Can a broken laptop hinge be repaired?

November 2nd, 2009 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer, Hardware No Comments »

I’ve broken the hinges on my trusty old laptop and while it works, the screen only holds on by the cables. Can I get it repaired?

Unfortunately not, even if the local computer shop could get hold of new hinges or a replacement case, the labour costs involved would still make the repair uneconomic.

If the computer is running well, then try plugging in an external monitor, mouse and keyboard and use it with the lid down so the display cables don’t get further damaged.

Alternatively, if the computer is due to be replaced, you may want to shop around for a new system. Although at the time of writing, it’s worthwhile waiting a few weeks before upgrading to Windows 7.

Should I upgrade to Windows 7

November 1st, 2009 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer, Windows Vista No Comments »

My computer is about five years old and is running Windows XP. While it’s working okay, I’m finding it a bit slow.

I’d like to buy a new system but the reviews of Microsoft Vista were so were bad I decided not to until the new version of Windows came out.

Now Windows 7 is out, should I buy a new system or is it worthwhile waiting?

There’s no doubt it was worth waiting for Windows 7 as it’s far more polished and faster than Microsoft Vista.

Having said that, it is probably worthwhile holding off for a few weeks before taking the plunge to Windows 7 for four main reasons;

  1. There will be bugs
    Every operating system has some hiccups and while Windows 7 is probably the most tested program ever, there will still be the odd problem. Let the early adopters tear out their hair while sorting out the issues.
  2. The earlier adopter premium
    Early adopters are a key profit centre for the tech industry. If you want the latest mobile phone, computer or operating system you will pay dearly for the privilege to be the first on your street. Wait a few weeks and you’ll find prices will drop.
  3. Christmas sales
    Windows 7′s release date is deliberate. By having it on the shelves by the end of October, it means the latest systems are available for the Christmas sales rush. Expect to see some good deals in the run up to Christmas.
  4. Price wars
    It’s been a pretty torrid 12 months for PC manufacturers as the Global Financial Crisis has hit computer sales hard. To make things worse, Acer, Dell and HP are all in a race for market share. So you can expect some good prices on new systems as the big boys fight it out.

For these four reasons, it might be worthwhile waiting a month before buying a new system. While Windows 7 is a lot better than Vista, it’s not worth spending top dollar on just to be the first on the street.

So take it easy and shop around for some good deals.

Putting old software on new computers

January 11th, 2009 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer, software No Comments »

We have CAD design software that is on a old PC running windows 98 (note there is a dongal, which we have and we are registered owners for software).

We need to upgrade VIDEO card but since the computer is so old and becoming unstable I am thinking it would be best to replace the PC

The problem is do not have installation disc for software and Company has since gone bust. Can software be copied off old PC onto new.

Unfortunately I think you may hit some problems with this. While copying older programs can work, the time it will take for a good computer tech to get it running will probably be more than the cost of a new program.

To add to the difficulties, it’s highly likely a new computer won’t have a parallel or serial port to plug in an older style dongle and the older software may struggle with modern screen resolutions, graphics cards and hard drive capacities.

Put simply, doing this is probably more of a hassle than it’s worth.

The best thing to do is bite the bullet on some commercial software, preferably a package your employees and business partners are used to or investigate open source CAD programs.

Downgrade rights for Windows Vista

December 3rd, 2008 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer, Windows Vista, Windows XP No Comments »

I would like to purchase a new notebook running under Windows XP.  Dell offer “Vista Downgrade Rights\ on some of their business notebooks, allowing you to continue using XP Professional.  

However, they do not make it clear as to whether both operating systems are factory installed and, if so, whether XP is the default or if a choice of operating system needs to be made each time the computer is turned on.

Any clarification would be appreciated, as I am not getting very far with Dell!

What normally happens with computers supplied with “downgrade rights” is the Windows XP disk is supplied but you have to install it.

This is time consuming and somewhat of a problem so we generally don’t recommend it.

If you do go that route, make sure you have all the system drivers and settings and an entire weekend to waste.

Do I need anti virus on a Mac?

October 20th, 2008 Paul Wallbank Posted in Apple, Buying a computer, security No Comments »

I currently have a PC with CA Virus checker, Sygate Personal Firewall, Adaware and Spybot.
I am thinking of changing to an IMac at the end of the year.  Do I need all of this security/checking stuff for an IMac?

The short answer is no. Spyware is unique to Windows and, while Macs can theoretically be affected by viruses and worms, their superior security model means it is far harder for that to happen.

So you don’t really need to worry about these things, although you should still install the regular Apple updates as there are security holes in all operating systems.

Windows Vista on a new laptop

June 17th, 2008 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer, Windows Vista 1 Comment »

I am looking to buy a new laptop. It will be used for powerful programs like achicad, film editing, musical applications etc. I’ve already found a suitable model with enough power (Toshiba A300/M00), but it comes with Vista Home Premium built in.

Would you recommend Vista yet, or would you hold off for a while until Microsoft releases more software updates?

Also is there a way to change the operating system of a laptop with Vista already pre packaged?

You can “downgrade” a computer to Windows XP but it’s time consuming and expensive. Generally our advice is to stick with the operating system that comes with the computer.

The important thing with Vista is to make sure you have plenty of memory on the system and good fast hard drive. The Toshiba M300/M00 is a reasonably well specified machine that shouldn’t have any problems with Vista.

We would recommend getting the three year Toshiba extended warranty on the unit and, if the budget allows, upgrade the memory to 4Gb.

