Buying a new PC can be a daunting task for some people, the average home user will not know what the different options mean and when faced with these decisions might end up making the wrong choice and end up with a computer that won’t do everything they need it to do. This guide will help you understand the different options so you can choose the correct PC that meets your needs to ensure you are getting the best value for your hard earned money.
Before you start shopping for a new computer you need to make a few decisions to help you find the right computer suitable for your needs.
- Determine if you want a laptop or desktop computer. See Laptops vs Desktops further down for more information.
- Create a list all the different things you want to be able to do with your new computer – for example, browsing the internet, sending/receiving emails, word processing and storing photos, videos and music. Without this list you will find it very hard to determine which computer will be suitable for you.
- Determine the minimum hardware specifications for your new computer, see Hardware Specifications further down for more information.
- Determine how you are going to buy your new computer. See Where To Buy A Personal Computer further down for more information.
- Buy your new computer. Keep an eye out for my up coming guide “Setting Up A Personal Computer”, which will cover the basics of setting up your computer and maintenance tasks you should do on a regular basis to keep your computer running fast and secure.
Laptops vs Desktops
A laptop computer has a major benefit over a desktop computer, portability – you can take your laptop with you almost anywhere meaning you will have instant access to the information stored on your laptop, however this also makes it easier for someone to walk off with your laptop and your information. Desktops are not portable, but are also a lot less likely to be stolen.
A laptop is generally much more expensive than a desktop computer, and, for the same cost of a laptop, a faster desktop could be purchased.
Laptops are generally not upgradeable and are made using proprietary parts, this means that if your laptops breaks only the manufacturer of your laptop can supply parts to fix it – when your warranty runs out this can become very expensive. Desktops are fully upgradeable and do not use proprietary parts, meaning that the replacement parts are normally inexpensive and can be found in practically any computer store.
There are a lot of different options when it comes to the hardware specifications of a computer, once you have made your list of things you want to do with your computer you will be able to determine the minimum hardware specifications of your new computer, normally the best way to do this is to talk to a specialist and give them your list of things you want to do with your computer. The main hardware components you need to look at are the CPU (processor), RAM (memory) and HDD (hard drive).
Processor – Determines how fast your computer can process information.
RAM – This is the temporary space the computer uses when accessing your programs and information stored on your computer. This can be thought of as a desk, the information you are currently working on is put on the desk and is removed when you are finished. The more RAM your computer has, the more information you can access quickly at the same time.
HDD – Determines how much information you can store on your computer.
For basic tasks, such as browsing the internet, sending/receiving emails, word processing and storing photos, videos and music, a computer with at least a dual-core processor, 2GB memory and an 80GB hard drive would be suitable, depending on how many photos, videos and music files you have – the hard drive capacity might need to be increased.
For more advanced tasks such as gaming you will need to look at a fast processor, more memory and a separate graphics card – refer to the minimum specifications for some of the games you would like to play to get an idea on the sort of hardware specifications you will need.
Where to Buy a Personal Computer
There are a few different ways to buy a new computer, below is a list of the most common ways people buy computers.
- Buying a computer form an electronics store or department store (such as Dick Smiths or Big W in Australia). This is possibly the most common way the average user will buy a PC and is also the worst way to purchase a computer. These types of stores generally do not have staff with a good knowledge of computers, therefore they cannot really help you make the right choice and cannot offer good after purchase support. Avoid this option where possible.
- Buying a brand name computer from a manufacturer over the internet (such as Dell or HP). This is a relatively good option however you cannot look at, apart from pictures, or test drive the computer before buying it. You can normally get good advice when buying online by calling the sales team or searching for reviews on the internet. After market support is reasonably good with this option, they will have a dedicated technical enquiry team and will normally have a local service representative who will normally do house calls.
- Buying a custom built computer from a computer store (such as Principal Computers in Australia). This is a good option and will allow you to get great advice and buy a computer that fits your needs. You can sit down with a specialist and discuss exactly what you need your computer to do, it is also generally cheaper than buying a brand name computer and they will provide great after purchase support.
- Buying the individual hardware components and building the computer yourself, this is only a good option for those who already have good knowledge of computers. If this option interests you please look out for my up coming guide “Building Your Own Personal Computer”.