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Should you repair or upgrade your computer or just get a new one

Doing computer repair for a living, I get allot of questions. One my favorites has to be "Should I repair or upgrade my computer or just get a new one". So, let's take a look at whether to repair or upgrade an existing computer or just buy a new one.

Should you repair or upgrade your computer or just get a new one

First off, let's start with the three (3) theories I follow when it comes to computers and their components.

  1. Infant Mortality is the belief that if it will run for a day (24 hours), it will run for its lifetime. It is also the start of what is called the Bathtub Curve.
  2. The Bathtub Curve refers to the expected failure rate of electronics over time, as it resembles an end-to-end section of a bathtub. The failure rate starts out high at the beginning of life (Infant Mortality) and then drops to almost nothing until rising again at the end of life.
  3. The definition of the Lifetime of computer components, from my experience, is three years from start of service. At three years or older, it's not if it will break down, but when will it break down. But there are exceptions to this rule, mainly how well the electronics have been taken care of.

To repair or just replace

With that said, let's start with the repair or replace scenario. Most of the time, if the computer (desktop or laptop) is within the expected lifetime, repairing is the best the way to go. Now the exception is with the price and availability of replacement parts.

Now with computers over three (3) years old, you have to take a look at the cost of replacement parts and labor versus the cost of a new system. If the parts and labor total more than $200, I will usually ask a client at least twice if they are sure they want to replace the part(s).

You also have to look at whether the replacement parts are new or refurbished (fancy way of saying used). For laptop bases, lids and bezels, refurbished will work quite well. For motherboards and IO / daughter boards, a refurbished unit may or may not work out.

Keep in mind that if a particular component has a flaw that caused it to fail, a refurbished (used) part may also have the same flaw and could fail just like the component you are replacing. I've had about 50 / 50 success rate with refurbished parts, with some parts lasting only months and some lasting years.

Hard drives, memory modules, desktop DVD drives, power supplies, laptop displays, laptop keyboards and laptop fans are some of the more common parts that usually need to be replaced. These parts are normally easy to find and purchase. Laptop parts like hinges, display bezels, display lids (tops) and bases can be tricky to find. A quick Google search for computer model + part name should yield some results.

The availability of replacement parts

In my experience finding replacement parts, I have found that the age of the computer has allot to do with being able to find parts.

  • If the computer in question is under 1 year old, the only way to get replacement parts is through the manufacturer. And you can be sure that you will pay full retail price for them.
  • If the computer is 1 - 3 years old, the cost of replacement parts should go down, as the supply of parts should get better. At this point in time, people are starting to 'part-out' failed systems and posting the parts on eBay.
  • If the computer is 3 - 5 years old, the cost of replacement parts will be at their lowest. The supply will be high and you will be able to find multiple vendors carrying the same parts. It's a buyer's paradise.
  • If the computer is 5 years or older, the supply of parts starts to dwindle and prices go up. I had a client one time that wanted to replace a motherboard with bad capacitors that was fifteen (15) years old. I found one (1) refurbished motherboard at almost $500. We had the board recapped for a whole lot less.

To upgrade or just replace

Now when it comes to upgrading a computer, there are quite few things that can be done to desktop and laptop computers. The one thing with the most bang-for-the-buck is memory. Allot of systems come with a nominal amount of memory and can easily be upgraded.

The problem with upgrading memory is that many manufacturers will purchase smaller memory modules and then fill up all of the memory slots with them. For example, let's say you bought a computer with eight (8) gigabytes of memory installed. The motherboard has four (4) memory slots and each one can handle a 4 gigabyte memory module (max.), for a total of sixteen (16) gigabytes (max.).

But when you open up the computer, you find that instead of using two (2) 4 gigabytes memory modules, the manufacturer used four (4) 2 gigabyte modules. So, to upgrade the memory to sixteen (16) gigabytes, you have to replace all of the 2 gigabyte memory modules with 4 gigabytes modules. Why do they do it? They can get the smaller memory modules cheaper.

