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Stretching Your Tech Dollar: Part 1- Figure Out What You Need

How do you get the best tech for your needs at the best price?

  1. Figure out what you need
  2. Find the best item for your needs
  3. Find the best price from a reputable vendor
  4. Take advantage of educational, institutional, and volume pricing

In this four part series, we will help you stretch your tech budget. We will also provide you with helpful resources to get you on your way.

Getting the most from your tech dollar

1. Figure Out What You Need
It can be a daunting task buying new tech items. There are a dizzying array of choices and a lot of details to keep track of.  Here are a few things to consider before you begin:

Do you really need the latest/greatest technology?
Usually there is a high premium for the newest and fastest. Honestly assess whether it’s worth the cost for the last little bit of performance. For most users, the “Best Value” award winner might well be a better choice than the “Best Overall”.

Do you need it now?
Prices on tech items go in the opposite direction from most other things we buy: next year it will be faster AND cheaper. Historically many aspects of computer performance have been doubling about every year and a half. What this means in practical terms is that you should wait until you need something to purchase it.

Take a good look at what you’ve already got.
For computers, use a system information profiler like those built into most operating systems to get a picture of what you’re starting with. This will give you an idea of what your upgrade options might be and will give you a point of comparison when you go to buy something new.

Would a tune-up help?
If you’re looking to upgrade something like a printer, monitor, or camera, you’re probably going to need start fresh. Many computers, however,  are slow not because the hardware is inadequate, but because of problems they develop over time. Malware, poorly written or incompatible software, and disk errors and fragmentation can quickly hobble even the fastest computer. If your look into what’s inside your computer shows it SHOULD BE FAST, try the Utilities on our Free Software Resources page to fix some of the more common problems. Remember to back up your data first!

Should you upgrade?
Some of the most cost effective upgrades like increasing the amount of memory (RAM) in your computer are surprisingly easy to do. Vendors (like Crucial) offer reliable scanning tools that will quickly tell you what your options are for adding more memory. Some other good candidates are increasing storage space and upgrades like improved audio and wireless networking that can be added by USB devices.

Some tech items have become commodities and might be be best purchased online.
Items like computer memory, hard drives, video cards, and even desktop computers can largely be evaluated by their specs alone. You might be most satisfied with your choice of other items like laptops, monitors, smartphones, headphones, and keyboards if you have the chance to see or play with them first.

Find information you can trust.
Let’s face it, most sites that you find when searching for tech advice are trying to sell you something. It used to be that you could type “_____ review” into a search engine and find well considered advice on what to buy. Best bets these days are knowledgeable friends and colleagues and the  What to Look For” type pages from review sites like ConsumerSearch and the tech magazines. For higher-end or more specialized purchases, the enthusiast sites and user reviews are usually the most helpful. Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series for more...

Available now: Part 2- Finding  information you can trust.

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