It has been a few weeks since I have emptied the mailbag so let’s try and tame my incoming email stash.
Q. Once you install Windows 7 is there a simple way to get a better version if I want to move up to Professional without buying the whole thing again? Can I get credit for what I have already bought? I am told I need a better version to join a domain at work.
A. Yes. If you hit START then select WINDOWS ANYTIME UPGRADE you will be presented with an option to buy the upgraded version. It will then be charged to your credit card and be installed on your PC automatically. Please keep in mind you cannot go from a 32-bit version to a 64-bit version (which is a darn shame because most people will want the 64-bit version when they figure out what it is.)
The main benefit if you have a new computer is that 32-bit Windows can’t recognize more than 3.5 gigs of memory. If you are just a web browser you won’t care but as the price of memory keeps falling it is quite likely you will have 8 gigs of memory in a year or two. That is especially true if you do video editing or photo manipulation. So you might as well get an operating system that can support it.
Q. Is it cheaper to buy a computer from a company or have someone build one for you? My brother in law says he can build a computer for me cheaper but I remember reading in your column that you thought it was cheaper now to buy them.
A. Who do you trust, me or your family? The answer really is, it depends. If your brother in law has a whole bunch of parts lying around and charges you nothing for labour, and you end up with a decent desktop for a hundred bucks, go for it.
However, if you’re starting from scratch, buy a PC from a manufacturer. A few years ago this was not the case but Moore’s Law being what it is, companies like Dell and HP can actually build them below the cost at which you can buy the parts at retail. If we’re talking laptop, buy one ready-made. Also, the warranty from Dell or HP is slightly better than the warranty from your brother in law.
Q. My son is going to college in the fall and I remember you writing about a service that electronically traces stolen laptops. I can’t find that information now. Do you recommend it?
A. ComputTrace’s service called Lojack for Laptops is a good idea for expensive laptops. The basic service is US$40 a year or $90 for three years so it makes sense for decent laptops but you may want to consider if it is worth it for something worth a couple hundred bucks. The service will electronically help recover a stolen laptop using a variety of sophisticated means.
James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm and a tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.