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Another way to breathe new life into a computer is to upgrade the hard drive. You can go with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) that spins faster or a Solid State Drive (SSD) that has a faster transfer rate. Either of these should give you better performance. Combine it with a clean installation of Windows and you will feel like you got a brand new computer.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

Now if you have a desktop computer and like playing games, upgrading the graphics card may be an option. Just make sure you know what the motherboard specification is for the PCIe slot(s) (version 1, version 2, etc.) and use a graphics card that is compatible. Also, make sure you have enough power connector(s) (6-pin or 8-pin PCIe).

The bottom line

You are the only one who has to decide whether to repair or upgrade an existing computer or replace with a new one. If it has sentimental value or runs a program you cannot reinstall, then maybe you should repair or upgrade it. But if the cost of fixing it is more than the total value of your existing computer, then maybe you consider just replacing it with a new computer.

How to setup Family Safety for Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

I don't know about you, but keeping my family safe on their Windows 10 computers is priority number one. Sure, you can install anti-virus software and browser extensions, but what about the kids under 18? Here's how to set up Family Safety using Microsoft accounts.

How to setup Family Safety for Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

Years ago, the only way I found to really lock down my kid's computers was to add it to a domain and restrict the user permissions. And it did work. But not everyone has a server / domain controller. So, what is a parent to do?

Well, back in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Microsoft had a product called Family Safety. It was part of Windows Essentials, which was a separate download. It worked quite well but Microsoft dropped support Windows Essentials and it is no longer available for download.

So, if you think that Family Safety just faded away, you would be wrong. Microsoft has taken all of the features from the original program and added them to its Microsoft account interface.

All of the same great features are there. You can still filter what websites your kids can visit and restrict access to certain apps and games. You can also set what time(s) your kids can use their Windows 10 computer. You can even set the appropriate age for the apps and games that can be accessed.

Now there are some requirements for using Family Safety in Windows 10 that may be a bit disturbing. Everyone, you and your child, needs to have a Microsoft account. This in itself is no biggie. But your child will need an e-mail address to create a Microsoft Account.

I don't know many five year old's that have an e-mail address, but if you create and monitor it yourself, you should be alright. You don't have to let them have access to it. They will only need the Microsoft account e-mail address and password to log into Windows 10.

So, if you are looking at ways to protect your family when they are online, using Microsoft accounts is one way to go.

How to set up Family Safety in Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

  1. Log into your personal Microsoft account. If you don't have one, then you will need to create one.
  2. Once you are logged in, look along the top menu bar and click on the tab named Family.
  3. Under Your Family click on Add a child.
  4. Enter your child's e-mail address and click on Send invite. If they don't have one, you can create one by clicking Create a new email address for your child. If you do that, then you'll be creating a Microsoft account at the same time. When you have your child's account all set up, you will still need to send them an invite. Now to protect your child's privacy, Microsoft does charge a small one-time fee ($.50) to verify your identity.
  5. Once they (or you) accept the email invite, then you can start configuring their online settings.

What your child sees and can do when they log into their Microsoft account

What your child sees and can do when they log into their Microsoft account

  • Mange sign in preferences just like a standard Microsoft account.
  • Edit personal information like gender, State, ZIP Code and time zone.
  • Edit payment information. This only applies to their personal account, not yours. You can add funds to their Microsoft account through your account. They can also redeem codes and gift cards too.
  • Edit their Xbox profile, if they have Xbox account. If not, they can create one.
  • Edit their Skype profile, if they have Skype account. If not, they can create one.

