiting on patches and software to load. If you have someone local who can do this, that's a lot less expensive than a new PC, which I agree you don't probably need on a five year old box. If you go this route, spring for an extra $60 or so for a NEW hard drive, as the one you own is long in the tooth and has a decent chance of failing in the next few years.

If you don't want to go that route you can often find reasonably priced older units from www.rakuten.com and the like running Windows 7 for about $200. They are typically units that have come off lease from office environments and have a new OS imaged on them. The hard drive will likely be the original one.

If you don't want to go that route you can buy a good refurbished Dell from Dell Outlet for about $350.

If you don't want to go that route spend $100 more and buy new from Dell.

Bottom line, this should cost you no more than $450 TOPS for your needs.  Above all else, get Windows 7 like everyone else has said. Best Windows OS ever, and Windows 8 is just awful.

msnln7

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 16
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #28 on: June 20, 2014, 10:00:08 AM »
When you say near death, what does that mean?  IS the PC is in working condition but slow due to age/malware, etc or dust bunnies got into the system making the fan run loud constantly?  If these are the scenarios, OS reinstallation and good cleaning of insides of the PC using q-tips, especially between the processor chip heat sink and fan on top, will bring on the new life to the computer.  Just make sure you back up all the data before the OS reinstall.

I have 10 year old Pentium based PC running Windows XP which I got for free (when office PC got infected with virus) which is more than enough computing power to browse the web and run office applications.  My son, on the other hand, wanted to be able to play recent games, so I recently got him low end dual core PC that is refurbished for ~$100 so a new PC can be had cheap. Neweggflash.com always has cheap refurbished PCs on sale, which is where I got mine.

My wife also has same model PC as mine (also free) but because streams videos almost exclusively on her PC, I installed Ubuntu Linux on hers.  The OS runs at least twice as fast as XP and she is extremely happy with the OS choice.  Linux installation takes 15 minutes and looks and feels almost exactly same as Windows.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2014, 10:02:47 AM by msnln7 »

taekvideo

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 264
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #29 on: June 20, 2014, 10:45:27 AM »
Windows 7 is better than vista, but I don't think it's worth paying to upgrade.  If you have a hard copy, or you can extract the key from your current install ( http://pcsupport.about.com/od/tipstricks/ht/findvistakey.htm ) then just installing a fresh copy of vista on a new SSD would work great (and upgrading ram is a good idea too)

cdub

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 167
    • Mortgage Payoff Club
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #30 on: June 20, 2014, 10:56:17 AM »
Help?  I know a bunch if you know way more than me about computers. 

Our last desktop was bought 5 years ago and is very, very near death.  Monitor/keyboard/etc are all fine, we just need the tower. 

My main questions are:

Where can I get the best deal?  My brother mentioned building your own, but only if you have a coughfreecough way to get Windows, which we don't.


What do I need in terms of ram, processor, etc?  We want it to last awhile, but mostly do word processing, internet, YNAB, etc. No gaming, no movie watching, no giant music library.  H does occasionally run engineering software (process simulation stuff) but it is rare enough that we don't need it to go fast, we just need it to not die.


Should we buy office or just use some kind of open office?  For daily use we don't care.  Concerns are if H has a job interview and needs to do a PP presentation and wants it to be compatible.  But I assume all the open office stuff is compatible, right?  Other question is kids school stuff- our oldest is starting 1st grade, so by the time this computer dies he will likely be using it extensively for school stuff. I don't know if there are any issues with open office and compatibility with whatever it is kids do these days on computers. 

I found a dell with an intel i5 processor, windows 8.1, 8 gb ram, and a 1tb drive for 549.  Does that seem like enough or too much both in terms of power and price?

Get a Google Chromebox for $169. It's all you'll need. It has Google Docs which can use Word files. Most schools are converting to Chromebooks anyways. It doesn't require any maintenance and is Windows and Virus free.

http://www.amazon.com/Asus-CHROMEBOX-M004U-ASUS-Desktop/dp/B00IT1WJZQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403283328&sr=8-1&keywords=asus+chromebox

MayDay

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4003
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #31 on: June 20, 2014, 11:26:08 AM »
Yeah, not going to lie, I have no clue about half of what you guys are talking about.  Between H and I, I am sure we can figure it out, but I don't know that I want to devote a weekend to it. 

Reasons it is dying:  HD is going, needs more ram (we thought, maybe just needs a new OS install).  H was concerned about security of Vista, I don't know if that is a valid concern or not. 

See one up thread mentioned open office compatibility being no big deal, and said something like "you just export it to a PDF, then check it on a friends machine!  Yeah, I don't want to do that.  I want it to just work.  So we have decided that regardless, we definitely want office (although likely the cheapest home/student version we can find). 

Now the question is, should we upgrade our current hard drive, ram, and OS (sounds fraught with peril) or buy new?  And if new, should we get something in the 500$ range so we don't have to touch it for 5 more years, or get something 300$ that we will be having to upgrade ram in a few years, and hope we don't botch that up. 

H's ears perked up at the thought of a SSD, but I don't think anything we do justifies the higher price. 

hybrid

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1673
  • Age: 53
  • Location: Richmond, Virginia
  • A hybrid of MMM and thoughtful consumer.
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #32 on: June 20, 2014, 12:27:07 PM »
Yeah, not going to lie, I have no clue about half of what you guys are talking about.  Between H and I, I am sure we can figure it out, but I don't know that I want to devote a weekend to it. 

Reasons it is dying:  HD is going, needs more ram (we thought, maybe just needs a new OS install).  H was concerned about security of Vista, I don't know if that is a valid concern or not. 

