friend needs help buying and setting up a laptop
November 8, 2017 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend who is older (late fifties?), mostly computer illiterate and is looking to buy a laptop so he can have a simple website to run his small independent business.

I know just enough about computers to get myself into trouble when I start fiddling with things, but that’s more than he or anyone around him knows, so he’s asked for my help. He’s going to buy a laptop, either new or used, and needs help getting it set up. I’ve never bought a laptop so I’m asking for your help (I’ve been using a desktop PC running Windows at home for decades).

I’m thinking that one big concern about buying either new or used is having a copy of Windows on disc that can either be booted from or used to reinstall Windows should any problems arise. Would a new laptop come with a Windows disk? If he bought a used laptop, would he also need to buy a copy of Windows? Does he need to pay $$$$ for it, or can copies be obtained for cheaper? Any questions he should be asking when purchasing (either new or used)?

Once Windows is running, setup wizards can be used for getting wifi going, printer, email, etc. I would think. Then it’s just a matter of him going to SquareSpace or whatever website service he’s thinking of to get his website set up. Correct? Am I missing anything?

Thanks in advance!
posted by Koko to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am loyal to Thinkpads, and whenever I have strayed, I have regretted it. Just had to buy a laptop in a hurry and am using a Lenovo Thinkpad T410, 8 gb RAM, core i5. Used, 175. It's Win 7, which I like more than 10. If I wanted Win 10, upgrade is possible through the end of the year.
posted by theora55 at 8:09 AM on November 8, 2017

You don't need a Windows box to set up and maintain a website; all you need is a web browser (and possibly an SSH client, FTP client, text editor and/or image editing tools, depending on what you're doing).

I think a Chromebook would be a perfect choice. They're cheap, fast, and just about ready to work out-of-the-box. (Contrast this with a Windows lappy, where at best you're looking at a clean-slate Windows 10 install followed by half a day of updates, locking stuff down and installing third-party tools.)

No worries about malware or backups. Updates are a breeze. There's a "reset to factory defaults" that actually works.
posted by sourcequench at 8:13 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Chromebook is a great option. No setup, almost zero configuration.

Why not an iPad + keyboard? More apps, still possible to setup a squarespace or website with the in-browser tools. Basically headache free and also doubles as an entertainment device. I also like some of the new Android tablets like the Pixel C or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.
posted by dis_integration at 8:32 AM on November 8, 2017

AFAIK, for the last 10 years laptops do not ship with windows discs, but a hidden partition in the HD instead. Reinstalling the OS is mostly a matter of hitting a key while the boot logo is on, or turn it on with a special key, and follow the instructions (everytime I did it, the old users/ are saved and appear on the desktop of the fresh system, so no documents are lost).
With refurbs, it's a matter of asking. I've seen them with the HD completely wiped out, others still have the same partition.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:31 AM on November 8, 2017

If all you're looking for is a web browser, you don't need to "lock anything down" on Windows or "install third party tools," other than the browser itself. You'll likely need a couple of updates for Windows 10 (one build and one security update) but not a ton more than that.

Doing anything to actually maintain a website is going to be hassle on a device (tablet) that doesn't work with a mouse. I wouldn't recommend it.

You can get away with a Chromebook if you don't need to do much, store or edit files, etc. I'd think this becomes a headache if your friend needs to post edited photos, PDFs, presentations, data from a complex spreadsheet, etc.

Frankly, I'd just buy either a Mac or Windows laptop. If you buy a Mac, make sure Apple still supports it. If you buy a Windows laptop, get Windows 10 on it, or a separate copy of Windows 10 to install. There is no reason to mess with Windows 8 or Windows 7 at this point. Either way, make sure to buy a laptop with a warranty (or a warranty through Squaretrade). Lastly, try to buy a device with an SSD, not a old-style spinning hard drive. The device will be noticeably faster with an SSD.
posted by cnc at 9:45 AM on November 8, 2017

I would recommend a Chromebook or OS X system, as otherwise a computer illiterate person who is not going to become highly literate is likely to get their system infected with malware.
posted by Candleman at 11:47 AM on November 8, 2017

Also note that neither Chromebooks not OS X machines are completely impervious so he will have to use some caution and educate himself, but they both raise the bar significantly compared to Windows. Out of date versions of OS X are increasingly risky and there are risky Chrome extensions and OS X software that users can be tricked into installing.
posted by Candleman at 9:34 PM on November 8, 2017

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