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A Frugal Tale of Two PCs

January 11th, 2014 at 02:56 pm

Not too long ago, while in the middle of doing some web-based stock research, my Dell desktop PC's monitor screen went black. Nothing would bring back an image. Hard shut-offs and new starts didn't help any. And then the PC started to just shut down if I even touched any key on the keyboard.

Uh, Oh, I thought. I have to buy a new computer. But I needed web access right then. So I dug out of storage a 2005 Gateway laptop I had not even started up for 2 years and gave it a try. And it worked, up to a point. Some web pages it loaded very slowly. Some it could not load at all. I made do. And thought to myself: I still need to buy a new computer.

So I fell in love with a new Gateway laptop: well equipped with a 2.2 GHz processor, 4 gigabytes of RAM, 500 GB of storage memory plus lots of bells and whistles. It would cost me around $350 including sales tax. That did not sound bad at all. I certainly could afford it.

Then I thought of all the data files trapped in my presumably dead Dell desktop PC. I had to see if I could recover that data. And that thought eventually led me to ending up with 2 fully functional computers for a fraction of what I would have paid for that lovely new Gateway laptop.

The Desktop PC Gets Saved
I phoned my local Staples Tech Center and found out that for $69 I could have my desktop Dell diagnosed to find out what was wrong with it. Then, if I wanted to proceed with the repair, the $69 would be applied to that repair. If I decided not to get that PC fixed, I could apply the $69 to a retrieval of my trapped data. That sounded OK, so I gave the Staples tech the go-ahead.

A day later, I got a good news / bad news phone call from the tech. Bad news: I had a fried video card. Good news: the fried card was an add-on "upgrade" and the desktop Dell still had its functioning original built-in video card. With a couple of mouse clicks, the tech could bypass the fried video card and have the Dell work off the operational original card. No hardware repair would be needed! And no data retrieval would be needed, either, since the Dell would be functional again.

Great news. But could I have the $69 diagnostic fee applied to another service? The answer was "probably" yes. So I went back to the Staples Tech Center with a 1000 Gigabyte hard drive and a set of Windows 7 system discs, both of which I had bought years earlier but not installed. Would the $69 cover installing both? Yes! So, for $69 out of pocket, I ended up with a re-functionalized desktop PC sporting 10 times its previous storage memory and an upgraded operating system.

The Laptop Gets Upgraded
When I went to pick up my rejuvenated desktop Dell, I brought along my 2005 slower-than-molasses laptop (the one I had dug out of storage when this saga began). Could it get a new lease on life at a reasonable cost? Yes, again!

This laptop had a fast-enough 1.4 GHz Intel processor. It just did not have enough RAM installed to handle today's web pages and programs. An upgrade from its current skimpy 500 megabytes of RAM to a maxed out and respectable 2 gigabytes of RAM cost me a grand total of $43 -- installed.

So I was good to go -- with a reactivated desktop PC and an upgraded laptop for a combined total cost of $113. I saved 2 pieces of still-serviceable equipment from the trash/Goodwill/dead storage heap. I avoided the purchase of yet one more electronic gadget. And I saved $234 in the process.

And I Learned Valuable Lessons
Finally, I learned something more about living frugally without sacrifice. I should not be too quick to discard and replace. First, I should try to repair. Second, I should look for a substitute item among the things I already own. Third, if replacement is unavoidable, look first in Craig List (something I did not even think of doing). This time, following these steps saved me over $200. Next time, they might save me much more.

What about you? Do you try to repair before replacing? Have you got a story about a change of approach from replacing to "enabling" that saved you dough? Have you recently resisted the siren call of a new shiny gizmo to spend your hard earned bucks on?

6 Responses to “A Frugal Tale of Two PCs”

  1. snafu Says:

    I hope you'll back up data to Cloud or whatever on-line service you like. It's crushing enough to get black/blue screen without the stress of data needing to be recovered by an expert.

    We get hand-me-downs from a tekkie son whenever he replaces units. He needs to stay current so his employer subsidizes the cost. We sell our older units on the local Craigslist as soon as the motherboard and components are wiped clean. I price units about the same as others and negotiate the final selling price with whoever shows up. DS won't take the resultant cash so we mostly find a gift he'd enjoy.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    Yes, we definitely do try to repair before replacing. We recently had a laptop screen crack and break. We bought a replacement screen online and replaced it ourselves for about $60. Good as new...now to figure out where I can recycle the old screen!!

  3. rob62521 Says:

    How fabulous! Good to know Staples does this.

  4. Retired To Win Says:

    Even though I wrote that my main lesson learned was to try repairing first before going to the replacing phase, sometimes replacing is all you can do. A few months ago, we had our refrigerator start making horrendous noises and failing to cool properly. We got the repairman over, but he diagnosed the refrigerator (i.e., the compressor) as terminal. Replacement was declared as the only option.

    (Thank God we had just purchased a home warranty policy one month earlier, because the home warranty company paid for the replacement!)

  5. PatientSaver Says:

    Ugh. Computer problems like that stress me out.

    I do have a broke snow thrower, and I need to do some research to find out where I could take it to get repaired. Keep forgetting to do that, but we've got a lot of winter left to go.

  6. Retired To Win Says:

    Patient Saver...

    Don't give up on that broken snowthrower! Let your pc mouse "do the walking" and find that repair place. Smile

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