PHOENIX -- The back-to-school season always creates anxiety for most parents as they evaluate whether what they have is adequate or if it's time to buy new expensive gadgets.
The first step in understanding needs is to check with the school to see what is required for your child. In some progressive cases, your school may be supplying your child with iPad minis instead of books. In other cases, the school may have standardized on Google Docs and Gmail, which means older computers will work just fine.
If you plan on using an existing Windows computer, start by doing a quick self-check of the system to see if it's in need of a cleanup. Restart your computer and when it finishes booting up, open the Task Manager (Ctrl-Alt-Del) to check for Running Processes; a well-maintained computer will have between 35-55 processes running. The more you have running, the slower your computer will perform because it's trying to do too much. This can also be an indication of malware infections, so don't ignore this symptom.
Another way to resurrect an older computer is to replace the current hard drive with a high-speed hybrid hard drive ($149 installed). The hard drive is the slowest processing component in the computer and these new-age devices can make a big difference in the performance of an older desktop or laptop.
If you have a college-age student who is going to be using a laptop, make sure you get him or her a flash drive to make backup copies of their homework. Most importantly, make sure they know how to do it! You don't want to end up like the Rutgers grad student who was pleading with thieves to return their thesis with a $1,000.
You should also consider installing LoJack for Laptops so that you have assistance should the laptop go missing. Many other free options like Prey Project exist, but you are completely on your own when your device goes missing. With LoJack for Laptops , you file a police report, contact LoJack's lost-device team and they jump into action to help you work with law enforcement to recover your device.
Once the school season starts, one of the coolest websites for parents that will help you help your child with advanced math and science is WolframAlpha.com.
(my How To column is posted here: http://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21925-How-to-use-Wolfram-Alpha/ )
The more cloud-based your child's school has become, the less money you will need to spend on expensive computers, so make sure you do your homework before you spend money on unneccesary technology!
Ken Colburn, the original Data Doctor, is the founder/CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services & Data Forensics labs.
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