by Jerry Stern
Not in Westminster, Maryland? OK, you might be too far away to buy a PC from me. (If in doubt, call me at +1 (410) 871-2877.) But even if you’re far away, you can still learn why nearly any local shop can sell you a computer that is much better for just YOU than anything you can order over the Internet or as a pre-built box from a chain store.
You could buy what’s called a ‘PC-in-a-box’. Some people should do that. It’s perfectly OK, if all these facts are true:
- You know what you’re doing, and aren’t scared of getting into the guts and settings of computers.
- There is no old computer to transfer data from, or only a few documents.
- You know how to download new drivers for all your PC hardware.
- You know how to connect a new computer to your existing Internet connection or business network.
- You know how to uninstall startupware, advertising, and craplets from a new PC.
- You know how to update a computer that was configured half a year earlier on a near-permanent configuration that doesn’t match what you bought. Figure 30-50 Windows patches, and at least a dozen assorted driver and utility program updates.
- Your time is worth very little, or you get free help from work, or the 11-year-old next door will fix PCs for cookies, and you’re really sure that their priorities match yours…
So, that means that 10% of the population who are replacing machines could buy a PC off the shelf in their local big-box retailer, or by surfing at one of the big Internet bundle-builders. You know who I mean–they’ll sell you anything you want, so long as it’s bundled into their online check boxes with three other items. They do assembly lines like the original Model T Ford, which was originally sold on the basis of “Any color you want, so long as it’s black.”
For everyone else, it’s best to buy from a local shop. Not everything I write here will apply to every shop, but it does to mine.
Services available, and usually included:
- Analysis of how much computer you really need, including what it has to do, where it has to run, what it has to connect to, and what existing information has to be moved from an older machine. That’s all in the quote interview.
- Research of system requirements for existing industry-specific computer software.
- Special ordering of anything and everything you need, either software or hardware, to be pre-configured as needed.
- Coordination with technical support for commercial software applications that must be publisher-installed.
- Planning of the changeover. Depending on the scope of the job, this might be as simple as a drop-off date for the old computer after the new machine has been bench tested, and then pickup of the new box with transferred data. Or there could be pickup, data transfer, first backup to DVDs or first backup to a new external hard drive, transfer of the old computer’s hard drive into an external drive case, pre-installation of drivers for new devices, delivery, on-site setup as-needed.
- Custom build of your new computer, in any case you want, any size hard drive, any processor, any anything, no limits, as specific as you want, or just tell us what it will run, and we’ll quote a complete solution.
- Security software is pre-installed (anti-virus, and whatever else you’ll need), chosen based on what works, and not based on which corporation would pay us $10 in kickbacks for each “free” 90-day product we install.
- All software patches are up-to-date.
- No startupware, no advertising on your screen, no slowdowns from software you didn’t want.
- Security wipe of your old computer, or data-safe recycling, or just removal of your settings and documents so it’s ready give to an employee or family member.
- Overall: a computer that’s ready to use when you turn it on, with your stuff on it.
Costs are generally similar to the PC-in-a-box setups, after you add their delivery charges, which don’t cover all that a local shop can do. And after the sale, we’re still local, and the PC-in-a-box company has suddenly sent you to overseas technical support that puts you in on-hold for an hour, then disconnects your call, and eventually reads to you from a script. That’s before they blame your problems on the gadget you bought from them last year.
Local shops don’t outsource jobs to overseas. We listen to what you want, what you hate, and what you need. We don’t install stuff you didn’t want. And we keep answering the phone, and replying to emails, long after you have your computer, since 1990.