Buying a Desktop Computer: 7 Go-To Tips
In the market and want tips for buying a desktop computer? If you're anything like me, you love to use technology, but you could do without knowing the intricate details of things like hardware, software, RAM, and processors.
As a work-at-home mom, what's most important to me is that I have a fast computer that always works. And, if I'm going to get picky, I want it to store all 10,000+ images from my phone and DSL-R without me having to regularly delete them, not be clunky, and leave me a little money in the bank for a more fun purchase—like traveling or even just a date night out (or even a date night in) with the Mr.? Can you relate?
Then this year, I joined the Intel AIO Crew. To be honest... Before joining, I didn't even know what AIO meant. You don't either? No worries! It's All-in-One—as in an All-in-One desktop computer—with the tower built right in. As part of this program, they provided me with a computer. It's fast. It always works. And it has all the perks I want when I'm picky, including the non-clunky factor. Score! And with all the information I've gathered, I've learned a thing or two about computers—specifically about what to look for when buying a desktop computer.
Buying a Desktop Computer: 7 Tips to Help You Make the Perfect Purchasing Decision
With the holidays on the horizon and another desktop purchase in my future, I thought I'd put all my new-found knowledge to use and summarize it in these seven tips to help both me and you when buying a desktop computer.
- Decide if you are buying new or used. Computers come in lots of different options: new, refurbished (returned to the store in good condition), used, rebuilt, etc. The biggest perk of buying a desktop computer that is less than new is that it can often save you lots of money. You'll just want to compare apples to apples, taking everything into consideration, including the warranty, upgrades, inclusions, etc. And, be careful of scams or less than ideal used equipment.
- Identify whether you are brand loyal or flexible. If you are loyal to a specific brand, keep that in mind when searching. I have friends that are Mac users, friends who prefer PC, and PC friends who are loyal only to Dell or HP, etc. Knowing whether you are brand loyal or flexible and where your loyalties lie, if any, will help you narrow your purchasing decisions.
- Decide what's most important to you regarding hardware. Hardware are the physical components of your computer. When taking tips for buying a desktop computer, ask yourself: Do you want speed? Are you after storage/space? Do you want a specific ergonomic keyboard or mouse? Do you need specific things (like an external hard drive or flash drive) to plug into the main computer? Then, narrow your search by computers that have those. For example, a computer with high processor speed and memory (RAM) is what you'll want to look for if speed and storage are top of mind for you.
- Determine what's most important to you in terms of software. Different than hardware that is tangible (think keyboards, screens, and mice), software is intangible and relies on code and hardware (think Microsoft Word that shows up on your screen). Most all computers, new and used, come with basic software—an operating system. From there, additional software is available for your specific needs and can be purchased and installed with disks or downloaded online. Knowing up front your software needs will help you focus your search when buying a desktop computer.
As a work-at-home mom, I need solid word processing and spreadsheet programs. I also need collaborative programs our virtual team can access. For the former, I prefer packages like Microsoft Office and for the latter, we purchase monthly subscriptions to many different programs to help with our weekly eNewsletters, forms and surveys we send out, presentations we share, files we store, databases we build and access, and more. Our software needs change, but a computer that can keep up with the latest and greatest in tech trends is important to me. Identifying your software needs upfront is important as it plays a role in the overall cost.
- Identify the type of support and service you'll need and want. Have a computer genius in the family? Then, you may be on the lower maintenance side of things when it comes to getting service and support? Don't know the first thing about what to do if something goes wrong with your computer? Then, having great service and support will probably be important to you when buying a desktop computer. Make sure to compare apples to apples when looking at brand's different offerings.
- Research the policies inside and out. Warranties, return policies, software policies (whether the packages that come with the computer are good for a year or are just a 30-day trial offering), and other policies can make a huge difference in price when buying desktop computers. You may think the price tag on computer option A being $500 less than computer option B is great until you see that option B includes a 1-year full warranty on hardware and software, a full package software offering with all the programs you need, and lenient return and service policies. All that combined could be worth more than the savings on computer option a. So, make sure to research the policy end of things fully before making your purchasing decision.
- Ask trusted friends. Researching every single option side by side will never tell you what users can. Is the brand reliable? Is their service good? Are they easy or difficult to work with on service/policy issues? How do they treat their customers? Whether you ask trusted friends you went to kindergarten with or read reviews from users online, word of mouth is a powerful resource when looking for great buys. Also, don't forget resources like PC Magazine for consumer report type information.
What are your go-to recommendations when buying a desktop computer?