Replace or reformat old PC?

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q.  My computer is causing me problems, but I can't decide if I should have my old PC's hard drive reformatted and Windows reinstalled, or if I should just break down and buy a new computer. Any advice would be appreciated, Mr. M.

A.  This is an age-old question and one that arises frequently. The answer is an emphatic, “It depends.” It depends on the computer, its age, configuration, overall functionality, and the nature of the problem that you're attempting to address. The real underlying question here is one that only you can answer: Do you want a new computer? If you're looking for an excuse to purchase a new computer, congratulations! You found one. (Not that an excuse is ever needed for a new computer around here. Sunrise qualifies as justification for a new computer, in my opinion. Mrs. Modem feels somewhat differently.)

In assessing whether to reformat, first consider how old the computer in question is. If it is four or five years old, I would consider purchasing a new one. If your PC is less than four years old, it’s probably worth the money (approximately $200, assuming you have the Windows installation DVD) to have a reputable computer repair person or service reformat the hard drive, reinstall Windows, update your drivers and reinstall your programs.

If the problem you're attempting to resolve is a fairly recent one, try running System Restore to see if you can return your PC to the state it was in before the problem arose -- assuming it wasn't North Dakota. To do that, click Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore. Using the calendar that appears, select a date to restore to prior to the time you first noticed the problem. Vista and Win 7 users can go to Start > Search and type “System Restore.”

Q.  I’m a bit of a news junkie and enjoy staying up on news of interest to me. Though many sites permit me to customize the type of news I want, I was wondering if there is any way to pull together news from various sources so I can go to one place and see my favorite news items?

A.  One of the oldest sites on the Web is one that does permit you to do exactly what you describe, for free. The site is called CRAYON (www.crayon.net), which is an acronym for CReAte Your Own Newspaper. After registering, you will be invited to give your publication a title, select the page layout, graphics, then choose your news sources from a vast array of publications, news media, by topic or other criteria. Once you save your selections, log in and click Read My Paper. It will be assembled and presented to you faster than you can holler, “Extry! Extry! Read all about it!”

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week

Handmade Items
Etsy.com is an online marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade. Since its launch in 2005, hundreds of thousands of sellers have offered items ranging from arts and crafts to woodworking, plus other treasures that will ultimately wind up in your kitchen's junk drawer.
www.etsy.com

Yugster
The concept is simple: Yugster sells one product a day. When whatever quantity they have to sell is gone, that’s it. For example, as I was writing this, yesterday the item of the day was a Plasma and LCD Care-Cleaning kit. At Best Buy, the price was $36, but I could buy it on Yugster for $19. Today, the item du jour is a spiffy set of 35 LED Solar-Powered Icicle Christmas Lights for only $14.97. Is this my lucky day or what?
www.yugster.com

Mr. Modem publishes the weekly "Ask Mr. Modem!” computer-help newsletter at www.MrModem.com and “Mr. Modem's Top 50 iPad Tips” series at www.amazon.com.