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Buying a New Computer - Do's and Don'ts

Updated on March 14, 2012

I need a new computer.

When you decide that you are going to buy a new computer system, a lot of questions might come to mind. Are you looking for a laptop or a desktop? Well, that depends on how you plan to use it. Do you need to use this computer in multiple locations or would it be OK for it to remain in one location. What do you plan to use this computer for? What kind of specifications or abilities do you need this computer to have? Are you going to use it for high speed applications or for large amounts of storage or both? Also consider who will use this computer. If a child is going to use it, you may want to consider a system that offers parental controls, and maybe an extended warranty period. After you answer questions about your needs and intended uses for this product, you can narrow your questions down to; how much can you spend, and where should you go to make your purchase? The question of how much you have to invest in a system is one that depends on your individual circumstances. I know that you want to get the computer that best fits your needs for whatever amount you invest. Where you should look for the best deals depends on your situation as well. If you have access to the internet, you can find multitudes of options as to where you can spend your hard earned cash. Here is a site that contains a lot of useful information on the subject < >. The key here is to understand what the specifications of each individual computer mean in terms of capabilities.


What to look at.

I’m going to do some of the foot work, so you’ll have a better understanding of what you need, to get the job done and where to find it. What does 2.2 GHz CPU, 180 GB HDD, 2 GB RAM, mean. Well, 2.2 gigahertz (GHz) CPU refers to your central processing unit or processor, which determines the raw speed of your computer. Basically, how fast your system can compute information. Now, 180 GB HDD means that this model comes with a 180 gigabyte (GB) Hard Disk Drive; this is the area where your files and programs will be stored. If your system has 2 GB RAM, this means that the system has 2 gigabytes of memory that it can use to execute your commands and run your programs. The more RAM you have the smother and faster your system will run and execute programs. The higher each of these numbers is the better. You may also find many other items listed that are confusing to you, like DVD+RW or CD-RW. Recordable DVDs and CDs can be written to, and accessed if your system has a DVD+RW drive, but can only use CDs if it has a CD-RW drive. If it has a DVD-ROM it can read CDs, and DVDs, but it cannot burn them, and CD-ROM can only read CDs. Keep an eye on the speed of the drive as well, an 8X writing speed means that a 2 hour movie would take 1/8th of the playing time of that movie, or 15 minutes. You may also see USB specifications listed, which are Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports. USB ports are used to connect many devices to your computer, things like cameras, flash drives, MP3 players, keyboards, printers, etc. Most systems come standard with USB ports, but it’s something to be aware of. You may also find information about the monitor that accompanies the computer. If it has a 15” CRT it’s a fifteen inch Cathode Ray Tube monitor, which are less expensive but can cause eye strain and aren’t very energy efficient. A 17” LCD is a seventeen inch Liquid Crystal Display monitor that offers better picture quality and is more energy efficient than a CRT monitor. There are also 17”PLASMA screens available, and are even better still, but they cost quite a bit more too. Keep in mind that LCD and PLASMA monitors are generally smaller, not in picture size, but in overall size, than CRT monitors. These are some of terms you may have to come to terms with when inquiring into which computer to purchase. Here are a couple of websites that I visited during my research on this topic < >, < >.


Laptop or Desktop?

When deciding on whether to get a laptop or desktop, you must consider the price difference between the two. A laptop can be as much as two or three hundred dollars more than a desktop with comparable abilities. How bad do you need mobility? Is it worth the price? You should also consider, that pretty much uniformly, desktops have more upgrade options and are easier and cheaper to upgrade than laptops. With a laptop you have to worry about the battery, and the inconvenience of having to charge it every few hours. In my personal experience it seems that laptops don’t last as long as desktops either, but I’m not an expert on the subject. I have, however, owned many laptops and desktops and in my experience I have had trouble with two laptops within eighteen months of purchasing them. One of them completely crashed at about 2 years and had to be repaired the other made it three years or so. On the other hand, I have a desktop that I bought in 2001 that hasn’t given me much trouble; I’ve had to restore it twice, which is just a matter of running a simple restore program that came standard with the computer. I also have a desktop that was originally designed for Widows 98, which I upgraded to XP that is working just fine. It seems faster than my newest computer, which is running Windows 7, and by the way, it hasn’t given me a bit of trouble either. Don’t get me wrong, I love laptops, they sometimes are a must, and are always more convenient than a desktop in the matter of mobility. I leave it up to you to decide which is best for you and your situation.


