Common Holiday Computer Problems

Typical Issues and Solutions to Holiday PC Problems

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Another year has come and gone and the holidays are finally winding down. Time to play with all the new computer items! But there is a problem. That new computer system seems to be slower than you expected. Maybe the new application for an older computer just doesn't run very well. Perhaps you received a new peripheral such as a digital camera, MP3 player, printer or scanner but you don't have the proper port to plug it in.

This guide is here to help sort out some of these problems.

Old to New

Those lucky enough to receive a new computer to replace an older one may encounter one of the trickier problems: moving files from an old PC to a new one. Computer networks and external drives have greatly reduced this problem, but the size of computer files can make this a very time intensive process. Thankfully there are a number of solutions to this problem. If you happen to have a Mac, you can use the Migration Assistant .

The easiest and least expensive of the choices is USB based flash drives. These are small keys that can store several gigabytes of data. It may take multiple transfers to move the data, but it is an inexpensive and easy solution. Another choice could be the use of an external hard drive. These function just like the flash drives except are much larger. For more information, check out the Removable Storage tips from the About.com Computer Peripherals site.

Tablet Devices

Tablets are a very hot item and for the most part can be used as stand alone devices. The problem is that there is not really a good way to manage a device or backup its data without syncing it to a laptop or desktop PC. Sure, there are some cloud storage systems that can be used to backup the data but the PC is still the most complete method.

The issue here is if you have an older computer system. There are still a fair number of users out there with Windows XP systems that run just fine. The problem is that some of the most popular tablets do not have very functional software support for this older OS. In these cases, an upgrade of the operating system may be in order. Be sure to check to make sure you PC can be upgraded before making any commitments. It should also be noted that if you are running Mac, some tablets do not come with compatible syncing software at this time. Instead, you have to treat your tablet as a simple storage device to backup music and movies but little else.

Another problem that crops up with many new tablets is recharging them from a PC. Most of the tablets require a higher amperage output over the USB connector to properly charge the tablet. Many new PCs can sense these devices and adjust the amperage accordingly but those with older PCs will not be able to charge their devices. The solution to this is an external power adapter for charging the tablet. The downside is that it cannot charge while syncing and the manufacturer of the tablet may have not included a power adapter with the tablet to reduce the costs.

This will require either the purchase of a power adapter from the manufacturer or a generic USB power adapter that supplies sufficient power. Be sure to check the amperage requirements of your tablet and the output of the AC adapter to verify they are compatible.

3D Slide Show

The level of graphics in PC games grows dramatically each year. Of course, to produce these high quality graphics, it is also necessary to increase the performance and features of the display adapter. Older video cards attempting to play these games will quickly run into the slide show effect. This problem can also be made worse if you happened to receive a new 4K PC display that requires more graphics performance to produce smooth frame rates at the higher resolutions.

The answer to this problem for a desktop PC typically means the purchase of a new graphics card. Of course, with older computer systems, even the most powerful of the new graphics card may not help. Be sure to check that the rest of the computer components meet the recommended specifications before getting a new video card. If a new card is the answer, check out my Best 3D Budget Video Cards for solutions under $250 or the Best Performance 3D Video Cards for the best in performance regardless of the costs. Be sure to make sure your PC PC power supply wattage meets the requirements for any card that you are considering purchasing.

Laptop users are a bit out of luck when it comes to graphics as they are built into the system and are not upgradeable. Several companies are producing some external chassis that allow an external video card to connect into a PC via a Thunderbolt port, ExpressCard slot or USB 3.0 port. The downside is that most of these solutions have severe limitations on them such as an external monitor and power supply that limit the portability of them.

Missing Cables

Most peripherals such as printers, cameras and digital audio players come with the necessary cables to connect it to your computer system but every once in a while a company decides to leave this out in order to reduce the cost on the product. If you happen to get such a product, do not worry you will be able to use it just make sure to note what type of cable it requires before you head out to the store to get it. For example, some printers use the USB A to USB B style while a camera might use a USB B to USB mini. You do not want to have to make multiple trips if you get the wrong type.

The length of the cables supplied can also be an issue. For instance, most tablets use USB cables for charging and syncing to computers. The problem is that the tablets generally come with cables of three feet or less in length. Most people tend to need cables over this length in order to charge them via the power adapters that reside under desks or behind furniture.

Another issue with cables is that many retailers charge much more than they should on peripheral cables. This has to do with the margins on products is very slim, so they tend to use cables and extended warranties to make up the funds. If you cannot find an affordable cable at a retailer, try online with a retailer such as Monoprice or Amazon for just about any cable or adapter imaginable at very reasonable prices.

Finally, many people want to have additional cables for their devices such as tablets. This allows them to keep a cable hooked up to their PC for syncing and backing up and also having a cable to keep with an AC adapter to charge it when away from the computer without having to constantly remove and plug in the cable between multiple locations.

Where is That Port?

Since the introduction of USB, the number of devices that rely on this simple interface has exploded. Keyboards, mice, game controllers, printers, scanners, smart phones, tablets and external flash drives all rely on this type of interface. The interface is so ubiquitous that pretty much every computer should have a few. Desktops tend to have between six and eight which is often enough but many laptops now may only have one or two.

What if you do have USB ports but they are all in use? USB was designed to allow for expansion off the root ports with a device called a USB hub. This is generally a box with a USB A uplink port that goes to a port on the desktop or notebook and then supplies four or more ports. This can greatly expand the number of ports that a computer has available. When looking for a USB hub, try to look for a USB 3.0 high speed certified hub to ensure compatibility with the highest speed devices. Even if you don't have USB 3.0 ports, they are still backwards compatible with USB 2.0. If you happen to have a USB 3.1 with a Type C connector, be sure to look for a compatible hub as well.

Now there are two types of USB hubs: bus powered and AC powered. This makes a difference because some peripheral devices require a fair amount of power in order to run over the USB port. Such devices require a root port on your PC or a AC powered USB hub. So, check to see if you need powered ports or not for your devices before purchasing the hub for your computer.

Insufficient Memory

Even though memory is much more affordable than it has in the past, the software requirements keep increasing. This isn't as much of a problem now even with new budget systems but older computers trying to run new software are likely to encounter such a problem. If you happen to be noticing a slowdown with software it could be that you need more memory.

The solution in both of these cases is very simple: a memory upgrade. A little work needs to be done ahead of time to make sure you are purchasing the right type and amount of memory for the computer system. Check out the Computer Memory Upgrades article on how to get the proper memory for your computer. Once the memory is purchased, be sure to look at the Installing Desktop Memory or Installing Laptop Memory tutorials on how to properly install the RAM.

Another similar issue can happen with smart phones and tablets. In general, they have a very limited amount of storage space that can be as small as 8GB. If you intend to carry around a number of 1080p high definition video or large apps, this space can quickly be used up. If you have such a device, you may be in luck and have the ability to add extra storage space in your device if it has an SD or micro-SD card slot. These are inexpensive flash memory cards that can be used for extra storage space. Not all tablets have these ports so be sure to check your model to see what type of cards it can support and at what capacities. This is relatively inexpensive with 64GB cards costing as little as $25 and much less for smaller 16 or 32GB capacities.