Computer Repairs and Sales in Tenerife

News for Computer Repairs, Sales & Upgrades in Tenerife


Last week, Microsoft pushed an update to Windows 10 that broke DHCP and knocked some users offline until they rebooted their systems. The update is believed to have been part of cumulative update KB 3201845, which was released on December 9. After it was released, multiple European users reported being kicked offline. It’s not clear if the problem was isolated to Europe or not, but Microsoft is displaying a global banner that declares all users with Internet connectivity problems should restart (not shut down) their hardware.

Yesterday, Microsoft released KB3206632, which Ars Technica believes might have fixed the issue. The new patch contains the following note: “Addressed a service crash in CDPSVC [Connected Devices Platform Service] that in some situations could lead to the machine not being able to acquire an IP address.” If you look up the CDPSVC, it’s described as follows: “This service is used for Connected Devices and Universal Glass scenarios.” Connected devices is self-explanatory, but we haven’t been able to find a definition for what “Universal Glass” is.

Either way, the update broke Windows 10’s ability to configure DHCP (Dynamic Host Communication Protocol). DHCP is the protocol that distributes network configuration data to all the relevant devices on the network and handles automatically assigning IP addresses, for example. You don’t need a DHCP server to access the Internet, but most home networks are configured to expect one, and the average user probably isn’t comfortable with the process of mapping out static IPs to each device on the network.

In this case, the problem can be solved with a simple “ipconfig /release” command, followed by “ipconfig /renew”. Some users are also reporting that this is fix is insufficient, and a separate set of commands are also needed, specifically: “netsh int ip reset” followed by “ipconfig /flushdns”. Combined, these should resolve any issues you experience, and allow an affected system to reconnect to the Internet and download the appropriate patch.

The larger issue here, of course, is that these kinds of mistakes have become a regular part of the Windows 10 update process. In the past 12 months, we’ve seen multiple updates that variously bricked systems, broke Internet connectivity, or caused random crashes when ordinary USB devices (Kindles, in this case) were plugged into the system. That’s not even counting the malware-like activity of the last few months of the “Get Windows 10” campaign and the ill-will that caused towards Microsoft.

Every operating system has these kinds of problems from time to time, including previous versions of Windows. This isn’t the first time Microsoft has had to push a patch to resolve issues it caused for itself with a previous update, and this kind of problem occasionally hits Linux and Apple users as well. But even after allowing for all of those factors, Windows 10 seems to have had more problems with weird corner cases, random bugs, and issues cropping up that the company’s Fast Ring / Slow Ring early adopter update system simply hasn’t been able to resolve.

One potential reason for this is the type of OS testing Microsoft encourages its early adopters to engage in. If you’re in the fast ring, Microsoft recommends you not test your primary system and that you test within a virtual machine when possible. There’s a lot of things that can be checked that way, but certain issues — like USB device verification, for instance — probably don’t happen when users are running within a VM.

To date, Microsoft has yet to announce any substantive changes to its policies that would close these gaps.

The Best PC Computers. Our title is practically self-explanatory. Unlike the System Computerer Marathon, these configurations are not chosen by Tom's Hardware's editors. They are submitted and selected by our forum members based on defined pricing tiers. Every so often, we ask the community for its help picking parts based on performance and features for the price. Feel free to quibble in the comments, as always, and submit your own ideas next time around.

The Tom's Hardware editors and forum team believe this is a great place to come together and showcase the fusion of content and community. For nearly two decades (2016 marks our 20th anniversary) Tom's Hardware has brought you the news and reviews of the latest in PC hardware, but also the famous Tom's Hardware forum, now more than 2 million members strong, a remarkable milestone we recently surpassed. 

The forum attracts technology enthusiasts of all stripes and levels, connected by their interest in discussing computer hardware and helping solve technical challenges. Many are ultimately seeking help in computering a PC, and they receive that help not only through our editorial content but thanks to the dedicated moderators and forum members who put countless hours into assisting others. Because of their expertise and the constant requests for help with PC computers, our members have developed a talent for finding the best prices and putting together the best system computers.

The following selections showcase all of that. We received numerous submissions and enjoyed examining all of your PC computers, but we could ultimately only select one system per price range — thanks to the readers and forum members who participated!

This update was spurred on by the release of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. The GTX 1060 is one of the least expensive graphics cards capable of handling VR games (thanks to the new Asynchronous Space Warp feature from Oculus). This prompted us to introduce a new $600 VR Computer position in our lineup. We wanted to see whether our readers could computer a VR gaming PC on such a tight budget. Although we didn't limit computers to the GTX 1060, it didn't come as a surprise that most submissions (and the winning submission) used a GTX 1060.

We appreciate the time everyone in the community put into designing the various computers, and we  hope you’ve enjoyed the experience as much as we enjoyed reading through all the entries.

These days, gaming on a budget has never been easier. Despite its name, the Homeless Overclocker designed by damric does not use a typical overclockable CPU. Instead, it uses an Intel Core i3-6100 processor with a locked core multiplier. Although Intel doesn’t want you to overclock its Core i3 processors, you can still base clock overclock them with select motherboards, such as Asrock’s Z170M Pro4S. Even if overclocking isn’t in your wheelhouse, the Core i3-6100 comes clocked at 3.7GHz and should offer decent performance out of the box.

For gaming, the Homeless Overclocker uses AMD’s budget friendly Radeon RX 460 GPU. This graphics card isn’t going to max out the latest games, but it should get them running with modest detail settings.

Although this system was compiled on a tight budget, it is important to point out the weak points in the computer. The biggest issue is its rather limited storage space, with its 240GB SSD and no other storage devices. An SSD is a clear advantage in terms of performance, but you may find it difficult to fit many games on an SSD this size. The system also has less RAM than we would like to see in a 2016 gaming PC, but it would be exceptionally difficult to accommodate 16GB of RAM at this low budget.

Thanks to advancements in graphics technology, it has never been so inexpensive to game in VR (“never” being relative, given that consumer-based PC VR has only been around this year, of course). King Dranzer’s i5-6500, GTX1060 6GB Computer is priced just under $600 and should technically run VR titles. This is made possible by a recent new Oculus feature called Asynchronous Space Warp, which can reduce the application frame rate to 45 FPS, relieving some of the graphics processing power required for VR. Although this computer’s GPU can handle VR with modest graphics settings, it consumed nearly half the computer budget, and the rest of the PC suffers somewhat as a result. The system has a lower-end motherboard that uses the H110 chipset. King Dranzer was also unable to fit an SSD in the budget, and the HDD is relatively small by today’s standards at 320 GB. But cheap VR doesn’t come without a few compromises.

This system, designed by g-unit1111, takes advantage of Nvidia’s recently released GeForce GTX 1060 GPU to achieve high-performance gaming on a relatively tight budget. The computer also includes an Intel Core i5-6500 CPU and a Gigabyte GA-H170-Gaming 3 motherboard. No overclocking features here, but the Core i5-6500 should easily outpace the Core i3-6100 on the $500 computer.

Although this system is clearly more powerful, the system’s storage and memory are weak points again. Because the budget is somewhat higher, it would be much easier to fit a 16GB RAM kit in this computer, but these are always the tough choices when picking parts. Unlike the $500 computer, this system has plenty of storage space for the average user, but an SSD didn’t fit into the budget.

King Dranzer’s i5-6600K GTX1070 Computer pushes performance higher still, with an unlocked Core i5-6600K CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070. With $1,000 to spend, it becomes increasingly easy to computer a powerful PC without significant weak points. The extra $250 allowed King Dranzer to push RAM capacity up to 16GB, and the system features both an SSD and an HDD. The weakest aspect of this system is its rather small 120GB SSD.

Every PC gamer wants a powerful computer, but many of them also want a compact system that doesn’t clutter up their room. This computer takes space into consideration, and it is limited to hardware that fits inside a mini-ITX case. Overall, Broken Frames is nearly as powerful as the i5-6600K GTX1070 computer from King Dranzer. This system’s designer, logainofhades, also opted for an EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card and a 16GB RAM kit. Moreover, this system SSD is less problematic, with its 240GB capacity.

Computer repair technicians work in a variety of settings, encompassing both the public and private sectors. Because of the relatively brief existence of the profession, institutions offer certificate and degree programs designed to prepare new technicians, but computer repairs are frequently performed by experienced and certified technicians who have little formal training in the field like private sectors [1]

A repair technician might work in a corporate information technology department, a central service center, or a retail computer sales environment. A public sector technician might work in the military, national security or law enforcement communities, health or public safety field, or an educational institution. Despite the vast variety of work environments, all computer technicians perform similar physical and investigative processes, including technical support. Experienced technicians might specialize in fields such as data recovery, system administration, or information systems. Some technicians are self-employed or own a firm that provides services in a regional area. Some are subcontracted as freelancers or consultants. This type of technician ranges from hobbyists and enthusiasts that volunteer or make a little side money, to those who work professionally in the field.

Computer malfunctions can range from a minor setting that is incorrect, to spyware, viruses, and as far as replacing hardware and an entire operating system. Some technicians provide on-site services usually at an hourly rate. Others can provide services off-site, where the client can drop off at the repair shop. Some have pickup and drop off services for convenience. Some technicians may also take back old equipment for recycling (In the EU, this is required under WEEE rules).

Hardware computer repair

While computer hardware configurations vary widely, a "Computer OEM & Repair" technician will work with five general categories of hardware; desktop computers, laptops, servers, computer clusters and smartphones / mobile computing. Technicians also work with and occasionally repair a range of peripherals, including input devices (like keyboards, mice, and scanners), output devices (like displays, printers, and speakers), and data storage devices such as internal and external hard drives and disk arrays. Technicians involved in system administration might also work with networking hardware, including routers, switches, fiber optics, and wireless networks. OEM= Original Equipment Manufacturer.

Software computer repair

When possible, repair technicians protect the computer user's data and settings, so that, after repair, the user will not have lost any data and can fully use the device with little interruption. Addressing the issue, the technician could take action as minor as adjusting one or several settings or preferences, but could also apply more involved techniques like installing, uninstalling, or reinstalling various software packages.

A reliable, but somewhat more complicated procedure for addressing software issues is known as a restore (also referred to as imaging, and/or reimaging), in which the computer's original installation image (including operating system and original applications) is reapplied to a formatted hard drive. Anything unique, such as settings, or personal files will be destroyed if not backed up on external media, as this reverts everything back to its original unused state. The computer technician can only reimage if there is an image of the hard drive for that computer either in a separate partition or stored elsewhere.

On a Microsoft Windows system, if there is a restore point that was saved (normally saved on the hard drive of the computer) then the Windows Registry can be restored to that point, sometimes solving problems that have arisen after the time the restore point was created.

Broken Frames falls behind the i5-6600K GTX1070 Computer in CPU horsepower with its slightly less expensive Core i5-6500. The system also uses a somewhat-lackluster ASRock H110M-ITX/ac motherboard, which uses the low-end H110 chipset. Finding an affordable high-quality mini-ITX motherboard is the hardest part of computering a mini-ITX system, though, and this one is quite functional and shouldn’t hurt performance.

Having reached the limits of the LGA1151 platform, SR-71 Blackbird was forced to use an LGA2011-3 CPU to further increase processor performance. This, however, comes with a heavy price tag, because X99 motherboards and LGA2011-3 CPUs are considerably more expensive than their LGA1151 counterparts. As a result, this computer backtracks on RAM capacity to 8GB, and it also lacks an SSD. These are fairly significant trade-offs for a $1,500 computer, but it is technically the fastest system so far (on paper).

Additional funds in your PC computer budget can fix just about anything, and that is essentially what happened with Little Monster. This computer uses the i7-6800K CPU, an X99 platform, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. Unlike Anxiety, however, Little Monster beefs up the rest of the system with 16GB of DDR4 clocked at 3200 MHz, and a 512GB M.2 SSD.

Logainofhades also equipped the Little Monster with a higher-quality Platinum efficiency power supply. Although this computer isn’t necessarily faster in terms of its processing hardware, the advantages it gains from the additional component hardware make it a much more well-rounded, feature-rich computer.

SR-71 Blackbird’s Roswell Reality is designed to be the best $2,500 computer for VR gaming. It far surpasses all other computers by using two EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards in SLI. It also has the fastest CPU so far, with its choice of the i7-6850K. The power supply and SSD used in this computer are lower quality components compared to the Little Monster computer, but when you pack in multiple flagship graphics cards, even a budget of $2,500 can get tight. It’s doubtful you will have any issues running games in VR, though.

Computer virus removal is starting to become immensely important and just about anyone who operates a pc no matter if its used basic home use or in the course of their work recognizes the threat that computer viruses can bring. Just simply opening the incorrect e-mail attachment or using the wrong computer program can unleash many kinds of viruses inside your system and getting a virus often means that your workstation will either start to exhibit strange behaviour or crash completely.

An even greater is additionally the loss of your crucial computer data that could add up to years of work or can even be irreplaceable photographs or movies.

