Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Is it Time to Replace the Computers or Can You Wait?

How long is too long to keep a computer? That answer seems to change with the economy and our budgets. Back in the nineties when companies couldn’t spend money fast enough 3 years was the norm. Later the standard was 4 years, now it seems to be 5 or whenever the darn things breaks beyond repair.  It’s understandable but, does waiting too long cost more money in the long run? I think it does.

Why Not Wait?

The first thing wrong with keeping a computer until it can no longer be repaired is it indicates that your company doesn’t have a full technology plan, that you are just winging it. Winging it is cool, especially if you are a fighter pilot or a secret agent but IT managers don’t have that luxury. IT managers require plans. Without plans our employees and users often take matters into their own hands and develop their own policies, independent of each other and management. In other words, without plans we have chaos.

The second thing wrong with waiting to replace computers is the loss of productivity.  Every fix requires time. Even simple fixes, like a memory upgrade can mean significant loss of productivity. True, most techs can replace the memory in any desktop or laptop in under five minutes, including finding the part. Except that five minutes doesn’t include the weeks or even months the user endured poor performance before finally getting enough and asking for help. It doesn’t include the phone call or web request to report the problem or the initial visit from the tech to diagnose the problem.  Total time loss for even a minor problem can be many hours. Multiply that by the number of incidents for an older computer compared to a new one and it’s not hard to justify the purchase.

So When Already?

Now that we agree keeping a computer too long is a poor choice, we are back to our original question. How long is too long. I think, for most companies, beyond four years is too long.  Of course different companies have different needs. If your users are designing computer games or doing research for NASA they should probably get new computers every six months. For most of us though, a three year old computer is probably fine.

Does your company have a full technology plan? If not, take a look at the PRACTICAL IT MANAGER GOLD SERIES.  Asset Management can be quite helpful in creating a hardware plan.

3 must-know table tips for Word users

In this edition of Jeff’s Quick Tips, I’ll share three tips for using tables in Microsoft Word that every Word user in your organization must know.  Feel free to pass these productivity and formatting tips around to your users, your help desk staff, and technical trainers. These tips work the same way in every version of Word.

Tip #1: Repeat header rows on every page, please

If you have a table that spans more than one page, guess what? Your document looks pretty ragged if you don’t repeat the header rows on every page. The steps are simple:  Right-click on the top row (the row that contains the headings you want to repeat on every page), choose Table Properties, click the Row tab, and check the box for the option labeled “Repeat row on every page” and click OK.

Reminder: Click on the screen shots to enlarge them and fully enjoy their lustrous beauty!


Figure 1: This is what your Word doc looks like if you don’t repeat the header row in your table on all pages. Yucky!


Figure 2: Right-click on the first table row and choose Table Properties, then click the Row tab to turn on “Repeat as header row at the top of each page,” then click OK.


Figure 3: This is what your Word doc looks like with the header row repeated on every page. Very professional!

#2 Doctors without Borders are great, Tables without Borders are not

If you have a lot of data in your table, and if you want people to be able to make sense of the information in your table without having to lay a ruler on top of the printed page (or worse, up against the screen!), all you have to do is select the entire table, then click on the Borders tool in the Formatting toolbar and select the All Borders option, and voilà! It’s obvious to the most casual observer where each row begins and ends.


Figure 4: To select the entire table, click the “Select all” icon that appears above the top-left corner of the table when you mouse over it.


Figure 5: On the Formatting toolbar, click the Borders icon and choose All Borders.


Figure 6: Borders make the document easier to read.

#3 When you paste from Excel into Word and the columns go off the page, use “Auto fit to Window”

How many times has this happened to you? You’ve got a bunch of data in Excel. You copy and paste that data into Word as a table, and ka-blam! It doesn’t fit. It runs off the right margin and into oblivion. What do you do, hot shot? Well, if you’re smart, you don’t try to change the width of the table columns manually.  If you’re smart, you right-click on the table, choose Auto Fit and Auto Fit to Window, and bada-boom, it fits! You may have to fine-tune the width of some of the columns, but it’s much, much easier to clean up those column widths after Word has auto-fit the table to the existing margins.


Figure 7: Here’s what my sample Word document looked like when I pasted in four wide columns from an Excel worksheet.


Figure 8: Right-click anywhere in the table and choose AutoFit | AutoFit to Window.


Figure 9: Here’s how my document looks after using AutoFit. It’s MUCH easier than trying to tweak the column widths manually.

How do you like these quick tips?

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