Watch the warranty
When working in a small home office environment, your PC is as vital to your existence as food or water. It is your word processor, filing system, address book and if you rely on e-mail as much as I do, it is also your connection to the outside world.
When your computer breaks down, which happens on average every six to eight months, or gets infected with a virus (an occurrence more common than you think), or simply refuses to work, then you better hope the warranty will cover it.
However, warranties are like umbrellas - you forget them until it rains.
If you are like me, when you buy a new device or software package, in the rush to get it working, you toss aside the warranty registration card and the manual, the user club membership form, flyer for free upgrades and the little card telling you to check the mains voltage setting before plugging in your new toy.
Then, when everything is working, you start taking it for granted.
It doesn't matter what the device is, it could be a printer, fax modem, scanner or even the PC itself, when it breaks down, your whole world is turned upside down.
It happened to me recently. The hard disk on my notebook became corrupted, and I was left scurrying through a large pile of papers, which I call my filing system, looking for the long lost warranty card.
My computer came with a two-year warranty, which thankfully still had two months before it expired.
I had to lug my quite bulky laptop out to the service centre in Kow-loon.
I was glad it was not a desktop, which could have meant real trouble given the tendency for service centres to be located in the most remote areas possible.
When the service centre told me it would take at least a couple of weeks to repair the problem, I was absolutely horrified.
I asked if they could maybe speed up the process, but they said no. Then, I asked if it would be possible for them to loan me a computer while mine was being repaired. The very idea left them bewildered.
Eventually, they told me they could get the job done in four working days. Ten days later, after three wasted trips to the service centre, I finally got my laptop back in something close to working order. Perhaps I am overstating my relationship to my computer, but when you spend every day working on it, it does become your baby.
The moral of this story is: You wouldn't spare a cent protecting a child from harm, so why not protect your computer - hold on to the warranty.