PC problems: Upgrade or buy a new one? Suggestions from the Seattle Times

Patrick Marshall of The Seattle Times addresses whether it’s worth fixing a computer with issues, or if it’s a better idea to just get a new PC. Plus a few additional tips on maintaining your computer.

Patrick Marshall writes for The Seattle Times today has an article where he is asked his opinion on whether it’s worth fixing a computer with issues, or if it’s a better idea to just get a new PC. Marshall recommends what to do next when a computer slows down… and whether to upgrade or buy a new PC…

“You’ve raised two of the most frequently asked questions I get: Why is my computer slowing down? Should I upgrade or buy a new computer?

The most common causes of sudden slowdowns in performance are…

  1. insufficient memory for the applications you’re running,
  2. an overfull or fragmented hard drive,
  3. a misbehaving application or
  4. a virus or hacker.

“So how do you figure out which malady you’re suffering from? Windows provides a number of tools to help diagnose the problem. First, you’ll want to call up the Task Manager. [note: see How to use Windows Task Manager and Windows Task Manager on Wikipedia] Right-click in your system bar along the bottom of the screen and select Task Manager. Next, click on the Performance tab in the utility that pops up. You’ll get a display of how much memory is being used and how much your CPU is in use. If your memory usage is above 80 percent, you’ll want to explore what is eating up your memory. You can do this by clicking on the Processes tab. If you find that all the memory is being used by legitimate applications, you may want to consider adding memory.”

Good suggestions.

I’ll add, from the Microsoft Windows XP product page, see the section on 5 ways to speed up your computer

Follow these quick guidelines to maintain your computer and keep it running smoothly.

  1. Free up disk space
  2. Speed up access to data
  3. Detect and repair disk errors
  4. Protect your computer against spyware
  5. Learn all about ReadyBoost

One of the (usually!) easiest upgrades you can consider is increasing your computer’s memory, particularly if you determine that you don’t have enough system memory.  On the remaining Windows XP computer at home, we have 1GB of memory installed; on Windows Vista, we have configurations operating with 1GB, 2GB and 4GB.  And my main (older) Mac has 1GB of memory.  There are several tools to help you navigate the upgrade process, and I personally like the Crucial Memory System Scanner which “automatically analyzes your computer memory information and suggests an upgrade that’s guaranteed compatible.”

And defragmenting your hard drive may help your hard drive be more efficient at accessing and saving files.  To start Disk Defragmenter in Windows, click on the Start button, and navigate to the Programs folder and open the Accessories folder.  There, you’ll see the System Tools folder where you can select “Disk Defragmenter.”  In managing your hard drive, consider adding another drive or upgrading your drive to a larger model particularly if you have less than 10-15 percent free space on your main hard drive.

And of course, back up your files on your computer.

More info is also available on the Windows Help and How To site on

Tags: Microsoft, customer support, tips, customer service, Windows.

2 replies on “PC problems: Upgrade or buy a new one? Suggestions from the Seattle Times”

Thanks for this helpful information!  I think another thing you have to think about also is how you are primarily using your computer and for what purpose.  Technology doesn’t have a very long life compared to other business assets, and when you use your computer a lot (as most business users do) it puts even more strain on it.  I think if you’re in the business of looking for ways to speed up a slow work computer (or computers) or advice on improving the speed of your network or any computers on it, it helps to seek the advice of a tech professional.  And having a regular tech provider to do some long-term planning so you can be prepared when computers slow down, need to be replaced or updated can be a really sound investment.  

Thanks for the comment – good points.  

I agree that you should weigh the useful life span of PCs compared to other equipment, but often PCs can be retasked rather than retired.  In the home, PCs can be moved to a kid’s playroom or family room, repurposed as a home server or even a kitchen computer (as we’ve done).  In business, they can also find life (with a low-cost upgrade) as a file or print server, a web access machine or general purpose office file manager.  

The most often failures I’ve seen have been moving parts — fans, power supplies and hard disc drives — rather than motherboards, memory or processors (tho’ I have had these fail on me too).  I’ve even run into instances where a new motherboard system battery has corrected a host of strange problems. So if you’re not savvy in hardware, I certainly agree that the advice of a tech professional is a must.  

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