“I want to buy a Windows PC.”

I’ve finally had a chance to review the Sunday ads, and there are a number of Windows PCs that are on sale this week for under $400, including one at Target for $329 (which could be purchased with an additional 5% off).

A rational person might ask, “Why would I buy a $399 iPad 2 when I can buy this PC for $329?”

I don’t want to get into the argument of why you may or may not do this–I’m going to assume you’ve made up your mind and there is nothing I can do to change it.

In that event, I want to offer you some free alternatives to keep that $329 computer at $329.

Although there are several office suites, the most popular, by far, is Apache’s Open Office.  Open Office will give you most of the functionality of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint at a fantastic price point (free).

Additionally, for the musician, you should look at MuseScore, which is a free notation software package.  It can’t do everything Finale or Sibelius can do, but if you don’t already own these programs, chances are that MuseScore can do most of what you need it to do.

And finally, if you are buying a Windows PC, viruses will be an issue.  My personal favorite anti-virus has been AVG Free (there are paid versions).  In fact, after you connect to the Internet, the very first thing you should do is to download and install an anti-virus program.  If you choose AVG Free, choose carefully as you install.  They sometimes move the “free” icon on the screen, and they try to install bloatware (Yahoo toolbar, Google toolbar, etc.).  In general, say no to all of those options.

Speaking of anti-virus strategies, it is always good make sure that Windows Defender and Windows Firewall are running on your machine.

If you want to watch videos and DVDs, you might want to download VLC, which is the swiss army knife of video and media players.

Many users prefer a different browser than Internet Explorer, so try Firefox and Chrome.

And for managing music, iOS devices, and iTunes purchases, iTunes is a must.

The total additional expense for all of these programs?  $0.

Then do yourself a favor and spend some money on a TB external hard drive so that you can back up your system from time to time–a good strategy regardless of the manufacturer or operating system.  I can’t really recommend any backup program over another, although a quick search revealed that Cobian Backup seems to be highly favored.  Ultimately, this is a matter that you will personally want to investigate further, as your data is on the line.

Finally, it has been more than 5 years since I bought a Windows PC (although I’ve continued to use them).  My PCs (the latest were Dells) always came with a lot of additional bloatware, and I went through the trouble to delete those programs (e.g. Windows Messenger) from my system.  If you don’t know what you are doing when you uninstall programs–find a techie and ask for help.  You don’t want to delete something you need–or delete the wrong thing (it happens).

Good luck with your new Windows PC!



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