The only way you’ll come unstuck with Vista is if you are trying to connect to older equipment or install software that’s not the current edition. Many packages struggle with Vista’s security measures.

If you have an adequate computer and you are using newer technology, then there should be no problem with Vista.

Buying a computer overseas

June 11th, 2008 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer No Comments »

My daughter who currently lives in Australia is going to America to study for 12 months.  Is there any problem with her buying a computer in the US and bringing it back to Australia?  Will it be compatible with Australian conditions, particularly DVD’s etc.?

There’s a couple of tricks to watch: Warranties, DVD-Regions and voltages are the three main problems.


The biggest problem with taking computers between countries is the different voltages; the US has 110v, most of Europe and Asia 220v, and a few oddities like Australia and India on 240v.

If your daughter is buying a laptop computer, it’s not such a problem as the power packs in portable computers are designed to deal with this. Desktop computers usually require flicking a switch on the back to change between voltages although some might need their power supplies replaced at around $100.

DVD regions

Regional encoding on DVDs is a nuisance designed to rip off consumers. Most computers allow you to change international DVD zones a number of times, usually four or six. You can obtain software programs that ignore or override these restrictions.

Incidentally DVD regional zoning is illegal in Australia.


Getting post sales support for computers purchased overseas can be a big problem, particularly for laptops. However there are brands that will provide extended international warranties.

We strongly recommend three year warranties for all computers and paying the extra is well worthwhile.

Generally we find the hassle of buying computers overseas generally isn’t worth the small price differences for most people. But if your daughter is living in the US for a year then it’s probably a good idea to buy a system shortly after she arrives.

Clearing out a computer

June 8th, 2008 Paul Wallbank Posted in Apple, Buying a computer, Hardware, security, Windows Vista, Windows XP No Comments »

We have a computer which we are intending to sell. Could you please advise how to clear the hard drive of all info prior to selling?

The answer depends on who you are selling it to and what state you want it in when it’s sold.

You can wipe the computer hard drive completely, repartition the drive and reinstall the operating system. This is a long winded way of doing things however it’s probably the best if you are selling it on the open market. It also requires some degree of computer knowledge.

A quicker fix is to simply delete the user profiles currently on the system.

In Windows go to the Control Panel, click User Accounts and add a new user. Choose to make the user an Administrator. Log off and log back on as the new user,  go back to the user accounts and delete the accounts you currently use, choose to delete all user data when it asks you.

On the Mac, go into System Preferences and open the Accounts settings. Create a new user and give them rights to adminsister the computer. Log off and log back on as the new user and go back to the accounts. Select the user accounts you want to delete, then click Delete then Delete Immediately.

On both systems you’ll need to explore the hard drive to see if any applications have left data in other locations. Some programs, particularly accounting packages, have a habit of not storing data in the user folders.

Once you’ve deleted the data, you may want to ensure it’s securely deleted by running erasing software across the hard drives. Free programs include Eraser for Windows and Permanent Eraser for the Mac.

Remember to make sure any important data has been backed up before you do any of this.

Buying a high end computer

May 3rd, 2008 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer No Comments »

We are starting up a small business and are looking at purchasing a high end computer (and associated hardware and software) to edit and archive the company’s digital media resources: photographs, illustrations, videos etc.

The computer must be capable of editing and burning DVD’s and should also be able to scan and print high quality posters up to A3 in size.

We have a budget of $5000.

The $5,000 budget should pay for a good computer. Our sister site PC Rescue has details of what typical users should buy for home and small office use.

Given your requirements are somewhat higher than the typical user, you’ll want something more advanced. We’d suggest the following.

Hard drive: Given you’re dealing with graphics, you really want to have a bigger and faster hard drive. We’d suggest a 750Gb or higher 3.0Gb per second SATA drive.

Memory: With these applications, the more memory you can throw at it the better. Go for at least 4Gb.

Processor: You’ll need to consider a quad-core processor. Be a bit careful here as specifying something too high can blow your budget out. A 2.4GHz Intel Q6600 should be fine.

Video: Get at least a 512Mb video card with DVI out.

Sound card: For many applications built in sound cards are fine. If high quality sound is important then add something like a SoundBlaster Xtreme.

Warranty: Whatever you get, make sure you add a three years manufacturers warranty.

With a 22″ monitor you should easily squeeze in below $3,000 which should allow for a good quality A3 printer, backup hardware and Internet router.

Good luck with the new business.

Transfer programs to a new computer

January 11th, 2008 Paul Wallbank Posted in Buying a computer, Hardware, software No Comments »

I have been given a Compaq Presario C 700 series with Vista preloaded. The PC is operated by XP professional – Compucon . My problem is that I want to transfer my Money 99 programme and MS Office, together with Family Tree Maker, Arcsoft, Personal Historian, and other bits and pieces. Which is the best way to go about this? I intend to take the laptop with us when we go touring and use it to keep track on expenses and also download photos from the camera.

Sadly there’s no easy way to transfer programs between computers. You have to reload the programs from their original disks. If you find the older programs, like Money 99 don’t work on the new Vista system then you’ll have to find replacement programs.

Transferring the data can also be problematic, the easiest way is to use the backup function on the old programs and put the backup on a USB drive then restore to the new system.

If you have had to get a replacement program then you may find the backup doesn’t work properly. This is part of the drama with computers and why you may have to call a computer tech to help you.

One important thing to remember when setting up a new machine is not to get rid of the old one until everything is across.

We’ll answer the second part of this question in the next post.