To buy now or not to buy?
July 24, 2008 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Laptop now, or later? Sooner or later my laptop of about 4 years (5 next May), is going to give up the ghost. Do I buy now, or wait until it mushroom clouds?

I have a lovely large-ish Toshiba Satilite I was given as a gift. It's always had a few problems, for one thing the speakers aren't properly grounded and shock your wrists if you rest on them, and it runs with a firey warmth that means if I'm lax on vacuuming it out it shuts itself down in laptop-heat stroke while doing anything processor intense. It also weighs a ton, meaning that I've taken it out of the house once. On the other hand it's good with the graphics and it was free.

When it was gifted, it ran pretty well, but now it's starting to get laggy, and it chokes to death on the Sims2 from time to time. Obviously if I was a gainfully employed with pots of money coming in I'd replace it and hand the old laptop over to someone who loves to tinker with computers. However, I'm a starving student about to move to a new city.

This means that when it dies I will replace it, however I don't have huge amounts of money to throw around. Also, Vista is scary. I also don't -need- a replacement quite yet, as it can run MSword, adobe photoshop and a web browser without difficulty. It can't really handle any of the modern games (My lower lip trembles at the thought of Sims2 Apartments being beyond my grasp, but I'll live), so at the moment a new laptop is a want.

So far the pros of buying now seem to include:
1) I can back everything up and transfer in an orderly fashion
2) I'm flush with cash now, and thus paying is easier
3) What could be nicer than starting school in a new city with a computer light enough I can carry it everywhere? I can write in cafes!
4) Sims2 in awesome colour. :D
5) I might be able to flog the old laptop for $100 or so after I scrubbed off all the personal files.
6) A smoother transfer means that I won't be rushed to buy the first laptop I can afford because I need something to rewrite that paper I lost.

The cons:
1) I might overspend while I'm flush with cash and have to live on cheap ramen.
2) Ohnoes, vista!
3) Technology gets better, so if I waited until the Toshiba explodes I'd get more for the same price.
4) My kid brother will beg me for the old one, so I may avoid selling it.
5) I don't -need- a fancy new laptop.
6) I know little enough about computers I might buy a lemon by accident and be stuck with two duds.
7) I'd have to get all those useful things like MSOffice again $_$
8) If I sucked it up and got a refurbished laptop after this one goes poof, all that money I save could be invested for interest or spent on sensible things like makeup, water colour paints and dance classes.
9) Having a fancy gaming box will distract me from more healthy things than getting a teeny fictional person to go to the bathroom.

So, what say you, Mefi?

Also, bonus question: If I do get a new laptop, what's the best bang for my buck if its primary uses will be browsing, Sims, writing and colouring in line art (via a wacom tablet and photoshop)? Best if it's fairly small and well constructed.
posted by Phalene to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Start shopping so you know what you want, and can wait for the perfect deal.

Back up your data.
posted by theora55 at 1:21 PM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

When it was gifted, it ran pretty well, but now it's starting to get laggy

Would you consider doing a reinstall of Windows? Windows gets slower over time, and a fresh install would probably bring you back to the original speed of the system.
posted by taojones at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2008

Reasons to replace it now:
- If it dies unexpectedly you will likely lose all of your saved data, information, bookmarks, sims and whatever. Maybe not life shattering, but a huge pain in the ass if you can't do it.
- Any new problems will be under warranty.
- You can get one that you can take out of the house if you wish.
- If you buy one now you can still get it with XP. You won't be able to do that for very much longer.
- You probably don't need MS Office. Open Office is free and will take care of most of a student's word processing and spreadsheeting needs.
- It will run programs newer than 5 years ago.
- It will run programs from 5 years ago much much better.
- Technology always gets better. You will die if you wait for the best.
- You can do your research ahead of time, which will reduce your chance of makign a bad buying decision.
- It's better to spend money intentionally and with a purpose than to have to shell out for it in an emergency, which can cramp your bank account and lead you to make a poor buying decision.

