Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

The laptop saga March 8, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 2:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

So, I have a long and crazy story about my laptop. But there’s a few lessons learned along the way.

The ups and downs with my old laptop

I got my old laptop before senior year of college since I realized it would be a relatively useful thing to have. Up until that point, I had been using my desktop computer, though once or twice I got a laptop to use from a programming class I was taking, so I had gotten a bit used to using a laptop, and enjoyed the convenience that came with owning one.

I went to CompUSA because they had a deal on a Compaq laptop that appealed to me. Bought it, and bought the extended warranty plan. That plan would cover repairs, including one battery replacement for the first two years (the warranty plan for the computer itself was similar but would only cover the first year).

Fast forward to a year later, when my laptop battery starts to lose its ability to charge. I take it to a CompUSA by my parent’s house, but they wouldn’t be able to fix it in time for me to take it back with me to Boston (I was moving into the sublet I was living in for my first few months in the working world), and I feared being without a computer for any time when I’d be completely on my own.

Fast forward to a little less than a year later, and I try to get my laptop fixed again. By this time the battery takes no charge, which causes my laptop to turn off if my charger shifts away from my computer. I find out I can ship my computer (instead of driving really far away, as CompUSAs are closing all around me), and do so. I get my computer back, with a new charger cord and a halfway charged battery. Not sure if this is a new battery, or my old one, but either way, it also is unable to charge. So I’m left with the same problem I had before. I call to get this re-taken care of, and they say send it back. I was busy trying to back up everything on my computer when my warranty ended. And then I recieved an email that said my case had been closed. So I got pretty darn confused. I called a few times after that, but they refused to do anything about it, since my warranty had expired, and I had waited longer that a supposed grace period of 30 days that they will fix things that they didn’t fix the first time.

Yes, I acknowledge that there are a few things I could have done in there. But I guess I wished they had fixed my computer the first time like I asked.

Now, a few weeks ago, I tried to start up the laptop, and it would go to the windows screen, and then start beeping like heck. I tried all sorts of things, but to no avail.

Call for Backup

So the good news with all of this is that I had backed up all my files (originally for when I sent my computer in, and now I just still have it). This is something I HIGHLY recommend you do. I should have had hard copy backups of my photographs, but I didn’t. There are plenty of ways you can back up your files. Lifehacker has a whole section about backups, (and backup utilities in particular) including a few roundup posts. And PC Magazine has a pretty nice overview of all different types of backup technology. You can use hardware backups, either with hard drives, backup discs, etc. There are also lots of online ways to backup your hard drive, such as Carbonite, Mozy, MediaMax, JungleDisk, and many others. Lifehacker has a comparison of Carbonite to Mozy, a discussion of JungleDisk, and a discussion of MediaMax.

I personally use Carbonite for my backup. I originally found out about it through BzzAgent (which I’ve mentioned before), and stuck with it for a paid subscription. I liked how it would actively backup files for me when my computer was not being used (so it wouldn’t slow my internet related activities), and that it would backup new and changed files as they were created/edited. So that left me with a a pretty lazy setup on my part. And now that I’m downloading all my files onto my new computer, I can appreciate how nicely everything is working out…I can select what files to download to my new computer (i.e. pictures, music, important documents) and not worry about all the useless files that I didn’t want cluttering up my new computer.

And, just like those ING referrals that I’m always pushing, they have a referral deal that benefits the new user as well as me…it seems the deal is if you start using Carbonite through one of my referrals, and end up buying the plan, you get a free month for free, and I get 3 free months. So, as always, let me know if you’re looking for a referral to start trying Carbonite. Email me or leave me a comment (and enter your email into the email text box so I can email you a referral).

Buying a new computer

So, I took the fact that my old computer crashed as an excuse to buy a new computer. Yes, I should have tried harder to get the computer fixed, figure out what was wrong with it. But I really was sick of all the problems I was having with my old laptop. Time for a new toy!

A few resources that I found pretty useful were NotebookReview.com, especially their “What Notebook Should I Buy” guide, and the forum where you can post your preferences for a new computer and get advice on what to purchase from other forum members. They also have a list of coupons and deals on that site as well. I highly recommend that no matter what computer you buy (or online purchase you make, in general), do a quick internet search for your computer and possible deals (search for Dell deals, Compaq coupons, or Gateway coupon codes, etc.). You can also look at bugmenot‘s sister site, retailmenot.com for coupon codes and deals on online purchases. There are often lists of coupons codes that can be applied to your purchase, easing the hit your wallet takes. There was already a deal on the laptop I bought, but I was able to find a slightly better one with a little bit of searching. Just be careful about what links you end up following! Often I try to copy and paste the codes they supply directly into the checkout section of the site I’m purchasing from, to make sure I’m not following a link to a dummy site.

I ended up going with a Dell computer, an Inspiron 1420. There were a lot of other options, and I had to weigh price vs. usability, size, memory, processor, etc. I chatted with the online chat people that you can talk to, and discussed this with my brother-in-law, who until recently sold Dells. He suggested I go with the Core 2 Duo for my processor, and that I should go ahead and get Windows Vista, since the problems that originally came up with early Vista users were that their computers were not compatible with Vista, or that they tried to just upgrade from Windows XP. He said my best bet with Vista was to buy new. With Vista, I only should need a 1.6GHz processor, and even 1.8GHz could be pushing it, since I’m not a heavy gamer or anything. And since I’m getting into digital photography, I should upgrade to the 128MB dedicated graphic memory. So those were the things I looked out for. I also went with the warranty plan, and had it cover the length of time that I would assume I would want to be covered for.

It was a pricey purchase overall, and I’m sure I could have been happy with many other brands and models of laptops, but I think I will be happy with this computer, so it’s all good in my book!

So, that was probably the longest post I’ve posted…hope it wasn’t too long for you!
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2 Responses to “The laptop saga”

  1. Kendall Says:

    Actually, laptops are getting so cheap these days, and technology is racing along so quickly, that it might not have been a good idea to try to find out what was wrong with/buy a new battery for/upgrade you old laptop. If you had done that, you may have found something else crashing on you (eg. the harddrive or some pixels in your LCD). Or in a year or so, you’d be wishing you hadn’t spent money upgrading the RAM, because your processor will then be too slow. I’m facing that problem right now. My laptop was top of the line 4-5 years ago, and now it’s sad and slow, and when I try to reinstall Windows SP2, the damn thing crashes and then won’t restart . . . and I find this out after I already spent 100$ upgrading the RAM and battery . . . haha. Which reminds me . . . I should really back this thing up 😉

  2. Deals on laptops can be found all over the place. $499 for a laptop with decent performance is very common.


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