We are in a digital world, whether we choose to accept and acknowledge that or not. It’s better to be in tune with tech than oblivious to it, because anyone will ultimately need to interact with it at some point in their lives. While the number of those with smartphones is increasing, laptops are now more popular than PCs and everyone is focused on getting the latest gadget news, there still are those who don’t really care that much. It’s perfectly fine not to want to be part of the mass confusion that is “tech”, but unless we learn to adjust, we’re going to fall in the potholes of marketing before we actually have a good experience with tech. Quick statistic about yours truly: 2 tablets totaled, 1 tablet stolen, 1 laptop malfunctioned a day after its warranty expired, 1 used laptop was a pretty bad blast from the past, 2 smartphones stolen, 4 smartphones broken, 1 smart watch misplaced by cats, 1 SDD incompatible with everything for whatever reason, 1 console that turned out to be modded and mostly useless for anything else than single-player games, 2 remotes destroyed, 1 router malfunctioned a couple days after its warranty expired, 4 USB flash drives went RAW on me after a use or two and the same things goes for two different microSD cards.
There are many of us out there who feel like they just have an aura or a magnetic field about them, because tech never lasts once in their hands. I am one of those people. Once I get a smartphone, use it for two weeks, decided to get it insured (because many reasons) and leave for the store, I drop it flat on cement and it shatters. Goodbye smartphone, hello monthly payments still going on for another two years before the carrier will replace the phone – because I didn’t get a chance to get insurance. Another familiar scenario would be: I just got used to this tablet after a few months after struggling with its bad UI, and actually started liking its quirks, but then out of nowhere a cat jumps out and the slate lands screen down on the floor. Seeing a screen break like that is worse than seeing someone faceplant a tree. Especially if you spent about $300 on it, because hey – it sounded exciting.
We fall into potholes that marketing campaigns and advertisers create for us and buy products that we ultimately end up hating. We neglect the tech that we get because deep down, we regret buying it. We turn to a cheaper approach, which would allow us to get high-end tech for a reasonable price – buying used tech. Before I get into this: don’t do it. Never. So I decided to buy a used laptop, something really nice and I even tested it out for a week. Everything went smooth as butter and I was convinced that even though it had its flaws in design, performance was what I was looking for and it did it well. I did benchmarks, long gaming sessions with various games, a lot of video playback, browsing about 8 hours each day using it as a work laptop and the whole shebang. Full-on test. It was perfect and I bought it.
If your definition of a perfect gaming laptop is 10 OS reinstalls, random reboots, USB Debug blue screen errors, overheating shutdowns and a slightly poorly constructed body, then I’ve got a deal for you! For this, I have to put aside my skepticism and believe in bad luck – or bad karma, because it was weird. After about two weeks, it all started with minor video card errors and escalated. Mind you, I did a fresh isntall of Windows 7 Ultimate genuine and installed all the drivers I was missing. A coffee spill cost me quite a few buttons off the keyboard to make things worse.. Why does Slender (yes, from 1996) cause a gaming laptop with excellent reviews overheat after 10 minutes? I suppose we have arrived to the definition of a person with bad luck in tech. I could go on, there are more gadgets on my kill list, but that’d be boring. It comes down to me wondering if it was my fault it went nuts – decided it wasn’t. I fixed it, though, for now at least.
Ultimately, the goal here is: not throwing money in the wind. That’s because once I cut my losses, I realized I could have bought a house by now. Picket fence and everything. It all comes down to small errors in judgment, but bad luck seems to have something to do with it nonetheless. As with any bigger investment, for lack of a better word that can sum up every little gadget you can buy, research is key. You can avoid a lot of issues if you do an hour of research before purchasing a laptop. More would be better, but an hour can tell give you a pretty good idea of what a device can do.
This preface serves the purpose of motivating you, dear reader, to heed my warning and learn how to not throw money at tech only to cry about it later. I’ve swallowed my pride and chose 10 things that I learned after more than two decades of bad luck with tech. It’s all just a theory, mind you, it never works for me. I had exactly the same problems with a different laptop which was bought brand new, after about three months of regular schoolwork use. Without further ado, here are 7 ways to make the best of the tech you buy.
