Mini-article – Buying a new PC – part 2

By | December 1, 2008
This content is 15 years old. Please, read this page keeping its age in mind. Thank you.

Phew – hard to believe it’s December already. And that means sitting down and working out lots of things. Who to visit on Christmas day, what presents everyone would like, whether to have brandy or port with the mince pies…

But one thing I don’t have to think about is what to write about this time. Because I told you last time all about the different bits of a PC and how to decide what to look for.

And I promised I’d go on to tell you about the different makes of PCs and so on. So here you go!

Mini-article – Buying a new PC – part 2

Well, first of all I should admit I can’t say what’s right for you. But I can give you a bit of information to make the decision easier.

If you want the really quick answer, I always start by recommending Hewlett-Packard (HP). The PC I’m typing this on is a 5 year old HP that I’ve used a lot and it still runs absolutely fine. HP just seem to build them a with a bit more care than some makers.

But the flip-side of that is that they do tend to cost a little bit more for the same level of computer. And they aren’t the only good make. I’ve found Advent to be fine (Advent is PCWorld’s own brand), though of course you have to suffer PCWorld’s, ahem, service in order to buy one. A new make that seems pretty good is Amilo – I recently bought one of their laptops and it is very good indeed. If you seem PCs made by Compaq, by the way, it’s the same company as HP.

One of the most popular companies is Dell and I have to admit I’ve always been a bit cautious about them. Until recently you could only buy their computers direct from them. And their service was, well, let’s say variable. But they’ve recently started selling through shops as well. I’d say their computers aren’t as well built as HP’s but you do tend to get a little more for your money.

One more tip – when you’ve whittled your choice down to two or three possibles, try going onto and typing in the computer model name. You might find a magazine has reviewed that specific model.

When you buy a PC from a shop, they’ll almost certainly offer you an extended warranty. Here’s my advice: Generally, they make a big profit on these – you’re usually overpaying. But if you’re buying a top-of-the-range, expensive PC, they can be worthwhile. They don’t seem to vary in proportion to the cost of the PC. But for cheaper PCs, you’ll sometimes find that after 2 years, you could have bought a new PC for the cost of the warranty!

If you do have a PC that stops working (and it’s out of warranty), have a look in the yellow pages to see if there’s a PC mender in your area. Often it’s one specific part that’s broken, so all they have to do is work out which one, then replace it. So repairs can be surprisingly cheap. Even if you decide to replace the PC, it might be worth just buying the main box and keeping your old monitor.

One more tip – earlier I mentioned different makes of PC, but you could also consider a PC from a company like They sell machines that are end of line or that have been returned by the original buyer. Dell (or whoever) don’t want to sell them as new because the packaging is opened and so on. But often, they were only returned because the buyer changed their mind. It’s worth having a look and seeing if they have anything suitable – you can save 1/3 of the price this way.

Website of the month – Snopes looks into urban myths to find out whether there’s any truth behind them.
Have a look at the site itself, but here are a couple that are mentioned in the computer section of the website:

First, there have been some emails flying about (you know the type, the ones that people forward on to everyone they know) saying that Microsoft is launching a product called the iLoo – a toilet with built in internet access, so you can surf the web while you, er, sit.

Apparently even some newspapers were taken in and ran articles about it. But it’s not true. Thank goodness. If you can’t get away from computers there, then where is safe?

A cuter snippets from the site is the rumour that there’s a program out there that replaces standard error messages that don’t make any sense (eg “This program has committed an illegal instruction and must now shut down”) with Japanese Haiku poems. For example:

Your file was so big
It might be very useful
But now it is gone


The web site you seek
Cannot be located, but
Countless more exist

Unfortunately it’s not true, but I’d love someone to change Windows so the error messages made sense. I think at the moment they might as well be in Japanese for all the sense I can make of them.

Reader’s Question – do capitals matter in email addresses?
I don’t know about you, but when I’m at a big gathering at this time of year, I often swap email addresses with people I haven’t seen in a while, to make it easier to keep up to date. And when someone’s giving you their email address, they usually say something like: “it’s [email protected]. All in small letters”.

But does it actually matter?

It turns out that in email addresses, it doesn’t really matter nowadays. When email first appeared, it did make a difference, so everyone got into the habit of checking. But modern email set-ups are designed to be able to get email whether it’s sent in all capitals, in lower case or in a mixture.

What about web addresses? Eg will WWW.HELPFULBOOKS.CO.UK work as well as … or even ?
Yes. The computer knows what you mean either way. But here’s the catch. You know sometimes you have a web address with a bit after the .com or the ?

For example
Well, in the bit after the / (ie “tour”), it does matter. wouldn’t work. There are some websites clever enough to realise that if you type TOUR you want tour, but not many.

So to sum it up, it doesn’t matter for email, but it for website addresses, stick to lower case.

Word to the Wise – Java/Javascript
Java and javascript are programming languages that are often used for fancy things (eg maps that you can zoom in on or animations) on websites. Sometimes your PC will tell you you need to update your javascript “engine”. That just means the javascript language has been improved and your computer needs to connect to the people who created javascript to get the updates.

Phew – another long newsletter this month! Have a great Christmas and you’ll hear from me again in the New Year!

Bye for now,

Tim Wakeling
I often get emails and letters saying how this newsletter has helped people with their computer problems. Yesterday I had a letter from Pamela Le Bailly, who said that she’d used my books constantly to learn – and has since written and had published two books of her own using the PC. One is “Simply Single – No Fuss Recipes for Single Cooks” and the other is “Second Time Around – Ideas and Recipes for Using Leftovers”. Given the credit crunch the newspaper keep talking about, ideas to help avoid wasting money are always handy, so a book on how to make better use on leftovers could be perfect timing. You can read more (and if you like, order online) here: for Simply Single and here: for Second Time Around.
(We don’t publish Pamela’s books, so you can’t order them from us – it has to be from those websites or in a bookstore!)

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2008

Leave a Reply

The name you enter will be displayed. We collect your email address but do not display it. Full privacy policy here. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.