It's happens at the most inopportune times; your computer melts down just as a big report or paper is due. That's when you think, "I should have replaced this thing when signs of trouble first surfaced." Consumer Reports' new magazine Shop Smart looks at the issue of when you should fix your computer or when you should toss it. Editor Amanda Walker told me that of all the electronics equipment Consumer Reports tests, computers are the most unreliable. (The most reliable are actually digital cameras.) Amanda says CR's research shows that the lifespan of a computer is four years, so if your computer is that old and shows sigficant problems, Amanda says junk it. For computers 2 to 3 years old she says have the problem diagnosed and if the cost to repair it comes to half of what you paid for it you may want to consider buying a new one; if it's under half the cost, fix it. For a computer only one year old Amanda says it is generally better to have it fixed and quite often some of what is not working may be covered by your warranty. That brings me to CR's next inquiry. Shop Smart looked into whether it makes sense to pay for the extended warranty. She says if you're buying a PC, considering the short lifespan it generally doesn't make sense to pay the extra money for the warranty. The one exception is Apple. Shop Smart says Apple's warranties are typically better, and since those computers usually last longer an extended warranty makes sense. However, she says is if you live near an Apple Store you may not have to spend the extra money for the extended warranty because Apple Stores have what they call a "Genius Bar." This is basically tech support with humans, and wow they're in the US! You'll pay for any extensive repairs there, but, if its just a simple tweak they don't charge you. On a personal note, I've tried it and I like it.
If you'd like to see more of my conversation with Amanda Walker tune into this weeks "12 On The Money."