The cutting edge: Should you upgrade?

Editors note: This is one of several columns that I wrote for the Columbia Missourian. They were originally called Your Digital World

In a little less than a month’s time, two new versions of operating systems will have been released. Apple shipped OS 10.1 on Sept. 29, and Microsoft is expected to launch Windows XP on Oct. 25.

Anytime there is a substantial new operating system released, or a new piece of technology put on the market, many people ask themselves, “Do I need to upgrade?”

If you ask people in the industry, they’ll tell you yes.

Of course they will, just like I’d tell you to subscribe to the Columbia Missourian. They and I have a vested interest in getting you to buy our products.

So what’s the best answer? It’s up to you.

The decision about whether to upgrade will depend on whether your system is performing the way you want it to.

Take, for example, my parents.

They recently bought a new computer. Before that, they had the same computer they bought in 1993. They used it to receive faxes and to run Word Perfect 6.0. Now, being a speed freak, tinkerer, and game-a-holic, I was never happy with it when I lived at home. But for my parents, it was a match made in heaven. My parents only upgraded when the computer stopped doing what they needed it to do – namely boot-up properly.

Most general users will find they don’t need to upgrade all that often.

Find out if the new features of the latest software or hardware are what you need – if not, stick with what works for you.

For graphics professionals and gamers, find out what software you need first. The latest graphic design program or newest game will often require more hardware than what you have. If you need the software, you’ll have to get the hardware it needs.

For everyone, be wary of new operating systems – they often won’t run, or smoothly run, the programs you already have. Check and double-check compatibility and performance issues before taking the upgrade plunge.

When considering an upgrade, see if a new version of what you want is about to come out. Wait for it, grab what you need as its price falls, and you’ll get the best byte for a buck, every time.

Don’t ever upgrade on a whim or an impulse. Buying any piece of hardware or software is a big investment in time, energy and money.

There is a wealth of information about almost every conceivable product on the Internet. Research your potential purchase thoroughly beforehand. Check out the manufacturer’s Web site, but also head to, and other sites that review hardware and software. When in doubt, ask your local geek, or computer columnist. Your goal should be to know more about the product than the guy trying to sell it to you. When you’re done, ask yourself: Is this a product I need, at the time I need it, at the price I want to pay for it?

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
This entry was posted in Technology. Bookmark the permalink.