Monday, May 19, 2008

Tips on buying a Desktop Computer

Purchasing a home or business computer can be a big and sometimes costly decision. Below is a listing of helpful suggestions for what to look for and ask when purchasing a home or business computer new or used.

Before purchasing a computer, consider if you should purchase a new or used computer. Many individuals who sell computers before they are out of date allow you to purchase a relatively decent computer. Before purchasing a new computer from a computer manufacturer, look at what is available and review the below precautions when purchasing a computer.

  • Ensure that the computer has no physical damage by inspecting the ports as well as the inside and the outside of the case.

  • Ensure what you are getting what you pay for. This is explained in more detail later on this page.

  • If the individual selling the computer indicates that the computer comes with a manufacturer warranty that has not been completely utilized, for example, the computer has a standard 3 year warranty and the user is selling it after 1 year, ensure the warranty is transferable by the computer manufacturer. Many manufacturers will not transfer the computer warranty.

If you are selling a computer, ensure that the computer's hard disk drive is erased to help prevent users from looking at potential personal data.

This is always going to be a heavily discussed and debated topic, the Apple Macintosh vs. Standard PC Clone. Both options have good and bad reasoning behind them and it used to be a very important choice. However, because of advancements in both the Mac and the PC, both are a good option overall. We feel that this option is best left to the individual purchasing the computer.

If you find yourself working with a PC/Mac computer at work and/or home or family members have a PC/Mac and you need the capability of transferring files or programs from your PC/Mac to a new computer, consider purchasing a PC/Mac as it will be something that will be more familiar. It is important to note that the Macintosh can run Windows as a clone, and therefore, most programs and data that can be used on a PC can also be opened in a Macintosh. In addition, the PC computers have the capability of opening Macintosh files.

When purchasing a computer it is likely that you will have a general idea of what you may like in the computer or how you would like to configure the computer. Below is a listing of the various components likely to be found in a computer and recommendations and tips when considering any of the below components.


Short recommendation:-

Case While the case may not be important to some computer users, it is a consideration to be thought about before purchasing a desktop computer.

  1. What type of case should be purchased or is needed? Do you want a desktop or tower case?
  2. Does the case support the standards of motherboards, for example, the ATX motherboard standard?
  3. Will the case fit on top of or below your desk.
  4. Will the drives be accessible or will they be positioned the way you wish them to be positioned?
CD Media The type of CD drive in the computer is becoming an important consideration when purchasing a computer. When looking to buy a new or used computer, inspect the type of drive included.
  1. Is it a standard drive? If so what speed?
  2. Or is it a DVD / CD-R / CD-RW drive?
  3. If the drive is a DVD, is it hardware or software decoding?
  4. If the drive is a CD-R / CD-RW drive, does it include software?

These are just a very brief listing of questions and considerations to think about when purchasing a computer. Buying tips for all of these drives can be found on the below links:

Hard Drive Hard drives have and always will be an important consideration to think about when purchasing a new computer or used computer. The hard drive will be the destination of all your files and information, and if that drive is to become full, that drive will need to be replaced or another drive will need to be added to the computer. When looking at the space of the hard drive, always get the maximum size hard drive, considering you will eventually always run out of space.

Memory Memory is and has always been an important consideration when looking at purchasing a computer. Determine the amount of memory included in the computer as well as verify if that memory can be upgraded in the future. The more memory in the computer, the more efficient the computer will run.

Modem The modem is becoming not as important as it has been in the past with the upcoming spread of broad band. When looking to purchase a computer, a modem should not be an important consideration unless broad band is not available in your area. Today, all new and most used computers are equipped with at least a 56k modem, which should be the only speed looked at with the demand of bandwidth with Internet use.

Network Card With the increase with more than one computer in the house and with broad band solutions sometimes requiring a network card, a network card is becoming an important consideration when purchasing a computer. Network cards allow users to connect to other computers and have small networks in their home or office. This allows for data transfer, file sharing, Internet connection sharing, printer sharing, and various other helpful uses.

Processor The computer processor is and will always be an important consideration when purchasing a computer. Today, with multiple CPU/Processor manufacturers, it may be more confusing as well as more cost efficient to look at the different processor manufactures as well as the type of computer processors.

Sound Card Sound cards are important when looking at purchasing a computer; however, the majority of all computer users will find that most standard sound cards will suite their needs. However, some users may enjoy purchasing more advanced sounds cards that will increase the amount of speakers that can be used, and in some games and programs, the sound quality and capabilities.

