Millions of kids are home from school and with parents now working from home, many families are realizing they do not have enough computers to go around. Due to sudden demand and supply-chain issues, new laptops are in short supply.
Whether you need a computer for your child to use for schoolwork and distance learning, entertainment, or a combination, you have a few options. I will walk you through updating an old computer as well as giving you advice on how to shop for a new computer. I will go through four different scenarios—the newer the computer you’re trying to revive, the easier it will be to reuse that machine, but even eight- or nine-year-old computers can still be useful if you’re just trying to get by.
Computers running Windows 8 or Windows 10—which represents most laptops sold between late 2013 and now—are easy to get up and running if they have no major hardware problems. Unlike Windows 7, Microsoft still supports both operating systems with security updates, and apps and Web browsers like Chrome will run on without any issues.
The best way to make a computer feel new again is to totally reset Windows, which will wipe all files and applications from the operating system. There is plenty of content on the Internet that will walk you through how to reset Windows 8 and Windows 10, however it is important to wait for the reset process to complete, and then install all Windows updates. This step may take two or three reboots, depending on how long your PC has been powered on. After that, it is safe to go online and start downloading whatever apps you need to use.
Four- or five-year old computers may be worth upgrading if they feel a bit slow, but you want to keep using them. I suggest finding extra memory that is compatible with your system; 8 GB is the amount I’d recommend for new computers.
PCs running Windows 7 are a little harder, but possible to repurpose. These PCs were typically sold between 2009 and 2012. The main issue with these computers, age aside is the fact that Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7 with new security updates in January 2020. Most common apps and Web browsers will still run-on Windows 7, but using it can expose you to malware and other security risks that newer versions of Windows aren’t susceptible to. Although Microsoft officially recommends buying a new PC rather than trying to upgrade one running Windows 7 to Windows 10, the newer operating system will usually run well on these older computers.
If you decide to purchase a new PC, pay attention to these four key features:
Processor: I recommend an eighth or 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor. Core i7 processors are faster, but you are unlikely to find these at a reasonable price. A Core i3 is slower, but you can get away with that on a Windows laptop.
Storage: Choose a 128 GB or larger solid-state drive and avoid SATA hard drives
Memory: Get at least 8 GB of memory (which can also be listed as “RAM”) If you get anything less, you will not be able to run many programs at the same time.
Display: Look for a display with 1080p resolution, listed as 1920×1080.