Desktops forum


Best simple computer for seniors?

by jingerheffner / March 29, 2018 12:17 PM PDT

Looking for a good, simple computer to keep seniors (mom and dad) connected. Nothing fancy (no touchscreen) - as old school as possible.

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Clarification Request
That should be a Chromebook.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 29, 2018 12:21 PM PDT

Chromebooks have been around a very long time and if you get on Groupon you often can find one for about 99 bucks. We keep one or more around the office for testing and if a client needs access to the web.

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Desktop? That's the Chromebox.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 29, 2018 1:50 PM PDT
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Clarification Request
have they used computer before?
by James Denison / March 29, 2018 5:51 PM PDT

If not, or very rarely, then start them on a 4-5 year old desktop with Linux Mint, or Zorin OS, or Ubuntu MATE on it. If they have to learn an OS, the process is similar no matter which they go with, and Linux is safer. It will keep them from calling you all the time to help get rid of trojans and virus.

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They've used computer's for years - but...
by jingerheffner / March 30, 2018 11:09 AM PDT

My dad has used computers for years, mostly for email and paying bills. My mom used computers when she worked but hasn't for years since she retired. The reason I'm reaching out is - when their computer died they were talked into purchasing a laptop with a touchscreen - but they just couldn't figure out how to use it - so it just sits there. I think things they're not familiar with like touchscreens, wireless printing, cloud storage, etc., are intimidating to them. It's getting harder for them to keep up with technology and learn how to use new things or do things a different way. I think your suggestions make sense. I'll look into those OSs you mentioned - and look for a slightly older desktop. Thanks!

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A touchscreen here just sits there.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 30, 2018 11:16 AM PDT

We rarely touch the screen as it's just not required. The mouse is used and once you get the browser up, just never need the touch screen at all.

Maybe an OS change will bring it back.

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It just sits there
by jingerheffner / March 30, 2018 11:53 AM PDT

But that's the issue. New functions/new ways of doing things can be intimidating. Not long before my dad's computer died he got a touchscreen phone. He was totally lost. When he got his new computer I let him know (multiple times) that he could just use the mouse. Maybe he assumed he had to use the touchscreen - like with the phone. In any case, a computer with a touchscreen is more than he needs.

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Our touch screen never required a new way to do things.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 30, 2018 12:30 PM PDT
In reply to: It just sits there

It's just a feature. Not used at all now.

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Not Obligatory
by gaucherre / March 31, 2018 11:16 AM PDT

Totally agree. This must be a mindset thing. I mean, we have an older second car that has a cigarette lighter. That doesn't mean we have to smoke. It has a horn, but we don't have to honk it. It has a back seat, but we don't have to sit in it.
Maybe they're old and they just don't want to learn anything new or deal with anything unfamiliar. We have grandkids that try to explain certain new things they are into. It's not so much that we are incapable of understanding, although that's beginning to happen in some areas, it's more that we're not interested. We don't feel these things have any value for us personally even if they insist "everyone's doing it" or " you gotta have this", etc. In fact, the more someone insists, the more resistant i become. Know what i mean?
If it were me, i would take the old pc case and rebuild it inside with new components. Make everything as familiar as possible in appearance and in function. One example: a cranky old friend who hung onto Windows 98 forever then grudgingly moved to XP. He took one look at Windows 10 and said absolutely "no way will i use that!". Well, i happen to have an old pc case from a local company with a sticker on the front "Made for Windows XP". I'm sure you remember those. I received a motherboard for review from an online company, and didn't want to spend cash to buy all new parts. So, i used the old "Made for Win XP" case and some other used parts, then installed Windows 10. Later, i used the pc to play around with Win 10 and installed a Classic menu app (there are several available). This allowed the Start icon/button and Start Menu to look exactly like XP. I also removed all the Win 10 tiles and had a plain solid color blue background just like the old days. I even replaced the browser icon on the desktop with an old familiar one. One day i asked my cranky old friend to look up information about something we were working on. He grabbed the wired mouse and clicked his way to what we needed and, at my request, he copied and pasted the information into Notepad. He even located and saved a couple of photos that would help us. Afterwards, i showed him it was really Windows 10 dressed up as XP. "Well, I'll be darned", he said. He declined to discuss it any further, other than to say he didn't need it ....

All Answers

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Re: computer
by Kees_B Forum moderator / March 30, 2018 1:32 PM PDT

Desktops don't come with screens, touch or not. Only (some) laptops and all-in-ones do.

Any desktop with a keyboard, mouse and screen is just as "simple" or complex as any other desktop with the same OS and settings. The only difference can be the speed.

In fact, at work, I use a laptop with a mouse, keyboard and screen and it's exactly the same user experience as when when we all had a desktop 4 years ago - although it takes somewhat more place on the desk. It's only different when I extend the screen (using 2 screens with different image). But it's something I seldom do, because I don't find that "simple" enough. I'm old school, you know.

So what are you looking for exactly?

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Do they type?
by Steven Haninger / March 30, 2018 2:04 PM PDT

Older people who've used typewriters or full sized keyboards often have a difficult time with the smaller keyboards that come with laptops. What you might do is see if they prefer a full sized keyboard and can, or can learn how to, use a mouse. Then, you might try to pick up a refurbished desktop PC for them. These can often be had for $100-$200. We have a Microcenter nearby us that always has these things in stock. They're available on-line from a lot of places. As well, make sure it comes with an OS that you or another family is familiar with and can offer support. That will be important.

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by CactusPrick / March 30, 2018 6:20 PM PDT
In reply to: Do they type?

A full size keyboard is almost a must. Get a hardwired one so battery life is never an issue. A mouse is much easier for most people to start with vs a touchpad..... so go for a desktop rather than a laptop.

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Full sized KB
by davidroper / March 30, 2018 7:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Keyboard

I just wanted to add, get a Factory refurb desktop for $99, $30 real keyboard with mouse on a tail or cordless and $99 monitor from BestBuy or Staples and put the PC on its side under the desk so you have only the large monitor (for old eyes) and KeyBoard and Mouse on top of desk. Get a Freeware Menu program to make it look like Windows 7 and enjoy Power and large screen for cheap. So who am I? retired 75 year old Hospital IT LAN manager. Pulled cables on dirt under Hospital and built them before Dell did. Using a laptop right now running Win 7 64bit.

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Turn the laptop into a desktop?
by Zouch / March 31, 2018 3:14 AM PDT

Had your parents not been computer literate, like Bob, I would have suggested a Chromebook or Chromebox, on the basis that it takes care of itself with updates, security and the like, better than Windows, though for best results, it does need to be online.

But since they are computer literate, , albeit, your mother may be a bit rusty but it will come back fairly easily, your challenge, if they keep the laptop, is to make it look like the machine that died. Get a bright, fairly big LED flat monitor, a USB keyboard and mouse and set the laptop so that after power up, they can just shut the lid and use the separate Keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Depending what OS they had on the machine that died, if it was some version of Windows, download ClassicShell (free) and install it on top of (presumably) Windows 10 on the laptop, Essentially, it replaces the GUI and you can set it to look like Windows XP 7 or whatever, just as they had before.

Alternatively, you could sell the laptop and buy a traditional desktop and set it up the same way. Basically, restore the familiarity they are comfortable with. Wireless printers usually have a USB connection also if they prefer that but it should make no difference when they go to the print menu, once it's set up.

Good luck helping your parents back to connected world.

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