Needless to say most people will have anti virus software installed as a precaution but if this is not up to date it can be in reality ineffective. It is of course worthwhile trying to sort the problem yourself but unless you are experienced this could take an awful lot of time or you may miss something.

If you manage to speak with anybody who have been subjected to a virus infection will almost certainly advise that you use a professional service anyways. There are plenty of reasons that using a professional to help right from the off is sound advice especially if you want to avoid the further hassle of re-infection due to an incomplete job.

Nowadays there are plenty of distinct sorts of viruses you need to be on your guard for such as:

The Trojan. These can be resident in your Pc for years or months until they become activated. These are also quite often very difficult to discover so your best bet to make sure you free your system of a Trojan virus is to get in touch with an online virus removal expert.

Spyware Infections. This really is a different type of internet pc virus that gathers important information on your computing activities and can actually reroute you to internet sites you had not even had any intention of visiting.

Malware. A common collection of viruses that could even include key loggers that are able to track whatever you type (including passwords used to access online banking for example.

Virus removal and critical maintenance is an important factor of every healthy computer system and for anyone who is not carrying out regular scans with up-to-date software your machine may already be infected leaving you open to additional infections, data loss and maybe even personal identity theft.

Unless one has been living under a rock, they either have a computer or work with one where they are employed. In these technologically advanced times, the paper trails that used to be available have all been switched to digital media. The problem with this type of record keeping is that if the system crashes, all that information is gone. This is where data recovery services can benefit the company or individual.

One of the advantages to having this type of service is that entire systems can be protected no matter how large or small or what the budget for it is. While there are components that can be attached to backup a system, these are not fail-safe and can crash too. This is because they can be infected with the same virus or power surge that the other equipment goes through. This is why it is vital to have an offsite backup plan.

There are those data recovery systems that offer offsite storage to keep the information more protected. When data is wiped out, a business does not have to shut down for weeks. It is important to sign up for automated backing up so that this is not left to human error. This can also save money, as there is no need to hire an employee to do this.

There is also software that can be purchased that can bring up information from a hard drive that has crashed. When vital information or documentation is needed, it can be restored easily. Most any data can be brought up using this type of software. This is going to mean that in the event of disaster, employees do not have to redo their work.

When there is a virus, data recovery services can restore all information that would be gone without this protection. They can also bring up music or videos that may be important to the company’s business. This is not limited to computer hard drives, as any storage or backup device can be recovered.

Many may think that this is going to be an expensive service, but the fact is that it is quite affordable for most. The ability to recover lost information is more than worth the small cost. The time that it can take to reproduce or collect all the data is another reason why this is a good choice for most businesses.

Having a backup plan in place before there is an emergency is vital for any company. Most services are tailor made for the client, so much of the cost is going to depend on the needs of the client. Having access to lost files can save the company money in the long run because no business is going to be lost.

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, computer storage was limited to what could fit on the internal hard drive of your computer, or what you could burn to a CD or DVD disc. However, things have changed considerably since those early days. Of course, those “early days” were only a few short years ago. Technology has advanced by an amazing amount in a relatively short period of time.

Where once the landscape was littered with removable storage media (tapes, discs, etc.), modern consumers have a broader range of choices today. However, even those choices that consumers have started to grow accustomed to are changing and evolving very quickly. What does the future hold for external hard drives? What might consumers expect to see as technology continues its relentless march? Here, you will find a brief rundown of some of the most immediate changes that you might notice in the days ahead.

Changing Connectivity Technology

No matter what type of external hard drive you choose, from an NAS system (network-attached storage) to a desktop or netbook-grade external hard drive, there has to be a way to connect the drive to your device. Currently, USB is the most popular means of doing this, though FireWire is also available.

In the future, it is quite possible that FireWire will disappear altogether, despite the advantages that this technology offers. FireWire is far faster than USB 2.0, and it can be daisy chained, allowing you to connect a string of devices at one time. However, it is also the most expensive solution on the market and the speed of transfer it offers does not necessarily offset this cost, at least to home network users. FireWire is generally used in a professional situation, where multimedia files need to be stored immediately.

What will replace FireWire as the high-speed connectivity of choice? There’s actually some dispute about this, as there are two options available. Below, you’ll find more about both of these, as well as some preliminary conclusions.

eSATA Connectivity

In the world of external hard drive connectivity, eSATA is the reigning king in terms of raw speed. In fact, eSATA even beats out the vaunted FireWire for performance. 3 GB/s can be transferred across an eSATA connection, compared to just 400 or 800 MB/s with a FireWire connection. However, there is a problem with eSATA connections – there’s no juice.

FireWire and USB technology both provide current through the connecting cable. In some instances (especially with the 12 V capabilities of FireWire), this is enough to actually run the device. Some USB 2.0 devices require an external power source, though, like desktop external hard drives.

An eSATA connection does not provide any power, though, which means that any device with this type of connection will definitely need to have an external source of electricity in order to operate. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you want an external hard drive that you don’t ever move, it does play a role in emerging portability concerns.

Finally, eSATA is just plain expensive. It costs more than FireWire technology even. This means that many consumers will not be willing to pony up the cash to take advantage of the transfer speeds it provides.

USB 3.0 Connectivity

USB connections have become ubiquitous in modern society.
It’s virtually impossible to find a device that does not offer a USB connection. In fact, many eSATA-enabled devices also offer a USB connection for consumers to use. However, the vast majority of these are all USB 2.0, which has reached the limit of its usefulness. Does this mean that this technology is going to fall by the wayside?

Actually, the world has already seen the deployment of USB 3.0 – an incredible evolution from the 2.0 version of this technology. In fact, the first devices using 3.0 have already rolled of the assembly lines of manufacturers, during the first quarter of 2010. Of course, most consumers will not be affected by this technology until the end of 2010, but by this time, it will certainly be a dominating force in the marketplace, if not the main player.

What does 3.0 offer that other technologies don’t? It’s an unusual combination, including these key factors:

-Backwards compatibility

Let’s tackle affordability first. USB 3.0 is more affordable than FireWire or eSATA connectivity technology.
This gives it an advantage out of the box. In almost all circumstances, unless the situation dictates otherwise, consumers gravitate toward the most affordable solution that will meet their needs.

Second, USB 3.0 is fast – as fast as or faster than eSATA according to the developers. This technology offers transfer speeds over 4 GB/s according to the developers.
This is a considerable amount faster than eSATA and far faster than what is able to be achieved through a FireWire connection. Of course, those figures won’t be the actual data throughput seen by consumers, but it’s still enough to boost USB 3.0 into the top echelons of upcoming external hard drive technology.

Finally, USB 3.0 is backwards compatible. The same cables and the same connections can be used here as with version 2.0. Of course, full 3.0 speeds can only be attained when the host computer, the peripheral device and the cable connecting them are all 3.0 compatible, but the backwards compatibility does offer some peace of mind for consumers.

Changing Form Factors

The final note on the future of external hard drives involves the form factors seen. This will simply be a continuation of the same trends seen currently. In other words, drives will continue to become smaller and smaller.
This offers better portability, certainly. However, it also offers other benefits.

For instance, a desktop external hard drive usually tops out around 2 TB in terms of capacity. However, with smaller drive units with that capacity, manufacturers can package 2 drives in the same housing, providing 4 TB of storage in a device with the same footprint as an older 2 GB system. The same rules apply to netbook-grade external hard drives.

Therefore, the future of external hard drives can be summed up as follows: Faster, more connectible and more portable than ever before.

Everyone thinks about it, but no one thinks it will ever happen to them. The workday is moving along and all of the sudden a curse emanates from the boss’s office and the entire computer system goes down. No data can be found and the client is waiting, but all of this could have been avoided by using online computer repair services to prepare for this eventuality.

No matter which employee’s computer caused this issue, they are all interconnected and all equally important when it comes to being protected. If any truly important data is lost, there should be a system in place to help prevent this or at least a way to get it back. An online service can ensure that the data is safe and secure for retrieval at any time.

Online computer repair services ensure that the data can be accessed at any time, for any client, all while keeping it safe. Some support services require that an individual manage each account and if they are not available at 2 am, then you are out of luck. The online services are available all day and all night, 365 days a year and all with no waiting.

Remote backup is another feature of many of these services where they keep the data offsite in a secure server. This far surpasses the old methods of tape backup or even a secondary server onsite, which are fine if the world moves along perfectly every day. If a disaster occurs to the computering, such as a fire, not all the onsite backups in the world will mean a hill of beans.

The need to keep a constant backup is one that every business, particularly ones that deal in sensitive data, should be well versed in. Online computer repair services can help in this respect by providing an automated offsite backup that continuously keeps a record of all the company’s data. They send this to an offsite, secure server that ensures that no harm can come to it.

Researching these companies is quite easily done online in order to help make an informed decision. Many of the websites have a frequently asked questions section that should eliminate any fears a potential client may have. This also allows the client to see into the background of the company and how well trusted they are in the industry.

The decision to use one of the online computer repair services that are available can help provide peace of mind not only for the business owners, but also for the clients. This is easily used as a selling point in the company’s commitment to the clients well being and protection. Being prepared for a disaster and not needing it is better than not being prepared at all.

Truth be told , there is almost nothing more frustrating than having something break with your computer system when you are in the centre of a huge task. It’s easy to get frustrated with the system when there’s some form of software problem or another sort of mishap that's liable to bring your assignment that you’re working away at to a total halt. However, you can find help that can be found when ever something goes wrong that's called remote computer repair.

On The Net Computer Assistance is Stress-free

All you’ll have to do to to take advantage of this form of aid that may enable you to back to work is an Internet connection. The whole process involves technician who will most likely simply take control of your computer system for a short time so they’ll be able to spot the exact problem and fix it if at all possible.

Quite often you’ll be talking {on the} phone to the individual who is fixing the actual problems at the same time. It’s important right here to remember that the best outcomes using this type of method come about with trojan problems. Hardware troubles are generally very hard to fix using this form of online pc support.

Tips on Finding The Right Support

Needless to say you’ll must know the finest way to find the sort of on the web computer assist that suits your individual needs. One methodology that works could possibly be joining an on the web desktop computer forum where you’ll be able to ask detailed questions about several issues and the ideal web sites to search for remote pc support companies.

Naturally you are able to use your own individual personal computer to commence the search too. Applying keyword phrases like remote desktop help and online laptop repair is bound to get you going in the appropriate direction.

Closer to household you can ask friends and family who they may of perhaps utilized and are quite happy to recommend. Regardless in the method you choose you need to be certain that the online computer repair  specialist you end up picking is trustworthy and inexpensive and available.

Narrow Down Any Alternatives

No matter when your are looking for a online computer support company. Keep in mind too that a lot of  the considerations that you would most likely use to pick any other sort of firm to assist you will also apply right here. Looking around the  company web site that you just have shortlisted is an excellent method that you are able to use to narrow down your choices.

Here it is important to glance with a experienced eye at what they have in the form of recommendations from past buyers to start off with. You’ll ought to also make sure that you do remember to check out any other services because depending upon your own type of issue, remote pc support might probably not end up being workable and you could possibly need an on-site visit.

Having the correct assistance here is vital for your piece of mind when you are utilizing a residence personal computer. The proper remote computer system assistance lets you place all of your attention on the task at hand.

We all love our computers and we generally throw a wobbly when they suffer from a technical hiccup. The problem is though that a majority of us don’t know what to do when the computer demon strikes and that’s where remote computer repair and support experts can be an absolute godsend as these companies are set up to fix many Laptop problems with your computer system either over the phone or through the computer than itself.

It helps of course if you understand why online computer repair services are advantageous and that it doesn’t matter if you’re a private business and have a whole bunch of computers, or if you have a single Pc at home, it’s never convenient to dismantle your computer and drag it to a local Pc repair centre if it can be in any way avoided.

When considering remote computer support for repairing your computer, you may have several questions that you need answered before making a final decision..

Is remote computer support easy to use? Most services would answer yes to this question. They offer guidance to you through the whole process. When they connect to your computer, they perform all the work.

Are there fees for diagnosing the problem? All in all, the diagnostics are often offered free of charge. When a problem is found that you prefer they fix, then there will be a charge If you want them to fix the problem, the cost can range depending on the problem but best to check with the service provider.

How do I pay for services? Service providers choose to accept varying types of payments. Some accept credit cards or bank drafts. Others may offer PayPal which you can also use your credit card or bank information through their website.

Why would I decide on remote services if I can take it in? I you choose to have the computer fixed by remote support, you are going to save money on petrol. Not to mention the headache that is mostly involved with making the trip.

All companies that are reputable are going to guarantee their work. It may be offered in the form of a refund or they might continue to try to fix the problem.

The only time these companies can access your computer is if you allow it. Sometimes when you initially start the service, you can let them know if you are willing to grant them this type of access. If you do not give them permission, they cannot access it again.

When the diagnostic session starts, the technician will take over your computer functions like your mouse and keyboard. This enables the technician to work on your computer.

