ALWAYS UPDATING: Joe Belfiore, Microsoft corporate vice-president, PC, tablet, phone, stands at the entrance to a Microsoft Store during a launch event for Windows 10.
ALWAYS UPDATING: Joe Belfiore, Microsoft corporate vice-president, PC, tablet, phone, stands at the entrance to a Microsoft Store during a launch event for Windows 10. Ellen M. Banner

Cheap PCs have more junk, slowing down speeds

THIS week we had a customer bring in a new desktop PC that had been purchased 'on a special' from a large chain store.

They were having trouble browsing the Internet, getting their emails setup and it was apparently running slower than their four-year-old previous PC.

Being an existing customer we already had all of their email details on file so we asked them to leave it with us for a while.

It was a HP tower and it already had 8GB of ram with an Intel i5 processor so it had middle of the road specs and should be quite fast.

However it took ages to boot up and ran just like the customer described. Delving further into the system we could see that CPU utilisation was hovering around 40% constantly and hard drive activity was 100% - this PC was struggling just to run.

It turned out that there was no single issue with this PC but rather an accumulation of problems. For starters, it had been manufactured over eight months ago so it was that far behind with Windows updates. As is the case with all new PC's it was running Windows 10 but it needed three major updates.

Since its release Windows 10 has had large updates in November '15, August '16 and now April '17 which Microsoft has staggered over several months.

The other major problem with this PC was the amount of software it was running. This was not installed since the purchase by the owner as it was only three-days-old, but rather by the manufacturer for various reasons. Manufacturers install software for two main reasons. One - to make their offerings look better than competitors and now two- to gain recurring online revenue.

Like most store sold PC's this one had around 30 excess applications that we professionally uninstalled. We also downloaded around 500GB of updates and after six restarts and around three hours of install time it was finally up-to-date. The entire above processes took around two hours of tech time and five hours of computing time however the results were startling.

Boot up times went from around two minutes when it first came in to around 15 seconds . In overall use the computer went from feeling like a frustrating piece of junk to feeling like a new PC should. The customer tested it on our reception bench leaving and could not believe the difference, they were astounded.

Once updated and setup properly like this the PC should stay just as quick with simple maintenance and with Windows updates done as they are released. This customer wants to bring it back to us every six months for a tune up as they are still amazed by the difference in performance.

There is sometimes a downside to a story like this - in this case it was the cost.

Given the amount of work that was needed to get this 'bargain' PC performing it worked out around $200 dearer than if they had purchased a similar spec PC from us in the first place. When we install Windows on a new PC we do with the latest updates onto a fresh hard drive that has never previously been used.

This way we can simply install exactly what is needed without any junk software and to a Windows version that is no more than a month old.

Unless you are an IT geek yourself be wary of 'specials or bargains' as they will often prove no so special after all. In this case it was akin to paying for a modern sports car and then constantly towing a heavy trailer around behind it.

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