What Should You Look for When Buying a New PC?

The other night, I posted a blog post from Dan, with his tips on how to find information. He sent me a second list, and it is definitely something you all should read through. Here are Dan’s tips for how to make sense of Windows computer specs when buying a new computer.

  • SIZE Decide what general dimensions you want and what personal preferences you have. Examples are: laptop or desktop?, screen size?, keyboard size?, physically large or small? It is important to have SOME idea of what you want because a store employee is going to try to sell you the most expensive computer they can.
  • RAM The more stuff your computer does at one time (internet+music+documents+email) the more RAM you’re going to need. Vista (which ships with all Windows PCs now) needs significantly more RAM than XP does, but most of the major manufacturers have added RAM to compensate. If you plan on pushing your multi-tasking ability to the limit (or if you’re going to game) you’re going to need 3 to 4 gigabytes. For a normal user- 2 gigabytes should meet your needs just fine.
  • HARD DRIVE The more pictures, video, and music you want on your computer, the more hard drive space you’ll need. The hard drives are getting really large to compensate for the increase in personal digital media creation. Keep in mind that it’s probably better to keep your valuable data in an external place anyway, so don’t get carried away. (100-200GB is a smaller size, 300-500+ is really large.)
  • PROCESSOR The processor controls almost all operations of your computer, so again, if you’re going to be pushing your computer a lot, get a faster one (2-3GHz). Vista needs 1GHz to run comfortably, but even most laptops have a faster one out of box.
  • Shop Around! There are a lot of brands of computers, at a lot of different prices, found in a bunch of different places. I’d recommend sniffing around a couple of big-box stores, then seeing if there’s anything in online stores that may match you better. A computer is a significant investment that should last you for a long time, so do your homework!
  • Video Cards If you plan of doing any gaming, make SURE you get a dedicated video card (usually ATI or Nvidia). If it doesn’t have a sticker for one of those on the case, then it’s an integrated graphics chipset. In most cases, it’s going to be significantly less powerful.
  • Getting Ripped Off If you go to a large store like Best Buy or Circuit City, be wary of all the ‘But there’s more!’ packages they try to throw at you. Be wary of the protection plans, but get it if you need it. DO NOT buy the security suite they try to shove down your throat, there are much better free alternatives for Windows security out there.