Any information on your computer is safe from loss. More information is lost by improper maintenance than by using these services.

Will the techs have access to all my files? In short, yes they do but they should not copy them. It would be highly unethical for this to happen. Remember you can watch they do while performing the work.

Should I worry about who I choose for remote support services? Only deal with companies that use trained technicians. Perform whatever research you feel is necessary before deciding on a company.

If you are wanting more than one computer repaired, chances are, the business may offer you a discount. The amount of the discount will depend on the number of computers and what you want done.

Are there any software requirements? Now days most online support services require that you have Windows 2000 or newer. It is also necessary to have high speed internet connections that are in working order. There may be times when dial up internet can be used but those are considered on a case by case basis.

If the companies have contractors, or have offices near you, they may send techs out if you need them too as not all repairs can be carried out online.

Are you interested in buying one of the many Asus graphics cards supplied today? If you are, then you will be glad to know that these cards have received numerous awards from a wide variety of publishers and electronic review companies around the world. These cards are not just a run of the mill product either. Some of these cards are the best performing cards in the entire industry. There are also cards that are not quite as expensive as the best cards, but are still very good. These medium ranged cards are some of the best options available for the price range they are offered in. There are also many special features included with most Asus cards that gaming enthusiasts are very grateful for.

The cards provided by Asus meet the highest demands any game can throw at them. Even if you want to play the best games released today, you can attain smooth and high quality graphics for your gaming. The reason why these cards can handle even the most demanding requirements is because they have some of the best configurations available in the industry.

Not only are Asus graphics cards superb under all conditions, but they also come with amazing features like in game tweaking. These graphics cards let you see the exact rates your current configurations are running at. This allows users to adjust their system’s settings so they may perform at optimal levels, even while you are still playing in the game! This is great compared to other cards that are difficult to adjust, or even cards that do not allow refined tweaking at all.

By being able to adjust your system settings at any time, you can fine tune your computer to use the best setup for all of your games. While you are in game, you can fix your settings, including the gamma, brightness, and contrast levels. By being able to do this in game, you can make sure you fine tune the settings to specifically match the game you need perfect graphics for.

If you look around the current graphics card market, it is likely that you will find many companies that offer graphics cards that are supposedly far superior compared to other offerings available. The truth about these cards is that they are just over clocked versions supplied by the original graphics card manufacturers. When you purchase these cards, you have to pay more for a minimal increase in the performance levels supplied.

If you want to avoid the companies that just put a sticker on another company’s products and call it their own, you should certainly buy an Asus graphics card. These cards are highly tuned to provide maximum performance settings. They also commonly perform much better than other cards on the market.

The cards Asus creates are often the best in the world. They are also completely reformed and optimized by Asus themselves before they are placed on the shelves for the consumer. This means that when you buy an Asus graphics card, you are buying one of the most advanced and refined graphics cards available in today’s computer market.

It’s no surprise that the evolution of the computer has gone from PC to laptop to netbook and that as these devices get smaller what they can do changes with their size. With the advent of the latest addition called the netbook, it’s a good idea to get an overview of the kind of remote computer support you can get from each before you make any purchases.

First of all it’s important to understand what the netbook is and what it does as opposed to a laptop. This smaller version of the laptop is designed primarily to surf the Internet and is not designed to be used as a workstation or as a full entertainment centre.  Although the evolution of this new device might make it more compatible for these purposes down the road, as it stands now the laptop is still the machine favoured by business people on the go.

Smaller Keyboard

The purposes of the netbook are reflected further in its design when you look at the keyboard.  Most of these devices have a small keyboard there really would be of no use to a business person or even someone trying to blog from a remote location. Of course the screen size is also smaller although the netbook does come with the array of USB ports so they can handle external helpers. Still it’s important to remember her that even a person with average size hands would have a hard time typing for any length of time with one of these smaller netbooks.

And of course that’s to say nothing of the touchpad on the netbook.  With the smaller keyboard comes a smaller touchpad and limited capabilities there if of course the kind of remote computer support you’re looking at includes a functional keyboard.

Screen Size.

Although there are variations from model to model, the screen size on a netbook is always smaller than a laptop, although the resolution can be brought up on some models to a respectable level.  While this isn’t to say that the netbook is a bad choice, it’s important that people are aware of the limitations of the smaller version of the laptop and don’t purchase one thinking it offers the kind of portability in a business environment that its larger cousin does.

Finally, you need to take a look at the memory that a netbook offers as opposed to the larger notebook. Generally the playing field is little more level here with both the bigger and smaller versions starting out with 512 MB, so regardless of the one you pick you’ll almost always want to upgrade to 1 GB and above.

When most people consider doing an upgrade to their existing PC buying a new graphics cards often seems the way to go but there are some considerations you need to take into account because if you get these wrong you may waste your money.

What Do You Use Your Computer For

Before you go diving straight in it would be a sensible idea to assess your actual needs, for example do you play games?. Are you a casual games player that perhaps prefers to save money and buy older or second hand games, or do you want the latest and greatest?

If the majority of your games tend to be older titles then you simply will not need a high end high memory card and will be better suited with a budget card especially in an older system. Surprisingly one consideration you need to take into account is your current processor speed. Exercise caution before making a purchase. If you processor is older then it simply may not have the power necessary to drive a newer card and your purchase will have been in vain.

Does Your Motherboard Support The Card Type?

You need to keep in mind as well these cards are not universal. That means not all of the ones you buy will be compatible with your system. This can be due to a number of differing reasons but the main one will probably the slot type which could be either PCI, AGP and Pci-e so make sure which one is in your system.

Is There Enough Memory In Your Computer?

In a lot of cases upgrading your computer graphics will mean a computer memory upgrade too!

Graphics cards will be available with different gpu’s and varying amounts of memory, and if your Pc only has a small amount of RAM then you will run into a big snag as there will be insufficient memory to allocate to your system hardware and installation will either fail or your computer will end up slower than before.

Is Your Power Supply Good Enough?

The larger the card the more power they will generally draw from your power supply so you need to take this into account as well, the older the power supply the smaller it may be, and it may only be around 200w or there abouts, so depending on the number of other pieces of hardware you have attached, this may lead to excessive power drain which can lead to computer instabilities. Also take note that many a majority of the newer cards may need an additional direct power connection so open your case and make sure that a spare connector is not only available, but is also long enough to reach the card.

Is There Enough Space In My Case?

Sometimes a cases internal layout can cause space problems when fitting a new graphics card or the layout out of the main board may simply not be conducive for larger cards and a newer card will simply not fit!

The new generation of cards often have multiple GPU’s or large amount of memory so the tend to be a lot longer than previous cards. Equally many will have larger fans to keep then cool as they work harder so check in your case to make sure there is enough space above and below the graphics slot.

A graphics card upgrade is worth the effort but you do need to take account of the above considerations, but if you have an older AGP based motherboard and want to play the latest games then you may be better investing in a new computer. As with most technical things it is best to take advice from your local Dorchester computer repairs provider who will be best suited to help.

Whether in a personal or business setting, a person will come in contact with large amounts of digital data that needs to be stored in a secure place. With increasing amounts of emails, documents, presentations, graphics, etc, the likelihood of losing important information is increased if the data is not stored properly. Safe data storage is a must and is crucial in any setting.

A user should take the time to analyze the many options available for data storage and choose the solution that works best for them. Decide what is important and base your decision on what works best for your situation. Things to consider include; how quickly does the information need to be accessed? How often will the data be used? Will the data need to be stored on site or at a more secure remote location?

When you can answer these questions to your satisfaction, you will be in a better position to choose the best data storage option for your individual needs. Sometimes the choice is obvious, but a mistaken choice can lead to trouble in the future. The types of data storage available can include flash memory, external hard drives, online storage, and network attached storage devices.

Flash memory thumb drives are small and portable devices that allow a user to store and access files and programs quickly and easily. Most are set up with programs that can emulate a hard drive so a user can work with the programs and bookmarks they need without packing an entire computer around. The downside is the limited amount of memory the offer.

An external hard drive will increase the storage capacity and still offer convenience and portability to the user. With an external hard drive the user can transport large files or connect it to a computer to back up an entire hard drive. Most users prefer using an external hard drive only when backing up large files, such as video files, since continuous use can get tiresome.

Another option is a relatively recent addition to the storage industry, and that is online storage options. This involves backing up data to an off-site location through the Internet. This allows a user to access the data from any computer, but can be a little slow depending on the connection being used.

There is also network attached storage that is most often used by businesses that need a data storage solution that can easily be accessed by multiple users. This is often done by using multiple hard drives in a single array so the solution can be scaled to meet a growing businesses needs. Many companies also include an automated redundancy backup to help ensure the safety of sensitive data.

Some data storage options work best for business use while others may be more appropriate on a personal level. If you take the time to evaluate all your data storage options you will have a better chance at finding what works best for you. There is a data storage and backup solution for you no matter what your needs call for.

Quite often many heavy internet users find themselves suffering from what appears to be very slow internet connections, but is the problem a slow connection or is it perhaps a problem on your computer?

The best way to check is to rule out the obvious first so try doing a speed check on your connection. This is simple and straight forward, just type in “broadband speed check” on any search engine and you will get a list of results you can use.

If this is OK next step is to check your system for virus (make sure you have an up to data virus checker). If this is ok also check for malware and adware as in many instances this will not get pick up by antivirus checkers alone.

If you subsequently find you have a virus that you cannot remove or perhaps your system is clear but still very sluggish contact your local computer repair company for further help.

The decision on whether to use an external storage drive versus an internal storage drive with your PC or device can be difficult. It is not just an aesthetic decision, but rather one that should be based on your needs versus the pros and cons of each type of drive.

The first thing you should consider when you begin looking for a new storage device is, no matter what kind will be whether you need or want an internal or external device. They each have their own sets of pros and cons, so it is important to be educated on each.

The first, and most obvious, benefit of an external hard drive is that it is easier to set up and get started with, especially if you are a computer novice. In most cases, it is a matter of simply plugging in the proper power source and USB cables, installing the proper drivers (which your computer will often lead you through), and you are ready to start using your external storage drive. This is really the best way to go if you are not confident or at all interested in messing around with the wires and cables inside your desktop or laptop.

A second, and perhaps less obvious benefit of the external memory drive, is that they are much easier to share between different users. Most of the USB/FireWire hard drives available today are “plug and play.” This set up makes it simple to move the drive from one machine to another, since you simply unplug the drive from one machine and plug it into another. You can, then, more easily transfer files from home, to work, to school, or to a friend. The value of the convenience alone may be worth it to you, depending on your individual situation. Refer to data storage for more information.

On the other hand, the downside of an external storage drive is that they are certainly slower than internal ones. Internal drives usually are connected to the computer through IDE/ATA busses, which are what support higher data transfer seeds than USB busses, which is how most external storage drives are connected. Also, in a simple manner of cost, since external drives generally have their own casings, they are often more expensive than internal drives.

As a general rule, internal drives are both faster and less expensive than their external counterparts. The biggest, perhaps most obvious, drawback of the internal storage devices is installing them. So, if you decide to go the internal route, look for a package that includes with it all of the cables and hardware required for installation. You will also want something that has a manual that is illustrated and easy for you to understand. In addition, good installation software can make or break it. If the package is a good one, even the most novice PC user will be able to install in internal drive.

Another advantage of internal storage drives is the price. As a rule, the greater the capacity of the media involved with the storage device, the cheaper the price per megabyte, but obviously the price is higher per device. Either way, since internal storage devices do not require their own casing, they run cheaper than their external counterparts.

The disadvantages to internal storage drives are more on par with their convenience. With most internal storage drives you lose the ease of user changing. You will have a much more difficult time removing an internal drive and transferring it to another person’s computer. Of course, if you are using a laptop, such convenience is a little less necessary.

There are obviously a number of factors to take into account when making the decision between internal or external storage solutions. You must figure out what kind of access speed you need, how much backup storage you will need, overall storage needs both now and in the future, how much security and privacy you need, and a number of other memory factors. The thing is that in the end, you will do fine whether you select an internal storage drive or an external storage drive. Storage devices are more affordable than ever with more space available than ever. So make an educated guess at what is best for you and go for it, you really can’t go wrong either way.

Viruses, especially of the computer kind, seem to be proliferating faster than the diseases they were named after and like the organic varieties the instigators and malicious coders who design these programs are making them harder to detect and they are also coming up with new delivery methods.


These malicious programs, which probably started life as playful code have evolved into rather potent tools capable of making even the most advanced IT infrastructure hidden behind hardware firewalls grind to a halt.


This is why it is imperative to make sure your antivirus is always up to data because as new viruses are found the antivirus vendors are updating the software to ensure there software can detect this malevolent code.


Unfortunately though to really secure your home or business pc from attack and to reduce the vulnerability of your system it is advisable that you also make sure you have other software installed that can detect malware as the effects of this can be as if not more devastating than a simple virus, and can in certain circumstances leave your PC open to hacking or even digital theft and identity theft.


