Computer Christmas presents

Tips & Hints

Updated 23 November 2003

Computer games and equipment are excellent Christmas presents. But do your homework first.

Computer software and hardware can be good gifts. But its hard to think of a worse way to spend Christmas than struggling to install a computer game or cd-burner. By doing some homework you can make sure there are no tears when you add something new to your computer.

Know your computer

The first step is to know what your computer is. The memory (measured in Mb), hard drive space (measured in Mb or Gb), the processor speeds and your operating system are all important. If you're buying games, your video card will be important as well.

To find your computer's specifications watch the computer closely during start up, it will show the specifications as it starts. If the details are hidden or flash past too fast to read, dig out the invoice from the supplier. If you can't find the invoice, system utilities programs can tell you, a free program is Belarc Advisor.

Just as important as your hardware is your software. The operating system is very important. If you are running Windows 95 or NT, forget USB equipment. Similarly, many older games and hardware may not work on Windows 2000 and XP machines.

Read the box

When buying any computer stuff check the label on the box, is it suitable for your computer? Does your computer have the necessary RAM, hard drive space, video card and operating system. Ignore the minimum requirements, it is the recommended requirements that matter.

Last year we were called by a lot of people who were upset that new games would not run on their less than 12 month old computers. The reason for this was the demanding video requirements, cheaper computers tend to have less capable video cards so it's important to know what your system has. For the newer games, you should have at least 32Mb video memory.

Older programs that claim to be Windows 3.1 and 95 compatible can be a problem. These programs are usually designed for Windows 3.1. The newer your system, the less likely it is that these older programs will run and if they do they may be disappointing. Be very careful of any programs in the clearance bin of the local computer super store.

Where to buy

Shop around when looking for computer gear. Not only will you find great variations in cost, but also great variations in service. Good service and advice should be rewarded, don't buy from one place just because it was a few dollars cheaper than the shop where the sales people were friendly and helpful.

Computer shops find it difficult to resell or return software that has already been opened so they are very reluctant to accept returns of software. Choose carefully before buying and ask if the item will run on your system. Don't expect much sympathy if you buy a USB scanner or Grand Theft Auto for your Pentium-I running Windows 95.

Installing the new software and hardware

Sit down and take a deep breath: We're going to suggest something radical. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE INSTALLING. Spending ten minutes reading the manual can save you hours of frustration and possibly hundreds of dollars in technician charges. If the computer has important data on it, you should backup that data before proceeding.

We go through the steps of setting up a new computer in the 21 December, 2002 problem page. A lot of the advice for setting up a new computer also applies to software and peripherals like scanners and camera.

When installing new things, it's a good idea to be sober and/or wide awake. Running the installation at the end of a long day or after a lot of Christmas cheer increases the chances of making a mistake.

If you have an older computer, don't fall for the temptation of buying something in the hope it will run. Make sure it meets the recommended requirements. If you're finding it difficult to get things for your computer consider a new computer. That is a much better Christmas present.

Computers are supposed to make our lives easier. By doing the right thing first time, you'll make Christmas and your computer a lot happier.

PC Rescue Pty Ltd
Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
ABN 082 635 765
ŠTechnology Publishing Australia, 2011