High speed applications.

If you intend to use this computer for higher speed applications, you will need an overall faster configuration, which also costs more. For faster performance you will need a combination of RAM and processor speed. In today’s market you should expect somewhere between 2 to 8 GB of RAM and a compatible dual-core 2.X GHz processor, on the low end of the spectrum. These are a fairly standard configuration right now, but keep in mind that the IT industry changes at an astounding rate and this may not be the case next month. You should probably do your own research at the time you are planning to make your purchase. Maybe, you plan to do a lot of archiving, then you would need more overall memory; another added cost. Memory in this context is the hard drive; 180 GB is a descent starting range by today’s standards. What size monitor do you need? If you plan to use this computer for extended periods of time you may want to consider a larger monitor to minimize eye strain. Keep in mind that if you have a digital camera or other device that uses a memory card you may want to look for a computer with a card reader installed that corresponds to your type of memory card. Most systems come with a DVD burner so you could make slide shows or movies from your images or videos. For me, when it comes to laptops specifically, having wireless networking capability built in is a must. Of course, you’d need a modem with wireless capability, to go with it. There are many things to consider when deciding what your needs are and which system most closely fits those needs.

Who is it for?

Who will use this computer? If you will be the only one using it you may only consider what you intend to use it for, and how you will treat it. If others will use it, their intended uses might be considered, along with your own. I think at least exploring the idea of purchasing an extended warranty is a good idea anyway, especially if it must endure multiple users, because it will run a higher risk of needing repair within a shorter span of time. The ergonomics of the keyboard and mouse may also be of concern to many buyers. The monitor size and quality may be an issue you need to consider. These are just some idea to use to help you get the most from your investment.


How much to spend.

How much you can spend is something you must decide on your own, but I’ll tell you that you get what you pay for. Shop around and plan for the purchase, don’t just go out and buy the first computer you see. I made that mistake when I bought my first computer, which only had a CD-ROM drive. Two weeks after I bought it, I saw the same one, only with a bigger monitor and a CD+RW drive on sale for less than I gave for mine. So if I were you I’d check out the sales.

Making the purchase.

Buying a computer is a somewhat significant investment, and deserves some thought. I’ve tried to present some useful information that will help you make an informed decision. Here is another site that you might check out for information, it is somewhat out dated, but it is a good example of how quickly the computer market is changing. . Do; think about what you want it for. Do; consider where you will need to use it. Do; remember all of those who may use it. Do, shop around, compare prices, look for sales, and make an informed decision. Don’t; end up with a system that won’t do what you bought it to do. Don’t, buy a desktop and then realize that you really needed a laptop. Don’t, pay more than you should.

Thanks for stopping by and reading, leave a comment if you would like, and have a great day.

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    • dmop profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      alocsin, Thanks for reading and commenting. The bad thing for me was that I should have known better, but didn't take the time to shop around, thus I got less for my money than I could have.

    • alocsin profile image


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      This is very helpful for those buying a new machine. Wish I'd seen this hub when purchasing my laptop a few months ago. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • dmop profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      MeanGreen, thanks for reading and for the vote. To answer your question, I am a PC, but honestly my preferred platform is Linux. Have a great day !

    • MeanGreen profile image


      6 years ago

      Voted up and Useful... Are you MAC or PC?

    • dmop profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Well Bob, that sounds like as good a plan as any, thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 

      6 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Dmop...great article! You forgot the one main ingredient in the recipe we old Techno-Dinos always remember: Make friends with a young IT Whiz so he can counsel you! ;)


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