By Olev Edur
Your computer shuts down in the middle of routine tasks; files and programs take ages to load; and then even stranger things start to happen: all signs that it may be time to buy a new system. Or is it?
“You should be able to get five or six years out of a computer, and usually more like seven or eight years,” says Richard Denesiuk, executive director of operations and technology at the Creative Retirement Learning Centre in Winnipeg. “If you clean it up, wipe the operating system, and reinstall the programs, you’ll be amazed at how much better it runs.”
Eventually, however, your old system will no longer be able to handle today’s increasingly complex technology.
Thankfully, computers are cheaper, faster, and more powerful than ever, so unless you’re into video editing or intensive gaming, you can get a decent unit for a few hundred dollars.
“If you’re a typical retiree, you don’t need to overspend on a powerful system,” Denesiuk says.
If you have a fixed computer space and portability isn’t an issue, and especially if you’re into heavy-duty applications, a desktop system is your best bet. In terms of speed, features, and flexibility, desktops give you the biggest bang for the buck. They tend to be more durable than laptops, and the typical desktop monitor is much larger than any laptop screen, so print and images are easier to see.
It’s also easier (and cheaper) with a desktop than with a laptop to switch out components and thus stay up-to-date without having to replace the entire system.
On the other hand, if portability is important or even desirable, you need a laptop. Most newer models weigh only a few pounds, and they can be toted anywhere. With wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi) now ubiquitous in hotels, coffee shops, and even subways and public spaces, “away from home” can mean virtually anywhere in the world.
“My advice is to get a laptop,” Denesiuk says. “You can get a new one for $300 to $400 and you have that portability. If you spend more than $400 or $500, you’re probably overspending. If you want a workstation at home, you can simply add a mouse, keyboard, and monitor.”
If you mainly just surf the Internet and use e-mail, a tablet is another option. Tablets are extremely portable and cheap (you can get a decent Android tablet for $100), with a built-in camera and perhaps phone capabilities to boot. “Tabs are hugely popular in our classes,” Denesiuk says.