If you do keep passwords and sensitive documents on your computer you could always password protect the files using standard functionality that is built into office software.

Voice over IP (internet telephones) have been with us for quite a while now and the challenges of early systems have been left far behind.

What was once an “interesting” technology is now a fully grown communication medium and is being increasingly being adopted by business users giving them massive savings against conventional telephony costs, but this is also an area where private home users can save money too.

Surprisingly however many people are still blissfully unaware of this technology or how it can save them money so here is an useful article explaining some of the pro’s and cons of  VOIP.

VoIP Technology – Pros and Cons

If you are familiar with VoIP, the acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol, then you know that it is one of the latest and greatest ways of communicating. Instead of making a phone call using the telephone, people can now communicate by voice over the Internet. But is VOIP truly all that it is cracked up to be? Lets look at both the pros and cons of VoIP technology.

There are many benefits to VoIP. The only requirement you need is a broadband connection with either DSL or cable. If you have this, you can use VoIP. If you use VoIP through a PC-to-PC connection, then your calls are free anywhere, as long as, the receiver of the call has VoIP also. In addition, most VoIP providers offer unlimited calling plans for calls made within a certain area, for one monthly fee. There would be a nominal charge for calls made outside this area. In all cases, traditional phone service is much costlier. Most providers also offer extra premium services such as caller id, without additional charges.

Another benefit, with the integration of voice and data, is that there is a need for only one system. This makes for easy installation and saves money. An IP address, or number identifies each IP phone, and it is known by this address no matter where it is plugged in. The only thing required would be a broadband connection. This makes for easy moving or addition.

Along the lines of easy transportability, phones can be utilized anywhere as long as they are connected to an IP network. This assists telecommuting and international offices. All of these relate to cost savings. They are also very light and easy to carry.

There doesn’t appear to be any downsides to this new technology or does there? One of the biggest problems with VoIP is that it is run by power. If there is a power outage, your communications are down. This is unlike traditional phone service, where you can still use your phone without the aid of electricity. Refer to VOIP for more information.

There are also problems with dialing emergency 911 numbers. Normally when an emergency call is placed, the call is traced back to the sender and routed to the nearest 911-communication centre in that area. In the case of VoIP, numbers cannot be traced to a location. If you are unable to talk, that 911 call will be useless, as it will not be capable of leading rescuers to your sight.

Voice quality, in general, is efficient, but when you get into cable broadband, high traffic times could result in poorer qualities. Since the data is broken down and transmitted, sometimes a packet of data is delayed and will be dropped. This will result in silent periods.

You may also need to update your phone equipment since VoIP may only work with newer phones. Depending on how many phones you have to replace, this could be an expense.

The fact is that VoIP still has some kinks to work out. It is anticipated that these bugs will be resolved sometime during 2007. They are temporary annoyances, which will be soon be eradicated. As you can see, VoIP’s benefits far outnumber its negatives. From all aspects VoIP is the phone of the future, but the future may very well be here and now. Visit VOIP for further information.

It seems that as technology get ever more complex and software programs go wildly beyond what many users will ever need it seems increasingly that computer problems tend to be more software or system oriented. Equally the every increasing amount of virus trojans and malware that escape detection is a major problem to.

Configuration problems are ideally suited to remote support services as they can effectively be administered there and then with out the need for a call out much to the annoyance of your local PC specialist who while offering excellent service may not be available when you need help.

Here is an article describing remote services.

What is Remote Support?

These days, home and office computer users are turning to online remote IT support services for computer maintenance and repair. The question is: Are these services really useful?

The answer is a most definite, YES!

With these services, users no longer have to worry about dragging their PC down to the local repair shop, or paying expensive call out charges to mobile technicians.

The technicians which offer remote support services are experts in their field and know how to solve different problems quickly and efficiently. They not only perform repair and maintenance, but can foresee future issues that may occur, and can guard against them.

Another reason for the growth of remote IT support services is that technology is becoming more complex. So if you can get prompt, convenient and cost effective support, it takes away the stress of having to work it all out yourself.

Although the user and technician are in different locations, the technician is able to view and control the remote computer from his or her own computer using software that enables screen sharing. Throughout the session, both the technician and the user are able to control the computer being repaired, and may also be in phone contact.

Due to rising demand, there are many service providers offering remote IT support. Pricing and quality of service may vary, so when choosing a provider it is best to go for to go for the one which is reliable and has a good reputation in the market. This ensures that you get good value for money and there is no breach of security.

Whilst remote services have there place I don’t feel however that they will ever replace the need for local support as many people feel far more comfortable with face to face contact and lets face it, I can’ believe technology will ever be available to upgrade your hard drive or fit a new graphics card etc.

Sixty four bit computing, has been around since the beginning of computing, but it wasn't in the mainstream consumer marketplace until just a few years ago, while AMD announced AMD64 almost a decade ago. Getting the rest of the market to join up was aided by Intel's own implementation called Intel® 64. From there, you needed an operating system that supported the technology and applications that were compatible to take advantage of it. Before Windows® Vista and OS X 10.6, that was hard to come by. You've probably seen that Windows® 7 comes in 32 and 64-bit version and wondered what the difference is.  Even now, I'm still surprised at how long it's taken to convert everyone over.

Without getting too technical or doing any math, I'll explain the difference and why you should go with it.

In computing architecture, 32-bit and 64-bit refer to the size of data in terms of integers and memory addresses. CPUs and memory simply support 64-bit long values. It's easy to think about it in terms of literal addresses, too. Say you have a phone book, we'll call it a the 32-bit phone book, and the integers are the contact information for people. The 32-bit phone book can list a total of 4 gigabytes (GB) of memory, or over 4 billion integers. So this "32-bit phone book" can hold the names and contact information of all the people on the planet living today. Contrast that with the range of 64-bit addressing, which is over 18 quintillion integers and more memory that you get get right now, and you can say that the "64-bit phone book" would be able to store the names and contact information for all the people that ever were or will be on the planet.

For your computer, this gives you support for more system memory, and that means better multitasking and generally improved performance across the board.

It's quite easy to get a 64-bit system these days. Most every modern computer, application, and operating system is designed around the 64-bit architecture. Due to both availability and price, your average desktop computer system supports between 8 GB and 16 GB memory maximum, with high-performance motherboards, systems, and servers supporting much higher total, but still nowhere near the theoretical limit of the 64-bit range. That's just fine because buying anything near a petabyte (PB) of memory in this day and age would be a poor decision.

There's still plenty of headroom in the 64-bit architecture to last for many years to come, even considering how fast technology advances. 

The obvious benefit to having more memory in your system is that it lets you hold more data in a place that the CPU can access quickly. Your RAM is a much faster resource than the virtual memory that your hard drive uses, in part because of the way the data is stored, on chips, and because of the speed of the interfaces. You may notice when your system is low on available RAM, it begins to chug and hang; that's your hard drive trying to keep up with the speedy demands of the CPU.

I was quite familiar with the warning message in Windows XP, telling me I was out of free memory.  While it's generally seen as the sweet spot amount of RAM to have, having more than 4 GB of memory in a 64-bit operating system can make it easier to manage large multimedia files like high definition videos and is essential for high-resolution 3D gaming. Audio and video recording also become more stable because the RAM provides an ample buffer while the hard drive busily spins away recording your data.

Plus, you can do fun things like open every Tech Tip article in your web browser at the same time!

If you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to drop us a line in our comments section!

In the past twenty years, there has been a dramatic increase in the processing speed of computers, network capacity and the speed of the internet. These advances have paved the way for the revolution of fields such as quantum physics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. These advances will have a profound effect on the way we live and work, the virtual reality we see in movies like the Matrix, may actually come true in the next decade or so.


Scientists are trying to use nanotechnology to make very tiny chips, electrical conductors and logic gates. Using nanotechnology, chips can be built up one atom at a time and hence there would be no wastage of space, enabling much smaller devices to be built. Using this technology, logic gates will be composed of just a few atoms and electrical conductors (called nanowires) will be merely an atom thick and a data bit will be represented by the presence or absence of an electron.

A component of nanotechnology, nanocomputing will give rise to four types of nanocomputers:

• Electronic nanocomputers
• Chemical and Biochemical nanocomputers
• Mechanical nanocomputers
• Quantum nanocomputers

Electronic nanocomputers
Eletronic nanocomputers are created through microscopic circuits using nanolithography. [Nanocomputers]

Chemical and Biochemical nanocomputers

The interaction between different chemicals and their structures is used to store and process information in chemical nanocomputers. In order to create a chemical nanocomputer, engineers need to be able to control individual atoms and molecules so that these atoms and molecules can be made to perform controllable calculations and data storage tasks.

Mechanical nanocomputers

A mechanical nanocomputer uses tiny mobile components called nanogears to encode information. Some scientists predict that such mechanical nanocomputers will be used to control nanorobots.

Quantum nanocomputers

A quantum nanocomputer store data in the form of atomic quantum states or spin. Single-electron memory (SEM) and quantum dots are examples of this type of technology.

Humanizing Nanocomputers

Apart from this, scientists aim to use nanotechnology to create nanorobots that will serve as antibodies that can be programmed. This will help to protect humans against pathogenic bacteria and viruses that keep mutating rendering many remedies ineffective against new strains. Nanorobots would overcome this problem by reprogramming selectively to destroy the new pathogens. Nanorobots are predicted to be part of the future of human medicine.




Consider that research is being done at the Ediburgh University to create "spray-on computers the size of a grain of sand” that will transform information technology. The research team aims to achieve this goal within four years.
When these nanocomputers are sprayed on to the chests of coronary patients, the tiny cells record a patient’s health and transmit information back to a hospital computer. This would enable doctors to monitor heart patients who are living at home.


A quantum computer uses quantum mechanical phenomena, such as entanglement and superposition to process data. Quantum computation aims to use the quantum properties of particles to represent and structure data. Quantum mechanics is used to understand how to perform operations with this data. The quantum mechanical properties of atoms or nuclei allow these particles to work together as quantum bits, or qubits. These qubits work together to form the computer's processor and memory. Qubits can interact with each other while being isolated from the external environment and this enables them to perform certain calculations much faster than conventional computers.

By computing many different numbers simultaneously and then interfering the results to get a single answer, a quantum computer can perform a large number of operations in parallel and ends up being much more powerful than a digital computer of the same size.
"In the tiny spaces inside atoms, the ordinary rules of reality ... no longer hold. Defying all common sense, a single particle can be in two places at the same time. And so, while a switch in a conventional computer can be either on or off, representing 1 or 0, a quantum switch can paradoxically be in both states at the same time, saying 1 and 0.... Therein lies the source of the power." Whereas three ordinary switches could store any one of eight patterns, three quantum switches can hold all eight at once, taking "a shortcut through time." [Scientific]

Quantum computers could prove to be useful for running simulations of quantum mechanics. This would benefit the fields of physics, chemistry, materials science, nanotechnology, biology and medicine because currently, advancement in these fields is limited by the slow speed of quantum mechanical simulations.

Quantum computing is ideal for tasks such as cryptography, modeling and indexing very large databases. Many government and military funding agencies are supporting quantum computing research to develop quantum computers for civilian and national security purposes, such as cryptanalysis.

The term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is a branch of computer science that aims to make computers behave like humans. [Artificial Intelligence] Artificial Intelligence includes programming computers to make decisions in real life situations (e.g. some of these “expert systems” help physicians in the diagnosis of diseases based on symptoms), programming computers to understand human languages (natural language), programming computers to play games such as chess and checkers (games playing), programming computers to hear, see and react to other sensory stimuli(robotics) and designing systems that mimic human intelligence by attempting to reproduce the types of physical connections between neurones in the human brain (neural networks).

Natural-language processing would allow ordinary people who don’t have any knowledge of programming languages to interact with computers.

So what does the future of computer technology look like after these developments?

Through nanotechnology, computing devices are becoming progressively smaller and more powerful. Everyday devices with embedded technology and connectivity are becoming a reality. Nanotechnology has led to the creation of increasingly smaller and faster computers that can be embedded into small devices.

This has led to the idea of pervasive computing which aims to integrate software and hardware into all man made and some natural products. It is predicted that almost any items such as clothing, tools, appliances, cars, homes, coffee mugs and the human body will be imbedded with chips that will connect the device to an infinite network of other devices. [Pervasive Computing]
Hence, in the future network technologies will be combined with wireless computing, voice recognition, Internet capability and artificial intelligence with an aim to create an environment where the connectivity of devices is embedded in such a way that the connectivity is not inconvenient or outwardly visible and is always available. In this way, computer technology will saturate almost every facet of our life. What seems like virtual reality at the moment will become the human reality in the future of computer technology.

This section of Tech Tips lists all of our computer hardware related articles. This includes everything from computer parts and peripherals to computer cases, monitors and related products. We hope that you find these computer hardware tips helpful. If you're looking for pc help, pc tips, or pc info, you're at the right place. Computer Geeks wants to give you the information and instructions you need to be an educated consumer. As the Tech Tips archive computers over time, it is our hope that the pc topic you are interested in will be listed. If you have not signed up for the Tech Tips mailing list, don't miss out, sign up today. Enjoy!