See one up thread mentioned open office compatibility being no big deal, and said something like "you just export it to a PDF, then check it on a friends machine!  Yeah, I don't want to do that.  I want it to just work.  So we have decided that regardless, we definitely want office (although likely the cheapest home/student version we can find). 

Now the question is, should we upgrade our current hard drive, ram, and OS (sounds fraught with peril) or buy new?  And if new, should we get something in the 500$ range so we don't have to touch it for 5 more years, or get something 300$ that we will be having to upgrade ram in a few years, and hope we don't botch that up. 

H's ears perked up at the thought of a SSD, but I don't think anything we do justifies the higher price.

Re-read my recent post. Buy used online from reputable merchants to save money, buy new or refurbed from Dell for peace of mind. Just be sure to buy Windows 7.

Jamesqf

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4047
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #33 on: June 20, 2014, 12:42:04 PM »
Jack:  I took a Linux class in college, back when I was tech savvy and not a 31 year old old lady.

Excuse me, but "old lady"?  You're still nothing but a baby.  I was your age when I first used unix, and that was back in the Dark Ages when it came on a reel-to-reel mag tape from AT&T.

I second the posters who suggest just replacing the hard disk with and SSD (you can keep the old drive installed as backup/extra storage), and doing an OS upgrade.

gimp

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2348
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #34 on: June 20, 2014, 01:16:53 PM »
Sorry, a bit too much technobabble, you're right.

I'd like to summarize this thread with three real choices, most difficult to least difficult:

- Upgrade and repair old PC. New hard drive, new OS. $200.
- Buy a refurbed PC for under $400.
- New PC for $400 or so. You could even get one of those tiny new ones running an atom chip, for like $250 (intel NUC).

Oh, by the way, modern linux is amazingly user-friendly in comparison. Things usually work right out of the box. It's no mac or windows but it's all nice and graphical and works like you'd expect. Save some cash doing that. Maybe a bit of a headache... would probably not recommend it.

Oh, about RAM, less to you and more to other folks: DDR4 is about to hit, which will make DDR3 obsolete, and it's a total crapshoot whether this means that you can buy DDR3 really cheap or whether you'll have to pay a bunch since it won't be manufactured anymore. I suspect first one, then the other...

Jack

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4734
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #35 on: June 20, 2014, 01:20:33 PM »
See one up thread mentioned open office compatibility being no big deal, and said something like "you just export it to a PDF, then check it on a friends machine!  Yeah, I don't want to do that.  I want it to just work.  So we have decided that regardless, we definitely want office (although likely the cheapest home/student version we can find).

That was me. First, I said "export to PDF or check it on a friend's machine," not "and."

More importantly, you said you would only rarely need to make Powerpoint presentations. If that's still true, then I think you deserve a face punch for wanting to spend ~$100 on MS Office when you only need it rarely in the worst case (and even then, could compensate) and in the best case might not need it at all! This is mrmoneymustache.com, not spend-money-to-cover-every-possibility-no-matter-how-unlikely.com, remember?

In your situation, I think spending any money on Windows or Office is a complete and total waste. Get Linux, get LibreOffice*, if you need Windows then run the Vista you already have in VirtualBox and if you need MS Office once in a while then go visit a friend.

(* It's the same thing as OpenOffice, as far as you're concerned.)

gimp

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2348
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #36 on: June 20, 2014, 01:36:35 PM »
I would usually agree, Jack, but I think at some point the headache isn't justified for the money saved. As much as I don't want to give microsoft an extra dollar, ...

Yeah, I get by with open office / office libre, and google docs/drive, and mostly just vim. What works for me and you won't necessarily work for someone who just wants a box that works. If OP gets windows, I'd put office on it. So it goes.

alsoknownasDean

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1976
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Melbourne, Australia
Re: We need to buy a new desktop.
« Reply #37 on: June 21, 2014, 05:28:16 AM »
Yeah, not going to lie, I have no clue about half of what you guys are talking about.  Between H and I, I am sure we can figure it out, but I don't know that I want to devote a weekend to it. 

Reasons it is dying:  HD is going, needs more ram (we thought, maybe just needs a new OS install).  H was concerned about security of Vista, I don't know if that is a valid concern or not. 

See one up thread mentioned open office compatibility being no big deal, and said something like "you just export it to a PDF, then check it on a friends machine!  Yeah, I don't want to do that.  I want it to just work.  So we have decided that regardless, we definitely want office (although likely the cheapest home/student version we can find). 

Now the question is, should we upgrade our current hard drive, ram, and OS (sounds fraught with peril) or buy new?  And if new, should we get something in the 500$ range so we don't have to touch it for 5 more years, or get something 300$ that we will be having to upgrade ram in a few years, and hope we don't botch that up. 

H's ears perked up at the thought of a SSD, but I don't think anything we do justifies the higher price.

Vista's still supported by MS until 2017, so there's no issues there. It's XP that's now unsupported.

A bit of DIY refurbishment (cleaning out all the dust, replacing anything critical that uses moving parts and wiping the machine and reinstalling Windows) would let you eke another couple of years from it. A five year old machine is still fine performance-wise for most people.

As far as replacement of parts goes though, this depends on your existing machine. For example, if your current machine uses the older-style RAM (DDR2), that's more expensive than the newer RAM (DDR3) because they're no longer making as much of it.

How much RAM does it currently have? 4GB should be fine, and you'd be able to get by with 2GB.

Do you have the original Windows installation media? If you need to reinstall Windows and don't have the original media, you may need to source an installation DVD. Might be more difficult if you were supplied with one of those 'restore discs'.