Advice for buying a new computer

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ram
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Advice for buying a new computer

Post by ram »

I am not very knowledgeable about computers. I have excellent tech support at work. Phone picked up by a live person in 10 seconds and a live person in my office in 10 min if I am not completely satisfied with the phone support. Till a few days ago my 17 yr old son was my tech support at home. Now he is gone to college and I feel vulnerable. Yesterday the Mc Afee protection that I subscribe to gave a warning- "Your computer may be under threat" (or something similar) . When I selected the option to 'fix the problem' it told me after a few minutes 'partially resolved' and to call/ chat McAfee for additional support. I haven't done that yet. Now I am scared to go to any financial sites ( Vanguard/bank) for fear of unauthorized parties getting my username/password. Like most people I hate being on the phone with tech support.

My home computer is mainly used for Email and web surfing. Sometimes for making powerpoint presentations.

1) Is it a good idea to have a separate dedicated computer for visiting financial sites? I will always have Mc Afee software or something similar on it for protection.

2) Are Mac computers less vulnerable to viruses?

3) Among internet explorer / firefox/ google chrome - is any 'safer' than the other two. (not necessarily overall better)

4) Am I unneccesarily scared?

I realize that my requirements are minimal and so a $500 computer may be adequate, but I am willing to spend an extra 700 -1000 for a Mac if it will be safer (less prone to viruses). My daughter in college has a 13" macbook pro for the last 1 yr and she likes it very much. (much more than her prior Thinkpad)
I am open to buying a laptop or desktop. I do like a bigger screen and so it appears that a desktop will give me more bang for the buck. Portability is not important. An iMac 21.5" is $1200 Vs a 15" macbook pro for 1800. A 13'' macbook with an external monitor should be $1400

Minor consideration- My wife would like to start the 3 way video conferencing with our 2 kids in college with the 'skype-like' program (I forget the name). If not a virus concern she could do it with the new computer. Otherwise the old computer/ ipad should be OK.

My main home computer is a 2 yr old thinkpad with a damaged screen (used by my daughter till she damaged the screen). Now it is attached to a 23" monitor. Another home computer is a 6 yr old dell desktop which I rarely use as it takes 4 -5 minutes to crank up.

I agree with the general consensus on this board to save money, but in this case I am willing to spend. BTW mortgage has been paid off, retirement savings are on track and our household income exceeds 400K with two very stable jobs. Thanks in advance.
Ram
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mike143
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by mike143 »

If not too much of a burden on your son he can set up remote access to your system to help you. I use LogMeIn.com (free) for some family and friends that I help often and then join.me (free) for those one time disposable sessions with others.

I usually get a call from my Mom every two months or so for assistance. Its better for her to query me than to do the wrong thing and me end up with more work to do.

I use LogMeIn also at work, it works especially well for Satellite Internet connections.

If I were truly concerned about visiting financial websites I would probably do that work via a Live CD.
Nothing is free, someone pays...You can't spend your way to financial freedom.
TA_Lurker
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by TA_Lurker »

ram wrote: 1) Is it a good idea to have a separate dedicated computer for visiting financial sites? I will always have Mc Afee software or something similar on it for protection.

2) Are Mac computers less vulnerable to viruses?

3) Among internet explorer / firefox/ google chrome - is any 'safer' than the other two. (not necessarily overall better)
I'm going to answer your questions in reverse.

3) None of those browsers is significantly better than the other. The most important browser decision you make is the decision to keep your browser current on software updates/patches. I use Google Chrome because it automatically updates/patches itself.

2) There are far fewer Mac computers connected to the Internet (though their population is growing!) than PCs so The Bad Guys focus their efforts on the population with better scale. Also in the past Apple was much better than Microsoft at making sure their software wasn't baked with too many exploits built in. In the last couple of years Microsoft has significantly improved in this area.