One of the greatest frustrations of the computer world is the slow desktop or notebook computer. Whether you’re launching a program, running a bunch of programs at once or just browsing the Internet a slow computer can have a big impact on your overall computing experience. In this week’s Tech Tip we're going to look at some easy upgrades that you or your computer store can do for you.  This Tech Tip is geared toward the Windows crowd (that is – most of you out there) but it can apply to the Apple and Linux crowds too.

Pure and simple, if you increase your computer’s memory, you increase performance.  By computer memory, I am talking about the RAM that your computer has – not the hard drive space. Adding more RAM for your computer is almost always the first step that will give your computer the biggest bang for the buck speed-wise. Surprisingly, this type of upgrade is easier than it sounds and can usually be handled by a novice computer geek.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Find out how much memory you have. You can typically find this information in the specifications that come with the computer.  If you have -Windows Vista or Windows 7 - simply click on “Start” and in the search box type in: "System Information"; then, in the right hand pane, look for the line that says “Installed Physical Memory (RAM)”. If you have Windows XP, right click on "My Computer", and then click on “Properties”.
  2. Check to see the maximum amount of memory that your computer can take.  For this, I personally just check out the website They not only have a vast database, but they also give you handy information like how many memory slots your computer has.  Just enter your computer’s model number (usually on a tag on the computer). Many modern computers will take two gigabytes (2 GB) or four gigabytes (4 GB); however, some newer units are able to take even more. I'd strongly recommend upgrading to the maximum amount of RAM that your system can handle. A caveat is if you are running a 32-bit version of an operating system (OS), your computer can’t handle amounts above 4 GB. Check this chart on for more information on the maximum amount of memory your OS can handle.
  3. Buy the memory and install it yourself, or pay a shop to install it for you.  You can do a Bing search to cross check the part number provides you to find the exact specifications of the type of memory you want to use. Voila!  More memory equals better performance!

Flash memory is cheap, and many of us usually have some old USB flash drives lying around.  Why not put them to good use on your Windows Vista or Windows 7 system by using them as a "ReadyBoost " cache for your computer?  Simply plug-in the flash drive, and a window pops up asking you if you want to use the memory for ReadyBoost.  It is an inexpensive and easy thing to do to get more out of your PC. A bonus with Windows 7 is that it can take more than one memory module.  If you want to "keep it out of sight", use a secure digital card (or similar) flash memory card in your card reader. This type of upgrade is fast and easy.

Even with hardware upgrades like we discussed above, your PC’s performance sinks fast if it is plagued with malware.  A lot of the off-the-shelf PC’s will give you a trial program, but I like free things myself.  One free suite that recently became available is "Security Essentials" from Microsoft.  Unfortunately it isn't bundled with Windows, but it is just a click away. Really, if you look around, you'll find that there are many companies that offer free malware protection. If you are partial to some of the paid suites, by all means give them a go also. Remember to keep those payments current, because you need to be sure to keep it up-to-date.ies

Running a quick and easy program, such as the free CCleaner from Piriform, can help clean out old files from Windows as well as internet browsers that love to hang around “gunking up the works”.  Best of all, it can do it in one fell swoop – there is no need to clear them out one program at a time.

5.1) Upgrading the CPU. Not for the novice but this is relatively easy to do on a desktop. However, it is not always easy to track down exactly "what" will work on your particular computer.

5.2) Upgrading the hard drive.  Installing an SLC based Solid State Drive (SSD) will help with drive access times, and it is something that an intermediate geek can handle.

5.3) Upgrading the video card. "Regular" type programs wouldn't benefit much (web browsing, e-mail, business programs) from this type of upgrade; however gamers need a better video card for a better gaming experience.  This type of upgrade can usually be handled by an intermediate geek.

More RAM = better performance.
Adding ReadyBoost = better performance. 
Keeping malware off your PC = better performance.
Keeping the gunk cleared off = better performance.
Better performance = one happy user!

The third revision to the Serial ATA storage standard, known as Serial ATA 6Gb/s, was ratified a year ago and an increasing number of devices are coming to market that make use of the new technology.

In this Tech Tip I'll go over what you need to know to decide when the right time is for you to upgrade.

It turns out that what's in a name is understanding. A rose by any other name could be just as sweet, but how would you know how fast it is compared to other roses? There was some confusion regarding how to officially refer to the previous two standards. You would see SATA I and SATA II as well as Serial ATA 1.5Gb/s and Serial ATS 3Gb/s used interchangeably. Naturally, with this third revision to the specification coming out, it was important for the Serial ATA International Organization (SATA IO) to get the correct terms out there. First and foremost, the Roman numeral representations of the standards are incorrect, especially SATA II, as this is the old name for the organization that created the standard. Additionally, using that nomenclature the new standard would be called SATA III and would be spoken as, "S-A-T-A Three," which can easily be confused as SATA 3Gb/s. So, while it is a mouthful, the Serial ATA IO prefers you say the entire transfer rate of the standard to avoid any confusion.

The biggest and most obvious improvement in the third generation of the interface is the 6.0 Gb/s transfer rate, which translates to 768 megabytes per second, about as much data on a CD-ROM. With protocol overhead, you're likely to see real-world transfer speeds of roughly 600 megabytes per second. The new standard calls for twice the throughput as the second generation and is geared toward streaming high-definition content and high-capacity flash memory devices like solid state drives. To aid in this task a streaming command was added to the Native Command Queuing technology already utilized in existing Serial ATA drives. Native Command Queuing, simply known as NCQ, is the method Serial ATA drives use to organize read and write requests efficiently. Now, with the streaming command as well as NCQ Management for optimized performance, the third generation stands to provide noticeable improvements in operation, with the biggest improvements seen in SSDs (Solid State Drives). Serial ATA 6Gb/s is also compatible with the previous generation, Serial ATA 3Gb/s, unfortunately, it's not compatible with the first generation standard, Serial ATA 1.5Gb/s.

The two ways to get this new technology remain the same as with most I/O technologies, you can install an add-on card or buy a motherboard with it already integrated. There are a number of affordable PCI Express add-on cards, even some with SuperSpeed USB 3.0, too, but you'll need to be PCI Express 2.0 compliant to enjoy the best performance on existing hardware. Buying a motherboard with integrated Serial ATA 6Gb/s is the other option available, but there are only a handful of boards and devices in the market right now. It is likely to remain this way until Intel releases it as an integrated solution in their desktop boards in Q1 of 2011. Until then, widespread adoption is unlikely and you will see the slow trickle of SATA 6Gb/s devices, add-on cards, and motherboards continue. Soon after you'll be able to purchase it in fully-built systems from OEM manufacturers like HP, Gateway, Dell, and the like. Who knows? Maybe the next generation of Macbooks will have it, too!

As of now, the only people that are going to see instant performance increases are going to be Solid State Drive users. This will change as Serial ATA hard disks are released with the new interface, but will only see a slight gain in performance. However, Solid State Drive prices are dropping all the time, so if it's within your budget, the next time you buy a notebook or system, look for SSDs and Serial ATA 6Gb/s, as well as SuperSpeed USB 3.0. With new these technologies, you'll be on the cutting edge leaving behind the simpler days when you were staring at progress and loading bars.

Let’s start off with some rhetorical questions. How often do you proactively and manually do a virus scan on your system when you check your email? Do you use Photoshop for more than just editing out red-eye (or at all)? When was the last time you multi-tasked with lots of programs? (More than just running FireFox, iTunes and Microsoft Word simultaneously) While most mainstream computers today have multi-core processors that can juggle several tasks, it can get confusing about how much processing power is really required for simple everyday applications. This article will discuss how multi-core CPUs relate to everyday real life computing needs.

Regarding the concept of multiple CPUs, Intel introduced this technology with its Pentium 4 processor. Even though there was only 1 physical CPU, Hyper-Threading fooled Windows XP by indicating there are 2 (virtual) CPUs running which helped a little with multi-tasking. Currently, chip makers such as Intel and AMD engineer their CPUs to have 1, 2, 3 and even 4 processors on a single chip package. The good news is that Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard have the ability to utilize all available processors to make the operating system run smoother.

Despite its advantages, the biggest issue with multi-core processors is the fact there aren’t many software programs for the average-joe PC user that take advantage of multiple CPUs. For software makers, it’s very labor-intensive to code software to utilize more than one CPU.

In the last 10 years, we have seen many advances in CPU technologies that range from Intel’s SpeedStep which lowers CPU speed to save laptop battery life to AMD’s innovative integrated memory controller which increases performance. Still, one thing that hasn’t really changed is the majority of PC users still use their computer for checking email, listening to music and running Microsoft Office.

Which brings us to the question, “how many CPUs do I really need?”

To answer this question, let us examine commonly used software program CPU requirements:

  • Windows XP – 233 Mhz Pentium CPU or higher
  • Windows Vista – 1Ghz 32-bit or 64-bit CPU or higher
  • Windows 7 – 1 Ghz 32-bit or 64-bit CPU or higher
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard – Intel CPU
  • Office 2007 – 500 Mhz CPU or higher
  • FireFox – 233 Mhz CPU or higher
  • Adobe CS4 – 1.8Ghz CPU or higher
  • iTunes – 1Ghz CPU or higher

From this list, we can see that many of the programs used every day require about a 1Ghz CPU to run smoothly. Most modern CPUs, regardless of performance class, run at least 1.5 times or twice these required speeds regardless of performance class. For the average PC user who routinely uses a computer for checking email with multiple browser tabs, writing school papers on MS Word, and playing music on iTunes, a Dual-Core CPU is plenty fast enough for these tasks.

Below are examples of lower-end CPUs which have plenty of power for basic computing needs:

If you’re a moderate enthusiast who enjoys casual gaming and/or does lots of research for school or work and needs more horsepower, consider the following:

PC games released now are being written to utilize multiple cores which help make AI (artificial intelligence) more challenging for the gamer.

For hardcore gamers who demand the most for the best graphical output or for multimedia professionals who need the computing muscle for Adobe CS4, the following are recommended:

Programs like Adobe CS4 can actually utilize all available cores, thus making whatever resource-intensive task such as image rendering take less time.

Since dual-core CPUs have become virtually mainstream, chip makers have bridged the gap between these and their high-performance quad-core counterparts. One trend is to disable 1 or 2 CPUs during manufacturing and offer it at a lower price. Thus, AMD’s Phenom X3 is actually a Phenom X4 quad-core with one CPU disabled. AMD can market this chip as a middle-of-the-road between budget and high performance. Intel has considered this approach and is releasing their Core i7 (code-named Gulftown) 6-core CPU.

Another trend that Intel has introduced is the return of Hyper-Threading. As in the Pentium 4 processor, Hyper-Threading is inside all Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs. So, for example, a computer will recognize a Core i7 as having 8 processors even though there are only 4 physical CPUs on the chip. In addition, Intel is adding Hyper-Threading to their low-power Atom CPU which is designed for netbooks. Starting with the N280 chip, the Intel Atom netbook can now mimic a multi-core computer while maintaining its tiny footprint and minimal power consumption.

If you’re in the market to purchase a new PC, keep in mind the reasons for your purchase. For example, if the salesperson is urging you to buy a fully-loaded $800 quad-core CPU desktop or laptop computer and you specifically told him it’s only for web research, email and watching YouTube videos, a $450 dual-core CPU system makes more sense.

Optical disc drives, you know CD-ROM type drives, are pretty much on all computers these days (except maybe netbooks - - where you may need to buy an external optical drive) . While this drive is extremely useful, some very common some questions still arise about them. In this Tech Tip we’ll be providing a refresh look at optical drives as well as looking at common failures and replacement strategies.

OK, to start off, optical drives have come a long way (baby). As most of our readers know, they progressed from the read-only days of the CD-ROM, through the burner days with CD-R, the rewritable days of CD-RW and then the DVD came along. From there you had read-only DVD-ROMs, CD-RW/DVD-ROM, DVD-RW. DVD+RW, DVD±RW, DVD±RW DL, blue-ray, yada, yada, yada!

The important thing to know is that the drives are pretty much backwards compatible, so if you get a DVD±RW DL it can pretty much read and write to the formats before it (for example, a DVD±RW DL can read a CD-ROM disc, burn to a CD-RW disc, etc.).

All that alphabet soup of letters can be confusing, but all you need to know are the three basic (currently used) optical formats: CD, DVD, BLU-RAY (also called BD). Each of these formats have a read-only mode (-ROM), a write only (recordable) mode (-R or +R) and a read-write (re-recordable) mode (-RW, +RW, -RAM or –RE). The DL tacked onto the end of the alphabet soup means that the drive is a Double Layer drive (it can read or write to 8.5 GB double layer discs).