Video Card Video cards are becoming an extremely important factor when purchasing a computer. While this may surprise some, a video card can make or break a computer when it comes to playing games on the computer. Most games today require additional video memory as well as special video modes such as OpenGL. With a video card with little video memory or without these modes, the computer will be unable to play these games. In addition, the advances in video cards can dramatically increase the user enjoyment of the game being played.

Brand of Computer

When looking at purchasing different types of computers, you will likely hear different stories, some good and some bad. Regardless if the story is good or bad, these stories are always based off of the experience of that user. While it may be true that the user had a bad or terrible experience with that computer, all computer manufacturers have had users who have had a bad experience and there is no such thing as a bad or perfect computer manufacturer. Below is a listing of various things to consider when purchasing a computer and in some cases how to tell the good from the bad.

Add-ons Some computer manufacturers may try to sell additional add-ons when purchasing a computer. Unless you have done your research on the additional add-on, do not consider the add-on. While in some cases it may be beneficial to get a printer, scanner or maybe a camera with a computer, you may be paying premium for the additional add-on, or in the case of the printer you may have to pay premium on the ink in the future. Do your research; ensure that if you get an additional hardware / add-ons that the hardware will suite your needs and that it does not end up being something that is not going to be used.

Free add-ons? Some computer companies may entice you into purchasing a computer by giving you free add-ons. These add-ons may be advertised as free, but ensure or ask if the add-on price is not just being added to the overall computer price.

Add-ons that should not be of concern are hardware peripherals such as a mouse or keyboard. These are almost always included with a computer package and are really of no additional cost to the user.

Documentation While most manufacturers today are reducing the amount of documentation included with their computer, an excellent question, especially if the computer is being purchased by a new computer user, is "what type of documentation is included with the computer?"

All computer manufacturers will include some type of paper documentation or paper inserts; however, does this information include documentation about upgrading the computer in the future? How to connect the cables to the computer? Documentation on how to use the software, such as the additional included software?

Note: It is important to distinguish between paper documentation and on-line documentation. On-line documentation that is being found more today is information that is either locally on the computer or can be accessed via the Internet. If the information is available over the Internet, see how that information looks and if it suites your needs before purchasing the computer.

Hardware Hardware is sometimes overlooked when purchasing a computer, especially at a local computer retail store, as the hardware is not always visible, which causes it not to be inspected or reviewed before purchasing the computer.

As mentioned above, ensure you are getting the hardware that you believe you will need. If you are a game player, is the computer hardware going to be capable of playing the games you would like to play?

Internet discount A new method of selling a computer to decrease the overall cost of the computer. While this method sounds good for many users, this may be a misfortune in the future. The general idea: If you purchase a computer and sign up for an Internet service for x amount of days / months or years, you will only have to pay x amount for the computer.

Reasons why for most users this is not a good idea:

  1. Generally, if you work out the monthly fee of the Internet service for the x amount of time that is required to sign up to the Internet provider, it will work out to be more than the original price of the computer.
  2. These services are generally always modem services. If you want to upgrade to broadband, you may either not be able to without voiding the contract or have to pay the additional, sometimes premium, price of broadband through that provider.
  3. If the contract becomes void you may have to pay the additional money of the computer as well as the time spent with the Internet service provider.
  4. Many services will require that you pay the full amount of the computer and then once the contract is fulfilled with the Internet Service provider then a refund will be sent from the computer manufacturer (or may not).
Location We use location as a description to describe several different topics. First, what is the location of where the computer is purchased: If the computer is purchased at a local retail store, can the computer be returned if unsatisfactory to that store? If the computer is purchased through mail order or directly through the computer manufacturer or reseller, where can the computer be returned if unsatisfactory?

Second, can the store location of where the computer was purchased service the computer? If not, where is the closest location to where the computer can be serviced?

Third, if the computer is purchased directly from the computer manufacturer and is shipped through mail, how is it shipped? What is the time period for the computer to arrive to your destination? What happens if the computer is damaged during shipping?

Refurbished Refurbished is a term used to describe a computer or a hardware device or component in a computer that has been used, looked at and determined to be in working order. However, because the product has been used or purchased, it cannot be sold as new.

Refurbished computers will have a lower price and are generally a good deal for users who may not have a lot of money to spend on a new computer. It is important, however, to compare the price of the refurbished computer to a new computer as well as to review all of the tips on this page as all the same rules, tricks and tips still apply.

