Tech Talk #136 – August 15, 2020

Do you need (or want) a new Windows computer but don’t want to spend a bunch of money? If you mostly use your computer to check email, do some shopping, and stream videos, you don’t need a whiz-bang computer that’s capable of landing a man on the moon.

Mainstream computer manufacturers like Dell, HP, ASUS, Acer, and the rest all make Windows computers for under $500.

But what about Chromebooks? You can buy a Chromebook for way less than $500. If you spend all your time online and don’t need an Office app (Word, Excel, etc.), a Chromebook will probably work fine for you.

While you can run the online versions of most Office apps on a Chromebook, the online version “isn’t the same” for many people.

Chromebooks are limited to apps that are available in the Play Store and assume all your files will be stored online somewhere. An inexpensive Windows computer has more local storage than a Chromebook and can install and run programs from anywhere.

What are the drawbacks of the under $500 Windows computers?

The budget models of Windows computers rely on Intel Celeron or Pentium processors. You may be able to find a few budget Windows computers with Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 processors, but that’ll be at the higher end of the price range. Always get the best processor you can fit into your budget and the most RAM.

Remember, the processor makes the computer fast, and the RAM lets you do more things at the same time. Finding one with a solid-state drive (SSD) will make your budget computer boot up faster, as well.

If you’ve shopped around in the world of under $500 Windows computers and haven’t found anything you like, consider a refurbished computer.

Major corporations replace their employee’s computers every three to five years (it’s an IRS depreciation thing.) So, what to do with the thousands of perfectly fine computers that get replaced every year? That’s the problem that started the computer refurbishing industry.

Refurbishing companies buy the suddenly-no-longer-needed computers, run diagnostic tests, replace defective parts, give them a good cleaning, and sell them to folks just like you and me.

Refurbishing companies go through Microsoft’s Authorized Refurbisher Program to buy Windows 10 to put on the computers they refurbish, so you know your copy of Windows is legal.

If you buy a refurbished computer from Amazon, they have the Amazon Renewed program, which only allows sellers that have been checked out and approved by Amazon.

The computers available on Amazon change every day (like the stuff at Costco), but you can usually find a desktop HP or Dell computer with an i5 processor and 16GB of RAM with an SSD for around $300. Laptops with the same specs will run a bit more.

Window swap

If you’re tired of looking out your own, familiar window, try looking out someone else’s window. People around the world sign up and let people look out their window. Each window view is a ten-minute video with sound. Link:

Train trip

Now that you’re tired of looking out other people’s windows, it’s time for a trip. A soothing arrow-key train trip with cats in dresses (or housecoats) traveling through a pen-and-ink landscape.

Oh, that’s how you do it

I’ve given up social media for the New Year and am trying to make friends outside Facebook while applying the same principles. Every day, I walk down the street and tell passersby what I’ve eaten, how I feel, what I did the night before, and what I will do tomorrow. Then I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and me gardening. I also listen to their conversations and tell them I love them. And it works. I already have three people following me—two police officers and a psychiatrist.

-Nancy L. Clark of Points, West Virginia

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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