Laptops Under $500 That Still Pack a Punch

Laptops Under $500 That Still Pack a Punch

There are some very fast computers in the under $500 price range. These laptops are perfect for internet use, streaming video, word processing, basic photo editing and organizing and other day to day tasks.


2017 Lenovo 320 15.6 Inch Premium Flagship High Performance Laptop AMD A12 up to 3.6 GHz, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, AMD Radeon R7, WiFi, Bluetooth, Webcam, HDMI, USB-C, DVD-RW, Windows 10 Home


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This Lenovo has a fast quad core CPU, very fast 128GB SSD hard drive and 8GB of DDR4 memory. It’s got an HD webcam, bluetooth, a very good AMD Radeon R7 video card and a Multi-format SD media card reader for camera and phone memory.



  • Windows 10 brings back the Start Menu from Windows 7 and introduces new features, like the Edge Web browser that lets you markup Web pages on your screen.
  • 15.6″ display Typical 1366 x 768 HD resolution. Energy-efficient LED back-light.
  • 8GB system memory for advanced multitasking
  • Substantial high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run your games and photo- and video-editing applications, as well as multiple programs and browser tabs all at once.
  • 128GB SSD for ample file storage space and faster performance
    Holds a sizeable collection of digital photos, music, HD videos and DVD-quality movies. 5400 rpm spindle speed for standard read/write times.
  • AMD Radeon R7
    Integrated graphics chipset with shared video memory provides solid image quality for Internet use, movies, basic photo editing and casual gaming.
  • Weighs 4.85 lbs. and measures 0.9″ thin
    Balances portability and screen size, so you get a respectable amount of viewing space without the laptop being too cumbersome for practical portability. 2-cell lithium-ion battery.
  • Bluetooth 4.1 interface syncs with compatible devices
    Wirelessly transfer photos, music and other media between the desktop and your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or MP3 player, or connect Bluetooth wireless accessories.
  • Ports: 1 USB Type-C port, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 HDMI output expands your viewing options
    Built-in media reader for simple photo transfer
  • Supports SD, MultiMediaCard, SDHC and SDXC memory card formats.
  • Full keyboard with 10-key numeric keypad
    Type comfortably, input numbers quickly and maneuver through games with ease.


2017 Dell Inspiron 15.6″ HD (1366 x 768) Laptop PC, Intel Dual Core i3-7100U 2.4GHz, 8GB DDR4, 128GB SSD, DVD +/- RW, MaxxAudio, HDMI, Bluetooth, WIFI, Intel HD Graphics 620, Windows 10

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This Dell Inspiron comes with a strong Intel Dual Core i3-7100u 2.4 GHz Processor, 128GB SSD hard drive and 8GB of memory, making it a good laptop for all basic tasks plus internet streaming and basic computer gaming.



  • 15.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) Truelife LED-Backlit Display,
  • Intel Dual Core i3-7100u 2.4 GHz Processor
  • 8GB Single Channel DDR4 2400MHz (8GBx1) SDRAM
  • 128GB Solid State Drive
  • Tray load DVD Drive (Reads and Writes to DVD/CD)
  • Intel HD 620 Graphics with shared graphics memory
  • Media Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC)
  • Stereo speakers + MaxxAudio
  • HD 720P Webcam
  • 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x Headphone output/Microphone input combo
  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit, Standard Keyboard, Color: GRAY


ASUS VivoBook F510UA FHD Laptop, Intel Core i5-8250U, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, USB-C, NanoEdge Display, Fingerprint, Windows 10, Star Gray (F510UA-AH51)

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The ASUS VivoBook F510UA FHD is a beautifully designed laptop, perfect for work or college. Featuring the latest 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U CPU and 8GB of DDR4 RAM, it can handle your everyday computing needs easily. While this computer does not offer a fast SSD hard drive, the installed 1TB drive gives you plenty of storage space.


  • Powerful 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U 1.6GHz (Turbo up to 3.4GHz) processor
  • 14.2″ wide, 0.8″ thin and portable footprint with 0.3″
  • NanoEdge bezel for a stunning 80% screen-to-body ratio
  • 15.6″ anti-glare Full HD display with ASUS Splendid software enhancement, 1920×1080 pixels
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1TB HDD
  • Ergonomic chiclet keyboard with fingerprint sensor
  • USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen1), USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and HDMI
  • Lightning-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi keeps you connected through any congestion or interference



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The Best External USB Hard Drives For Backing Up Your Computer

A good backup is like an insurance policy for your files. If you are infected with a virus, if the hard drive crashes or fails, or if you just accidentally delete your files, a thorough and recent backup can be a life saver.


External USB hard drives come in various sizes, styles and configurations. There are the larger desktop sized hard drives designed to be set up and kept in one location, but be aware these usually require a power cable in addition to the USB cable.  The there are the smaller 2.5 inch external hard drives that are much smaller and lighter and are usually powered via the USB cable itself. These are much more portable and will easily fit in a laptop bag, backpack or purse.

You can see the size difference between the 3.5 inch desktop drive and the smaller, more portable 2.5 inch drive. Desktop drives come in larger capacities, but usually require a separate power supply.