- I repeat. Never buy used tech. – No matter how well you know the person you’re thinking of buying from, don’t do it. Tech is where everyone hides their dirty laundry and few of these people know how to get rid of their dirty laundry before passing the laundry basket on. I once asked someone to help me build a PC and they said they would give me their hard drive they didn’t use for half the price. I was about 14 and the hard drive was filled with porn. Besides risking finding obscene or even dangerous content on used devices, you never know what kind of installations, hardware modifications or some such things have been done to something before you get it.
- The same goes for smartphones, wearables, air conditioning systems, remote controls, tablets, laptops, scanners, anything. Tech can be reset, rescrewed, rebooted, re-engineered and most of the time, we wouldn’t even notice. Just don’t buy used tech. The worst part: unless you buy from an authorized used tech shop, you probably can’t return the device and don’t get a warranty for it. People don’t sell their used crap because it still works for them.
- Don’t order online unless you can test the product somewhere before. -This is an important step many forget about: testing the tech. That iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S6 might sound super-amazing from the commercials, Youtube reviews and various social media posts, but it might be totally wrong for you. Maybe you won’t like the user interface, maybe you don’t like the camera, maybe you find out that it doesn’t fit in your designated smartphone pocket, maybe you’ll end up discovering you have an allergic reaction every time you touch high-grade aluminum.
- Although nowadays online purchases do offer the possibility of returns, you could spare yourself and the retailer and its entire logistics team the hassle of you going out on a whim. Ask your friends to help you out and let you test the device you’re looking for for at least a few hours or if nobody around you has the product, try to visit stores that have it on display and ask customer service to help you figure it out, pretending you’re going to buy one if they don’t want to help. Stores want to sell things, so they prioritize sales. Use that to your advantage and get a good look and feel of the product. If you like it, go order it online, if not, go to the next store and try something else.
- Protect your tech, if at all possible. – Although tech is designed to look good, it isn’t designed to preserve itself that much. Manufacturers want to sell and they want their products to be disposable to some degree. Even if the design of the Galaxy S6 Edge is something you can only wonder at, it’s better to cover it up with a case. Even if you’re the most attentive person ever, mistakes happen. Your friend might knock it off the table in a drunken gurgle-laugh, you might fall over on the ice and drop it while snapping a selfie, anything can happen. Especially in outdoor environments, always keep a cover on your smartphone. Keep your laptop in a sleeve and your headsets in their case, just like you would with glasses. Always make sure to keep your tech as protected as possible without impacting the user experience.
- For smartphones, protection is crucial because they are our most used gadgets on a daily basis. Although skins are a nice way of providing a bit of protection for your phone, they are more accessories than anything else. A skin will protect your back panel from fingerprints and scratches, but it has no protection for your screen, unless it comes with a screen protector. These screen protectors are a good idea combines with silicone or stronger cases, but the best way to ensure that your smartphone stays in mint condition is to get a flip case, a dot view case or something of that nature that covers the entire device. I know, people want their nice premium phones to be cool and unprotected, so they can feel all that metal to it. But if you don’t have insurance or your warranty is over, dropping and destroying your phone will not be worth the feeling, especially if it’s an expensive premium phone we’re talking about. For laptops, the easiest way to protect them while traveling is a backpack made specifically for your laptop. My Toshiba Qosmio X505 is a beast of a machine weighing 12 pounds with a massive screen.
- If I were to use a simple laptop cover or a bag to carry it around, I would be exposing it to multiple risks: the bag ripping under the weight, the screen scratching, hitting walls and various objects with the bag on my shoulder and so on. The best option for transporting laptops is a backpack: it has stability, it protects both you and your device, it distributes the device’s weight evenly so your back isn’t hurt and it keeps your laptop much safer. Always go for a backpack, especially with larger laptops. Ultraportables like the MacBook and Surface Book are probably protected enough with sleeves and bags, as long as you are aware that these types of devices that are thin and light are prone to “injury”.Even if you never get to see the cover or sleeve enact its protecting-powers, it’s worth the investment, because at the end, your tech will be in mint condition if you want to resell. (nobody is going to want your cache- and data-filled laggy S6 by then, though).
