Choosing and Buying a New Personal Computer

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.

  1. Determine if you want a laptop or desktop computer. See Laptops vs Desktops further down for more information.
  2. 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.
  3. Determine the minimum hardware specifications for your new computer, see Hardware Specifications further down for more information.
  4. Determine how you are going to buy your new computer. See Where To Buy A Personal Computer further down for more information.
  5. 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.

Hardware Specifications
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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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”.

Top Rural Area High Speed Internet Providers

Rural USA. Ah yes, the great wide open doors. The smell of fresh, clean air. Clear blue skies and open country. Freedom. Peace and quiet. What’s not to love? Some people enjoy the distance they have from technology by living in the country. Sometimes not knowing what is going on out there can be more peaceful. Others develop the interest of keeping up on current events or staying more in touch with their community, family, and friends. The fastest and easiest way to stay connected is high-speed Internet service. More and more people also use the Internet as a source of income. For some the Internet isn’t just a luxury- it is necessary. People have home based businesses, go to school online, work part-time from home, or one rising trend many people are finding success is buying and selling on eBay.

For some, the economy has forced them to move out of the city and look into other more affordable areas to live. Lower mortgages, affordable school costs, and cheaper taxes can make rural areas a more attractive place to live. Quality of life seems more attainable with lower financial burdens. Once a place is established getting the lights and gas turned on is a no-brainer. Setting up mail forwarding is easy. Next on the list: high-speed Internet service. Sometimes not so easy. People in rural areas often have difficulty with this. They can’t find anyone that provides high speed rural Internet service in their area.

Local phone and Internet providers service areas where they can remain profitable and stay in business. If there is not enough people living in a centralized area it might not seem attractive for an Internet provider to provide rural Internet in that area. Sometimes people are just on the “cut off” of where a provider starts and stops their coverage. Someone’s next store neighbor may have high speed DSL Internet but when they call for an appointment they are told they do not service the address because they are too far away. Even though they are right next door. Finding rural Internet providers is not easy.

Satellite television providers such as DISH Network and Direct TV are popular in rural areas because cable companies don’t always reach to the area. Direct TV usually works with local Internet providers, if available, and can sometimes provide a bundled service or a “Direct TV Bundle”. DISH Network previously partnered with rural satellite Internet provider Wild Blue, and at one point, could provide bundled TV and Internet service or a “DISH Network Bundle”. The company that owns DISH Network, EchoStar recently teamed up with rural satellite Internet provider giant, Hughes Net, and now the two are teaming up to provide both high-speed rural Internet through Hughes Net satellite Internet and TV service through DISH Network. Hughes Net and Sky Blue are the rural Internet providers for remote, rural, and country areas.

Some people go wireless. Also called an “air-card”. An air-card is a little USB device that hooks into your computer or laptop. These work great if you have enough signal strength. The downside to air-cards is they use the cellular network and function on signal strength, which is not always strong or consistent in remote areas. There are also monthly limitations, restrictions, and overages on air-cards for rural Internet.

When local providers such as Charter, Comcast, Verizon, or ATT don’t service the area as rural Internet providers and air-cards aren’t working cause of the signal strength, speed, or usage restrictions, satellite Internet services these country areas and is usually the only option for rural Internet. Satellite Internet providers such as Starband, Wild Blue or Sky Blue, and Hughes Net provide high-speed rural Internet to un-served areas of the country where DSL and cable Internet do not reach. Rural Internet providers are now available and at blazing high satellite speed.

People and businesses in rural areas enjoy the flexibility of not needing a phone line with satellite Internet. There is no phone line required and because satellite Internet providers Sky Blue and Hughes Net have service everywhere, they are usually the only high speed rural Internet providers. Just like satellite television a satellite dish is installed outside the house and a modem is provided that connects to the Internet. The dish uses advanced wireless signals allowing for a fast high-speed ‘always on’ Internet connection and making satellite Internet the fastest rural Internet providers. A wireless router can be hooked up to provide wireless Internet with a laptop anywhere in the house. People enjoy the flexibility to be able to access the Internet anywhere in the house. Whether it’s in the kitchen, the bedroom, the family room, the den, or even the porch, satellite Internet can also provide rural Internet wirelessly.

Shopping For a New Computer – Understanding Total Cost of Ownership

As owner of a computer repair service center it is quite common to see customers who are contemplating simply buying a new computer as opposed to repairing their existing computer. Many of these customers tend to believe that a $300-400 computer that they’ve seen in an advertisement from one of the big box stores may be the answer to their problem and eliminate their need for service. While it is true that there are some models of new computers that are sold in the $300-400 range the initial purchase price is only one factor to consider when buying a computer. More important than the purchase price is what’s know as the Total Cost of Ownership, or TCO. Determining the TCO of a computer involves adding together the purchase price as well as all of the incremental costs associated with owning it to determine the true cost of the computer to its owner over the life of the machine. Determining the TCO of a computer involves adding together the following:

  1. The initial purchase price of the computer
  2. The cost of service, maintenance and repair work over the life of the computer
  3. The cost of lost productivity during any times that the computer was out of service
  4. How many years the computer can be expected to last for

As you might expect, it is common for computers with very low initial purchase prices to have among the highest Total Cost of Ownership. Accounting people at big firms have understood this for many years which is why you will never see a Fortune 500 company using any of the models of discount computers that you will see on the shelf at Best Buy, Circuit City or any of the other big box stores. Almost every manufacturer (Dell, HP, etc.) offers two separate lines of computers. One line is referred to as their “Business” class computers and the other is the “Home” line of computers. The primary difference between the two is that the business line of computers are built for people who understand TCO. The initial cost of a business computer will always be higher than the “home” line even though the CPU speed, memory and hard drive size may be the same, but you will be getting a computer that is built with better parts: not necessarily faster, but less likely to break down and more economical to service if it does break.

The home lines of computers are built based on an entirely different measurement– mainly that having a broken computer isn’t going to cost you anything. This unfortunately for an uninformed consumer is often not the case; especially once the computer is out of warranty which on new computers is generally only one year. For the do-it-yourself type of computer user who has a good backup system, doesn’t rely on the computer for important business functions and is able to perform their own repairs, the home model computers sold at the big box stores are often a worthwhile option. For everyone else you may benefit from buying a business class machine. You can find purchasing prices and options for business class computers on the websites of any of the major manufacturers, or by contacting your local computer repair service center. Many computer service centers will also have off-lease or refurbished business model computers to choose from as well.