Buying a new computer?

At some point most, if not all of us will need to purchase a computer. This article will hopefully simplify the buying process.

Primary Descisions

  • Purpose – What do you plan on doing with the computer and where?
  • Budget – How much can you afford?

Determining these two factors will eliminate a large portion of the options. Although this is not set in stone I feel some of the harder questions are answered once you answer these two questions.


  • Mobility – If you need to move around get a laptop/netbook otherwise get a desktop
  • Memory – No matter what your purpose get as much RAM as you can afford (No less than 2GB)
  • Storage Space – No matter what your purpose get as large a hard drive as you can afford (No smaller than 500GB)
  • Ease of Use – Apple is considered the most user friendly. Windows would be considered the next most user friendly and then Linux which has made many improvements but is still relatively difficult to use.
  • Programs – Check to see what programs you are going to be using and see if theya re compatible with Windows, Apple, or Linux. If they aren’t compatible with one then you have eliminated it. Most programs are going to be compatible with Windows.


  • Brand – Your budget will help determine if you can afford to get an Apple or if you need to get Windows. Each has their own pros and cons but Apples are typically more expensive and have less free software available.
  • Warranty – Most manufacturers use the same hardware (yes, even Apple) so consider the Warranty more important than the brand if that helps. A 3 year warranty is ideal. Never settle for a 90 day warranty unless you are confident in your troubleshooting abilities.
  • Model – Once you have determined all of this you can find a model that fits. Don’t get stuck on any one model though.

You could make a good educated decision with just this information, but if you want more info, below is a little explaination that might help even more.

  • Netbook – Netbooks are miniature laptops that have become very popular lately. Be warned though, buying a netbook has it’s limitations. Netbooks have smaller screens, less RAM capacity, and slower processors. The life expectancy of a netbook is probably 3 years as opposed to a laptop at 4-5 years.
  • Processor – Asside from staying away from Celeron processors you can probably get just about any processor and you’ll be fine. (more)
  • RAM – 2GB-4GB is a good range. The more the better. (more)
  • Hard Drive – 500GB and up is good. If you want to worry about the speed of the drive the higher the RPM the faster. (more)
  • Monitor/Screen size – The bigger the better. Shiny surface screens will have glare and show lots of fingerprints but be brighter. The matte finish ones won’t show fingerpritns but will be slightly more expensive and seem darker. Personal opinion but I prefer the matte finish.
  • DVD Burner – Most computers are coming with those standard. Don’t worry about the speed. (more)
  • Blu-Ray Player/Burner – There is debate as to how long Blu-Ray will last. That’s a personal judgement call. I won’t be getting one anytime soon. (more)
  • USB Ports – Most computers come with a bunch now. Don’t worry about it unless you need a specific quantity. (more)
  • Webcam – If you want one get one. The higher the pixels the better. The higher the resolution the better. If you are getting a laptop or a netbook try to get one that has a built-in webcam otherwise expect to pay $30-$40 for one. (more)
  • Printer – I recommend not getting a printer as they are money pits. If you have to get one, get a laser printer. They may seem to cost more but in the end it costs less to operate a laser printer.
  • Firewire – This is a faster connection than USB but isn’t nearly as common except in higher end video. I wouldn’t waste my time or money on it. (more)

*NOTE: All links are on the Wikipedia site. I have read through these links and found them to be accurate. Wikipedia is not always an accurate source for information.*

Most important don’t let anybody convince you that you have to spend out of your price range. If you’ve set your budget, stick to it.

If you need assistance or want me to take a look at some specifications of a computer you’re considering drop me an e-mail and I’d be glad to help. I can’t say you’ll never have problems with your computer but I can say you’ll at least be a little more informed going into the store.

*P-E-M will not provide technical support for computers purchased by staff, students, or the public


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