What you see and can do when you log into your Microsoft account

What you see and can do when you log into your Microsoft account

  • Recent activity. This is where you can view your child's activities in week by week format. You can also turn on or off weekly activity e-mail reports.
  • Web browsing. You can turn on or off the blocking of inappropriate websites. You can create a (white) list of allowed websites and a (black) list of blocked websites. You can also only allow websites on the allowed list, but your kid's computer will need the Windows 10 November update (11/16) or newer version installed for this option to work. And Safe Search is turned on and InPrivate browsing is turned off. Now all of these web filters require that your kid only uses Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer. You can disable the use of Firefox and Chrome under Apps, games and media.
  • Apps, games and media. Here you can block inappropriate apps and games. This applies not only to Windows 10, but also to Windows Phones and Xbox One. There is a pull-down menu that allows you to select the appropriate age for your child. This will dictate some pre-configured settings which will enable or disable certain features. You can also view the list of the block apps and games. If you want, you can also remove any program you feel should not be on the list.
  • Screen time. This is where you set up the times your kid is allowed on the PC. There is a grid broken down by the days of the week along the side and hours of day going across the top. When you activate the time limits, the default time spans are put into place (7:00 AM to 10:00 PM). You can manually add, remove or modify any of the time spans and you can have multiple time spans per day.
  • Purchase and spending. This is where you can add funds to their Microsoft account for use at the Microsoft and Xbox stores. There is also a pull-down menu that you can choose what types of apps and games you child get; all games and apps, only free games and apps or none. You can also turn on or off the ability to receive e-mail when you child gets an app or game.
  • Find your child. With this feature, you can locate your child using the GPS inside of their Windows 10 Phone. If they don't have a Windows 10 device, you cannot use this feature.
  • Xbox privacy settings. This section I found only to apply to the adult account that is logged in currently, not your kids account. It is probably best to do the editing of your child's Xbox profile under their login.

Manage Mac disks inside of Windows with MacDrive

Even though we primarily work on Windows based computers, there are times when we need to access Mac formatted disks. And being able to do that from inside of Windows is essential. That's where MacDrive comes into play.

Manage Mac disks inside of Windows with MacDrive

Now in repairing computers, we are often asked to recover files from old drives and transfer them to external drives. Sometimes they are two (2) different formats; NTFS (Windows) & HFS+ (Mac). And since Mac and Windows computers don't natively read and write to each other's disk format, having MacDrive is kind of a necessity.

With MacDrive you can actually read and write to Mac formatted drives inside of Windows. And since MacDrive works so seamlessly with Windows, you might not even notice you are using a Mac formatted drive. The little Apple drive icon kind of gives it away (but it can be turned off).

The Mac drive icon inside of Windows File Explorer
The Mac drive icon inside of Windows File Explorer

It can also perform various disk management tasks, including formatting and repairing Mac disks. It can also burn Mac formatted CD's and DVD's.

View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 10 Disk Management without MacDrive installed
View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 10 Disk Management without MacDrive installed

View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 7 Disk Management with MacDrive installed
View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 7 Disk Management with MacDrive installed

MacDrive supports USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, eSata, SATA, IDE, SCSI and Fibre channel drives. It also supports legacy drives like Jaz, MO and ZIP.

You can also mount Mac OS partitions on Boot Camp systems. It even works with Mac files without an extension. And you also go through Time Machine backups too.

Now you can access all of the MacDrive tools from either the built-in Disk Management Window or from inside Windows Explorer. And you can directly access working files straight from your favorite programs.

MacDrive comes in two (2) versions; Standard and Pro. The Standard version is more geared to the everyday user. The Pro version has more advanced features like mounting RAID sets creating Mac ISO files.

MacDrive is compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 (32-bit & 64-bit). For more information on MacDrive, just follow the link below.

MacDrive from Mediafour

Inside the Windows 10 Control Panel

When it comes to finding features and settings in Windows, the Control Panel has always been where I go to find them. The same holds true for Windows 10. Let's take a look inside the Windows 10 Control Panel.

Inside the Windows 10 Control Panel

The Control Panel in Windows 10 contains all sorts of different features and settings. Some of them are easy to find, other can be quite hidden. But with a little patience, you find everything you are looking for and more.

Now finding the Control Panel in Windows 10 can be a little hard. There are two (2) different shortcuts to it: One on the Start menu and one on the Power User menu. I personally like to use the Power User menu shortcuts as they are really quick and easy to use.

How to access the Control Panel in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start button to bring up the Start Menu.
  2. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on the Windows System folder to expand it.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.

or

  1. Right-click on the Start menu to bring up the Power User command menu.
  2. Left-click on Control Panel.

or

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X to bring up the Power User command menu.
  2. Press the letter P to select Control Panel.

I am still amazed at just how many features and settings that can be accessed from the Control Panel. You can access everything from creating hard drive partitions to managing work folders.

