Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How To Buy A New Computer

Okay, so this hasn't been done before, right? Well, I gave it some thought and I believe there are still some areas that can do to have some light shed on them with this topic. Any computer geeks can leave the room now, because this is aimed at the "average user" who doesn't really know what they're getting inside the box.

First Things First
Before you even begin to think about getting a new computer, you should really consider why you want/need one. Did your previous computer die of some kind of hardware failure? Does your current computer feel slow? Is there some new feature you wanted to add on to your computing experience? How much can you afford to spend?

All other factors aside, if the only reason you are looking at a new computer is because of hardware failure, sometimes replacing the part can save you hundreds, even after you pay a technician to take care of the matter. For a simple thing like a burnt out memory stick or a hard drive that no longer boots, the replacement is fairly quick and painless. If you're happy with your current computer and can get the parts, this is a great, inexpensive option.

Second Thoughts
Of course, if you can't get the parts, this leads to the next best thing: buying a refurbished computer. I know, nobody likes to get "hand me downs", least of all from a stranger, right? Well, the fact of the matter is that a properly configured computer from a few years ago is really all most people need. If your primary uses are word processing, publishing your photos, surfing the web and emailing your family, there's nothing wrong with staying away from the "bleeding edge" of computing.

Several companies refurbish computers at a greatly reduced price from their brand new counterparts. If you look around, you can usually find them. Things to note are that the older computers tend to come with less RAM (or memory) and less disk space. If you're a photo buff you'll probably want to upgrade the default hard drive; adding a stick of RAM can speed up your computer considerably if you like to surf, email and run your word processor all at once.

If refurbished just isn't for you, there's always the clearance models. These are still new computers, but at the end of their production run. The benefit to you is that they still have the same warranties as new and are factory-fresh, but they're "last year's model" and won't be snapped up by the bleeding edge crowd. These also tend to be at a generous discount, and are a bit easier to find at major retailers.

Take Three
Okay, so you're not in the market for a new computer because something broke, you don't want something refurbished and you're not in the mood for a clearance sale. The next common motive for buying a new computer is that your computer is getting slow. Or there's something new out there that Microsoft or Apple says you've got to have. Here's where you make a judgment call: is your computer really getting slower in it's old age, or are you expecting more of it? When you run the same old programs you've run on it for years, does it actually take longer? If so, you may have a virus or some malware on your system that needs to be looked at. Instead of a new computer, have a trusted technician clean up your PC and whip it back into shape.

Computers don't slow down with age, they just seem slower in comparison to their newer counterparts. A clean bill of health for a slow computer probably means you've been exposed to newer computers and can no longer wait for the older processing speed to do the same old things. That's fine, and it's a perfectly valid reason to upgrade. Just be careful: buying a new computer with a new Windows OS on it will probably only be "zippy" for a little while before clutter begins to slow it back down to the same pace as your old computer! Once you add in the anti-virus, the anti-spyware, the firewall, your programs, the tools you usually have running in the background, etc. the overall system speed will decrease.

The same is basically true of any OS, Windows is just known for it more; load too much in the background and it will crawl instead of run. Basic OS X runs very nicely; add too many gadgets running around and it will slow you down. Default Desktop Linuxes run very nicely, as long as you don't add in a web server, too many applets, or an indexing service somewhere in the background to slow it down. The difference with OS X and a UNIX-like Desktop (Linux, FreeBSD, etc.) is the reduced need for malware protection.

Final Four
You're looking for the latest and greatest new toy and you want to have something modern and efficient and cool-looking. Well, you're in luck, because spiffy new computers come in three basic varieties (barring the options of laptop, notebook, tablet, desktop or tower!): Windows, OS X and Linux.

The first two you probably know a bit about and know where to get them. Pick up a Windows-based computer at any retailer that sells computers. Chances are, you'll get a flavour of Windows Vista, the shiny new offering from Microsoft. Apple, you can get in a few less places, but the Apple store is a good place to start.

And then there's Linux. Ironically, you can get it anywhere -- download a copy of it, legally, if you like -- but good luck finding a major retail store that sells it preloaded on their computers. Wal-Mart apparently sells some units, and Dell hides the odd Ubuntu or Red Hat Linux computer on their site (in the U.S. only), but for the most part vendors like Everex and Zareason are the easiest ways to get Linux preloaded. Likewise, look for smaller shops to support Linux, not the big guys. Which probably means your cost of servicing would be lower, too.

Ultimately, the choice depends on what you want in a computer. If you're not tech savvy and don't know the specific components you want in the physical hardware, don't worry too much -- any of the above options will serve you decently if you buy from a vendor you trust. What you run on it, ultimately, is your choice. Once you've made that choice, the choice of hardware it runs on is pretty much made for you.

5 comments:

cheap computers said...

I guess if refurbished just isn't for you, there's always the clearance models. These are still new computers, but at the end of their production run.

madhu said...

Really your provided information was very informative and helpful us...Thanks!
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wireless headset said...

I wouldn't ever buy refurbished machines. You never know what your getting yourself into.

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