Buying a Computer: What You Should Know

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Does your current computer wheeze like a spent racehorse whenever you try to open a simple web page? Does Facebook emit a creepy “Ha ha ha!” when you try to load up a game? Are archeologists knocking on your door and imploring you to let them preserve your rig in a museum? Maybe it’s time to consider buying a new computer. 

Computers evolve at the speed of light, so shopping for a brand new machine is going to be very different from when you bought that Pentium in 2001. Below is a PC and computer buying guide that can help you when purchasing a new machine: 

Do you want a laptop or a desktop? – Desktop computers are meant to sit on a desk; laptops, of course, were designed for your lap (though they can also be used on a desk. No one will report you, honest). Both models have advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider before making a purchase. Desktop computers are typically more powerful than laptops—though not always—and they offer more options as far as hard drive space and memory is concerned. Moreover, desktop computers usually cost less than laptops and are easier to repair, though you usually need to own or purchase a separate monitor. 

Laptop computers are portable, powerful, and take up far less space than a desktop computer. They’re a great option if you move between workspaces a lot, and/or like to work outside the office. 

Consider a netbook – Somewhere between 2007 and 2009, the netbook was a pretty hot piece of hardware. These book-sized laptop computers are ideal for surfing the Internet and performing light tasks (reading, writing) on the road. They’re also inexpensive, especially now that some retailers are trying to get them out the door in favor of the more popular tablet market. Since netbooks run traditional operating systems like Windows, however, you can still pick one up without worrying about a lack of support. If you’re looking for ultra-portability, affordability, and the joys of typing on a physical keyboard, a netbook might be right for you. 

Which operating system (OS) will you use? – A PC will almost certainly come installed with the latest version of Windows, while a Mac will come with the latest version of Mac OS X. Entire books have been written on the eternal Mac vs PC war, but there’s really no “wrong” choice: it all depends on what you’re most comfortable with. Generally, though, Macs possess extremely well-built hardware and software that’s easy to use, while PCs running Windows are familiar, affordable, and compatible with just about every conceivable kind of software. This compatibility is a double-edged sword, though, as Windows is also more susceptible to viruses, spyware, and other malware than Mac OS X. 

If you’re really in the mood to jump outside your comfort zone, try learning more about Linux

Do you want to play a lot of high-tech games? Think power – If you’re looking to turn your computer into a game machine that rivals (or replaces) your dedicated game console, you need to give special consideration to your new computer’s processing power, RAM, graphical display capabilities, and monitor. If, however, your computer is going to be used mostly for documents and/or low-powered games (social games on Facebook and the web, for instance), you don’t need to think as hard about your rig’s muscle. 

What about a tablet PC? – Finally, if you can stand the virtual on-screen keyboard, you might be all right with a tablet. They’re portable, extremely versatile, and are incredibly simple to use. They also appear to be the immediate future of on-the-go computing, so you can count on a steady flow of apps and technical support for a long time coming.     

Need more information about purchasing a computer? Visit: 

What Do I Need to Know About Buying a PC? at Intel.com

Five Things to Consider Before Buying a Computer at Switched.com

Mac vs PC at PopularMechanics.com

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About author

Nadia Oxford

Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com's Guide to the Nintendo DS.

View all posts by Nadia Oxford

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