Why does my computer have a flat tire?

Over the years, I have dealt with many people and their computers. In the past, when computers were bulky, expensive and primarily used for business/work reasons, we had to explain to customers why the cost of computers varies so much (and respectively why repair costs vary so much). To explain the concept of how a computer works and what components it was made from, we turned to an analogy that most people could relate too. The automobile.

We used to explain how a computer worked in relation to a car like this:

A computer is made up of several components that perform specific functions and when all combine, provide you with the end result.

The input of computer = the gasoline you pump into your car. It is the fuel that let’s you operate and move around. It is what you enter into the computer to get a result. This also includes the input controls like comparing your keyboard and mouse to a steering wheel and pedals that control how your car is going to operate.

The processor (CPU) of a computer = the engine of your car. The bigger the engine, the faster you go and the more gas it can take at once.

The output of a computer = the engine moves your car and takes you from point A to point B. You can adjust your output and change your input to move to a new location.

The RAM/short term memory of your computer = your dashboard display. This shows you the speed, the fuel levels, the oil temperature and all the things that your engine is doing and your car responds according to what you do with the input. For a computer this translates to how the engine process all the little things to make the car move.

Storage on a computer = your vehicle cargo capacity. How many passengers and how much luggage can you fit in a car vs. a van vs. a truck.

(I know some techs don’t like this analogy because it is not technically as accurate as it seems, but for most people it gives them the understanding of components).

This basic concept worked well to explain how a computer works but also sets a foundation of how different components of a computer can affect the outcome.For example:

To design a car to go faster, you essentially need a bigger engine however an engine is not the only things that makes a car efficiently go fast. You need good tires, suspension, aerodynamic body, less weight etc and similarly to a computer you need to have a faster processor, more ram to allow more information in, more storage to keep permanent files etc.

Having a Ferrari to commute to work, while fun, may not use all the power of the Ferrari. Similarly, using a Honda civic to race in NASCAR is not a good idea either which is why we ask customers to give us an idea of what the workload will be for a pc that they want to purchase so we can match the purpose with the appropriate hardware and the all mighty budget.

Most of the time, people who are not experienced with understanding how a computer works end up looking for a “cheap” computer with the assumption that all computers are the same so the only factor is price and the best deal however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Many times we get clients who want a “top end” computer and when we quote a price in the thousands of dollars they scale back quickly to a budget in the hundreds because their perception of what a computer can do is skewed. Once you explain it in terms of the framework of a car, then usually get an understanding of the difference between a $400 computer and a $1500 computer and can make a better decision.

The same goes for repair costs. These days, the price overall for computer hardware is comparatively cheaper than it was 10 years ago. This means that the cost of repair doesn’t have the same value as it once did. If you buy a $400 computer, getting it fixed at a cost of $100 is not as much of a value as when the computers used to cost $1500. This means in a lot of cases, we have to let the customer know that it may be time to replace the computer instead of repairing it based on the value of the unit as a whole.

If you have heard any of the following statements, these are triggers to indicate that either the computer is old and needs a “tune up” or replacement or that the user purchased the wrong computer for their needs:

“My computer is so slow”
“I ran out of space”
“I can only open a couple of windows at a time”
“It takes forever to transfer files”

Maintenance for a car consists of oil changes, brake changes, belts, fluids and other “Wear and tear” items that need to be replaced to keep the car in top efficiency. The same applies to computers and their components. Computers needs software updates to protect against security issues or defective code, fans and cooling systems needs to be cleaned out to keep the computer running at the proper temperature. Backups of data need to be done and verified in case your computer blows a tire or has an accident.

So if you ever bought a computer without talking to a computer expert (and I don’t mean the sales guys at Best Buy or Future Shop), then chances are you didn’t kick enough tires before you made your decision. Just like cars, there are computers that are lemons and as “mechanics” we can only work with what we have unless you replace the whole thing.

At Fix My Computer Now Inc. we are always happy to give advice and general guidance to our clients so feel free to call anytime with questions.

If you liked this article and want more information, read our previous article My Computer is Toast!

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