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How to Reduce Computer Maintenance Costs

written by: John Garger•edited by: Eric Stallsworth•updated: 5/19/2011

Most people are surprised to discover that computers cost money after the computer is purchased. Much like a car, a computer can carry with it expensive maintenance costs for the unprepared buyer.

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    One of the hidden costs of buying a computer is the amount of time and money needed to maintain an efficient and uninterrupted computing experience. The cost of owning a car includes not only the purchase price of the vehicle but also the cost of fuel, regular tune-ups, car washes, tires, and several other key factors necessary to get the full enjoyment of your investment.

    Similarly, computers carry with them maintenance costs that increase until the cost of maintaining a computer is more than the cost of buying a new one. When this indifference point is crossed, it is time to move on to a newer, more efficient, less expensive computer. Until such time, here are some tips on how you can keep the cost of maintaining your computer to a minimum thereby maximizing your computer investment.

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    1) Buy Only the Computer You Need

    An interesting consumer behavior phenomenon is that known as “overcompensation.” This phenomenon states that when buying big-ticket items such as cars and computers, consumers tend to overspend in an attempt to reduce the risk associated with buying something and later finding out more is needed. The result can be buying an item with features you will never use.

    Buying more of a computer than you need means higher maintenance costs for those features you purchased but don’t use. These can include powerful but expensive video cards, over-powered speakers, fast processors, and extra optical drives such as DVD burners or Blu-Ray drives. The more you buy, the higher the costs of maintaining each part in your computer. Buy the computer you need now with the understanding that missing features can always be added later.

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    2) Computer Warranties and Extended Warranties

    When buying a computer, pay close attention to the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Typical warranties run about 1 year but some manufacturers give up to 3 years of worry-free computing. Those that offer in-home warranty service eliminate the need to pack up the machine and ship it back to the manufacturer at your expense. For particularly expensive computers, paying for an extended warranty up front ensures that your maintenance costs are zero dollars, at least until the warranty runs out. Warranties are like little insurance policies with the option to “sell” your computer maintenance costs to the manufacturer should something go wrong down the road.

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    3) Learn to Fix Your Own Computer Problems

    It may seem like strange advice but fixing your computer yourself will save you the expense of paying someone else to do it for you. Take advantage of the vastness of the Internet and search on your favorite search engine for the problem you are experiencing. Chances are someone else has had the same problem and may offer advice on how he/she fixed the problem. If the software on your computer generated an error code, use that code as the search term at your favorite search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN.

    If you are having trouble with the Windows Operating System, take advantage of Microsoft’s Knowledge Base and search for the solution yourself. You may be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars paid to a computer specialist but diagnosing and solving your own minor computer problems.

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    4) Do Regular Computer Maintenance Such as Defragging the Hard Drive

    One of the best ways to reduce computer maintenance costs is to reduce the number of times your computer needs attention. Doing regular maintenance, much like tuning up a car, prevents the most common reasons why your computer stops functioning properly. For example, defragmenting (sometimes called defragging) your hard drive juxtaposes files that should be near one another. This reduces the number of times and the distance the read heads on the drives must move to access data. Doing so reduces the wear and tear on the small motor inside your hard drive and reduces the heat generated by the head’s movement. Defragging has the effect of prolonging the life of the drive and generally speeding up your computer.

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    5) Clean the Inside of Your PC’s Case

    Over time, dust bunnies and other dirt and grime build up inside your PC. Some particles are naturally attracted to the electrostatic components in your computer. In particular, all of the fans in your computer including the CPU fan, exhaust fans, video card fan, and others are veritable magnets for dust. The result is a hotter-running computer. Nothing spells disaster for PC components like excess heat. In the medium to long term (9 to 18 months), excess heat can halve the life of a computer, especially in hot and humid climates.

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    Conclusion

    Like a well-tuned car, a well-tuned computer is one that will last longer than one that has been neglected. Lowering computer maintenance costs is a matter of proper planning, a little knowledge, and some care for the computer’s most vulnerable components. If you take care of your computer the way it needs to be taken care of, the life of your computer can be significantly lengthened thereby reducing the costs associated with fixing and maintaining your investment. Remember that the cost of a computer is more than its price tag; it includes all money spent on the life of your computer.