How to buy a computer

Buying a new computer can be daunting, so here are some things to consider before you head to the store.

If you have brand loyalty or brand aversion, you can probably skip to the middle of this article. If not, my advice is to *start* with the specs that are right for you and *end* by selecting the computer that works, regardless of brand.

The important stuff first

Processor power is measured in GHz. The processor is like the engine of a car. You need a powerful enough processor for everything else to function optimally.

First, look at the processor speed on your current computer, and don’t ever go any slower than that.

  • Open File Explorer
  • Right-click on This PC
  • Click on Properties

The System section has the information you need. Higher numbers are better, but never settle for a speed of less than 2GHz. You won’t have a very nice Windows experience.

RAM is important as well. RAM temporarily holds information while you have the computer on so Windows and other programs don’t have to access the hard drive for the same thing repeatedly.

As with your Processor, look at what you have now and try not to have any less. Your computer will likely still work, but it won’t work as smoothly. I recommend 8GB at minimum, and, of course, higher numbers are better.

Hard Drive capacity is also measured in GB. The hard drive is where all the programs, files, and Windows itself reside, whether the computer is on or off. Hard drives are not terribly expensive any more, so a 1TB hard drive is not uncommon.

Go for it if you can, but don’t accept less than 500GB with a traditional, mechanical drive.

Other considerations

If you’re buying a desktop computer, are you planning to replace your monitor at the same time? That’s good. Just make sure the computer and monitor have the same type of ports, so you can connect them easily.

If you’re keeping your monitor, make sure your new computer can accept the same type of connection you’re using, or make sure you have a cable that will convert one end so you can connect the computer and monitor.

If you’re buying a laptop, are you planning to travel with it? If so, weight might be a consideration. Do you need a CD/DVD drive? Many laptops, especially the very light ones, don’t include that drive.

Laptop users should also consider the feel of the keyboard and the look of the monitor. Both things are personal choices. Get something you like!

If you’re buying an All-In-One computer pay attention to the size of the room it’s going to and if you’re putting it on a desk with a cut-out, make sure there’s room for it, and room to reach around behind it to plug in and to unplug your devices.

Also make sure you like the looks of the screen.

Don’t forget…

Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) rarely “comes with” a new computer. You have to pay for those programs. You should find out if the version you have is transferrable, and if not, you should expect to pay for a new version.

Your printer needs to be installed on your new computer. If it’s a scanner, too, you need to do things in a particular order. This column might be helpful.

Transfer your files and settings from your old computer to your new one. This really isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Get help if you need it.

Ask questions when the sales person says something you don’t understand. There’s no need to preface your questions with, “I don’t know anything about computers.”

If you have a question, it doesn’t matter if you know anything about computers or not. Just keep asking your question until you get an answer you understand!


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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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