External USB drives generally connect with some type of USB cable. USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 cables are the same size and shape on the end that goes in your computer, and work in the same ports, but USB 3.0 devices are capable of faster file transfer speeds. If  you’re not sure if you have any USB 3.0 ports, look and see if you have any blue USB ports on your computer.

Here you can see the different types of USB connections common in external hard drives.


Blue cables and blue connectors are an easy way to distinguish 3.0 devices and cabled from 2.0 devices. Either way, USB 3.0 drives are backward compatible to work in a 2.0 port, they will simply run at the slower 2.0 transfer speed. Some newer drives may connect with USB 3.1 cables (USB-C) , but your computer needs to have a USB 3.1 port in order to use them.

This chart above from can give you an idea how much storage you need. The estimate is calculated based on average file sizes- professional photographers will use more space per photo for example, especially if they shoot in RAW mode. People will movie collections should know that movies can be in various formats that range in size. But the graphic is a good indicator for the average person’s files.

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This is a USB 3.0 1TB hard drive that works with both Apple MAC OSX and Windows PC’s. It comes with a free trial of WD SmartWare Pro auto and cloud backup software, or you can use the backup software of your choice. It is one of the smaller drives, measuring 4.4 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches and weighing only 4.8 ounces. This is perfect for the average person’s needs and works well for backing up both desktop and laptops. Also available in 2TB, 3TB and 4TB sizes.



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This is another 1TB USB 3.0 external hard drive, but this one is specifically designed to stand up to the rigors of travel. The casing is made of specialized rubber with a custom suspension system to reduce damage from accidents. The drive passed both crush testing and transit drop testing to US military MIL-STD-810G standards. It’s also resistant to being sprayed by water, which should protect against spills. If you are prone to accidents or just want the extra peace of mind, this is the drive for you. Also available in 2TB, 3TB, 4TB and 5TB sizes.


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This 4TB USB 3.0 desktop style hard drive includes an NTFS driver that allows it to be used by both Windows and MAC computers interchangeably. It also includes a 2 port USB hub so you can plug USB devices directly in to the hard drive, including cell phones and tablets. And the ports will work for charging even if the computer is turned off. The hub is especially helpful if the ports on your desktop computer are hard to access or if your laptop computer doesn’t have many USB ports. If you install the Seagate Mobile Backup app on IOS or Android devices, you can back up to this drive from those devices via the cloud. Available in 4TB, 6TB and 8TB sizes.


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8TB of storage space in this desktop drive, but it weighs a little over 2 pounds so it’s certainly made to be left in one place. It connects via USB 3.0 and works with Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 right out of the box with no drivers to install.


Any of these drives will be helpful in setting up a backup system for your personal or business files.


2016 Back to School Cleanup Special


After a school year of  web browsing, term papers, music and movie downloads, and game playing, your computer can use a good clean up before school starts in the fall. I’m offering a deal on total cleanup of your computer. Either a complete Virus and Malware cleanup on your laptop or desktop computer, or a total PC Overhaul.  Either service is now a $80 flat fee, a $20 savings off regular price.

Once it’s all cleaned up, you might want to consider getting a professional backup of your important files.

$20 for 16GB of data, $40 for 32GB of data, $80 for 64GB of data. Those prices include a USB flash drive. pcoverhaul - usb16 You’ve got plenty of time to get your computer cleaned up before school starts in the fall, but don’t wait until the last minute! This special deal lasts until August 22nd.

World Backup Day

Have you backed up your data recently? Every day people and businesses lose huge amounts of
valuable data because they fail to run a backup of their files. World Backup Day is set aside
as a reminder to back up those important files.

If you have files that are important to you and can’t be easily replaced or recreated, you should have some sort of regularly scheduled backup. Hard drives can crash. Computers can be infected with malware and viruses. And your smartphone can be damaged, lost or stolen. Losing irreplaceable and valuable documents or photos with no way to recover them is a nightmare scenario.


No matter how new or secure your smartphone or computer is, it’s important to back up your
files, because even new hardware can fail. Some polls have shown that almost 40% of people
don’t have any type of backup at all, and another 15% only backup 1-2 times a year.

Malware and viruses infect roughly 1/3 of the world’s computers. There’s a whole class of
viruses that will lock your files and hold them for ransom. In most cases, even paying the
ransom won’t get your files back. If you have a current backup, you can completely wipe your
computer’s hard drive to rid it of the virus and restore your files from your backup copy.

The hard drive on your computer can also fail or crash. In those cases you may be able to recover the files by sending them to a professional data recovery lab, but that type of service is expensive. Depending on the exact problem, the cost could be anywhere from $300- $2000 and you may not even get back 100% of the data.

This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.
This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.

Any natural disaster that strikes your home or business can damage or destroy your computer and with it, your files. Fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes can eradicate your data permanently with no chance of recovery.

Computers can be stolen, whether they are laptops, desktops, or even servers. Your data may or may not be valuable depending on who the thief is. In many cases, they wipe the hard drives to conceal who the original owner is before they sell the computer, so even if you can recover the system, your files may be gone.

