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Opinionated Dental Hardware Purchasing FAQ

What about Vista?

I cannot endorse this product and/or service from Microsoft.
Please do yourself a favor and obtain Windows XP for all your machines. A full copy of Windows XP can be found at sites like and for $135. Do it. Do not waste your money on the full retail version for $300. If you know a Microsoft employee, they can purchase XP for you for $40 a pop.

What is the most important component? or Where should I really spend my money?

Monitors. Monitors. Monitors.
Buy the best, clearest, brightest monitor you can and spend whatever is left over on the actual computer.

Spend a little on a good keyboard and you’ll be happier than having having 320GB on your Op’s hard drive.

Monitors last for years and years. You spend all your time looking at them. Make sure they are attractive, functional and mounted properly. This is also the part that your patients will see the most.

What is the most important component in the computer itself?

RAM, and in a really distant second place: Processor Speed

RAM is the one thing that can dramatically improve the performance of your day to day operations. Don’t skimp on RAM.

Likewise, you cannot buy a processor today that isn’t fully capabale of running 99.9% of the dental software out there.

What can I save money on when buying a computer?

CPU — the slowest one is still much faster than the minimal requirements of most dental software.

HardDrive — Particularly in OP computers. We store nothing on the OP computers but the operating system and Dentrix. Which comes to less than 20GB’s. But you can’t buy a 20GB drive anymore. Don’t spend money on a HD unless you know you’re going to use it.

What about Macs?

Thanks for asking. I think Apple builds the best consumer desktop and laptop computers available — no matter what OS you run on them. The MacMini is an awesome dental practice computer.

It’s half the size of a tissue box and makes no noise whatsoever. Install XP on it and you have a windows computer that will last years longer than a comparable name-brand pc. Why? Build quality. Component quality. Attention to design and details. Control of the whole manufacturing process not just the main components.

A MacMini starts at $599 + $135 for Windows XP Pro. Our next purchases will be Mac Minis.

What about Dells?

They are fine machines. I’m using one right now. I’ve loved it for years. Almost all of them come with Vista now.

My next purchase will be a Mac Mini.

What about Gateways/Acer? Compaq/HPs? Brand X?

Short term gain for long term pain. Seriously, get a Dell.

What about Macs with OS X?

I hear ya, it’s beautiful. It’s stable. There are very, very few viruses/malware you can get when running OS X. It’s easy to use.

While you are able to run some decent sized practices on the 2 (or is it 3) practice management systems out there on it, you will find that your choices in advanced hardware are severely limited. Advanced hardware would be: digital x-ray systems, intraoral cameras, digital perio probes, etc.

Sadly, the dental world is a windows world, but you can always use OS X at home.

What about Linux?

Sure, I can see the upsides of:

  • Not paying the Microsoft tax for substandard software over and over again
  • Having a computer that measures uptime in months and years instead of hours and days
  • Not worrying about how the front office might browse the internet during lunch and infect the whole network with some nasty virus.

But seriously, see What about Macs with OS X?

What about a computer built by a local shop?

Actually, if you know the people or the business has been around for more than a year. This is a better option than Dell by a long shot. Ask them about custom cases — there are thousands of options. Ask them about making it quiet, you’ll be happier.

Small shops tend to use better components than the big brand names.

What about Laptops?

Only if you’re going to be taking it home each night. And if you do, get the smallest, lightest one they have. People tend to buy the monster giant laptops thinking they are so awesome. It turns out that awesome usually weighs about 15lbs. and that can get heavy — day in and day out.

Look for something less than 5 lbs.

What kind of network should I be installing?

Gigabit. Really, don’t cheap out on the network. You’ll regret it. Once you’ve installed it, you’ll never have to think about what kind of network you should be using again. Imagine the freedom!

Can I use WiFi in my practice?

Probably. Should you? Maybe not.

WiFi networks can be cracked in under 30 mins by kids sitting in a car outside. If patient data is important to you, you won’t be tempted. That said, we offer free WiFi in our practice, but it’s not connected to our dental network at all.

Instead, hire a professional network installing specialist to come string the wires around your office. They can work miracles with hiding the connections. We spent roughly $1800 wiring our small office and it was so worth it.

Should I use a firewall?

Only if you want to keep your patient data to yourself.

Can I connect to my practice from Home?

Yes. If you can’t figure it out yourself. Try services like or

Can I use Internet Explorer?

Sure, use it to immediately go to and download FireFox. Right now. Do it.

Even the Office of Homeland Security has advised people not to use IE because of security issues.

How can I keep from getting viruses?

Either pay a lot of money for one of the big name anti-virus systems or educate your employees to:

  1. Never ever download an attachment from someone they do not directly know, even then…do you really need to see that kitty video?
  2. Never ever click on a banner ad. I don’t care how tempting it looks, how much it shakes around or how alerting it may seem. (see, if you had FireFox you could install an adblocker (for free) that would block those things anyway)
  3. There is no #3.

Posted in Digital Office.

One Response

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  1. darkpixel says

    On the Vista comment, you mention going out to buy Windows XP.

    If you are a larger company, consider signing up for the Microsoft ‘eOpen’ license.

    You can get eOpen with or without ‘Software Assurance’. Software Assurance means you pay a fee every 3 years to MS, and you automatically get the newest versions of the software.

    Even if you don’t have Software Assurance, the ‘eOpen’ part of the license gives you a lot of flexibility.

    I work for a dental company that has about 100 computers. If we buy a machine without eOpen licensing and that machine dies in 4 years, we have to buy a new machine, and new copies of Windows and Office.

    With eOpen, we are legally allowed to transfer that copy of Windows and Office to a newly purchased machine. In other words, you can purchase bare machines and load your copy of Windows and Office on it. You also get 1 CD key from Microsoft that works for all your computers.

    Combine the eOpen copy of Windows with a tool like nlite and you can build an automated reinstall CD. It now takes me less than 30 minutes to wipe and reinstall any one of our PCs. (Reinstalling Eaglesoft takes a few minutes longer because retarded Patterson can’t figure out how to make a silent installer.)