With Windows 8.1 newly released and the holiday season looming, I’ve been thinking about helping my mom upgrade to a new PC. It’s tempting to just pick out something I like and hand it over. But even Santa needs a few parameters sometimes.
So I sat down and talked to my mom about what she wants and needs in a PC. I also looked at her current PC situation. I may have given up the element of surprise, but having these conversations up front made it easy for me to match Mom up with a PC that was the most appropriate, comfortable, and enjoyable for her to use.
What do you want to do with your PC?
As a Microsoft employee, I use 3-5 different PCs every day. Some have to stand up to the demands of my professional life, and others I use to unwind with a movie after work, or manage my music collection. My mom, on the other hand, is happily retired. She didn’t know a RAM from a rom-com, but she didn’t have to when I showed her this checklist of common activities.
If you want to…
…your PC needs:
Store and edit photos
Sufficient memory (RAM) and hard disk space for photos
Store and edit videos
Sufficient memory (RAM), hard disk space, and a graphics card for video editing and storage
Browse the Internet, use email, and do some social networking
Sufficient processor speed and memory (RAM)
Listen to music and watch TV or DVDs
An optical drive with DVD read/write capability; quality speakers
Use the PC wirelessly
A wireless card
Play games online
Sufficient processor speed and memory (RAM), a video card, and ports for game controllers
Video chat online
A webcam; sufficient processor speed
Mom isn’t DJing wedding receptions or fighting the zombie apocalypse with other gamers, so her PC needs are relatively simple. But she’s been using a Windows 7 PC for a long time, and I piqued her interest with several Windows 8.1 apps she wasn’t familiar with:
Where do you want to use your PC?
My multiple PCs include a classic desktop, a laptop, a Surface tablet, and my newest acquisition—an all-in-one with a touchscreen monitor that I use at the office. I have one of everything! But if your parents are only using a PC at home, a desktop might be sufficient. If your mom or dad plans to use the PC throughout the house, or elsewhere—like at a coffee shop or on vacation—a laptop or tablet might be better.
Space is a consideration, too. Mom downsized to a much smaller house when Sis and I left the nest, but then she set up her “home office” on a makeshift desk in the bedroom closet. She has a desktop and a large tube monitor crammed in there, and her chair is a bamboo end table she placed in front of it. When I pointed out that she could use a laptop anywhere—like sitting comfortably on the couch—she knew she’d enjoy that a lot more (plus, it’ll free up that closet!).
Getting a feel for it
It’s easy to research and purchase a new PC online. But for an older parent, I’d also recommend going to an electronics store with them, so they can get up close and personal with different PCs. Some questions to ask while you’re doing so:
While you’re shopping, think about other accessories your folks might need:
More decision-making tools
If you’ve already had these conversations with your parents, and gone to the store to check out some PCs—or, if you can’t do that because you live 1,000 miles away—we can still help make choosing easier.
If your parents already know roughly what they want, try these resources to compare and research the finer details:
Feeling overwhelmed? That’s okay; we have a tool for that too. The PC Selector is like filling out a magazine quiz to match yourself up with your Windows 8.1 BFF. (It also asks questions that can be sensitive to pose to a parent, like how much they might want to spend on a PC.)
When it comes to parents and PCs, it can feel like you’ve been drafted as their personal support tech. But with some advance planning and exploration, you can help Mom and Dad, Meemaw and Poppy, or Great-Aunt Olga find the perfect PC that does everything they need it to.