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How to buy a computer that's right for you

Updated on September 25, 2009

A new PC?

Inside a computer's disc drive. The disc itself has been removed and is on the right. It's normally mounted on the motor spindle - the silver circle in the centre of the circular depression in the drive.
Inside a computer's disc drive. The disc itself has been removed and is on the right. It's normally mounted on the motor spindle - the silver circle in the centre of the circular depression in the drive.

Where do you get the best computers in town?

The real answer to this is... there ain't no such thing!

To get the computer that's right for you, you need to decide what you want to do with it and then find a machine that will do what you want. You can get one that does it adequately or you can pay more and get one that does it superfast - but that's your choice. You can also opt for additional features that maybe you don't really need but think you might like, such as watching blu-ray videos :)

If you find trying to decide all this is too hard, go to your local independent computer store. Don't go to a big chain - they'll generally just sell you what they want to shift that week. Ar a local store you'll generally get good, honest advice. You'll pay a little more but if you get problems later, they'll fix them quickly and without fuss. The extra is worth paying because you'll get better advice and better service - and you'll have less hassle.

If you have particular needs, they'll build you a machine to order to do just what you want and set it up to work the way you want it. When you buy a machine from a big chain, it will arrive in boxes. You'll need to unpack everything and connect the various bits together. It's not that hard but some people do find it daunting. Some chain stores will unpack & install it for you for a charge and almost all independents will - but the latter will take a little more time over it and get you started. The big operator's engineer will leave as soon as he's seen everything powered on OK (don't blame him - it's what he's paid to do!). Usually, you have to go through the initial startup procedure yourself and you're then left staring at a new desktop with little idea of what to do next. More importantly, the default settings are wrong for most people (unless you get a Mac :). A local shop will deal with all that for you if you ask them and give them a few bits of information so they can set things correctly for you.

Alternatively, if you know exactly what you're doing and just want the best value PC, one of the big mail order companies may be just what you need - but still beware of the after-sales service if something should go wrong. Fair enough - you're paying a low price and you're getting what you paid for!

Some help with choosing and using a computer

Windows XP For Dummies
Windows XP For Dummies

Like almost all the books here, this is one of the "for Dummies" series. That's because, for this type of thing, they're pretty good.

Ubuntu Linux For Dummies
Ubuntu Linux For Dummies

The latest version of Ubuntu Linux is almost totally ready for anything out of the box. It's fast, reliable and, with the NoScript plugin added to Firefox (which is pre-installed), almost totally secure. You do NOT need anti-virus software with this.

It comes with the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird or Evolution email clients and Open Office 3 all pre-installed. Open Office is now fit to take on MS Office and is a pleasure to use.

Ubuntu Linux is easy to use and adding extra software packages to it (most of which are free) is a doddle. However, some things you may need help with - for example, it won't play many videos out of the box. This book will help you deal with such issues in a few minutes.

Linux For Dummies 8th Edition
Linux For Dummies 8th Edition

Generic help with Linux for those who prefer a different distribution to Ubuntu.

Switching to a Mac For Dummies (For Dummies (Computers))
Switching to a Mac For Dummies (For Dummies (Computers))

Fed up with Windows? Not sure you can handle the techie stuff in Linux? Then consider a Mac. Apple say it does everything you need "out of the box" and for many people this is probably true. And it will do it quickly, securely (hidden underneath the hood there's FreeBSD Unix, one of the most secure operating systems there is) and without dozens of options to worry about. It comes with most - if not all- the applications you're likely to need.

If you're planning to buy or change your PC and haven't considered a Mac before, you should!



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