How to Choose the Right Computer For You

BaldSocrates Feb 14, 2008 Computers
Finding the right computer is almost as hard as house hunting or car hunting. There are so many variations and possibilities, it’s easy to get lost and frustrated. Let’s find out how you can find the right computer for your needs.

Computer hunting can not only take up a lot of time, but can rack up some hidden expenses as you travel here and there looking for the better deal. But what is the better deal? Is it an older computer with the latest operating system? Is it an Intel or AMD, Celeron or Pentium, custom built or off the shelf? The list goes on. You've got a lot of choices, so let's start from the beginning.

Step One: Arrange your finances

If you're like most people, you're going to try to finance it, or if you're the more studious type, you have a set amount of funds that you can dip into to buy your computer. No matter where you are in life, you need to determine, before you go shopping, just how much you are willing to spend. Be firm on this because salespeople will try to slip in a lot of small extras that add up really fast.

Step Two: Wants vs Needs

On a piece of paper, create two columns. Title the first, "Wants" and the second "Needs". Let's tackle the Wants column first just because it's fun. Go ahead and write down everything you want the computer to do. Not sure where to start? Here are some questions to get you going...

  • Do you want to use it like a gaming console (ie Wii, PlayStation, Nintendo, etc...)?
  • Are you going to be accessing the internet? If so, by dialup, or high-speed?
  • How big or small should it be?
  • Will the computer be for basic usage: browsing the internet, email, small games, and word processing?
  • Do you have a screen/monitor or do you need to buy one? What size should it be? How much room do you have on your desk?
  • Will you be creating videos, music, large graphics, or performing desktop design?
  • Will you need a printer? What kind of printing will you be doing? (ie color, laser, photos, etc...)
  • What about a wireless keyboard and mouse?
  • Will you be making music, graphics, or will you be doing word processing? What kind of software should you be purchasing?

Now, let's jump back into reality and write down the needs. This is where you write down everything you cannot live without in the computer. For instance, you might want the all-encompassing gaming computer, but you really just NEED something that will let you work on and print out your homework assignments. So, a printer should make it to your Needs list. Don't forget about the free programs like OpenOffice - you don't always need to spend money on mainstream products when some fantastic free options are out there.

With the two columns complete, you are now armed and ready to talk to people about the type of computer you want and need. Clearly establish your boundaries to the salespeople you deal with. Knowing the base components, you can start looking around for computers that fit your Needs column, while keeping an eye open for the extras in the Wants column. This will also go a long way in sticking to your guns when the slick salespeople try to up-sell you things you really didn't want or need.

Step Three: Do your research

Never ever buy the first computer you see, or even the second. Do your research. Jump online and check out what the big guys are offering (Dell, Gateway, IBM, HP). Chances are, they will give you a general hardware and software breakdown so you can see what components a gaming computer would have versus a basic model. Take a look at the big box stores. Then go visit the some smaller local computer shops. Keep a log and refer back to it.

Step Four: Be ready to haggle

With the exception of ordering online, everyone will budge on their pricing. Go prepared with pricing, ads, printouts, and whatever else you can get from competitive sources. Keep reminding the sales person about the better deal the other guy will give you. Most important, if you don't get what you want for the price you want, be prepared to walk out. Yes, it's scary, but it works. A lot of times, the sales person will budge as soon as they see that they are going to lose the sale.

Step Five: Be patient

One of the best times of the year that you can buy a computer or computer accessories (like printers, keyboards, software, etc...) is at the end of the year when everyone is trying to offload all of the "old" technology. Should that be too long to wait, just keep browsing. The more you watch and ask questions, the more you'll get familiar with what you really need and what you can get away with not having. Stores are always having sales. Keep a watchful eye.


 Rules of Thumb when buying a computer
 always go prepared so you can haggle on the price
 don't assume the screen/monitor comes with the computer
 you may need cables that aren't included, or paper (if buying a printer), so ask before you leave
 get a good surge protector to plug the computer into
 find out if the software you are getting is a full version or demo
 extra software, like Nortons Anti-Virus, Dreamweaver, and Microsoft Office can really drive up the price of a system
 get backup/restore original CDs in the case that your computers gets messed up and someone needs to restore it
 find out what the return policy is
 there is always another deal tomorrow
 as with everything in sales, a deal is only a deal if you don't finance it
 financing a computer will always cost you way more than the computer is worth


Good luck!

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  • Last Updated : Feb 14, 2008