The Fear of Using Windows – Part 2: Cost of Ownership

This is Part 2 of “The Fear of Using Windows.” Please read Part 1 if you have not already.

There is a lot more to owning and maintaining a PC than just picking one up from the store and plugging it into the wall. I think the overall lifetime cost of a PC should be considered when purchasing new hardware.

Cost of Ownership

Let’s take an average computer user, and look at the cost of owning a Windows-based PC over time. Sure, the initial investment may only be ~$400, but what do you want to do with that computer? Surf the internet? Do school work? Find music for free? Play games?



If you want to play modern games on a $400 PC, than more likely than not, you are out of luck. In order to play games like Crisis, Bioshock, Left 4 Dead or even Half-Life 2, you need to have a semi-decent PC and be willing to put the time and effort to do the driver dance in order to get things working properly.

If you’re a high school or college student, or there will be one using this $400 PC, you will need to have Microsoft Office in order to have full compatibility with your teacher’s own PC. This costs an extra $130 for one license.

Surfing the internet and finding music for free are easy enough to do in this modern era. The only problem is that these come at a price as well, though maybe not one that you see upfront, like buying a CD or using iTunes. When you surf the internet blindly, and when you decide to find free music using the first downloading client you hear about, you open yourself up to a host of attacks that can and most likely will leave your system inoperable.

So, what do you need to do? Why not just take your PC to a Geek Squad employee, and let them do the work of cleaning up your system for you? These types of big-company services can run upwards of $100/hr. That’s right. One whole day’s paycheck just for one hour of service. This starts getting vertigo-inducing when you think about how much time it would take to fix your PC after you’ve downloaded thousands of virus-ridden mp3s from Limewire.

Alright, maybe that’s not an option for you financially. So, you call up your brother’s best friend’s son who is an Experienced or Power User. These friendly college-age students know enough to get by, and may only charge you $20/hr for their services. Say it takes them 5 hours to clean up your system and get you back to the point where you can resume using Limewire and surfing the internet willy-nilly. That’s $100 total.

Let’s see what we have so far:

  • $400 initial PC cost
  • $130 Microsoft Office
  • $100 Tech Support
  • $630 Total

So, $630 still doesn’t sound that bad, right? Well, if you don’t learn how to correct your bad behavior, it’s only a matter of time before you will need to call up your tech support guy and have him come over again. Continuing at this pace, let’s say that every two months, your system becomes unusable. That’s another $100 every two months. And, at this rate, within 6 months, you will either have to face the inevitable choice of buying a new PC, or extending the life of your current one by having a full refresh of the operating system and software you have installed.

For one year’s upkeep and maintenance, it would then cost you:

  • $400 initial PC cost
  • $130 Microsoft Office
  • $600 Tech Support
  • $100 Operating System/Software and File Migration Fee
  • $1230 Total

Wow. A $400 budget PC from Wal-Mart could end up costing you $1230 over a one year period, without having the knowledge level of an Experienced User.

Is There An Alternative?

Every Time You Use an Alternative, One of Clippy's Family Members is Fed to a Stapler.

Every Time You Use an Alternative, One of Clippy's Family Members is Fed to a Stapler.

Everything in a Capitalist society has an alternative. That’s what makes living in the modern world so great.

An Inexperienced User may say something along the lines of “there are other options than Windows?” This is a common misconception that riddles the lives Experienced and Power Users who lend tech support help to friends and acquaintances.

There are two main alternatives Linux and Mac. While I use Linux on a daily basis, I’m not so sure that it is to the point overall that it could be used by your average Inexperience User.

Part 3 of this article will discuss the alternatives to Windows and their pros and cons.

  • Steve

    Good stuff! Looking forward to installment 3.