& Buying Windows 8 PCs
With regard to buying a Windows 8
PC, I've got one word of advice: Don't. If you're stuck with
one, skip this section and go to "But I'm Stuck with a Windows 8 PC".
As a Windows PC professional for
the last 15 years, and someone who has been a computer programmer and
systems analyst for 43 years (including an B.S. degree and an M.S.
degree in computer science), I strongly warn everyone to avoid Windows
8 like the plague! It makes Vista look like a work of genius! The new
W8 user interface is designed exclusively for credit-card sized and
tablet touch-screen devices, and for all practical purposes is
completely unusable on mouse-driven conventional laptops and desktops.
The Start Menu is gone and the conventional desktop is secondary to the
new Metro/Modern UI, which is designed exclusively for horizontal
touch-screens. Instead, the desktop is filled with a small number of
giant colored blocks that all point to Microsoft stores, products, or
Windows 8 is a complete and total disaster, and business, government,
and education have already decided that they will not be using it. Basically, the only folks that are going to end up with it
are the Best Buy crowd, which are the same folks that got stuck with Vista, and for the same reason, namely, the retail stores
refuse to sell anything but the latest garbage from Microsoft.
I recommend you consider buying refurbished Dell Latitude laptops or
Optiplex desktops with Windows 7 64-bit Professional from the Dell
Business & Education portion of their Outlet. These PCs are
business-class PCs with 3-year Dell factory warranties, and can cost
about 30% less than the same “new” model. I've purchased many such
refurbs from Dell for my customers, and they essentially are new
computers for all
I tend to avoid AMD processors and buy systems with at least an i5 Intel
processor. You also want a multilayer DVD-RD/RW, at least 4GB RAM, at
least 350GM (500GB is better) hard drive. A 7200 RPM hard drive
is better than a 5400 RPM hard drive.
Right now, Dell business-class PCs are a good value and are relatively
durable and reliable compared to most of the other brands, except the
Panasonics. If you want a top of the line laptop, then go for one of
the Panasonic Toughbooks. The Panasonic CF-53 is a particularly
attractive laptop. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy an HP laptop! They are
total junk. I’m starting to think the current crop of Toshiba laptops
may not be much better.
Dell Refurb Latitude Laptops
Dell Refurb Optiplex Desktops
If you have already purchased a Windows 8 PC or buy one anyway after
reading this and you hate it, take it back for a refund if you can!
But I'm Stuck With A Windows 8 PC
you must keep your Windows 8 PC, there
are software and settings that I can apply that will make Windows 8
and behave like Windows 7 by automatically bypassing the abysmal Metro
UI interface to go directly to the standard Desktop, restore the
deliberately removed Start Menu, and restore the deliberately removed
ability to play DVDs!
I also recommend a full optimization tuneup as well. When first removed from the shipping
box, Windows 8 PC performance is poor, not to mention the extremely
vendor crapware popups that continuously impede trying to get any
actual work done. Furthermore, as with all Windows systems, Windows 8
is extremely insecure out of the box because all user login Ids have
full administrative privilege by default. I take care of these issues
and many more when I optimize a Windows 8 PC.
a Windows 8 PC
Here's what I do to optimize
all Windows PCs, including Windows 8:
- Install all OS updates and
change Windows Update to Microsoft Update, which will update
all Microsoft products, not just Windows.
vendor crapware and other
useless and/or counterproductive software. (Older systems will have
more of this crapware to remove than new systems. On older systems I also check
to verify that there aren't problems with the hard drive or other
run antivirus scans if badware invasion is suspected. On older systems
I also clean out temp files and other accumulated cruft in the file
system. Also for older laptops, I have a method for
the dust that builds up in the fan chamber without disassembling the
laptop, thereby extending the lifetime of the laptop since the smallest
amount of dust buildup will completely block the airflow out of the fan
and cause the fan to run all the time and also cause the laptop to
badly heat up, often causing the laptop to randomly shut down due to
and/or update and
configure the following programs: Antivir (with my custom nag-screen
eliminators), AntiMalwarebytes, HijackThis, Adobe Flash for IE, Adobe
Firefox, 7zip, Java & Java 64-bit, Adobe Reader, Firefox, Thunderbird
(optional), PictureIt10, Nero 8 (optional), VLC (without it, Windows 8 won't play DVDs!), and a
free version of Office if you don't have your own CD to install.
