How to Buy a Computer

When purchasing a computer, there are several key items you need to look for; you need to know exactly what it is you need, and what you can do without, because if you’re not sure you could end up spending hundreds of dollars on frivolous extras that you won’t be needing.

The first question is the simplest, and generally the only one you need to ask yourself; everything else will fall in line once you’ve answered this. And that question is simply, “What do I need this computer to do for me?” What are you going to be doing with this computer?

Computer photo
Photo by

If you’re like me, you’ll only need your computer for simple email, internet browsing, and word processing. I do a little photo editing and the such on the side, but nothing too hardware-intensive. These are the most common tasks people new to buying a computer will be doing. Keeping with these needs, you won’t need too much in terms of hardware; nothing too fancy or complicated.

Buying your computer from an electronics store usually means that’s it’s pre-built and as such isn’t totally customizable. You’re going to need to find something that matches your specifications as closely as possible. To start off, you need to know what kind of processor you’ll require.

and AMD are the two manufacturers of processors; Intel boasts faster speeds and all around higher numbers to impress the general consumer, while AMD packs more performance in their lower speeds. In essence, unless you’re doing heavy gaming or video and multimedia processes, you won’t notice a difference. But be wary of the new, dual core processors coming out. They’re being pushed on people who don’t need them, but since most people aren’t sure of what they want they get lassoed into buying them. Anyone who’s only fundamentally browsing the internet, sending email, and word processing won’t need a dual core processor.

Memory and hard drive space are the next concerns. Again, the question boils down to what you’ll be doing; high-end users will need more than the casual consumer. If you are into gaming and video editing, you will need a fair amount more memory and hard drive space in comparison. But with the new Windows Vista becoming the new default operating system installed on most computers, a bare minimum of 1GB of memory is essential; a hard drive in the area of 40GB should also be a minimum – try and get the most for your money because you can never have too much hard drive space.

A fairly good graphics card is now a must-have due to the Windows Vista incorporation in most computers. Generally, if Vista is pre-installed on your computer, then the graphics card can handle it. If you’re buying your operating system separately, then make sure it is DirectX10 compatible. Windows Vista won’t run unless it is.

Last but not least, the monitor. Monitors are dropping in price rapidly as the cost of manufacturing goes down; a monitor that you would’ve paid some $1000 last year can be found for as low as $300 now. The up-and-coming standard for monitors is easily the LCD technology; the flat-screen, high resolution screens you see everywhere in the electronics stores. The older style are still available, but their size makes them a poor candidate for purchase anymore.

All in all, when buying a computer, the essential question is “What am I going to use this for?” Once you have that answered, all the other components of your purchase fall into place. Just know what you’re looking for and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money you would have otherwise spent being conned into buying a lot of expensive extras.