I really like the Settings app in Windows 10, but, like allot of other people, I am more familiar with the Control Panel. Did you know that it first appeared in Windows 2.0?

But with Windows 10, Microsoft has now deprecated it in favor of the Settings app. But there are still items that you can only find in the Control Panel. Third-party applets are one that comes to mind.

Going through all of the features and settings inside of the Control Panel in Windows 10 could take some time. Even changing the view from Category to Large icons or Small icons still doesn't give you all that the Control Panel contains.

Windows 10 Control Panel in God Mode
Windows 10 Control Panel in God Mode

This where the God Mode comes in really handy. If you're not familiar with God Mode, it lists all of the Control Panel features and settings in detail. Using God Mode, you can find some really cool features and settings.

How to list everything inside of the Windows 10 Control Panel in one folder

For example, living in Arizona has one unique feature, never having to change our clocks for daylight savings time. Now the down side is that all the rest of the U.S. does change its clocks twice a year.

Additional clocks on Taskbar in Windows 10
Additional clocks on Taskbar in Windows 10

With having vendors across the U.S. I really need to know what the time is in their time zone. I found under Clock, Language, and Region > Date and Time that I can add multiple clocks for the different times zones.

So, when you have some time, take a minute or two and explore through the Control Panel and see what cool features and settings you can find.

See what your drive contains with Space Sniffer

Got a video or music library and want to see how large it is? Maybe you downloaded a really big file and cannot remember where it is? If so, Space Sniffer may just be what you need.

See what your drive contains with Space Sniffer

Windows built-in File Explorer works great when it comes to accessing files or folders. But when it comes to finding large files and/or folders, it can be cumbersome, to say the least. This is where Space Sniffer comes in handy.

Space Sniffer is a graphic visualization tool that uses blocks in a treemap to display the contains of a drive. The larger the block, the more space it is taking up.

Now if you are running low on disk space, Space Sniffer is just what you are looking for. Space Sniffer, with its block treemap, can show you exactly what is taking up space on your drive.

I personally have used graphic visualization tools for years now. They are the fastest way to find a space hog on an internal / external hard drive or USB flash drive.

One of my favorite stories is when I used a graphic visualization tool to find a space hog on a network. It turned out to be a network ant-virus client that wasn't deleting old virus definitions and affected about 75% of the network computers.

Getting started with Space Sniffer could not be any easier. Just download the ZIP file and extract it to a folder of your choice. That is it, no installation required. It works great on a USB drive!

When you start Space Sniffer you are prompted to choose a drive or path you want to view. Once you have selected one, click Start and Space Sniffer performs a full scan. This could take a minute or two on really large drives.

When the treemap appears, you can just hover your cursor over a file or folder to get more information about. And to zoom into a folder all you have to do is double-click on it.

The main screen inside of Space Sniffer
The main screen inside of Space Sniffer

The first time you run Space Sniffer it opens with default settings, which can be overwhelming to allot of users. But if you go into the configuration menu (Edit > Configure), you can really customize the display to your liking.

For example, you can change the colors used for files and folders, the look of the boxes (drop shadow, halo, etc.) and the zoom animation. You can also change the font and element size.

The configuration screen inside of Space Sniffer
The configuration screen inside of Space Sniffer

There are a couple of configuration settings I highly recommend you activate. To ensure you are seeing everything in a drive or path, make sure the Show free space on new views and Show unknown space on new views are selected.

And when you are done configuring Space Sniffer, it writes your preferences to a configuration file. That way it will appear the same way from now on. Or until you erase the config file.

Another cool feature is that you can also export the current view in Space Sniffer to a text file. This is also customizable, with several built-it configurations.

Space Sniffer is freeware but donations to the project are always welcome. Just use the link on the toolbar or the Help pull-down menu. For more information on Space Sniffer, just follow the link below.

SpaceSniffer, find lost disk space the easy way

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From computer repair, virus removal and data recovery, we aim to give the highest quality of service.

Bring your computer to us and save

Our in-shop computer repair service  is based on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

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4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

Geeks in Phoenix have the best computer repair technicians providing computer repair and service in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona. We offer In-Shop, On-Site and Remote (with stable Internet connection) computer repair service.

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