Several of these programs I can configure simply by importing configuration profiles that I carefully developed
and previously exported for future use.
services, tasks and programs. This is where the biggest win occurs with
respect to system performance improvements. I've developed software
mostly automate disabling these unnecessary background services and
tasks, and I
use Autoruns to disable startup programs. Close to 40 useless
tasks and programs are thereby kept from running continuously in the
background of Windows 8 and uselessly consuming memory and CPU
a non-Administrative account (login Id) for day-to-day work is the ONLY
way to reliably protect ANY Windows operating system from malware!
There's not a single antivirus program on the face of the planet that
is 100% reliable! Therefore, I install one account with
Administrative permissions and one or more accounts with
standard permissions. The Admin account is subsequently used by the
user only to
install, remove, and update hardware and software, and the standard
account(s) are used for day to day work because badware can not invade
system from a standard account. (However, badware can still invade the
standard account itself, and though removal is extremely easy in such a
case, I've developed software tools that block additional hooks that
the great majority of badware use to invade
standard accounts, thereby making invasion of a standard account even
- Apply two software
tools that I developed that programatically alter dozens of
system-wide and user-only system parameters that significantly improve
PC performance and usability. Among other things, the user-only tool
optimizes the configuration of IE9/IE10.
- Using software tools I've
developed, I programatically install an optimized power-management
optimized for desktops and one optimized for laptops), and
programatically install a task that makes a daily restore point, since
the Windows 8 task that is supposed to do that does not work.
- With a single click, I optionally install a
pre-developed Theme that alters all the parameters of the Windows GUI
interface that improves the readability of the system.
- Check the vendor support website
and install any urgently recommended driver and/or BIOS updates.
- Change BIOS settings to make
Function keys work properly, eliminate annoying screen brightness
changes for laptops, set proper boot device order, and if necessary,
change RAID to AHCI mode for non-RAID hard drives (earlier having
activated the proper AHCI drivers in the OS.)
- Optionally make a set of recovery
DVDs or bootable recovery image USB drive.
- Optionally, download and install any necessary
- Optionally, if the user has an existing PC,
reinstall all programs needed on the new PC, either from the user's
original CDs or I'll download the latest versions of free programs such
as Skype, iTunes,
GoogleEarth, etc. Also,
as long the original hard drive is still
good (even if
the old PC won't boot),
I'll copy the user's data and settings to the new
the old data properly into the correct folders and integrating all
and special files into their respective programs, such as Outlook,
Quickbooks and Quicken.
network adapter settings, including deactivating idle-off
that can be really annoying.
- Optionally, establish a free logmein account and install logmein software to provide future remote access support.
All of the above work takes 3 to 5
depending upon the extent of data copying and custom program
a New Windows PC
OK, so now that you know what
should be done to optimize your new Windows PC, which is the best PC
for you to buy right now, anyway?
As to recommendations of what brand
of PC to buy, I basically recommend Dell PCs for most people. Do note
however that the Dell
Latitude business-class laptops are built better than the Dell consumer
and can be purchased as refurbs from the Dell Outlet for not too much
more than new BestBuy Dell consumer laptops. The Dell refurbs are new
for all practical purposes and Dell's factory warranty on all of their
business-class computers is three years as opposed to one year for
their consumer models.
But if you
want to buy something
less expensive and get it quicker (like right now), then BestBuy does
some good Dell laptops at decent prices. BestBuy also carries some
good, inexpensive Dell desktops as well. However, if you want Windows
7, you may have to order your PC online. BTW, don't buy a service plan,
or anything else except for the PC itself from BestBuy. Throw away any
software they insist on giving you, and don't let the Geek Squad EVER
touch your computer!
I highly recommend that you do NOT
buy an HP laptop. Statistically, they are extremely unreliable and I
personally see a large number of prematurely dead and dying HP laptops
come into my shop which are not cost-effective to repair and therefore
must be replaced.
Finally, if you can afford it, the
new Panasonic CF-53 semi-ruggedized laptop is a great PC and
should last for many years given the way it is built. The CF-53 is
a great choice for anyone who transports their laptop a great deal in
less than ideal conditions. Like the Latitude, the Panasonic
Toughbooks all have a builtin three year factory warrant.
As far as PC
general, start with at least the Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
operating system. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit is even better, and
under no circumstance settle for the Starter, Home Basic,
or 32-bit editions. However, the Professional
edition is usually only available on business-class PCs.
