Originally created 12/03/01

Computer questions answered



Rolling toward the holidays...let's open the mailbag.

Q. Is it a good idea to buy a "refurbished" computer from a major manufacturer's Web site?

A. It can be, but keep some things in mind. Usually a refurbished computer sold by someone like Dell or Gateway was a customer return. It could have been returned for financial reasons (a company ordered 10,000 units and only needed 9,932) or a customer did not make lease payments as agreed. It also could have been returned because the customer didn't like it or there was some issue with its performance. The manufacturer is supposed to fix the issue, if there was one, and then offer the PC for a discount.

Assuming there is a substantial discount and the warranty period is the same as new, I have no issues buying the refurbished units. However, pay close attention to the discounts. Because prices have fallen so dramatically, I often see units on sale in the refurbished section for more than current retail, because the Web sites so often throw in free shipping, a free printer or whatever.

Also, when ordering a home PC from Dell and the like, keep in mind that the manufacturer should not be charging you sales tax unless it has an operation in your state. I have received several complaints about this. It is up to you to claim the purchase on your state's income tax return to pay the tax.

Q. I am using Forte's Agent program to view newsgroups and the files it is making are getting huge. How can I stop this?

A. Periodically open Agent and go to FILE then "Compact Databases". That will reduce the size of the index files the program uses. Also periodically clean out the posts you no longer want to keep.

Q. I have three PCs in my house that are networked together. I would like to be able to "log in" to each PC and work on it without leaving my main workstation. How can I do that?

A. Using remote control software this is very easy. The industry leader is Symantec's "PC Anywhere," now in version 10. It is easy to use and very easy to set up. It will allow you to control any PC on your network (or any you can access via the Internet) making it a great choice to install on relatives' PCs that you end up doing maintenance on from afar.

Q. I was recently infected with a computer virus and I never opened the attachment that contained it. How did that happen?

A. Some virus files now only require that the message appear in Outlook Express's preview pane, others can be transmitted by visiting a Web site...times have changed. You need an anti-virus program on your PC that is updated at least weekly.

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