Optical drives are also commonly advertised by their speed, represented by a number of how much “faster” the drive is than the original single speed spec. Thus, a CD-R drive that rates at 52x speed writes faster than a 32x drive (in theory – like many other things that run through marketers' hands, these numbers are sometimes foot-loose and fancy free, in that 52x speed may be the most inside track of a drive while the outer track actually records at a slower speed). Also, note that the original single speeds of CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs are actually different, and that those multiplier numbers are meant for comparing to the single speed number within that category. Basically, all you need to know is that, pretty much, the larger the number, the faster the drive.  Drives these days also come with two basic loading mechanisms, slot loaded and tray loaded (by far the more popular); two different interfaces (SATA and PATA (also called IDE or ATA); and two form factors, 5.25-inch desktop and 5.25” slimline (laptop and mini-desktop) sizes. Optical drives can also incorporate cool extra features such as LightScribe disc labeling technology as well.

If you bought a prebuilt system, then you usually have the software installed to use all these cool features, though maybe not to its full capability. Many times vendors may incorporate very basic software that gets the job done, whether its writing to a disc or watching a movie – but that’s about it. There are several very good software packages available, usually packaged as suites, that can enhance your experience using a optical drive, and many of them even have trial versions to take them for a test drive. Some of the more popular ones are Nero’s software package, Roxio’s software suite, Alcohol Software’s 120% program as well as many others.

By far, the most common failure is that the drive can no longer read a disc. It may be intermittent (sometimes reads, sometimes doesn’t or it may read CD discs and not DVD discs (or vice-versa). If the drive does this, the first thing to do is to make sure that the drive is compatible with the disc you are trying to read (after all, a DVD drive will not read a Blu-Ray disc but again, because of backwards compatibility, a Blu-Ray player will usually read a DVD disc). Next, you can try cleaning the disc itself (from the inside out, not in circles) with a clean, soft cloth and disc cleaner. If this doesn’t correct the issue you can try to clean the drive lens (either with a cleaner disc or denatured alcohol and a cotton swab). Admittedly these are stop gap measures, because truthfully this is usually a sign of a failing drive.

Another common failure is that the drive will refuse to eject either via the button or the software eject command. When this happens, try rebooting the computer (rebooting cures a number of ills), or ejecting the disc manually (if you see a small hole in the drive's bezel you can use a handy, dandy drive ejection tool also known as an unbent paper-clip). If the drive still does not eject then it is more than likely a failed drive (in which case, pull any discs in the drive before replacing it - admittedly, retrieving discs from a slot loaded drive can be more daunting than pulling them from a tray loaded drive – sometimes it actually requires a drive's disassembly). In case of a failed drive, the best bet is to replace the drive entirely.

Replacing an optical disc drive is a pretty straightforward process – you pull the old drive and put in the new drive, and if this is not covered under warranty, you can do it yourself. Manufacturers  complicate this process. The first thing to know is that both slimline and desktop drives have the same form-factor, however manufacturers may do some interesting things with the bezels. For example, a desktop computer may have a drop-down door in front of the drive, and if you buy a replacement drive, you’ll need one whose eject button lines up with where that door thinks the eject button should be. Desktop drives are secured either by four screws (two on either side of the drive) or drive rails. While optical drives DO NOT need any special drivers, if you are upgrading to a DVD or Blu-Ray drive, you may want to get a drive that includes player software to watch movies (also be sure to watch the system requirements for these drives). Another thing to look for is to be sure that you are replacing the drive with the same data interface SATA or PATA (if it is a PATA drive, set the new drives master/slave -abbreviated M/S or MA/SL- back jumper to match what the old drive was set to).

Slimline drives also can have the added aggravation of the bezels not matching with the replacement drive. Thus, unlike a desktop drive, the best bet with slimline drives is to find an exact replacement (these drives will typically have manufacturer part numbers on the top of the drives). Slimline drives also sometimes saddle a cradle around the drive – simply remove it from the old drive and screw it onto the new drive. These drives are either held in the computer with a couple of screws or a quick release mechanism. Again, make sure to watch the interface (SATA vs. PATA). Of course, if all else fails call a tech or a computer geek computer savvy friend.

Optical drives make up one part of the wonderful machine that is your computer. While the drive itself may be confusing at first and the thought of possibly replacing it daunting, with a little know-how you’ll find yourself an optical drive expert in no time.


How to decommission or sell an old PC

how to sell or dispose of an old system safely, without compromising your personal data

When a PC is nearing the end of its useful life, it’s crucial to decommission it safely and securely. It’s a simple process, and once it’s done you can dispose of the PC, or sell it on, without worrying about what else you may be giving away. If you do plan to sell it on, there are steps you can take to encourage buyers and help achieve a quick sale at a good price.

The most important part of decommissioning an old PC is securely erasing your personal data, to ensure that nothing can be recovered by whoever gets their hands on your PC, or its hard disk, after you’ve finished with it.

Before you start the decommissioning process, therefore, make sure you’ve collected all the data and information you need from the computer. For a PC you plan to sell or strip for parts, it’s always good to have a full specification list to give to buyers. If you don’t have the original documents, or if the computer has been upgraded over the years, go in to Control Panel | System & Security | System and note down the processor model, the amount of RAM and – if you plan to sell it with the operating system – the version of Windows it’s running.

Then open Device Manager and note down the model numbers under Disk Drives and Display Adapters, as well as anything else you think might be of interest to a prospective owner. Doing this now will be much simpler than digging up the details later. You can also enlist the help of a third-party tool such as Speccy, which can analyse the hardware in your system and produce a full report as a text file.

Next, if there’s data you want to keep, be sure to transfer it to an external hard disk or upload it to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. De-authorise any software with an account that works across multiple devices, such as Apple’s iTunes and Adobe’s Creative Suite tools – this takes only a minute, and it reduces the possibility of future authorisation issues with other devices. Finally, dig out your original installation discs and decide what’s worth including; you must hand over the product keys if you want to bundle commercial software with the machine.

If you intend to sell off the PC’s individual components, it’s also a good idea to take a few photos of them in action before you erase the hard disk, as we discuss below.


If you plan to sell on the computer in one working piece, you’ll definitely want to securely clean off the hard disk. Once you’ve done this, you may want to reinstall the OS to make it a more attractive purchase; if you still have the installation disc or recovery media for Windows 7 or 8, along with a valid product key, this should be a simple process. If your system came with older XP or Vista discs, buyers may prefer the option of receiving the system without an OS. One possibility is to install a Linux distribution, if only to show the system is working.

You should already have made a list of the technical specifications, but if you plan to sell your PC via an online service, it’s also a good idea to take a set of clear photos. You don’t need to get the professionals in, but it pays to take your shots in a well-lit room and against a clean, preferably white background. Show the device powered on and working if possible, and take shots from different angles to show ports and connectors. Include any recovery discs, manuals, peripherals and cases in at least one photo. Don’t show the product key: someone dishonest could use it to illegally activate their own copy of Windows, leading to problems with your own installation.

For an eBay listing, the key information should go into the description and headline. Be clear about the condition and age of the device, and if possible include the full model number or product name. You’re an individual seller, not a business, so be human and tell the buyer why you’ve decided to sell. And before you set a price, search for similar products online and see how much they tend to fetch. If you’re brave enough to run an auction that starts at 99p, you’ll attract more interest, but you need to have realistic expectations of how high the bidding will go.

As for shipping, assume your computer is going to be chucked around like a rugby ball in transit. If you no longer have the original packaging, you’re going to need lots of bubble wrap. Always use a few more layers than you think is safe, and if you’re putting multiple items into a larger box it pays to fill the free space with packing chips. For a PC, stuff more bubble wrap into the spaces inside the case to prevent components from coming loose. And the most important step: always get a tracking number!


Selling individual components


If your PC is no longer functional, you can still sell off the bits that do work. Indeed, even if your PC does work, this approach may be more lucrative than selling it of as a complete system. That applies particularly to custom-built and upgraded PCs – perhaps you’ve supplemented a standard PC with a beastly graphics card, for example.

You’ll have to use common sense here. Check the prices at retail and on eBay for the components you want to sell, making sure you’re using the exact product codes. The notes you took earlier should help here: you can also open up the PC and look for a sticker or engraving that confirms the part number.

Alternatively, look back through your emails for an order receipt. If possible, take a photo that shows the component working, and state very clearly the condition of the item in your listing. Buying second-hand components can be a lottery, so do everything you can to reassure potential buyers.

If you’re wary of selling online, a high-street trade-in shop such as CeX will take pretty much anything you can stick into a PC without fuss, so long as it’s in working order. Be warned, though: they may take the item away for testing before handing over the cash, which can mean leaving it with them for several hours or even overnight. And before you lug everything down to the high street, check the website to see what you’ll get for sale or trade-in: with older kit you may find it isn’t worth the effort.

If you can’t find a new home for your kit, you can always repurpose it. It might be possible to move spare memory into a newer PC as a top-up, and working hard disks of a reasonable capacity are always useful. USB 3 external hard disk caddies can be had from around £11 inc VAT for 2.5in laptop drives, and around £20 for 3.5in desktop drives, turning an old SATA disk into a high-speed backup device. Don’t put all your eggs in this basket, though: if it’s already a few years old, it could fail on you sooner or later.


Where to sell your PC


Although eBay has a huge audience, if you want to sell your PC via this route you’ll have to factor in its selling fees, not to mention the cost (and considerable effort) of safely shipping something bulky and valuable. The maximum insertion fee is only £1.30, but the site also takes 10% of the final sale value and postage cost. If your buyer pays by PayPal, that will cost you an additional 3.4% of the transaction value plus a fixed 20p fee. So if you sell a laptop at auction for £100, and the buyer pays £25 for special delivery, you’ll come away with a rather disappointing £83.48 for your efforts – minus your insertion fee.

There are alternatives. Trade-in shops such as the aforementioned CeX will take some big-brand systems immediately in return for cash. Don’t expect to get rich, though: these stores are buying your products to sell them on at a profit, so you’ll probably get less than you would from a private sale – if the shop will take your system at all.

Then there are websites specialising in personal advertisements, the most popular being Gumtree. Although its audience is more localised than eBay, it costs nothing to list an item, and you get the reassurance of a fixed asking price and no commitment to sell. If things don’t go well, you can simply create a new listing for your item, with a few tweaks to the headline or price. With collections, you’ll have to be more careful than you would on eBay: don’t give out your address or phone number until you’re happy you’ve found a serious buyer and, if necessary, have someone with you when the buyer arrives.

An old, working PC that’s too slow to run the latest applications can be repurposed as a home server by installing the open-source FreeNAS operating system. Be warned that the system is quite RAM-hungry, so if your system has less than 2GB you may need to add more to get FreeNAS running smoothly.

Be aware too that a computer running FreeNAS will almost certainly consume more electrical power than a dedicated NAS appliance. To keep things as efficient as possible, see if you can underclock the CPU in the BIOS, and remove any components that aren’t needed to serve files. You don’t need a separate graphics card, for instance, if the system also has integrated graphics.

The easiest way to get started is to download the FreeNAS USB image (you’ll find it at the bottom of the download page). Extract the IMG file from the downloaded archive, then download the free Win32 Disk Imager tool, run it, and select your IMG file and the letter of your USB drive. Click Write and your bootable FreeNAS USB stick will be created.

To set up your FreeNAS server, you’ll need access to a second PC that’s connected to the same home network. Boot your old system from the USB stick, and after a few minutes it should give you a numbered menu with an IP address at the bottom of the screen. If no network is found, choose the first option to Configure Network Interfaces and follow the instructions until it receives an IP address. (For bigger problems setting up, you’re best off checking the FreeNAS forums.)

Write down that IP address, then type it into the browser URL bar on your second PC to access the FreeNAS web interface with all the settings for your new home server. To get started, go to Account | Admin Account | Change Admin User, and set a username and password. That’s for the web login; you’ll also want to create a new user for the server in Account | Users | New User. Browse through the rest of the administrative settings to fix any obvious problems – such as an incorrect time or date – and you’re ready to set up your storage.

on't write off the desktop PC just yet—the workhorse of the PC world still has a place. The desktop continues to evolve with stunning new designs, extremely affordable prices, and a range of uses that extends far beyond the home office. Whether you're looking for a standard tower PC or a sleek all-in-one, we've got you covered. Whether you're looking for a crazy fast gaming rig or a computer for streaming movies and TV shows, you'll find something here.

The standard desktop tower still reigns as the basic PC, ranging from smaller budget-priced systems to powerful towers that can double as workstations or gaming rigs. You'll get a lot of performance and plenty of features even at budget prices, but perhaps the biggest draw for desktop buyers is the fact that, unlike slim laptops that won't even let you swap the battery, the tower still allows the user to maintain and upgrade their system. Even the simple tasks of upgrading RAM or swapping out an old hard drive with a newer, faster solid-state drive will extend the life of a PC for months, or even years.

