Pulling out the power cord from an awake computer can put the machine at risk for hard drive failure. Interrupting a hard drive writing process could result in a mess of data all over the digital space. The ideal way to shut off a computer should always be the "Shut Down" option in the OS. If the computer is locked up, find a reset button or hold the power button for a few seconds before attempting to touch the power cord.
Richard is wondering if pulling the power cord on a computer (while it is on) hurts the machine. Leo says it is risky because if the computer/hard drive is in the middle of a writing process, pulling the plug could spew data all over the hard drive. Not to mention, physical damage could occur during the interruption as well. It is only okay to pull the cord when the computer is frozen solid and locked up. Unplugging is only a last resort, so always try to hold the power button first before attempting to cut off the power.
Barbara has an old Gateway computer that's finally given up the ghost. So what should she get? She wants to be able to rip her husband's albums and burn the music to CD, so she'll need a computer with a CD burner.