1) Your three questions ultimately boil down to the user. If you're a user who avoids e-mail phishing scams, can keep your browser, anti-virus, and OS patched, and who avoids sketchy websites (I can personally attest that risk of computer virus infection is correlated to time spent browing off the beaten path for materials rated R or higher) then you're going to be fine regardless of the IE vs. Chrome or Mac vs PC decision.

My suggestion would be to test drive a new mac and a new PC and purchase which ever one you prefer. When your son comes home from college ask him to make sure everything is set to automatically update in the background. You will be fine.

ram wrote: Minor consideration- My wife would like to start the 3 way video conferencing with our 2 kids in college with the 'skype-like' program (I forget the name). If not a virus concern she could do it with the new computer. Otherwise the old computer/ ipad should be OK.
Consider purchasing a notebook -- they come with built-in web cameras. Your kids will figure out the best way to video conference and pass that solution onto mom.
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linuxuser
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by linuxuser »

Don't buy a notebook just for the built-in webcam.
Webcams clip on the LCD monitors very easily these days.


If you are truly concerned about security, a bootable USB flash drive of Linux is very easy to create.
I prefer it to a Live CD. This past Sunday, I downloaded Mint Linux *.iso file and created a bootable USB stick with it.
So, what you do is insert the bootable USB flash drive into the USB port when the PC is off.
Turn on the PC and hit the key which brings up one-time boot menu (F12 on Dell) and choose to boot off the USB storage drive.
That is it.
Dealmaster00
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by Dealmaster00 »

IMHO, it seems like a waste to buy a whole new computer just because you got a warning message on your current computer that is otherwise working perfectly fine. What happens when you get a warning message on your new computer in a month?

This problem should be easily fixable and is not worth $500-$1500 on a new computer to fix it. Get on chat with McAffe and see what they have to say about the warning. Can you share what files were not cleaned successfully? We can tell you if they are potentially malicious or not. Try booting into Safe Mode (google this if you don't know how to do it) and re-run your virus scan - oftentimes the virus scan will complete successfully without warnings in Safe Mode.
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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by Epsilon Delta »

linuxuser wrote:Don't buy a notebook just for the built-in webcam.
Webcams clip on the LCD monitors very easily these days.


If you are truly concerned about security, a bootable USB flash drive of Linux is very easy to create.
I prefer it to a Live CD. This past Sunday, I downloaded Mint Linux *.iso file and created a bootable USB stick with it.
So, what you do is insert the bootable USB flash drive into the USB port when the PC is off.
Turn on the PC and hit the key which brings up one-time boot menu (F12 on Dell) and choose to boot off the USB storage drive.
That is it.
I would not classify a bootable USB flash drive as easy for a novice.
First some computers cannot boot from USB.
Second I've has issues where a bootable USB image used the swap space on the PCs hard disc. This resulted in a nasty situation. A guest booted the PC from USB, he then allowed it to hibernate and took the USB drive away. When the computer was booted it tried to come out of hibernation but the swapped image pointed to the no longer installed USB, and got a cryptic error message. I believe that it would have been easy to recover by installing the USB, continueing the boot and then shutting down, but without the USB I had to boot with a recovery disc and erase the swap partition before I could boot the PC.
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linuxuser
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by linuxuser »

Creating bootable USB flash drive is two steps. http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/744
I created my Minut Linux bootable USB flash drive on my Ubuntu Linux laptop. Didn't try the Windows method.

Yes it is true that not all PCs can boot from USB, but those less than 5 years old possibly more should.
Sometimes it may require a BIOS update.

I haven't encountered the problems you described, but then I have only used Linux bootable USB sticks and CDs.
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ram
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by ram »

Thanks everybody.
I started the computer in safe mode and ran the McAfee scan again. Everything was OK.
Will have my son recheck things remotely as advised in the next few days.
Ram
Dealmaster00
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by Dealmaster00 »

ram wrote:Thanks everybody.
I started the computer in safe mode and ran the McAfee scan again. Everything was OK.
Will have my son recheck things remotely as advised in the next few days.
Perfect! Thanks for the update :)
SurfCityBill
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by SurfCityBill »

I have McAfee as well. It's done an "ok" job but it is one of the lowest rated security system programs available among both paid and free programs.
Just run a full scan every once in awhile if you're not set up to do so automatically, but if you're not opening suspicious emails or visiting unfamiliar websites you're probably fine.

btw. I have a second computer that's 6 years old and I can empathize with that 5 - 6 minute start up time.

