Bill Husted: Computer accessories are worth the money

My father bought cheap suits and expensive ties.

The notion was that the accessory — the tie — dressed up the cheap suit.

So maybe I’m just being a good son when I tell you that, when it comes to computing, the accessories you buy are at least as important as the computer you use.

Today we’ll talk about everything but computers — we’ll take a look at accessories that make a huge difference in how long your computer lasts, how well it performs, how easy it is for you to work and how secure your information is. Even though we are discussing what may seem to be mere accessories keep in mind that I consider these essential items, not options.


The official goal of an Uninterruptable Power Supply — a UPS — is to provide emergency power that lasts long enough to let you shut your computer down correctly when the lights go out. But that’s not the most important thing a UPS does. The current it provides — when the power is on and working just fine — is easier on your computer than the juice you get right out of the socket. Household electrical current typically has a lot of ups and downs. A UPS filters out some of those surges and dips. And that can greatly increase the lifetime of your computer. When you buy a UPS make sure it is adequate for the amount of power your computer system draws. An easy way to calculate that is to use an online calculator like this one:

A backup system

There’s a name for those who use a computer without backing up the data — it’s clueless. If you use a computer long enough something will go wrong and you’ll lose all the data stored on that computer. That’s a big deal. There goes everything you’ve saved — family photos, financial records, all the emails and email addresses for work and from friends, even Aunt Vera’s recipe for meatballs. All that data is worth way more than your computer. A computer can be replaced, but the data you keep can’t be replaced unless you have another copy of it in the form of a backup.

That data is just too important to lose. So you must have a backup. I prefer online backup services such as Carbonite. All my data is saved automatically over the internet. And I don’t have to do a thing — no buttons to push, no work on my part. But even if you prefer using an external hard disk and the backup program that comes with Windows, that’s fine with me. But just do it.

Anti-malware protection

If you took a new computer out of the box, hooked it up to the internet and used it with no protection against malware, it would be filled with viruses and spyware within minutes. That’s how pervasive that stuff is. And some of it is way more than an annoyance. Some can help hackers steal data from your machine, some can literally bring a computer to its knees, totally stopping it from working.

Other malware — and I’ve seen this fairly frequently — can scramble your data so that it can’t be used. Once that happens, the hackers behind the malware blackmail you. You are forced to pay them to unscramble the data. And unfortunately, they did a heck of a good job with the scrambling. I don’t know a soul capable of getting the data back without paying the hackers. And the downside of that is that — well, they are crooks. They may take your money and not help unscramble the data at all.

Look I don’t care about your tastes in suits and ties. In fact, I seldom wear either. But I do care about the accessories that I’ve mentioned here. They do a heck of a lot more than dress up your computer. They can — and sooner or later will — save both your computer and your data.