For home users, I recommend an
Intel i3 or i5 processor and I'm not a big fan of the AMD chipset. You also want 3-4 GB of
RAM. Laptops should have a minimum
hard drive size of 320 GB, with 500 GB being preferable. Desktops
have a minimum hard drive size of 500 GB, with 750GM being preferable. At this point, I'm not sold on 1 TB
or larger hard drives as I'm not yet convinced of their long-term
reliability, especially the laptop drives. Also, 7200
RPM drives are preferred over 5400 rpm drives as the 7200 RPM drives
will provide much better system performance. However, be forewarned
that sometimes 7200 RPM drives will produce a noticeable hum or
vibration in some laptops.
All PCs should come with integrated
HDMI digital video and sound output so you can hook them up to modern
flat screen monitors and TVs. Also, I'm not a fan of
dedicated graphics processors in laptops: such processors draw too much
generate too much potentially damaging heat and are not needed unless
you are a serious
gamer, which by the way, if you are a serious gamer you should be
looking at a desktop anyway. So I prefer integrated graphics rather
than dedicated graphics in laptops.
All PCs should have a multi-layer
Screen size and weight selection on
laptops depends upon primary usage. If you aren't going to be
transporting your laptop a lot, then weight isn't a big issue, and you
might as well get a 15" screen. For travel laptops, you want the weight
under 6 pounds and probably a 14" screen. BTW, I always thought the
so-called tiny netbooks were a gimmick: expensive, underperforming,
tiny screen, tiny keyboard, and extremely poor build-quality.
other gimmicks on laptops such as touch screens, fingerprint readers,
bluetooth, builtin WWAN, TPM,
etc. These are just more useless things to go wrong. And
of gimmicks, avoid the so-called all-in-one PCs like the plague.
They have all of the disadvantages of a laptop in terms of
repair-expense and proprietary parts issues and none of a laptop's
laptops, Intel wireless chips are preferable to anything else,
especially proprietary chips like the Dell wireless chips. The
Synaptics touchpad is
preferable to the Alps touchpads, but you should be using a laser mouse
anyway, preferably a wired mouse which is less troublesome than
wireless mouses. BTW, avoid everything made by Logitech: their software
will eat your PC.
Laptops should have
at least four
USB 2.0 ports and desktops even more.
interested in tuneup issues for older systems, check out my Windows
PC Tuneup, Why
Is My Computer Slow? and An
Epidemic of Malware: Removal and Prevention articles.
Please don't hesitate to call
or email me for a free consultation regarding system performance
improvements, tuneups, optimizations, or any other PC issue for that
matter. You'll be pleasantly surprised
fast and annoyance-free I can make your system.
My fee is
$40.00/hr for home users and $45.00
for businesses. Most tuneups on older systems take 4-5 hours, though if
you have a
is heavily infected with malicious software or other very difficult
may take additional time to clean the system. I have 15 years
PCs, and 40 years total computer experience, including bachelor's and
degrees in computer science. Please see my web site for additional
wary of the big box stores "PC repair" departments. Since they often
have minimal knowledge, they are unable to remove most modern viruses,
and thus claim that the system must have the OS freshly reinstalled,
though this is completely untrue. They'll often charge an outrageous
price for a retail copy of the OS for reinstallation, even though free
OEM install disks are available from companies like Dell. They'll also
wipe out your data by not copying it before wiping the hard drive, and
they won't tell you that before hand. And finally, they won't reinstall
the factory drivers after reinstalling the OS, leaving you with a
crippled computer. And, believe me, this is a best-case scenario. The
worst case I heard of was a client who had a big box store lose her
laptop! They talked her into accepting a used computer in lieu of the
one they lost!
Also, note that there are a lot of wannabe PC "geeks" posting right now
on Craigslist who are advertising inexpensive rates; people who think
that they know how to repair PCs because they use one and have tinkered
a bit. Look for someone who at least has enough professional commitment
to have their own Internet domain name, web site and business email
opposed to someone using a free email address and who has no web site.
Also, look for someone with long-standing business clients and business
Cheap rates and/or corporate big box stores may seem like a good idea,
but remember that you usually get what you pay for! I'm the guy who
people bring their computers to after someone else has messed them up,
so why not skip that step and bring them to me first! You'll save money
in the long run and save a lot of headaches as well. My work is
guaranteed and I provide remote access to your computer after I work on
it should any questions or issues arise afterwards.