-B
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ejvyas
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by ejvyas »

Stay away from HP. Cheap quality and parts + bloated OS
KyleAAA
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by KyleAAA »

Well, you should call McAfee if they told you to call McAfee. Couldn't hurt, although they might just try to sell you something.

To answer your questions:

1.) Yes, although I would consider this overkill. If you're the paranoid type, just get a bootable CD with Ubuntu on it. Google it. You don't need to buy a new computer for this.

2.) No, they are actually more vulnerable. Fortunately, almost nobody bothers writing viruses for Macs because of their small market share. I'd expect this to change moving forward as more people switch to Mac. Also, viruses aren't really much of a threat anymore, not even on Windows. The real danger these days are browser exploits, which affect all platforms equally. Most security experts would say Macs are at a slight disadvantage here for a variety of reasons.

3.) Probably not. I use Chrome.

4.) Yes.
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ddb
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by ddb »

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free anti-virus/anti-spyware program which consumes far less system resources than any McAfee or Norton product I've ever used. Downloads and installs in minutes, and provides continuous protection. I highly recommend fully uninstalling McAfee and using MSE instead.

From what you've written, I don't see a need for a new computer unless you just want something newer and faster (not that there's anything wrong with that!). If you don't have a web cam, you can pick one up cheaply at Amazon or Newegg or the like. Google+ provides a very cool feature called 'Hangouts' which allows for multi-way video conferencing with friends and family members. I imagine Skype can handle this, too.

As far as browsers, I'm a strong proponent of both Internet Explorer 9 (but not any prior versions of IE) and Google Chrome. Chrome is preferred if you like to sync bookmarks and settings with other computers or devices (like a tablet or smartphone). Otherwise, they're both great.

The main problem with the PC "world", IMO, is that the retail computers come with so much installed bloatware and garbage, and the typical consumer can't realistically clean up the computer so that it runs in a fast/efficient state. Apple computers, on the other hand, come out of the box lean and mean, but you pay a lot more. I really believe that even the most loyal Apple consumer would have little complaint with a "clean" install of Windows 7. Win7 is a remarkable OS (IMO) that works very well. Combined with Microsoft Security Essentials, it's plenty safe. Apple computers are also great products...I just don't care for the pricepoint.

- DDB
"We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values. Most importantly, we have to promote general social concern, and less materialism in young people." - PB
dwc13
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by dwc13 »

My $0.02:

1. It really depends upon how your network is configured and how you use/maintain your computer. If you click on many links/icons/images/banners or go to suspect websites without much consideration of the consequences or do not regularly patch the operating system and anti-virus/firewall software, it probably won't matter whehter or not you are using different computers to access financial sites/accounts. Under this scenario, your computer will be much more susceptible to being compromised. On the other hand, If you are much more careful while surfing online, configure and secure your router/wireless access appropriately, use solid passwords, and also keep your operating system and anti-virus/firewall programs patched and up-to-date, you'll have made it more difficult for others trying to attack your network/computer. As such, using a separate computer in this instance would be primarily for organizational purposes, and perhaps convenience (i.e., portability).

2. Macs are every bit as susceptible to being compromised. From my perspecticve, the issue is how quickly a company responds to exploits/issues, and in this arena Microsoft is miles ahead of Apple. Note that I'm not saying Windows 7 is better than OSX 10.X; they each have their strong points and advantages, as well as areas that can be improved upon. However, Microsoft issues patches with regularity, while too often Apple has a tendency to deny/ignore when there appears to be something wrong. In the past Apple products appeared to be less susceptible to attack, because writers of malware programs often needed thousands of computers to carry out their attacks and thus targeted Windows-based computers, which had by far the largest market share. As Apple gains market share, OSX-based computers become more attractive targets to malware writers.

