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Repair, don't replace, a slow computer

– Greetings, Internet readers.

You say, however, that it has taken roughly five minutes for this story to finally appear on your computer monitor?

By now, the coffee is cold; the blood pressure is up. And this isn’t the first instance your computer has responded with the speed of an arthritic snail. For the past several months you’ve noticed the machine has had the slow response time of your brother-in-law reaching for the check.

Instead of launching your laptop like a Frisbee, or taking a hammer to your hard drive or killing the computer altogether, consider repairing rather than replacing. The PC that may have been on technology’s cutting edge in 2009, but appears to be on the ledge of extinction, could have life in it after all.

“If you manage your computer properly, you can extend the life of it quite a bit,” says Andrew Hetrick, network administrator for Fort Wayne Newspapers.

“People have a tendency to say, ‘OK, this computer is three years old; it’s not running well anymore. I’m just going to buy a new one.’ I would think that would be a mistake. There are a lot of different things you can do to that computer to either increase the memory or, a lot cheaper than buying a new one, remove a lot of things from running that shouldn’t be.”

Analogy No. 1: Computers can be similar to wheelbarrows; the more you load it, the slower it gets.

The computer user is constantly being asked to download this file or that. Click “yes” or “no.” Often we click “yes.” And there you have it; whatever we wanted is saved within the inner workings of the machine.

Even though the machine’s memory appears to be vast and nearly unlimited, there is a ceiling. Most of the time, however, we’re unaware that we’re nearing the limit.

“A lot of the sites you go to will download different tool bars and all this stuff. All those things start slowing your machine down,” says Matt Schmidt, owner of A-Plus Computers. “Most of them ask you, do you want to download this stuff before you do? You think you’re downloading one thing, you’ve got to be very careful that you’re not downloading six or seven other things that come along with that. Everyone’s used to reading the disclaimer and hitting ‘yes’ and going on, but some of those disclaimers also put other things along with what you’re downloading in there. That’s the biggest thing that slows your machine down.”

By now, we know how we utilize our computers. There is the casual user – the Internet browser, the Facebook poster child, the fantasy football junkie, or the twice-a-week email to cousin Eunice who lives in Pismo Beach, Calif., and the one who sends those funny jokes.

Or there are the serious computer people; those guys with two monitors, maybe three; people who make their living behind the computer; the 2 a.m. gamers.

The life of your computer can determine on which side of the aisle you fall.

“You’ve got some kids who play sports, and you’ve got some kids who are in choir or band. And you’ve got some kids that don’t do any of the above,” says Miles Ratliff, assistant manager of Stone Computer. “Same with computers. You’ve got some people that just use it as a social interface, and some people who only use their smart phones now.

“For someone who is doing 3-D design and modeling and gaming or anything that’s using modern software, you’re upgrading your software on a yearly basis.”

Analogy No. 2: The computer is like a car.

“Once you get over 100,000 miles, your car is going to have more wear and tear. Things are more likely to fail on it more often,” Ratliff says. “With the computer, once you get past that third, fourth year, the likelihood of having a component failure is more likely, and the maintenance cost usually becomes greater the longer you have the machine.”

And like a car, regular maintenance is suggested. If you don’t know how to clean out the computer, take it to someone who does. The cost is usually less than $100.

“A good example is my parents; we just went through this with them,” Hetrick says. “They bought a computer in 2000, and we just replaced that computer. … Their computer lasted for 13 years. It’s because I managed their computer well. I said there are programs on here that don’t need to be.

“They were pretty good at knowing what they were downloading and not accidentally downloading extra tool bars and a whole bunch of other stuff that would slow the computer down. Over the course of the years, things happened to that computer where it broke. The video card went down on that computer, so what I did was I just bought another video card for $30. The power supply went down on it. That’s a $40 part, and I installed it myself and everything was fine.”

Still, there are times when the computer gets its fill, and so do you.

“When you’re ready to throw it out the window, you’re probably due for a new machine,” Ratliff says.