The PC is making headway in the living room, as well, with home theater PCs (HTPC) gaining ground. These PCs connect easily to an HDTV and tout smaller, sleeker designs that will fit into a home theater set-up without looking too out of place. Whether it's a tiny HTPC for streaming Netflix movies to your TV, or a heavy duty gaming PC that blends in next to stereo equipment, the desktop PC has moved from the office to the den, and the trend looks to continue in future months.

But the biggest shift in the desktop PC is the move from tower-based designs to all-in-one systems which pack the PC components into the chassis or base of the monitor. The result is less cluttered, with fewer cables and without the tower providing extra space stealing bulk on your desk. Since the release of Windows 8, the all-in-one shift has added touch to the mix, providing large screens that can be tapped, swiped, and poked for a more intuitive navigation experience.

But with so many different options, which should you choose? These ten systems are the best we've tested in their respective subcategories. For more tips on what to look for in a desktop, check out our buying guide.

What kind of PC will it take to run so-called "high-end 3D games?" If you have deep pockets, your answer could be a ­custom-built hot rod from elite boutique PC manufacturers such as Alienware, Falcon Northwest, or OriginPC. If you're not made of money, a couple of well-informed choices will go a long way toward helping you get the right gaming rig, even if it's from a standard PC vendor.

The heart of any system is its processor. Which one you select will have a major impact on performance—and on your wallet. At the moment, in terms of raw processing power, Intel's six-core processors in the Core i7 family top the list. AMD goes bang for the buck with its FX processors, with up to eight cores. But you'll see that the entry price for these top-of-the-line chips is steep—up to a thousand bucks or more.

Lesser but still high-powered CPUs such as the AMD A10 and quad-core Intel Core i7 processors can also provide the computing muscle needed for a rich gaming experience. Budget gamers should look to lower-priced (but still speedy) processors, such as the AMD A8 or the Intel Core i5, which will knock hundreds of dollars off the bottom line. While mobile processors are clocked and packaged differently, the same rules apply: go for a quad core Intel Core i7 or high end AMD A10 if your budget is large, but you can get by with quad core i5 or AMD A8 if you're trying to save some money. As shown in our testing, spending the money on the graphics makes more sense than spending it on the processor.

What's often overlooked is that a system's memory is severely taxed by modern games. Try to outfit your PC with at least 8GB of RAM and budget for 16GB if you're truly serious about freeing up this potential performance bottleneck. Faster memory (DDR3-2133 or better) also improves performance and lets you overclock your CPU with greater stability.

The most pivotal gaming decision you'll make is which 3D graphics subsystem to use. Integrated graphics are fine for casual games like Where's My Water and TorchLight II, but to really bring out the beast on AAA titles, you'll want one or more discrete graphics cards. AAA titles are the games that everyone waits up for on launch night, and they've included games like Bioshock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V. Today, dual, triple, and quad graphics card arrays from AMD and Nvidia reign supreme on the desktop, while single and dual GPU setups are found on gaming laptops. AMD's CrossFireX solution consists of multiple Radeon HD processors, while Nvidia's top draw is its 2,3, or 4-way SLI with up to four Nvidia GeForce GTX cards or GPUs.

A few words of warning, though: Equipping your system with these high-end GPUs will unavoidably boost your total bill by a couple thousand dollars. Still, multiple graphics cards not only add extra GPU power to your gaming experience, it can also enable multiple monitor setups so you can run up to six displays in AMD's Eyefinity or Nvidia's 3D Surround setup. You don't have to run all the monitors together as a single screen for a single game. Multiple monitors will let you play multiple games simultaneously. You can also chat and surf while you're playing on one of your multiple monitors. 3D with passive or active glasses is possible with the right graphics card(s) and monitor(s), but like in home theater, 3D visuals are far from a must-have feature. As far as size is concerned, you want to be using 27 or 30-inch widescreen IPS panels to do these graphics systems real justice.

For a gaming laptop, 11-, 14-, 15-, 17-, and 18-inch displays are par for the course. You can buy larger displays, but rest assured on a laptop this will jack the weight up way beyond five pounds: We've seen 12 pound "portables" in the gaming sector as recently as last July. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher than 1080p HD (1,920-by-1,080) resolutions, but choose wisely as QHD+ (3,200 by 1,800) will boost the final cost twice: once for the panel and second for the higher-quality graphics card to drive it.

You can still get a rich gaming experience for thousands less by using a single but robust 1GB to 2GB video card such as a midlevel AMD Radeon or the Nvidia GeForce GT Series card. If you're less concerned about turning up all the eye candy found on games—anti-aliasing and esoteric lighting effects, for example—then last year's cards and GPUs will still give you plenty of oomph for a lot less.

SSDs are a hot topic, since the prices have come down dramatically over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake from sleep time, game launch time, level loading time, basically any time you're sitting there watching a progress bar fill up. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop or desktop with a SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small SSD (128GB) with a large data (spinning) hard drive (500GB to 1TB) is a good start for gamers that also download the occasional video from the Internet. Gargantuan SSDs are available (512GB or more capacity), but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig exponentially. Go with the smaller SSD if you like to recomputer your OS and driver sets after each new AAA title release, otherwise opt for the larger SSD or large hard drive as your C: drive if you like to keep games around for a while.

But don't stop at internal components. A couple of extras can really do wonders for your gaming experience. I recommend that you trick out your machine with good pair of noise-cancelling headphones (to drown out the fan noise). Keyboards, mice, and specialized controllers round out your gaming choices.

Have fun, and game on!

Does your desktop PC take so long to start up you have time to go get a cup of coffee—and drink it? Tried installing the latest game only to find out your graphics card is six generations too old to play it? Or maybe you just want to take advantage of the speed and reliability of operating systems like Microsoft Windows 8.1 and OS X Mavericks. If any of these are true, then it is time for you to buy a new desktop PC. And we can help you do it.

Prices for new desktop PCs start as low as $200 and range all the way up to and over $5,000, but most of us would be more than happy with a $600 to $750 box, including monitor. You still need to make some choices when it comes to CPUs, memory, hard drive capacity and graphics technology, but the good news is your money has never gone further. And a PC you buy today could very well last you for three to five years.

Back to Basics
It's getting to the point where basic PCs are in the same price range as some tablets. While it's certainly possible to do most of your Web surfing and video watching on a tablet, it's often better to do real work on a desktop PC. This is especially the case when you need to view your work on a larger screen, like when you're editing a long Word document or when you've got a huge spreadsheet to work on. You'll find AMD e-class and A4/A6 processors as well as Intel Core i3 and i5 processors in inexpensive systems. If all you want to do is surf the Web, run Office apps, and do light to moderate computing duties, you should consider one of these compact systems.

You can find basic systems advertised for as low as $200 without monitor. These systems belong to a desktop category that (mostly) comes in below the $300-$500 value desktop categories, both in price and capabilities. These systems run on the inexpensive, basic components that keep the prices affordable: low-powered processors like the Intel Atom, AMD E-series and AMD C-Series processors; non-upgradable integrated graphics; 1GB to 4GB of RAM; smaller hard drive; no optical drive (usually); and Windows 7/8, Linux operating system, Android, Chrome OS, or sometimes even no pre-installed OS. While inexpensive desktops are being eclipsed by tablets and other mobile systems, you'll still find inexpensive compact systems in big box stores and online retailers when you search for cheap PCs.

Some budget systems have a built-in screen and still can be bought for less than $500. You'll also see quite a few nettops and compact systems aimed at the home theater crowd, some of which may be up to $600 if they include built-in Blu-ray drives. They work well in a living room because they're silent (quiet fans); have wireless keyboards and/or mice; and have HDMI ports for connecting to HDTVs. They're still one of the easiest ways to get IPTV services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube on your HDTV in the living room, plus you can comfortably surf the Web from your couch on a nettop with a wireless keyboard and mouse. HD video playback on a nettop is usually smooth when playback is the only task running; but forget about multi-tasking while viewing videos: once you bring up a rich website with heavy Adobe Flash, the video quality will suffer. If you're a more demanding multi-tasker, check out the next category.

There's a subset of really inexpensive systems, which leverage online storage and apps replacing local storage and Windows/Mac-based applications. These systems can be an option if your world is completely online, but note that backwards compatibility with older applications is dicey, and you'll need an always-on connection at home to use cloud-based systems like the ChromeBox effectively.

Mid-priced Desktop PCs
Sub $600 PCs used to be the bargain basement for desktops, but now they're the norm. You should be able to find a desktop that has a recent dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM for under $600 with an LCD monitor. The dual-core processor with integrated graphics will help with the increasingly complex tasks that even casual users expect of their PCs. These include converting video from one format to another (so you can view it on your cell phone, for example), or light photo editing like removing red eye, cropping, or even recomposing the layout of a picture by adding missing people or changing colors in a shot.

You'll sometimes find Intel Pentium dual core or AMD Athlon II processors at this price level, but lately you'll find more powerful Intel Core i3/i5, or AMD A4/A6 processors with even more capabilities. Windows 8.1 and DVD burners prevail in this price range and are wise investments. Many come with hard drives of substantial capacity (250GB to 500GB). Like on ultrabooks, you'll find SSDs and hybrid SSD/HDD combos that will speed up your work. Buy a system with an SSD if you are really impatient, but note that SSDs are still somewhat lacking in storage for heavy downloaders and graphics mavens. Some of these PCs still come in minitower cases, but the sexier ones come in small form factor cases, ultra small form factors, or better yet, mini PC form factors. These cases take up much less room on your desk than a traditional minitower, and are just as functional as their larger counterparts. Plus, a good budget PC should easily last you the next three to five years.

Multimedia and Gaming Desktops
This is where the multimedia mavens and power users shop. Look for a PC with a quad-core processor or high-speed (more than 2.6 GHz) dual-core processor, so you can edit your photos and videos quickly and easily. Don't settle for less than 6GB to 8GB of memory and a 1TB or larger hard drive. Multi-core processors like the Intel Core i5/i7, and AMD's A6/A8/A10 and FX-series chips are the CPUs to look for in this category.

If your multimedia projects are meant for paying clients instead of just personal photos and videos, then look for an even faster processor and more memory so you can meet your deadlines quickly. There are dual-core processors that are advertised as "quad-core class." They are usually dual-core processors with Hyper-Threading (a technology that lets a dual-core processor handle up to four threads). Quad-core-class processors are fine at the occasional multimedia task, but if you use programs like Photoshop or work with video, moving up to a true quad-core processor will be worth it. You'll occasionally find a six-core processor like the Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition, but those are specialized for ultimate performance and will jack up the prices significantly. You need six or more cores if you're a hardcore gamer or graphics whiz who multi-tasks with dozens of windows spread out over multiple monitors.

Speaking of multiple monitors, dual-, triple-, and quad-monitor setups are much more common today than they once were. If you need that kind of multitasking capability, look for a system that has a discrete graphics card, so you can use the multiple video outputs on both the graphics card and the built-in graphics on the motherboard. If you need even more displays, you'll likely have to buy more graphics cards in the future, so look for a system that has PCIe expansion slots free.

Desktops in the multimedia and gaming categories are generally more expandable than SFF PCs or nettops: you can add one or more hard drives for additional storage, one or more graphics card for faster 3D applications, multiple screen support, and one or two optical drives so you can burn DVDs or Blu-ray discs for your friends and relatives. Last but not least, PCI and PCIe card slots let you add wireless networking (Wi-Fi), TV tuners, and other cards for additional interfaces like, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt/Thunderbolt 2, or eSATA. USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, and eSATA are higher-throughput interfaces for hard drives and similar peripherals. Make sure you have at least a couple of USB 3.0 ports if you regularly backup or transfer files via hard drive. USB 2.0 ports still have a place, but save these for low throughput devices like mice, keyboards, and printers.

Gamers have their own buyer's guide here on, but suffice to say that fans of 3D games require a little more power from their desktops than the average user. Look for larger capacity power supply units and higher-powered discrete graphics from makers like Nvidia and AMD if you're in the market for a desktop to primarily play games on.

All-in-One PCs
An all in one PC will almost always have a screen that's bigger than the ones on those bulky laptops. All in one PCs work equally well on tiny desks in cubicles or small studio apartments. You'll find screens sizes from 20 inches up to 27-inch behemoths and beyond. The Apple iMac is the trend leader, but desktops like the Lenovo IdeaCentre series, Dell XPS and Inspiron One, Asus ET Series, Acer Aspire, Gateway ZX series, Sony Vaio, Samsung Series 7, and HP TouchSmart PCs merit closer looks too. Touch screens are much more usable because of Windows 8.1's built in touch capability, and the touch interface makes sense for a desktop with a built-in screen. Windows 8.1 works OK with 5-finger touch, but look for full 10-point multitouch for the best Windows 8.1 experience, particularly if the screen is large enough to share. An all in one desktop (or any desktop for that matter) works well as a "base station" for an iPod/iPhone/iPad/Tablet or even a cheaper netbook. Picture this: use the netbook, tablet, or iPad for surfing around the house and checking your Facebook, then use the desktop in your room to do the photo editing and video editing you need to do for your business presentation or for the online family photo album.

