How to Buy a PC

When buying a PC there are many options. First we’ll look at the options of building your own computer vs. buying a computer already pre-built. These days, building your own PC only comes to your advantage if you have a custom, specific set of needs to address. For example. if you will be doing high end graphic modeling, video editing, complex databases and spreadsheets, you may need a PC with specific hardware. The majority of home users have no such needs. Pre-built computers are much more inexpensive these days to purchase, with warranties up to three years. So let’s discuss the components and what to look for.

First, let’s look at processor speed. Anything in the 2 GHZ range or faster will run just about any application for an at home user. You would have to be usin something pretty exotic for this speed of processor to not work for you. Next, let’s look at memory, or RAM as it is commonly called, and let’s see how it relates to buying a PC. Windows XP takes a minimum of 256 MB of RAM to work effectively. Most users will get along better with 512 MB of RAM and if you can afford it, 1 GB of RAM will give you significant performance improvement. Of course, if you start with 512 M of RAM, you can always upgrade later.

Now, let’s look at motherboards, or System Boards. This is the piece of hardware the ties all your other hardware together and makes them work as one. Commonly, these have audio, video, USB, networking/modems and some other features built in. Usually, that type of motherboard is less expensive. Comparatively, motherboards that are not “all in one” will cause you to spend more money on buying vdieo, sound and networking cards. You’ll often get better performance from these add-on cards, but only if you’re doing something high end. The most common upgrade is the video card for gaming, movie viewing and graphic editing.

Hard drives these days come in different formats. The main differences are speed in which the hard drive spins (RPM). The faster it spins, the faster the data is read. Secondly, if there is a buffer on the hard drive (these days 4 or 8MB) this also allows for quicker access to information, as the most commonly accessed pieces of data are stored in the buffer. Lastly here, size and price is a personal choice. Commonly 100GB hard drives are found these days, up to 400GB hard drives.

CD ROM drives, CDRW, DVD-RW and DVD-roms are all different. If you plan to burn movies or want to back up movies onto CD, a DVD-burner is the choice. If you plan on buring pictures, or lots of data, a dual layer DVD burner is the choice these days. Dual Layer DVD burners can hold twice the amount of data as conventional DVDs. DVD technology changes almost yearly, so if you’re one of those who wants to always be current, you’ll be upgrading this piece often.

The last piece of advice is to remember that all computers are outdated about 6 months after they’re built. If you’re going to only use the PC for home use, homework, some video games, internet use and so on, spending more than about $600 for a PC is probably at the upper limit. $400-600 is a good target for a current PC with a warranty. You can use shopzilla.com and nexttag.com to compare prices on computers and get your best deal.

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