How to Buy a Computer to Suit Your Needs

Personal computers have become more and more prevalent over the years. It's safe to say that buying a computer is always easier then building your own. Both methods have their own advantages. This article offers some advice for those interested in purchasing their own computers.


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    Know your computing needs. For example, are you a casual Internet user or a gamer? Think about what you'd like to accomplish on your new computer. Have you been dreaming of starting a new website with Flash? Do you play games online, or do you play the latest retail games when they are released?
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    Choose a computer line that fits your needs now and in the future; don't buy just any computer! If it's an expensive computer, optimized for something such as video editing, and you're not going to use it for editing videos, then don't buy it!
    • "Value" line computers. These PCs are good for checking emails, surfing the web, and word processing, but they are not geared towards much else. Dell, HP (Compaq), Gateway, and other large-volume retail computers offer excellent values for a complete value series package.
    • "Enthusiast" line computers. Computers of this category are suitable for most power-user tasks, multimedia, and casual gaming. Again, Dell and other major brands will be a good choice.
    • "Gaming" line computers. These are best for media creation, workstation publishing, and intensive gaming. Typical tasks that require a fast computer include recording music and making Flash movies. Larger computer builders may not be the best choice, but a few of them such as Dell's XPS line, Dell's Alienware brand name, and Northwest Computers, might be good choices. Most users with needs in this category typically build their own PCs, purchasing individual parts from a computer component retailer such as
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    Spend time comparing the processor speed, memory, hard disk space, video card, and other components and features of each model that interests you. This will help you find the best deal.
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    Look for alternatives. It's easy to miss out on opportunities if you're not looking for them. Do you have friends who are computer savvy? What about your neighbors? Do they build their own PCs? If you're looking for a powerful computer, purchasing all of the components and assembling it yourself is often less expensive than purchasing a package deal. If a friend is willing to help you build your own, it might be a worthwhile experience. Avoid this if all you need is a value line PC, because major brands will often get rid of their older components by bundling them in value line PCs.
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    Check compatibility. If purchasing components to build your own, double check each component's compatibility. For example, if you want to purchase a motherboard with an LGA775 socket, make sure you buy an LGA775 socket CPU. If in doubt, read user comments on products and research the different standards online. The most important compatibility considerations:
    • Motherboard: CPU socket type, graphics card slot type (PCI-E or AGP), and memory type and speed
    • CPU: Intel or AMD, and the socket type (ie: AM2, LGA775, 478, etc.)
    • Memory: Type (DDR or DDR2) and speed (ie: PC3200/DDR400 or PC2-6400/DDR2800)
    • Power supply (often included with a case): how many watts do you need for your components?
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    Purchase your new computer. Major brands such as Dell provide a web-based configuration tool for customizing a PC before you purchase it. This may be a more relaxing experience than being rushed by a sales representative over the phone. If there is something you don't understand when configuring your PC, call that company's sales line for answers.


  • Have the mentality that your computer is going to last 3 years or less, not 5 years or more. After 3 years, either your hardware will start to fail, software will demand more, or you will want more. In the long run, it costs more to repair than it does to replace a computer, so don't invest in a computer to last, invest in a computer to use.
  • Understand that Operating Systems upgrade, disks eventually die, and disk space is never enough later. This means, do NOT buy an enormous hard drive for your computer. Store your data on an external hard drive. This would not only make repairing your computer easier by not worrying about data, but also gives you the security of having data stored separately. Use a hard drive just good enough to run necessary programs,so all you will lose in worst case is your software (much easier to recover than your authored data).
  • Shop around for the best price possible!
  • Always double check the specifications of the computer before you buy it.


  • Never buy the most expensive PC in a retail store. You might think it is the best, but chances are it is not suited to your needs.

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Categories: Selecting and Buying a Computer