I need a new computer

I have been asked to recommend a replacement computer three times in the first fortnight of this year. So I thought I’d summarise what I think are the salient points to consider.


Yes I know it looks sexy but its a Mac!


The portability of a laptop means you can work anywhere but you can save as much as a third (specification for specification) by buying a desktop PC instead. Mac or Windows PC? It doesn’t matter too much these days in terms of functionality but again spec. for spec. a Mac is much more expensive albeit possibly more reliable. However, as a computer professional I have always found the proprietary nature of everything Apple makes for a lack of flexibility and a drastically increased cost with anything related. OK I’ll hold my hand up, “I don’t like Apple” I can’t frig about with their devices as much as I can non-Apple stuff.



Laptop with camera, glasses and plant

Less sexy, but it more than does the job. Plus there’s a pot plant.

Actually, as an update to this post, since I wrote this I have had two separate clients with Mac issues. For many the main problem is usability, they were used to a PC and the Mac is very different. However, as I told them, in a couple of months, probably much less, they will be wondering how they ever even used Windows. Macs are more reliable both software and hardware, which is porobably why I have less experience of them. The software isn’t perfect, most of the problems, though, seem related to conversing with the outside (my recent support related to Mac eMail not reading IMAP folders – which was solved by Mozilla’s Thunderbird). The thing about all Apple products is design and especially if you are of a creative bent, I guess their devices are more appealing. When they do go wrong (and they do) most replacement/fixing stuff is proprietary and more expensive than the bulk PC stuff.(ed)

So you’ve made an unbiased” decision to buy a non-Mac portable, now what?

  1. What will I use it for?
    1. eMail and browsing the internet with a bit of printing?
      • Chromebook only 10″ screen and usually 32gb solid state drives so you might want extra USB storage
    2. as 1 plus word processing and a bit of spreadsheeting
      • 15″ laptop plus Office 2016 perpetual (or Open Office) min 4gb RAM onboard and 500gb hard disk
    3. as 1 and 2 plus photo storage
      • 17″ laptop Office as above plus possibly photo manipulation software (Photoshop elements or my fave of Lightroom). min 8gb RAM onboard and 1Tb hard disk

By the way, Microsoft and Adobe are pushing their online versions of their software rented monthly, I believe this is a bad thing and a ripoff so I’d always recommend what they call “perpetual” versions that work even if you are waiting for Orange to re-establish you broadband.

Gone are the days of the 286, 386, 486 and Pentium making processor comparison easy. To be honest, as far as processors are concerned, I gave up comparing years ago, each processor has different parameters that relate specifically to the machine making it impossible for direct comparison (not like comparing the 386, 486 or pentium). AMD or Pentium are equally good. Quad core is faster than twin core. Some have much lower power usage (eg Atom) hence longer battery life. Others are better for graphics. So I go for the price range first, then, since I process photos, a good graphics card, then RAM (for photos at least 8gb otherwise 4gb is good for most purposes. USB3, SD card slot, HDMI port to plug-in the tv. And screen size 15″ or so is standard, but for photos and web design I go for 17″.

If you are living in France be careful, the French keyboard is difficult to get used to. The Q is swapped with the A, M with the apostrophe, the full stop need the shift key and don’t get me started on the numbers. Admittedly é and à are much easier to find. Buy from the UK for a UK keyboard. Amazon.co.uk or Laptops direct. The availability is restricted since many suppliers don’t deliver to France… Many do though so persist with your search.

As for transferring from your old machine. Windows is usually sold on the machine and is not transferable so don’t be misled into saving money because you already have windows unless you have a full system cd. The pre-installed Windows systems are OEM versions and only work on the machine on which it is installed. Even replacing the hard disk on the same machine and restoring can give you Windows licensing errors. New machine, new installations. You need a spring clean anyway and a reinstall of up-to-date version of software, downloaded from the manufacturer’s sites is usually best for your new machine.

If you want to transfer your personal files across, a usb stick if your old computer still works. If not bring it to me and I’ll see if I can get the hard disk out and connect up to your shiny new laptop.



Posted in General Computers.

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