Portable all-in-one PCs combine the large screens and power of a deskbound all-in-one desktop with the around the house portability of a large laptop. These systems have more room for larger (up to 27-inch) screens, multiple hard drives, and multiple I/O ports. They also have large battery packs, which afford them a few hours of untethered battery life while say, watching a movie on your porch or patio. Most if not all portable all-in-one PCs will also have touch screens, so they act like humungous tablet PCs.

Beware Bloatware
There is a downside to cheaper PCs: the specter of bloatware. Like broadcast TV and "free" cell phones, one of the reasons why the PCs are so cheap is because some other entity is subsidizing the low prices. The PC manufacturers ship their PCs with those Microsoft, Intel, or AMD stickers on the case, and there's almost always a copy of Microsoft Office Trial available on the hard drive or via download. Companies like eBay and Wild Tangent also get prominent placement with shortcuts on the desktop and extra programs in the Start screen. The Start Screen is a better place for these programs than in desktop mode, where they look more cluttered. Things are improving as some PC makers are reducing the amount of bloatware in favor of online app stores, where you can pick and choose the programs you want, but there's still a long ways to go for many retail desktops. Budget a couple of hours when you get the system home to clean up the extra bloatware plus another hour or two for Windows updates.

Word to the wise: When you're trying to save money, it's tempting to buy the cheapest PC you can find-but don't do it. If it doesn't have these recommended parts, you'll wind up with something that is super slow or, worse yet, unusable within a year. That "incredible buy" may cost you more money in the long run.

NZXT offers a robust line of case, cooling products, power supplies, and related accessories. However, one thing the company hasn't dabbled with up to this point is software. That all changes today. NZXT just launched its CAM software -- essentially a companion utility for your PC that allows you to monitor system vitals, such as GPU and CPU temps, along with a range of other data.

You can create an account and sync CAM to the cloud. In doing so, you can monitor your PC away from home on your mobile device. Depending on how you have it configured, CAM will send you notifications if, say, your motherboard or graphics card exceeds a certain temperature threshold -- pretty handy if you're into distributed computing projects such as Folding@Home.

CAM can also let you know if your hard drive is filling up, if a fan has lost its connection, or if your motherboard's CMOS battery is going bad, among other things.

When I first saw Mr. Spock talking to the Enterprise’s computer, I thought it was so cool. I still do. But the more I look at Cortana, Windows 10’s inherent virtual assistant, the more creeped out I get.

Let’s start with Cortana’s fundamental lust for your data. When it’s working as your virtual assistant it’s collecting your every keystroke and spoken syllable. It does this so it can be more helpful to you. If you don’t like that, well, you’ve got more problems than just Cortana. Google Now and Apple Siri do the same things. And it’s not just virtual assistants; every cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) does this to one degree or another — Google Docs, Office 365, whatever.

But Cortana doesn’t stop there. With the recently released Windows 10 Anniversary Update, hereafter Windows 10 SP1, you can’t shut Cortana off.

Maybe you don’t mind Microsoft listening to your every word so it can catch when you say, “Hey, Cortana.” I do. Yes, I want the coolness factor of being able to talk to my computer. But I want the reassurance that it’s not listening when I don’t need it to be. I want a simple on/off switch. Windows 10 SP1 doesn’t have one. This is interesting, though: Windows 10 Education does. Microsoft apparently is willing to respect the privacy of students. The rest of us? Not so much.

What you can do in Windows 10 SP1 is cripple Cortana when you install the operating system. But Cortana then becomes no more than a front end to Microsoft’s Bing search engine. You lose the ability to talk to your computer. You’ll no longer be able to tell Windows 10 to get you an Uber or tell you how the Chicago Cubs did today.

If you’re anti-Cortana, don’t install Windows 10 SP1 with “Express settings.” Instead, follow the steps described by Jared Newman in PC World. You will make Windows 10 less useful but a lot more private. If you’re not comfortable with Cortana collecting your contacts, location, calendar data, and text and email content and communication history, you’ll want to do this. Don’t, though, if you want the full Cortana experience and you don’t mind Microsoft collecting everything except your car keys.

And maybe you don’t. Many of us are reconciled to the mantra of the internet economy: “If you’re not paying for it, you are the product.” Companies such as Facebook and Google give all their free social and search goodies in return for our web history, which they then transform into cash with targeted advertising. And as for Microsoft, it makes a point of saying Cortana doesn’t do that. Why do I not feel reassured?

Now that I think of it, though, you can’t (easily) get Windows 10 for free anymore. So you get to pay Microsoft with both cash ($199.99 for Windows 10 Pro) and your data. Oh boy!

Microsoft also claims that Windows 10 SP1 is safer than ever, which I find even less assuring than the promise not to exploit all that Cortana data. Think about this: You can use Cortana from the lock screen. That’s right; Cortana is active and listening to when your PC is locked. Well, it’s supposed to be locked, but if it’s able to listen, how locked down is it, really? Not very!

Microsoft calls this a feature that gives you the ability to ask your PC simple questions without logging in. But I call anything that lets me input data into a PC without being logged into it a bug. It’s a security hole begging to be exploited. Windows, which God knows has had more than enough security problems, now has a new attack surface.

Fortunately, you can fix this one easily. Just open Cortana’s Settings and turn off the “Use Cortana even when my device is locked.”

By the way, Microsoft always claims that Windows is new and improved and more secure than ever. And yet, if you look at any significant Windows patch report, you will notice that every major bug affects every supported version of Windows. Shouldn’t the new and improved Windows 10 be immune from the bugs that affect Windows 7, 8 and 8.1? It’s funny how they seem to slug every version of Windows.I like Microsoft a lot more than I used to, but I’m not ready to trust it with everything and the virtual kitchen sink. So I followed Newman’sadvice when installing the OS. I’m afraid I will never be as cool as Spock.

I should note that, if your distrust of Microsoft exceeds mine, you can rip into your operating system’s guts and totally disable Cortana. You need to beware, though, because it involves going in deep, to places where it’s really way too easy to foul up Windows. In killing Cortana, you could end up seeing a lot more Windows crashes.

In Windows 10 Pro, you type gpedit.msc into the Start menu. Head down to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search. Once there, double-click on Allow Cortana to toggle it to Disable Cortana. Log off and back on, and you’re done.

In Windows 10 Home, open the registry with regedit and head to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search

Next, right-click the Windows Search folder and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name this new DWORD AllowCortana and set it at 0. Now log off and reboot your computer.

Let me reiterate: If any of that sounds mysterious, don’t do it.

And, you know, why should you have to? Why can’t Microsoft just make it easy to turn off Cortana? I’d appreciate it.

rices of SSDs are going up due to shortages, and that could have an impact on the price of laptops, 2-in-1 computers and storage. Dell's XPS 13 with Intel's Kaby Lake chips and a 512GB SSD, for example, is not available right now.  Other laptops with 512GB SSDs are priced unbelievably high. Most PC makers are offering 128GB or 256GB SSDs in PCs by default. Choose storage wisely, as it isn't easy to screw open a superthin 2-in-1 to replace an SSD.

VR devices will come in many new shapes and sizes, with some acting essentially as PCs that fit on your head. Dell, Asus, Acer, Lenovo and HP will release mixed reality headsets, which will allow users to interact with 3D objects that pop up as floating images superimposed on a real-life background. The devices will provide a new level of human-computer interaction, making it more fun to create 3D objects, play games, watch movies and have interactive Skype calls. These "holographic computers," as they have been called, will have Intel chips, an integrated GPU and possibly a 3D RealSense camera to identify objects, measure distances, and provide new perspectives on surroundings.

The feud between Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana voice-activated assistants could get more interesting next year. Users will be able to shout out Cortana commands to Windows 10 PCs from a longer distance, thanks to a "far-field speech recognition" technology that Intel and Microsoft are working on. Until now, Cortana worked best if a user was close to a PC, but millions of Windows PCs will turn into Amazon Echo competitors with this new feature. Cortana can do a lot more than Amazon Echo, like accessing information from the cloud, chatting with chatbots, checking email and other tasks.

Intel has been the unchallenged king of PCs for more than a decade, but AMD is fighting back with its new Ryzen PC processor, which will reaches PCs next year. A healthy rivalry will be good news for PC users, some of whom may jump from the Intel to the AMD camp. AMD claims Ryzen is 40 percent faster than its current PC chips, which on paper is impressive. The chips will first hit gaming PCs, and then mainstream laptops and desktops later in 2017. Ryzen will battle Intel's Kaby Lake in early 2017, and the 10-nanometer Cannonlake in late 2017.

The first attempt at ARM PCs, which ran on Windows RT, was an unmitigated disaster, and it left many users skeptical of the idea. But Microsoft hasn't given up, especially as 5G starts to become a reality and cellular connectivity in PCs becomes essential. Microsoft announced that next year PCs will be available with Qualcomm's ARM-based Snapdragon 835, which is primarily for smartphones. Super-thin laptops will get integrated modems and a long battery life with the chip. The ARM-based PCs will run Win32 applications that run on regular x86 PCs via emulation.

For now, no PC maker has announced ARM-based Windows PCs -- manufacturers  may be cautious in light of the Windows RT fiasco. There are also many challenges. Snapdragon isn't as fast as high-end x86 Intel or AMD chips, and won't support 64-bit applications initially. Also, emulation may limit the ability to exploit hardware acceleration.

Laptops and 2-in-1s will be equipped with the latest Bluetooth 5 wireless specification, which is a longer and faster upgrade to the aging Bluetooth 4.2. Bluetooth 5 will allow PCs to communicate wirelessly with devices up to 400 meters away in clear line of sight, but a more reasonable range is about 120 meters, according to analysts.  Bluetooth 5 will transfer data at speeds of up to 2Mbps, which is two times faster than its predecessor.

Laptops like the XPS 13 and Lenovo's Yoga 910 have beautiful edge-to-edge screens, a feature that may be included in more laptops next year. Also, 4K screens and HDR (high-dynamic range) technology will make games and movies look stunning. HDR results in more vivid images, and TVs, cameras and monitors supporting the technology are already available. Netflix is also doubling down on HDR. An HDR standards battle is brewing with DolbyVision and HBR3, but GPU makers are supporting both standards. AMD expects DolbyVision to ultimately win.

Intel's Optane, a superfast SSD and DRAM replacement that could ultimately unify memory and storage, could cause a radical change in PC architecture. But that won't happen for a few years, and the initial expectations for Optane are modest. The first Optane SSDs will be in enthusiast PCs, and could cost a small fortune. Optane SSDs have been measured as being 10 times faster than conventional SSDs. Over time, Optane could replace DRAM DIMMs, with the added advantage of being able to store data.

The SSDs won't be in laptops next year as the technology's uses are still being explored. Optane is based on a technology called 3D Xpoint, which Intel co-developed with Micron. SSDs based on Micron's 3D XPoint technology will ship next year under the QuantX brand.

We saw some interesting changes to keyboards this year. Apple added the Touch Bar, while Lenovo swapped out the hard keyboard for a virtual keyboard on a touch input panel for its Yoga Book. Lenovo wants to bring the virtual keyboard to more Chromebooks and 2-in-1s, partly because of its versatility. The touch input panel can also be used to draw or take notes with a stylus. It's a toss-up: Lenovo believes that those used to typing on mobile devices will adapt to this touch panel keyboard quickly, while hard keyboard diehards will dismiss the idea.

PC makers may not muster the courage to remove the headphone jack and SD card slots from PCs right away, but USB 2.0 slots could be on their way out. Some PC makers may leave out display and other legacy ports with the emergence of the versatile USB Type-C, which can be used to charge PCs and connect displays, storage devices and other peripherals.

Internally, this model has a sixth generation quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-6400 processor, a discrete, 8GB of DDR3L RAM (1600MHz), a 1TB hard drive, a DVD burner, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11b/g/n WiFi support.

A USB keyboard and USB mouse come along with your purchase, so you can simply hook up your existing HDTV or PC monitor over HDMI or VGA to hit the ground running. If your display only has DVI or DisplayPort, worry not. Amazon offers video adaptors on the cheap.

Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) ships on this machine by default, but you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro (64-bit) for free. The Xbox app, Cortana personal assistant, and Edge browser come together to make Redmond’s latest OS a nice step up from previous releases. And as long as you don’t have any important legacy software lingering around, upgrading to Windows 10 is a breeze.

While previous models in this line have been a bit unwieldy, this latest redesign is a significant improvement. Measuring 13.78 by 6.06 by 11.13-inches (HWD), the new Inspiron 3650 is a 45% reduction in size from the previous case design. And as a benefit of this revision, two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, and a five-in-one card reader are easily accessible on the front of the machine.

This configuration lists for over 745 bucks, but Dell is selling it online right now for just $379. Use coupon code “INSPIRON379” during checkout, and the sub-total drops down to just $599. And if you sign up for a free Dell Advantage Rewards account, you’ll get two-day shipping at no additional cost.



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