Friday, November 21, 2008

Computer woes

Well, this is frustrating. My computer has just recently taken to spontaneously shutting down for no apparent reason. No warning or anything, just in the middle of whatever I'm doing ... pfffft. I'm reasonably sure it just needs the power supply replaced, which is about a $100-150 fix.

But it's just over 3 years old and I had been thinking about replacing it this January. Replacing the power supply is a good 10-20% of the cost of a new computer. The idea of being without a computer for a protracted period strikes fear into my heart, so it seems reasonable to replace it early.

I haven't bought a computer in three years, so I've fallen behind in what's good, what's not, and what former players in the market are a shadow of themselves. I'm thinking about either going with a mail-order configurator like Cyberpower, but I've also considered getting a premade system at Circuit City or Best Buy and dropping in a decent graphics card. I'm avoiding Dell. I think their quality has improved over what it once was, but I think they're overpriced. Does anyone have any suggestions as to a vendor or experiences they'd like to share?

And just to stave off the inevitable, no a Mac is not an option.

UPDATE: No boot for me! It looks like the turning-off-unexpectedly problem has turned into a wont-even-boot problem. Nuts. Thank goodness for work laptops you can take home. Posting may be light for the next couple of weeks. Fortunately, I don't think I lost any data. Since this is probably a power supply problem, it should all be intact on the hard drive. When I get a new computer, I'll get an external drive encloser and drop my old hard drive into that. That way I'll have all my old data and a backup drive, too!

Hey, if you do mostly desktop applications, word processing, email and the like, a Mac is probably a good choice. On the other hand, you can get a decent PC suitable for doing all those things for a third of the price. Wow, it looks like you can even get an ultra-portable from Dell for $350. Admittedly that's probably not good for much other than web browsing and email, but damn, you can spend more than that on a PDA.


David said...

Mac Mac Mac Mac Mac. iMac. So there.

Gamera said...


Well, to be honest, I've pondered buying a computer but have decided to try and stick it out as long as I can to try and save some money.

I was, however, going to switch to a Mac. An iMac. ;)

But I'm still using some eMachine that I got at Best Buy for $300 for almost seven years ago now.

And I'm still on my initial installation of Windows XP.

Knock, knock, knock on wood....

Glock21 said...

My usual routine is hitting up Tom's Hardware Guide to catch up with everything I missed since the last time I found myself neck deep in the latest computer jargon and best-for-the-cash shopping.

Then of course making a build check sheet for all the needs... with either/or lists to see what the best option may be.

If you already have a lot of the stuff and are planning on abandoning your current box, you might be able to build yourself a pretty decent frankenputer, and save a great deal of cash.

Champaign Computer is a pretty reasonable place to start to sculpt a theoretical bare bones system and then mix-n-match from there for deals, steals, and compu-graverobbing.

Dell is a crapshoot on good prices. If your acquisition time table is 3-4 weeks anyways you can compare whatever custom system you're considering to that week's deals and offers and sometimes come reasonably close and save the time, hassle, or even get some nifty freebies for not much more. You're probably hosed if you're not going for a new monitor too though, since their 'discount' for not bundling a monitor is on par with highway robbery.

But generally speaking, avoiding impulse and keeping your options open for a few weeks can save a fat stack of cash, or at least get a lot more bang for the buck.

Just my 2 cents.

Ryan said...

I said the same thing as you until I got a Mac. I've not looked back. This was August.

Robert said...

Hey eric... First time commenter.

You should be able to pick up a replacement power supply for a LOT less than $100, unless you have a strangely propietary computer or a monster graphics card. Check out

I hear good things about puget systems if you want a new machine. A client of mine got a prebuilt cyberpower gaming pc, and it's been a bit flaky. Dell can have awesome deals if you catch them at the right time, but support on the consumer boxes sucks...

But I would second the advice about apples. I'm no fanatic... I run vista voluntarily at work, and having spent five years doing home and small business computer consulting know more about xp than anyone should. As a consultant I would recommend macs to people, and then would promptly lose them as clients... they simply didn't need me anymore! Although the absolute price is higher, you have to consider value... Imagine a computer that, for the most part, you don't have to "maintain", that just works (for the most part).

Anyway, best of luck!

Narc said...

Richard, thanks for the suggestions. Puget looks like they do good work; I like the fact that they worry about the sound output of their machines. But damn, they're expensive. $500 more for the same components.

I was looking at local retail outlets for a new power supply. Mail ordering one is going to take a week and a half right now. I can't believe Best Buy can get away with charging that much for them. Champaign Computer would be my first choice for components, but they're only open from 10-5 on weekdays and not at all on weekends, which means I have no way of shopping there anymore.

I'm not trying to diss Macs. I used one at work a few times and it looks to me like they're pretty good machines. (My main dislike about the interface is that it seems like you'd spend half your time manually resizing windows and why is there no @%$&!* eject button on the CD drive?) One of the biggest hurdles is that I'd have to pick up all the software I've accumulated over the years and just throw it in the trash.

Vogue said...

Just FYI, you can run Windows on Macs now. Both as a regular install or with software. You could have the best of both worlds. I'm just sayin'.

David said...

and why is there no @%$&!* eject button on the CD drive?

Because it's located — much more conveniently — right there on the keyboard.

Narc said...

Because it's located — much more conveniently — right there on the keyboard.

Which makes about as much sense as putting a car's trunk release on the steering wheel.

Ryan said...

If the only thing that is stopping you from a Mac is an eject button, maybe you should consider them more fully and not quibble :P

But to your software woes--I thought the same thing. Yet, I've not run anything I ran on my old windows machine on my new computer--there has been no need. However, should you want to, yes Macs can run windows, at times even better, and simultaneously to other programs. Try VM Fusion or Parallels--you literally have Windows open at the same time as Mac Leopard, which is a far nicer interface, in my opinion, one that I thought I'd hate and actually love. Beyond that, you can run the mac as a Windows machine itself, thereby having both worlds should want them. As to the window sizing, there's some easy tricks which are just intuitive as Windows, only different. It took me 3 days to learn to use my new computer, which is far superior than what I had and much more user friendly. Just something to consider.