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Think Local!

Jan 17, 2008
The key to purchasing anything computer-related these days is PPS or Post-Purchase Service. For that reason, my recommendation is to always "buy local," if at all possible, and by that I don't mean a local computer "super store" or huge national chain, but rather to seek out a reputable, local computer shop, repair person or service that may also build computers.

I purchase all of my computers, printers, routers, servers, monitors, cameras--if it's computer-related, I use one small, local computer outfit. Sure, I pay a slight bit more, but the accountability factor is well worth it because I always have a live body to turn to if a problem arises. Better still, because they're local, they depend on their reputation, and what better way to establish and maintain one's reputation than by providing extraordinary service?

Through the years I've purchased a shameful amount of computer equipment, and from that vast-yet-shameful experience, I learned that when it comes to desktop computers, in particular, brand-name recognition is irrelevant. In fact, none of my nine systems (yes, it's a curse) are recognizable by brand name. What matters to me is service first, components a close second.

Popular misperceptions to the contrary, all desktop computers are not created equal. There is a reason some computers sell for $300 and some sell for $1,000 or more. If you compare key components, such as hard drive, motherboard, memory, video and sound cards, and a unit's power supply, you'll find that the more expensive systems invariably have higher quality components. So though it's tempting, it is ill-advised to purchase a PC based on price or brand name alone.

If you purchase from any of the major computer manufacturers, and you look closely at the components that are installed in a $300 versus a $1,000+ computer, you'll see different component names. Trust me, that is not a coincidence.

Finding a good, local builder or repair/service person can be a challenge, but it's worth doing some investigation. Ask friends and colleagues, look in the Yellow Pages, or your local newspaper, look online or contact one or more local computer clubs, but just about every community has one or more "gurus" who build, service and repair computers. Many times these folks are wonderful resources through whom you can purchase equipment such as printers, cameras, and other peripheral devices. Sometimes they will pass along their reseller discount to you; other times they won't and instead will install whatever you purchase. It's all negotiable.

If you have no choice and absolutely, positively must purchase from a big, national outfit, focus on service, and at a minimum, I would suggest making the installation of whatever you purchase, part of the deal. Theoretically, you should be able to install anything you purchase, but if you have a network environment at home, or you're just not comfortable installing new hardware, why risk the frustration? And is there anything more annoying than installing new hardware only to discover that it doesn't work? That immediately places you in the unenviable position of not knowing whether you did something wrong, or if the device itself is defective. Oh, the stress of it all!

Many retailers, if they don't provide installation as part of the purchase price, will do it for an extra charge. I enjoy saving money as much as anybody, but in certain instances it's worth paying a few extra dollars, particularly when integrating new hardware into an existing network or wireless situation.
About the Author
Mr. Modem (MrModem.com) is an author, syndicated columnist, radio host, and publisher of the wildly popular, always entertaining, Pulitzer-lacking weekly "Ask Mr. Modem" computer-help newsletter. Mr. Modem's columns appear in more than 300 publications and each month in "Smart Computing" magazine. Visit MrModem.com for additional information, to view a sample issue, or to subscribe.
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