Buying Guide for PCs – A Primer

356299634_b9f0d73b86_oBuying a computer can be a scary situation for people who are not regularly involved in computers.  I have plenty of family members and friends who come to me for advice on purchasing computers.  Often they come to me expecting me to say: “go buy x computer, its the best”.  Unfortunately that is not the case with computers, there are so many different parts and ways to use a computer that what is best  for one is not best for someone else.  It is very rare for myself to find a deal so amazing that I can recommend just one product to everyone, usually I have to explain in detail how to understand a computer and why something is good.

This happens so often to me that I have streamlined a simplified buying process for people.  Each step can have an infinite amount of detail so I am just going to outline it here and maybe follow up over time with even more details.

Do You Actually Need A Computer

Sometimes I fall into this trap.  I like having the latest and best when it comes to computers.  Not only do I get bragging rights, I feel like this helps me do my job better.  The truth is that I spend a lot of money on my computers and even more upgrading them all the time.  This is something that most people do not do, and most people do not have the money to have a computer capable of doing everything at all times.  Making sure you need a computer, or need a new computer, is very important.  You don’t go and purchase new furniture just because you have last years model, so you shouldn’t be purchasing a new computer just because your computer isn’t brand new.

Why do you need a computer?  Is your computer no longer performing sufficiently?  Is it crashing all the time, or does it take hours to do what should only take minutes?  Any of these reasons are good starting points for a new computer, sometimes a simple tune up will solve your problems, but unless you have access to a techie person for free, this can be more expensive than a new computer.

Define Your Needs

What do you need in a computer.  This can actually be one of the most difficult parts of buying a new computer.  If you have piles of money then just go buy the top of the line computer and be done with it, otherwise, you should think about what you do with your computer and compile a list.  This list will help to define exactly what tasks you perform with your computer.  Potential activities include:

  • Accounting
  • Internet
  • Word Processing
  • Games
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Work

Each activity will require a different amount of effort from your computer.  For example, a gaming computer will require a high end graphics card.  A computer for word processing will require a comfortable keyboard and monitor.

Remember to rank these activities from most to least important.  This allows you to balance the desire for the features against your willingness to actually spend money.

Needs = Features

This is where you turn your list of needs into a list of features.  With a list of features from most to least important, you will be able to go to the store and buy a computer without overspending.  Also, you will be less likely to pad out the sales persons commissions by purchasing the wrong computer.  The first step will be to look at your software and look at the recommended hardware requirements.  This is a good place to start for setting a basic requirement.  Other activities that will affect your requirements will be:

  • Internet, are you wanting portability?
  • Word Processing, keyboard is important, make sure it is comfortable
  • Games, graphics card
  • Pictures, big enough hard drive
  • Videos, huge hard drive, fast processor if you don’t want to spend your entire life waiting for videos to finish processing
  • Run lots of different programs, memory

Now that you have a bit of an idea of what you really need in your computer, you are less likely to be misled by a sales person.  Your buying experience should be far smoother and you will likely be much happier afterwards.

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