- Get insurance! -Never forget about care plans. Don’t get greedy on the monthly fees and pay to have your device insured, because that guarantees your device will stay with you until you decide to switch. Although the total of insurance that we pay on a daily basis adds up terribly, it’s the only way we can assure ourselves that our initial investment doesn’t prove to be a mistake. It’s a psychological thing as much as it is a practical one. If you lose, break or get your device stolen, it will be replaced with virtually no hassle thanks to a few extra bucks, depending on the type of plan you choose. Configure them to your needs if possible to secure the longevity of your tech. Although it really hurts when the investment in insurance doesn’t pay off, the pleasant feeling of a new piece of tech is more important if you’re like me. The insurance game is a bitter one, I admit, but in a world where people are losing their common sense and disregard others and their property on a daily basis, it’s better to be safe than sorry, I think.
- Stay on top of your contracts, warranties, and insurance – If you do buy new tech with a warranty, which probably most of us do, stay on top of them. When you buy a lot of tech like I do, you get lost in all the paperwork with warranties, care packages and insurance. If you buy tech from a multitude of different companies with various software on them, it’s going to be hard to keep track of all your warranties and insurance. The best way to not forget that your washing machine’s warranty is going to be up in a couple of weeks is to create a dedicated file for everything. You can do this on a mobile device like a laptop or smartphone, or you can do it the old-school way using pen and paper.
- Every time you buy new tech and sort its warranty and insurance out, make sure to keep all the necessary receipts and contracts that you will need if your device needs to be replaced or repaired. Keep a journal and note the make of the tech, model, date of purchase, amount paid and warranty and insurance expiration dates. Keep this journal handy at all times and make a copy of the journal available for everyone who might use the tech that you just bought. For example, if you just bought a big-screen-TV, the journal entry about its information should be readily available at home and away from home as well. Using a dedicated drawer for this is a good idea.
- Upcycle and repurpose – If you invest in tech that you want to last, one thing you can consider in order to secure your investment for the future is upcycling and repurposing. If you have an old laptop or PC that still has good hardware that you can use, get dirty with it and try some hacks to improve the device or use the parts to make another, upgraded device. RAM, HDDS, SSDS, optical drives, keyboards and GPUs can be reused and repurposed if they are in good condition. You can use the parts from your outdated laptop to customize a new one (with the help of a professional, if you’re not tech-savvy enough) or sell them, even. If you’re good with tinkering and like to experiment, taking apart old gadgets and fashioning new ones out of them is also a good idea.
- For example, if you have some old speakers, you can repurpose the good hardware and casing and make your own speakers. It’s not very easy, but it’s a process through which you are going to learn a lot about how hardware and audio work together. Repurposing old or outdated tech is also a good way to save money and keep your losses to a minimum. For example, your old work laptop that can’t handle the work you’re doing on it anymore can be repurposed multiple ways. You can either hand it down to someone in your family who would use it for less intensive tasks that the tech can handle.
- At the same time, you can repurpose your old work laptop as your travel laptop for entertainment. At the same time, you could turn the laptop into a family machine: keeping track of chores, grocery shopping, movie nights, cooking recipes, lifehacks and all those small things an internet-connected device can help you out with. Another way you could go with outdated tech is remove the hardware that is just not cutting it – like the processor, GPU, RAM and storage and replace them with newer and better hardware, selling or donating or recycling the old ones. You need to have a laptop that permits upcycling or a PC in order to do this, it won’t work with every gadget.
- Repair, recondition, sell – This is a bit of a hypocritical suggestion right here, but it’s on this list because things should change. Not all used tech is bad, but many people take advantage of people who are trying to save some money. Don’t be that person if you’re selling used tech – don’t sell defective things or things that you know won’t last for the better part of the month. Tech is not timeless, but it can be collectible. If you have old consoles, monitors, laptops or accessories that might qualify as vintage or fashionable things, you can sell them online if they’re in good condition. If your time, money and skills allow you, you can recondition or redesign tech – such as old phones, monitors, consoles, joysticks, accessories and much more – in order to turn them into unique pieces of art that can be functional and beautiful at the same time.
- This is a good way to make some extra money, but also a good way of preventing waste and recycling. There are many people out there who would buy repaired tech for experiments, kids or even pets, who would not be bothered by older or outdated tech. It all depends on how people use their devices. You might get a lucky break. A good thing to do is learn about repairing your tech as well, because you could sell devices that you no longer use or that no longer work properly if you can repair them. This is another opportunity to learn about hardware and can be a good project to do in the family, with the kids. If your laptop’s DVD drive is broken, you can easily learn how to repair it if it’s not a big issue – dust clogs, dirt, trapped wires, disconnected cables, missing parts and more can be mended at home without professional help, as long as you’re aware of the risks.