Your PC Buying Guide

Okay, so you’re interested in buying a new computer. You’ve been thinking about it for awhile and you are pretty close to being 100 percent sure you’re ready to take the plunge. So, what do you need to look for? What’s going to work best for your needs? What about prices? What about offline and online applications?

All of those questions are definitely some that you should be asking yourself and researching before you head out to the store to buy a new computer for your home or business. Well, today’s tip will help you with such questions as how will you use your computer, what type of configuration do you need and some shopping tips. Make sure you also keep an eye out for tomorrow’s tip as it will go into software questions, where you may want to buy your computer, how much you want to spend and some desktop vs. laptop explanations. So, let’s get started.

1.) How will you use the computer?

E-mail / Web surfing / Shopping:

Processor speed and RAM capacity have little effect on e-mail or surfing. The major requirement is an Internet connection. At minimum, e-mail requires an analog “voice” modem and a subscription to an ISP, such as AOL, Comcast, Earthlink, etc. The lowest-of-the-low-end PCs can perform any of these jobs admirably.

Word Processing / Spreadsheet / Home Finances:

Word processing makes little demand on a computer system’s resources. A slow processor and minimum amount of RAM is usually sufficient to produce documents.


Your computer needs will vary, depending on the type of graphics you plan to create. For basic illustrations, a minimal computer system will usually suffice. If you plan to do serious work with 3D graphics however, you should plan on purchasing a computer outfitted with the fastest processor (at least 2 GHz) and fully loaded with RAM (at least 1 GB (gigabyte)). You should also make sure your computer is equipped with a 3D graphics “accelerator” card that has at least 512 MB (megabyte) of on board memory.

Computer Games:

Serious gamers look for a computer with the fastest processor available, the most RAM that they can load into their machines and the most expensive graphics card that they can afford. A high end PC is what you will need if you plan on using your computer for games.

Desktop publishing:

Documents produced with desktop publishing software tend to be quite large and include many graphics. If you are planning to produce such documents, you’ll want a computer system that allows you to scroll through the pages at an acceptable rate. Consider a computer with a fast processor (at least 1 GHz) and a graphics card with at least 256 MB of memory.

2.) Below are two charts giving you some extra details about RAM, CPUs, warranties, monitors, etc.

3.) To end, here are some recommendations for an average user’s minimum requirements:

  • A 3-GHz Pentium 4 or 2.4-GHz Athlon XP 4000+ processor. For office work, like word processing, spreadsheets and e-mail, you don’t need the latest, greatest and most expensive processor. AMD processors of the same clock speed perform some tasks faster than Intel processors.
  • At least 512 MB memory. Anything that’s less than 512 MB will slow down your work, especially if you plan to run several applications under Windows XP. Buy as much as you can afford, up to 1GB.
  • Integrated graphics. If you buy a computer with integrated graphics, ask if it has a PCI Express slot. If it doesn’t, you won’t be able to upgrade your graphics chip.
  • Subwoofers. Adding a sound system with a subwoofer (a large speaker that produces very low bass tones) can dramatically improve the sound quality of a home system, even if the speaker set is inexpensive.
  • A 17-inch flat-panel LCD monitor. CRTs are dead. Unless you really want a low end PC, a 17-inch LCD will let you see your documents with greater definition (or at a higher resolution) than smaller displays would.
  • A rewritable DVD drive. Floppy drives have faded away. CD-RW only drives are on the way out. Though your computer might still include a CD-RW drive, many users find that thumb drives, CD-RW/DVD-ROM combination drives and recordable DVD drives are better options for data storage and transfer. They allow you to back up important documents (up to 1GB on a thumb drive, 700MB on a CD and 4.7GB on a standard DVD), share files with colleagues and create custom audio or video discs. A CD-RW may be all that most people need, but a DVD recorder lets you back up larger amounts of data.
  • A 60 GB or larger hard drive. A 40 GB hard drive is fine for simple word processing or Web browsing tasks, but you’ll likely fill that hard drive pretty quickly. In the long run, it’s best to buy more hard drive space than you think you’ll need. Today’s largest hard drives reach 500 GB, but unless you’re planning to use your PC as a mini server for your office database or for electronic entertainment, a smaller drive may be more cost effective.
  • Connectivity. Many PCs now offer a pair of USB ports on the front of the case, so you can connect multiple peripherals without having to fumble around in the back. If this is important to you, look for PCs with up front FireWire (IEEE 1394) ports, audio and video connectors and USB 2.0 ports.
  • Gamers. If you want to do some gaming, get a mainstream graphics board, which can be about $200. You’ll need a card with a built in TV tuner if you plan to record video from your TV.

Once again, don’t forget to read tomorrow’s tip for even mo
re information about buying a PC before you actually go out and do it.

~ Shantala Ramamoorthy