3. Each of the major browsers support certain standards. An exploit of a supported standard could, in theory, affect each of the browsers. The best line of defense any browser can offer depends upon the user -- don't click on links/icons/images/banners or visit websites that are questionable.

4. I don't think you're scared. You saw a message pop up that caused you concern. Some malware cannot be removed entirely without further corrupting the operating system/affected files. In such cases, the antivirus program might "quarantine" the affected file(s) so that they are not used in the future. Sometimes additional steps are required to effectively neutralize malware. This can include downloading software designed with a very specific purpose and often running a series of different programs and looking a specific reports that are generated. McAfee (pre-Intel acquisition) used to offer "free" online chat with its support folks for those who had paid for a current subscription of its eligible product. I'm not sure if that is the case anymore. If you know the specific message you received and if "free" online chat with McAfee support is still an option, perhaps that is something to consider using.

McAfee's professional products are decent IMO and virus definition/scan data can be used plugins with bootable utilities such as Bart PE. Some malware can effectively cloak itself from antivirus (AV) because it loads itself before the AV. If you boot your computer directly from a CD or USB flash drive (i.e., not the possibly infected hard drive) and run AV directly from that CD/USB flash drive, it becomes much more difficult (but perhaps not impossible) for the malware to hide. This is probably beyond the scope of what you feel comfortable doing at the present time, but it is something your son might be able to help out with down the road. A boot CD/USB flash drive with some good utilties is indispensible IMO.

If you still don't fee comfortable after communicating with McAfee support, you can always completely "wipe out" your hard drive using a utiltiy such as WipeDrive (or a similar program) and then re-install the operating system (assuming you have a rescue disc/original DVD or CD/hidden partition on the hard drive with the operating system and utilities, as well as the required codes). Note that you would have to save important data files to another hard drive/flash drive/DVD or CD/cloud drive beforehand, because they will be gone. Definitely get someone who knows how to do this to assist.

---------------

We have multiple computers at home and one thing I have found to be very helpful (in maintaining my sanity, as I am IT suppport for our computers/network) is to standardize operating systems on the various computers to the extent possible. My wife has a MacBook Pro, but our other computers are Windows 7 and Windows XP. We are in the process of phasing out the Windows XP computers and replacing them with Windows 7 PC and/or an iMac. Aside from a few games, I don't use any software that requires a legacy operating system (i.e., Windows XP, Windows 98, etc.).

Newer versions of Apple OSX (and iOS for the iPhone) offer Facetime, which is a very easy-to-use videochat program.
DualIncomeNoDebt
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by DualIncomeNoDebt »

Get a Mac, OSX is a fantastic operating system and superior to Windows 7. If you need a desktop, get an iMac. If a laptop, go for the Macbook Pro with retina screen.

Also, I don't want this to devolve into a PC versus Mac debate. I'm fairly expert with computers, I've recently built my own PC from scratch, starting with the motherboard. For serious work, we use Macs with OSX, period. Our office runs on Macs, as does my home office. We've saved a substantial amount of money in our business by using Macs. Zero downtime, we operate the entire business network by ourselves. This means we don't have to pay IT professionals to "administer" the network, troubleshoot, problem solve, try to drivemap in some garbage Citrix system, fix Outlook, or any of the other crap that makes a Windows environment such a nightmare. Plug in a Mac to the network, it's recognized, and we're done. It just works. And I speak from many years of experience, and as I type this my server room (running on two Mac Pros) is just down the hallway, and my partner and I built it from scratch by ourselves.

