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.

12 thoughts on “What Should You Look for When Buying a New PC?”

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  3. So true man. well written. If I did this that would be what would have said. Good advice. Best Buy employes here don’t even know the difference between a CPU or GPU so you are better off doing some research.

  4. I’d look for XP or linux preinstalled.

    Nothing that even *rhymes* with Celeron.

    Buy the best you can afford if you tend to keep them til they die.

    Is there service? How do you access it?

    Lotsa hd space

    Plenty of resources for the future.

    Does it come with p*rn or do you have to install your own?

  5. Me think anything below core duo should be avoided these dayz.
    Hard drive speed matters to me. I avoid anything below 5400rpm (even 4 laptops if I can get faster drive), NCQ is cool imo but 10k rpm SATA gives more bang for the buck. 😀

  6. Well written and the hardware terms you mention are correct. There is just one thing I would disagree with (I do apologize if it seems minor but)- your local smaller computer shop or local builder can still legally place -without restrictions- XP on a new PC per Microsoft’s own licensing. Also another reason to look online as you mentioned. Yes, if you are only talking Best Buy size stores or the large Tier One builders like Dell- they have been required to move to Vista. One more reason to frequent a small business in your local community. They also tend to be a little more knowledgable and willing to spend the time with you.

    If you go with a couple of the OEM versions of Vista you can installactivate XP on that new machine instead- after contacting MS- and move to Vista at a future date. This is the route I try to encourage my business clients- get the Vista license but install XP. And yes I agree with Stupid Blogger; Home Basic won’t work for a compnay- in fact is it worth it for anyone?

    And as I said as I started this “rant” the RAM, hard drive and other items you mention are spot on.

    And finally yes there is Apple- I have clients that go that route as well.

  7. I usually don’t look for Vista.. I know that most people here might like Vista over XP but I recently bought a Vista laptop and two days later i’ve used it again, and it is just so slow I went out and bought a desktop instead. However what I do look for is how much RPM’S they have in them, as well as how well the graphics are on the computer.

  8. One of the most important things to consider is the computer’s OS. What do you plan on doing with the computer? How much money are you willing to spend? What kind of compatibility issues does a certain OS have with possible hardware?

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