The Geek Squad Explains How to Buy a New PC

You've got tech questions, we've found the answers. We've asked the tech experts at the Geek Squad to help you make the most of your technology, answering your thorniest tech questions. So if you're wondering what to buy, how to plug it in, or how to fix it, the Geek Squad can help.

This week, Geek Squad double agent Brandon Sell answers YOUR questions.

"I’m looking to purchase a desktop computer for the house. And I'm curious: With few moving parts, why does any computer wear out? Seems they all are programmed to get old, slow and die after five years. Built-in obsolescence?" -- Ralph Gurganus

In actuality, a computer never really goes obsolete. A computer you buy today will run the programs that are available today until the day it stops working. The problems arise because we computer users become more sophisticated, and the seemingly simple programs we use daily evolve and require more computer resources. It’s the software upgrades that we all want that creates obsolescence in our hardware.

Without knowing more about you or your computer uses, it would irresponsible of me to recommend a specific computer. Instead, I’ll give you a few shopping guidelines to help you narrow down your choices.

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1) It’s nearly impossible to have too much memory -- and the amount of memory is one of the determining factors in how quickly your computer runs programs.

2) If you don’t plan to use an external hard drive (which I would recommended, especially for back-ups) and you store digital pictures, video, or music, you'll want to get a large hard drive. You’ll find them ranging in size from 250GB to 700GB.

3) Most laptops will allow wireless networking (you'll need other devices to use wireless at home, of course), but some actually have a type of device built-in that allow you to use the cellular towers for Internet access, like a phone.

4) The computer’s processor is like the main brain of the machine. The better the processor, the smoother your computer will run. This is a main component that will determine the price of the computer, so balance your budget with its performance.

If you can afford a machine with better specs up front, it may be able to run newer programs, as they come out, for a longer period of time. Which could give you more time before you feel like it’s time to upgrade.

"You helped a person with an iMac who lost the administrator logon -- how do I do the same for Windows Vista? I have files and folders I cannot get rid of on my Dell. Best Buy's Geek Squad set this up and never told me the Admin logon. The few manuals say I have to reformat to get it ..." -- Carl Hyde

The Administrator account in Windows is deactivated by default, so I’m not entirely certain if you’re looking for the password on a personal account named “Admin” or the actual Admin login. However, any other account that has administrator access should be able to reset the password for that account.

The Geek Squad also has a program that can access that account for you, if you cannot get the password to reset. Just give us a call or visit for help. If you’re looking to activate the actual Administrator account try this:

1) Click “Start”
2) Type “cmd” in the search box
3) Right-click on cmd.exe
4) Select Run as Administrator
5) Type: “Net user administrator /active:yes” (without quotes)
6) Press enter.

The next time you login, you should see the “master” administrator account. To deactivate this account do the same as above but change it to “/active:no”

"My wife and I homeschool our two children. They use our personal PC to view their homeschool content from a designated online website. I want to make sure the boys are not surfing or going to sites that they shouldn’t while we are not in the room. My wife and I use this PC for our own personal information when the boys aren't doing school work. I run Windows XP and Norton 360. How can I control the sites that they access?" -- Scott Ahaus

First, I would make sure that they have an account separate from your Windows account. It would be unfortunate if they accidentally deleted something important from yours! Other than that, there are a few options, but because you’re already using Norton, you may decide to stick with their service. Here's two options:

1.)    Norton online family is free for base level access control, or you can pay for premium service.

2.)    Webroot also has a suite of tools that can be used for the same or similar functions -- but you may need to replace your Norton 360 security software to run it. Good luck!

Got a question? E-mail us at and we'll relay it to the Geek Squad. Next week, the Squad will answer the most interesting or most frequently asked questions.