Prepare for the Inevitable
Technically-savvy families are right to raise an eyebrow at many PC warranty and service offerings. PC manufacturers value these services for their low overhead and high margins, but if you’re not careful, you can find yourself being gouged for routine tasks – disk defragmenting, bloatware removal, creation of backup discs – that can be mastered through information found in a simple Google search.
Cautionary tales aside, kids do have a knack for destroying things, so you’re not unwise to extend your standard warranty (typically a year of limited hardware coverage) for as long as you think your kids will need the extra protection. Online backup services – such as SOS, Norton and IDrive – can also be a smart investment. Not only do these provide a way to back up homework in the event of a hard-drive crash, but many of them also enable you to share and sync files across computers and even devices such as your phone.
Choose Your Accessories
Remember that wish list you put together when you were anticipating your family’s needs? Revisit it again while you’re shopping to make sure you don’t overlook any extra gear or gadgets, software included, that might complete your computer experience. For instance, a desktop PC won’t do you much good unless you pair it with a monitor, and if ergonomics are important, an off-the-shelf keyboard or mouse can make using your desktop a lot more comfortable.
Similarly, laptop-toting families might benefit from a wireless mouse, as well as a docking station, which essentially converts your laptop into a desktop with the addition of a keyboard and monitor, for improved productivity. Given how often kids will need to print hard copies of reports and other assignments, an inkjet or laser printer is also a smart investment. Look for package deals as you’re shopping, too. PC manufacturers will often bundle desktops and laptops with printers, monitors, digital cameras, and other hardware – even, in the case of a recent Windows 7 deal with Xbox 360 systems – for a special price.