How to Buy a Computer

There are so many computers to choose from that it can get confusing very quickly. Technology moves so rapidly that what seems to be advanced today is outdated not too far in the future. To start the process, develop a plan of action that keeps you focused on your needs. Being an informed buyer can guard against buyer's remorse.

couple in consumer electronics store buying laptop
Try a few models at your local retailer.
credit: .shock/iStock/Getty Images

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Generate Your Buying Criteria

Create a list of the features and capabilities that are most important to you in buying a computer. Will you be playing games, watching movies or surfing the Internet? Do you need a laptop or a desktop? What software do you plan on using? What do you want to connect? Does it need to be compatible with any other software or hardware? Prioritize your criteria and determine what you can spend.

Choose Portability or Power

Small, lightweight and portable, laptops offer a wide range of features to fit most every need. With the growth of tablets, laptops now include detachable and convertible screens that can double as a tablet if the need arises. Power systems are typically desktop computers configured with a larger variety of core processors, hard drives and other auxiliary devices to choose from. Desktop computers are generally connected to one or more large screens offering greater flexibility in viewing data, files, videos, and other information.

Choose Your Storage

Your hard drive determines how much storage capacity you have on your computer for all your files and data. Solid-state drives (SSD) instead of the common spinning hard drives offer you faster loading speeds, smaller sizes, no moving parts and less heat, all strong reasons to purchase one. The growth of cloud storage has also made it easy to expand your storage capabilities without purchasing additional hardware.

Choose Your Memory

Random access memory (RAM) determines the performance of any programs you have open and running at one time. If you are a constant user of your computer with many programs open at once, then choose 8GB of RAM or more. Additionally, playing games will require a video card with video RAM. Casual users of data and email can get away with 2GB to 4GB of RAM, but if you have it in your budget, it is better to have more RAM than you need.

Choose Your Speed

The biggest predictor of a computer's speed is the power in its processor. Look at the number of cores. The more cores the processor has, the more computations it can do simultaneously. So, quad-core processors are better than dual-core, and dual-core is better than single-core. And the individual core speed can also vary.

Choose Where to Buy

Virtually all models of laptop and desktop computers are available online and in retail stores. Visit a local retailer to test a few computers. Warranties are generally about the same and tech support will vary by manufacturer and local retailer. Many manufacturers offer the opportunity to customize their products. Examine a few of the manufacturer's websites to see what is available, and also check with your local retailer to see what it can customize through its store.

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