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Finding Your Perfect PC

Updated on January 12, 2016
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Nightcat is a confirmed computer addict and likes writing articles to help the tech fearful understand computers and related tech.

You can choose a PC however you choose, but a little research goes a long way.
You can choose a PC however you choose, but a little research goes a long way.

No Tech Knowhow Needed

Even if you have been owned by PCs for years, the rules of the game seem to be changing on an almost daily basis. Add to that that no two experts agree on what you do or don’t need, and you can be ready to go back to a pen and paper. Well, there are commonsense steps that will hold up no matter what you are looking for, no tech knowledge needed.

Please keep in mind that you have to do, in the end, what is best for you. Some people pick based on price, others on looks, others on functionality. I’ve even had friends that shop by brand or computer name. All of that is great, provided you know your new PC can do what you need it to.

This is meant to be a fun guide filled with friendly pointers. I’m no computer guru, so don’t expect debates on HDD versus SSD and in fact I did only the barest research on my new laptop and luckily I got a great machine. But since I don’t want you to rely on luck, I’ll include some friendly tips.

I wrote this article thinking more of the folks I know who are convinced they wouldn't know how to turn a PC on and are almost afraid of them. Don't worry, they don't bite. As always all writing and photography are my original work, if borrowed for 'Net use a link back and credit are appreciated. All videos are included for informational purposes only, if you want credit and a link or something removed, please let me know.

It didn't take much research to find my perfect fit, all I did was ask what processor I'd need, and naturally fell in love with this HP.
It didn't take much research to find my perfect fit, all I did was ask what processor I'd need, and naturally fell in love with this HP.

Do Your Homework, It Won't Take Long

I did a terrible job of this recently, and I got lucky to find help in the store, but this is actually the easiest part if you don’t get bogged down in the details. Some sites sell computers based on needs, such as college students, gaming and business which takes the homework out of your hands.

But some sites also have live staff to help you make a selection. You can also call a local store, watch You Tube videos, read articles, the ways to research are endless. At the very least figure out if you want a desktop, laptop or notebook, or tablet. And make sure you know what you are getting.

Ask too if it will fit your lifestyle. While in the old days we put computers in cardboard boxes and moved them about, if you want portable power, say so. Today’s laptops and notebooks can cover my computer needs which used to be high end but are now considered basic.

Buy or Build?

Find A Knowledgeable Staff

It goes without saying, but as big box stores tend to sell everything under the sun and rotate staff, you take your chances when you hit the electronics department, and you may or may not find computer literate staff and a fair selection. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, if you have done your homework, you may be able to get what you need.

But a stop at an electronics store known for computers may be useful. True, they tend to be busy and you will have to wait at times, but the wait can pay off in knowing you are getting help from folks who know computers. My own example? When my computer crashed I took it to Best Buy.

Not knowing if she could be repaired I was initiallly looking at a low end laptop, just in case I had high repair charges. But when I explained my needs to a Geek Squad member he guided me to what I actually needed.

Had he not done so I’d have bought a low end laptop and been completely frustrated with my experience. So make sure to describe what you need. Don’t just guess like I did. (Assuming that in four and a half years computers had vastly improved, was, well, a mistake on my part.) And take notes if you need to. There’s no shame in going home to do more research then returning when you are ready.

As a simple guide, if all you do is what I do, writing, photo editing and streaming movies online, you need less power under the hood than a serious gamer or a person running more intensive programs. If you aren’t sure, ask.

The Immortal Mouse

Accessories seem to last longer than the computers themselves, something to consider when shopping.
Accessories seem to last longer than the computers themselves, something to consider when shopping.

Sales Tend To Loop

OK, you picked up the Sunday paper, flipped to the ads, and oh, my goodness, this week only you can get the Googly Goo 5000 for two hundred bucks, supplies limited, no rainchecks! First, do you have any idea what this beauty does? At the very least, go to the store's website, you can order from there too, and find out more about it. Watch some You Tube videoss. Ideally, you should research several brands across your price range.

The sale will likely loop around again in a few weeks or months, and it is better to wait sometimes. Can’t wait? Make sure before you buy what the store’s policy is on returns. Some give you thirty days, some just give equal exchange, some refuse cash back on electronics. Know what it is before you buy to avoid getting stung.

Three Rules For Buying A New Computer

Figure Out The Real Cost Before You Buy

I’ve worked retail and I can’t tell you how many angry shoppers I’ve dealt with. You wouldn’t expect to buy bread at the store and get meat and cheese thrown in for free (unless they had a crazy promotional sale going on), so please don’t let yourself get shocked when taxes, accident and repair coverage and everything else you add on make your final costs rise.

Let’s say I found a laptop to cover my needs for $100. Taxes would bring the total to 106.00, not bad. But let’s say I want a two year warranty that covers accidents and repairs and it costs $200? Now my total is $306, quite a difference from the $100 I started at, right?

And if I add in a can of compressed air, screen wipes, a cooling tray and messenger bag, my cost rises. Yes, it’s obvious, but isn’t it funny how we get the initial number of $100 stuck in our head, even as we are filling up our shopping carts?

Ah, The Backlit Keyboard

Not just for pretties, it is ideal for working in low light situations.
Not just for pretties, it is ideal for working in low light situations.

Be Realistic


Even the most expensive and well kept computer won’t last forever. Breaking down the cost over the expected lifespan (four to five years is a good range in my experience) can help you see if the cost is worth it to you. And since there’s no way of knowing how long yours will last, try going with both a low and high end estimate.

Three years out of a $300 computer works out to $100 a year, less than renting one, right? Make it the whole five years and dips down to $60 per year Naturally, if you get a warranty you can be covered for several of those years, though it does raise your per year cost.

Overall, with a little planning, knowing what your uses will be, and what type of machine you are happy with, you should be well on your way to finding the perfect PC for your budget.

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