20 Things They Don't Want You to Know

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You Can Save Big Money on Big-Name Software Packages

OEM: These three little letters, which stand for "original equipment manufacturer," can save you more than 50 percent on key software (see chart at left). Designed to accompany commercial systems, OEM editions have increasingly become available in stores such as Directron and Newegg. These stores are only supposed to sell OEM software with associated hardware--so for an operating system, you'd have to be buying parts for an entire PC. But most vendors let online stores sell OEM editions to anyone who buys a nonperipheral part--even a mouse, for example.

OEM software typically ships without a box, printed manuals, or the tech support you'd get with a retail version. But in return you save some serious coin.

That Dead Pixel on Your LCD May Not Be Covered

Illustration: Dan Page

Some monitor vendors are better than others when it comes to handling minor defects in their products. Any small anomaly in the manufacturing process can result in a dead or stuck pixel--a dot that stays bright or dark no matter what's being displayed. And since a typical 19-inch LCD has nearly 4 million tiny red, blue, and green subpixels, it's no surprise that some vendors balk at replacing a monitor if it has only a dead pixel or two.

But standards are improving. Philips's Perfect Panel guarantee and Asus's warranty for its V6V notebook display pledge replacements if even one pixel is dead.

Most vendors' LCD monitor warranties specify a minimum number of pixels that must be malfunctioning before they'll replace your display. Usually you can unearth a manufacturer's dead-pixel policy by searching its site for "dead pixels" or "pixel criteria." You might also find the policy in a PDF of the monitor's manual.

ViewSonic, for example, will replace a 14- to 15-inch monitor with more than four dead pixels; a 17- to 19-incher with seven dead pixels; and a 20-inch or greater monitor with more than ten stuck subpixels. Dell will replace monitors with six or more "fixed pixels"; NEC requires ten "missing dots." Most makers will also consider replacing a monitor that has a few dead pixels in a concentrated area.

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