More than 3 million smartphones were stolen last year- that’s more than 100 smartphones stolen every minute, each day. Another 1.4 million phones are lost every year and never recovered. Smartphones are prime targets for thieves because even more so than computers, smartphones hold loads of personal information like banking and credit card info, photos, emails, and even your whereabouts thanks to GPS location. The thief may be after your
identity or financial information and not your documents or photos, but you’re going to lose them regardless of the motive. Phones are also small and easy to conceal in a pocket or handbag, and they have a high resale value. And the first thing they will do is wipe it clean of all traces of your files.

There are dozens of other things that can happen to your files. A regularly scheduled backup
gives you peace of mind in those situations. There are several methods you can use to backup your files.

An external hard drive.
An external hard drive.

If you’re backing up a computer and have a relatively small amount of data, you can use a USB flash drive. If you have larger amounts of data you probably want to use an external hard drive. External drives are portable so they can be thrown in a laptop bag or backpack. They also allow quick access to all your files at once. There are downsides to external drives though. The drives are affected by all the same things computers are- they can be lost, stolen, damaged by natural disasters, get infected by malware and viruses and they can have mechanical failures. If your data is very valuable you should use more than one external hard drive.

Cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive/Google Photos are popular for both smartphone and computer backups. They give you a small amount of space for free, and can be
accessed from anywhere on any device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, PC, MAC). The problem is, one glitch and your files are gone, because there’s only one copy of your files there. If you accidentally delete a file, that deletion gets synced up to the cloud and there’s no way to get it back.

If you have an iPhone, you can back it up right to your computer using iTunes. This is nice because you only get 5 GB of space in iCloud so all your files may not fit there. Your computer probably has a ton of free space, and an iTunes backup is a complete backup of all your photos, videos, music, documents, SMS messages, call logs, contacts and apps. If you ever lose your iPhone or upgrade, just plug the replacement into your computer, open iTunes and you can restore your entire configuration from your last backup.

A Cloud Backup Service is different because it offers the ability to keep multiple versions
of your files, so if Tuesday’s backup is corrupted or encrypted from a virus infection, or
deleted by mistake, you can get the files back from Monday’s backup. You do have to pay for a
backup service like that, but if the data is important or irreplaceable, it’s well worth the
cost. If you have a large number of files to back up, you’ll find cloud backups are slower than backing up to an external hard drive. And if you ever need to retrieve a large number of files it may take hours or even days to pull them down from the cloud.

A sound backup solution would combine all these methods.

The accepted rule for backup best practices is the three-two-one rule. It can be summarized as: if you’re backing something up, you should have:

  • At least three copies,
  • In two different formats,
  • with one of those copies off-site.

    I use Google Photos to automatically back up photos from both my smartphone and my wife’s phone whenever we are in WiFi range.

I have multiple external hard drives for my most important files, which happen to be photos. These are backed up daily. Everything is also backed up to the cloud via Google+ Photos and Amazon’s Prime storage service. I also burn Blu-Ray discs so I always have a “negative” that can’t be deleted, and store a copy of these with a relative. Both my smartphone and my wife’s smartphone are set to automatically backup to Google and Amazon whenever we have WiFi access.

Whatever method you choose, please be sure you backup your files. If you’re overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start, I’ll be happy to help you out.


CryptoWall 3.0

Simply put, this type of virus is devastating. CryptoWall (and the rest of the CryptoLocker variants) will encrypt (lock) your files and demand a ransom to get the key.


Files affected are usually photos, documents, music, and movies.

So far, there’s no way to crack the encryption (unlock the files) without paying the ransom, and there’s no guarantee the hackers will give you the key even when you’ve paid. The ransom can be anywhere from $400-$600 and with every new variation it’s going up.


The best way to prevent infection is to have a current backup of your files. Once the virus is removed (or once you wipe and reload the computer), you can restore your files. Most antivirus programs can remove the virus, but that won’t help you get your files back.

Amazon Laptop Wizard

I was checking out some deals on for Cyber Monday and noticed this wizard on the laptop and notebooks page.

I've highlighted the things I plan to do with the laptop and on the right, Amazon calculates the specs I need.
I’ve highlighted the things I plan to do with the laptop and on the right, Amazon calculates the specs I need


Just click the “Show Me” link to see the laptops that meet your criteria. A handy way to narrow down the hundreds of choices to the laptops that fit your criteria.

Repair or Replace?

All hardware will fail at some point. The typical lifespan of both laptop and desktop computers is in the 3-5 year range, and according to this study by Backblaze, 90% of hard drives will last 3 years, but after that there’s a 12% chance per year that your drive will die (always keep current backups).

If this is your home computer, you may want to make different choices than if these are business computers. Often you can delay replacing a home computer until a good deal comes along, and you may have other devices to fill the void in the meantime if you are waiting for a repair. But in business, time lost waiting for a repair can offset any potential savings.

So should you repair or replace?

This handy infographic by Lexicon Technologies shows there can be a decent amount of money saved when making the right choice between repairing and replacing broken technology.