Return Verify with the computer manufacturer if it is possible to return or have a money refund for the computer. Many computer manufacturers will not refund your money but instead may offer an exchange for another computer. Verify with the manufacturer of the computer or the reseller what their return / refund / exchange policy is.

Service Service is an important consideration to look at when looking to purchase a computer, new or used. The service is how many companies describe the repair of a computer if it or a component within it is to become broken. Below is a listing of what type of service to look for:
  1. What type of service is offered? Is the service onsite, meaning a technician will come to your location to replace or fix a bad component. If the service is onsite, is it for the complete time of the warranty?
  2. If onsite is not offered, what is and for how long?
  3. Can the computer be taken to a local service center? If yes, what is the closest authorized service center?
  4. What is the time frame the service takes to occur? For example, if the computer has a bad component, what is the time it will take for a technician to come onsite and replace that component, or what is the time it will take to have the computer sent in to be fixed? Finally, if that time frame is not accomplished, what is the company willing to do, for example, are they willing to provide you with a loaned computer.
Software Software for many computer users, especially new users, is thought to be an important consideration when purchasing a new computer. Granted there is software that we highly recommend looking for when purchasing a computer, such as word processor or spread sheet program, some computer companies may over hype the software package. Below is a listing of what to look for when looking at the software included with a computer.
  1. Does the software include Microsoft Office or Corel Suite? These packages allow you to have a word processor and/or a spread sheet. For the majority of all users, this should be an important consideration.
  2. Is the software full versions of the software or is the software demo programs or shareware programs?
Support While you can always contact computer hope for support, manufacturer support for most users will be a very important consideration as if an issue arises with the computer you must be able to contact a support representative. Things to consider when looking at the support options of a computer are:
  1. Is support open 24 hours, 7 days a week? If not, what are the hours?
  2. Is support open on holidays? If not, what days are it closed?
  3. What support options are available? Phone? E-mail? Web? Chat?
Upgrade ability While this option may not be considered at first when purchasing a computer, it is an important consideration. Below is a listing of different options to look for when looking to upgrade a computer.
  1. What can be upgraded in the computer? RAM? CPU? Hard Drive? Video Card? If available to upgrade, what are the maximum amounts or is it specified within documentation provided with the computer?
  2. Does the computer have on-board hardware, such as an on-board video card? If yes, can these be disabled with a jumper or through CMOS. This is a very important as many computers will disable the device when a new device is added. However, this does not always work and may cause future issues. Ensure it can be disabled and that it is not a device that auto-disables.
  3. Is the case a standard case? Some computer manufacturers have proprietary cases, causing difficulty when trying to add new hardware. Most commonly this occurs with the video card.
  4. What motherboard form factors is the case? The most common motherboard form factor today is ATX; does the case support this factor so the motherboard could be swapped in the future?
Warranty Finally, what warranty is offered by the computer manufacturer? How long is the warranty? Does the warranty cover both hardware and software issues?

Warranty can cause frustrations for most users; we highly recommend that a computer only be considered if it has at least a one-year warranty. Many cheap computers will only come with a 90 day warranty. Meaning if a part goes bad, you will have to pay for the part as well as the service. This may not be an issue for users who just need a cheap computer and are willing to replace parts and service the computer.


Unfortunately, like anything, it is possible to be tricked or for computer companies to scam you. Below is a listing of what to look for when purchasing a computer.

  • Get what you pay for - Ensure that the product you are purchasing is what you are paying for. It has been known that computer companies may list a processor being a specific speed, however, actually have a totally different speed of processor in the computer. This unfortunately can be very easy as any user can 'over clock' a processor making it appear as one speed but in reality being a completely different speed. For example, you may buy a 733MHz processor but instead get a 500MHz.

    To determine the processor speed, open the computer and look at the processor itself. Do not look at the processor through a software program or through BIOS as these values can be changed or tricked.

  • Legal software - When purchasing a computer, ensure it comes with legal software. Many end-users or small computer companies who build or sell computers may not provide you with legal copies of the software that is illegal. Verify that the software that came with your computer is on a standard CD and not a burnt CD. A burnt or home-made CD will generally be a different looking CD and have a gold or green bottom. Ensure that if the software requires a license or registration number that it was included with the computer. An example of software that includes these certificates is Microsoft Office and Windows.


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  2. Very nice post, Thanks


  3. Nice post... thank you for sharing...

    computer internet technology

  4. getting a PC or a computer is just a though one to ask for with so much choice available all around the corner.. And when there is something that no body can escape from a weired situation which way to go..

    But then the information the informations you provided are really to look for either ways..