Reasons to wait:
- You'll get more laptop for your money.
posted by Ookseer at 1:30 PM on July 24, 2008

Does your college / university have a student discount, either in a local store or via a manufacturer's website? It sounds like if you're moving, you might be leaving school as well, and so there is an additional motivation to buy sooner and in fact you may not get more bang for your buck by waiting, if you take that into account.
posted by rkent at 1:40 PM on July 24, 2008

If you want to avoid Vista, you can always run an inexpensive MacBook with XP in the background. Apple is rumored to be reducing prices another $100 in the next month for the education crowd.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2008

Whatever you do, drop a hundred dollars or so on an external hard drive and back up everything first. My laptop died two thirds of the way through my masters project. It got better but I'll never forget how far my stomach dropped when it wouldn't start up.
posted by minifigs at 1:48 PM on July 24, 2008

I would recommend getting a new one. I was you three years ago, about to start school, knowing I needed a new laptop but I wanted to save some cash and figured I'd just wait till this one died. It did die, right in the middle of orientation. D'oh! I got a new one and everything ended up ok, but it was very stressful at the time.

The one good thing is that my computer died while I was attempting to reinstall the hard drive, so I had already saved all the documents I would need. Either way, I would definitely recommend you do this ASAP. An external hard drive costs $100-150.

Also, a lot of the things you list as drawbacks (like the worry you would spend more than you need to, the fact you might give your brother the computer) are things you have control over. Look at it this way: if you buy the computer now, you have a lot more control over what you buy and how much you pay for it. If you wait till your old computer is dead, you will probably be making your decision out of desperation.

And yes, it is nice to have a small, light laptop you can carry around to take notes in lectures, work in coffeeshops, etc. The one good thing about my computer dying was that I traded my old, clunky cheapo Dell for a sleek, light, petite Mac. It was smaller than my econ textbook! Take good care of it though - my Mac died a premature death, and I'm sure it's from all the time it spent banging around in my shoulder bag.
posted by lunasol at 1:51 PM on July 24, 2008

Don't worry, I not only have a lovely removeable hard drive, but I talked my boss into buying one and backed up all our work computers. I am the queen of backup!

I still should probably back up my Sims again, though. All my little peoples would go 'poof!' in a crash. :(
posted by Phalene at 2:25 PM on July 24, 2008

Get the laptop now. You have the cash, laptops are always going to be better next month, and you'll be that much more efficient with your school stuff. Or, everything Ookseer said.

And if you really really need MSOffice (and seriously -- Open Office is the way to go on the cheap!) look into student discounts.
posted by cgg at 2:25 PM on July 24, 2008

Get an external hard drive (as previously mentioned) at the very least and back up every night or so. Our computer was the same age as yours; DH wanted to get a new one b/c he heard computers only have a 5 year life span; I waffled with the idea b/c I thought our current computer was really good. Fast forward a couple weeks, and our computer was acting increasingly "funky". I backed everything up and not even an hour later the entire thing crashed. Totally unrecoverable. We were lucky to have everything saved, but fun having to run out and buy a new computer on the fly.
posted by texas_blissful at 2:28 PM on July 24, 2008

Whoops....sorry; I just saw that you already have everything backed up. I'd still get a new one now.
posted by texas_blissful at 2:29 PM on July 24, 2008

Try upgrading your memory on your old laptop. I almost bought a new one myself, but spent $50 on more memory instead, and it's like a whole new (4-year-old) computer. If everything still sucks after the memory upgrade, you might want to consider a Mac.
posted by picapica at 3:43 PM on July 24, 2008

My 4-year old Toshiba Satellite went belly up last month thanks to an overheating problem that plagues this model, especially ones that are a few years old. In hindsight, the warning sign was it's increasingly more sluggish, laggy performance. So be warned.

Unfortunately, I was working remotely in Hawaii when it died and had literally 8 hours to replace it. My only option was the local Costco, where I picked up a el-cheapo Gateway notebook running Vista on a Core2Duo with 3 gigs o' RAM. It was 1/3 the cost of the Satellite, but 10x faster. No need to fear Vista--it's a decent OS for everyday productivity/fun.

So, yeah, don't wait. Buy now. Your Sims will thank you (or just pee on the floor).
posted by prinado at 11:41 PM on July 24, 2008

I bought. My Sims like their new home. ^__^
posted by Phalene at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2009

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