So with Macs, no virus problems, no "blue screen of death" hardware or driver crashes, no garbage *.dll files to deal with. Plus OSX just works better, especially calendaring, address book, and Apple mail, together with all the other features and utilities built right into the operating system. You know, something as simple as printing to PDF, Macs do it automatically and it's built into every program, yet you cannot do it in a PC without aftermarket software. Macs have all kinds of special little features that make them a pleasure to use daily, including networking, shared folders and resources, auto-adding address book info, copying and moving files, system profiles, security features, and transferring data between and among Macs. Plus the unifying dropdown menus also makes it easy to train employees. Been there, done that with scores of people. All of them prefer Mac once they've used them for a week.
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ddb
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by ddb »

DualIncomeNoDebt wrote:Get a Mac, OSX is a fantastic operating system and superior to Windows 7. If you need a desktop, get an iMac. If a laptop, go for the Macbook Pro with retina screen.

Also, I don't want this to devolve into a PC versus Mac debate. I'm fairly expert with computers, I've recently built my own PC from scratch, starting with the motherboard. For serious work, we use Macs with OSX, period. Our office runs on Macs, as does my home office. We've saved a substantial amount of money in our business by using Macs. Zero downtime, we operate the entire business network by ourselves. This means we don't have to pay IT professionals to "administer" the network, troubleshoot, problem solve, try to drivemap in some garbage Citrix system, fix Outlook, or any of the other crap that makes a Windows environment such a nightmare. Plug in a Mac to the network, it's recognized, and we're done. It just works. And I speak from many years of experience, and as I type this my server room (running on two Mac Pros) is just down the hallway, and my partner and I built it from scratch by ourselves.

So with Macs, no virus problems, no "blue screen of death" hardware or driver crashes, no garbage *.dll files to deal with. Plus OSX just works better, especially calendaring, address book, and Apple mail, together with all the other features and utilities built right into the operating system. You know, something as simple as printing to PDF, Macs do it automatically and it's built into every program, yet you cannot do it in a PC without aftermarket software. Macs have all kinds of special little features that make them a pleasure to use daily, including networking, shared folders and resources, auto-adding address book info, copying and moving files, system profiles, security features, and transferring data between and among Macs. Plus the unifying dropdown menus also makes it easy to train employees. Been there, done that with scores of people. All of them prefer Mac once they've used them for a week.
Yes, Macs are great. All of the above is also equally possible in a Windows server / Windows 7 environment, with the exception of native .pdf printing, which is literally the one thing I miss about a Mac when I switch to a Win7 machine.

- DDB
"We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values. Most importantly, we have to promote general social concern, and less materialism in young people." - PB
dwc13
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Re: Advice for buying a new computer

Post by dwc13 »

DualIncomeNoDebt wrote:
So with Macs, no virus problems, no "blue screen of death" hardware or driver crashes, no garbage *.dll files to deal with. Plus OSX just works better, especially calendaring, address book, and Apple mail, together with all the other features and utilities built right into the operating system. You know, something as simple as printing to PDF, Macs do it automatically and it's built into every program, yet you cannot do it in a PC without aftermarket software. Macs have all kinds of special little features that make them a pleasure to use daily, including networking, shared folders and resources, auto-adding address book info, copying and moving files, system profiles, security features, and transferring data between and among Macs. Plus the unifying dropdown menus also makes it easy to train employees. Been there, done that with scores of people. All of them prefer Mac once they've used them for a week.

Macs are absolutely succeptible to malware attacks, including viruses, and they do get infected. The days of "security by obscurity" are over for Apple. The recent increase in marketshare of OSX and iOS has caught the attention of those (on both sides) who seek to profit from the presence of malware on the various Apple platforms. And as much as Apple wants to lock down everything and keep the HW & SW under its tight control, it doesn't control standards such as HTML 5 or IPv6. A determined group with sufficient time, resources, and expertise will still be able to find vulnerabilities in standards that can be exploited.

http://www.howtogeek.com/76628/online-s ... t-viruses/

http://blogs.computerworld.com/operatin ... -admits-it

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/2 ... 25110.html

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-574107 ... perts-say/
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