How to Buy a Computer

If you’re like most people, it probably has been several years since you last bought a new personal computer. Before you wear yourself out looking at different computer makes and models, do your homework.

The first thing you will notice as you start computer shopping is that the price of new computers has decreased. Many home computers start as low as $300 for a new tower, and they will out perform your current system by leaps and bounds.

The primary question you need to ask yourself is, do I need a new monitor? If you can live with your old monitor, then you’ll have more cash to spend on your new computer’s speed and storage. But if you’re old monitor is big, bulky and has a small screen, it’s probably time to think about an upgrade. Most new monitors are flat screens, and will free up quite a bit of desk space.

The next question to ask yourself is, do I want a Windows or a Mac? Both systems provide the same functionality, so either choice is sound. A Windows computer has more software programs available for use. You will also have greater access to technical support with a Windows system, and the price will be lower.

A Mac system will be safer, and have fewer virus issues. Macs are also more stable, have faster processing speeds, and better graphics.

The next factor to consider when purchasing a new computer is processing speed. Most new computers feature at least a 2.0 GHz processor. This sounds impressive, but you have been warned… a 2.0 GHz processor might not hold up well if you’re multi-tasking or running graphics and video editing software.

A 2.0 GHz system might actually perform worse then your current system, even if you’re not using a ton of bells and whistles. Operating systems have become much more resource intensive. If you’re a simple web surfer, a 2.0 GHz system will probably suffice.

Now, let’s consider memory. Just as with processing speed, more memory is better. Purchasing the least amount of memory can create headaches. Again, unless you only expect to use the computer for web surfing, you might want to consider more memory. And if you or your children are gamers, get as much memory as possible.

What about hard drive storage space? If you’re not downloading music or editing videos, then you can safely go with a smaller amount of hard drive storage. Most new computers feature hard drives with hundreds of gigabytes of storage.

If you will be installing a lot of software, or downloading MP3s, it’s best to bump up your hard drive space. Larger hard drives are relatively inexpensive.

Now we come back to the issue of monitors. A larger monitor is better on the eyes. It is best to purchase at minimum a 17″ flat screen monitor. There is no point in purchasing a new monitor if it’s the same size as your current one.

Lastly, consider the software that comes with your new computer. It might be tempting to purchase a system with Microsoft Office already installed. But if you don’t use the Office suite on a daily basis, you are throwing away money.

Here’s the rule to follow regarding installed software… if you won’t be using it on an every day basis, don’t purchase a computer with the software installed. Save your money. There are generally free or less expensive versions of big name software available for download on the Internet. OpenOffice.org offers a Microsoft Office alternative that is free, and compatible with Word, Excel, etc.

Also, you want to make sure that your new system comes with free anti-virus software. Most systems do.

So, now that you’ve done your homework, where do you purchase a new system? Shop online at Dell, Gateway or eMachines. Find some makes and models that suit your needs. Next, compare the cost and features of these models to computers available at your local Staples, Office Depot or Best Buy.

And lastly, before you purchase a system, check popular review websites such as Amazon.com or Epinions.com, and read feedback on the system. It’s not recommended that you purchase a new computer that has less then a 3.5 star rating. Also, avoid newer systems that have very little reviewer feedback.

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