How to Buy a Computer: A Beginners Guide

How to Buy A Computer: A Beginners Guide

Before you head out to buy a computer, your first have to decide what you are going to be using it for.  Some people purchase a computer for the basics such as browsing the web and sending emails while others buy a computer for working or for their hobby, or even gaming.  No matter what you need your PC for, many vendors today allow you to customize their basic models with an array of features and specifications, and you can also choose to build your own from the ground up.

For those who need a PC for higher end things such as editing or maintaining a large database, you will most likely need to set your sights a bit higher.  The same thing holds true for those die-hard gamers or anyone who wants to overclock. A great computer will cost a bit more than a good one, but for heavy users, they are well worth the price.

choices in a computer buying

There are several specs that you need to consider when you buy a computer.

Processor

For your basic computer, if you just plan to do things such as emailing and surfing, any processor will do just fine. Most people will prefer 2.0 ghz or higher, but a lower speed processor is also fine for very light use.  If you, however, want more power you will to look for a computer with a more powerful chip, for example an Intel Core 2 Duo chip rather than an AMD Athlon 64 dual-core processor.  While both processors are dual core, the Intel is known for being faster and better performing.

If you are looking for maximum performance, you want to look for quad-core processors instead of the dual-core.  For those who enjoy gaming, quad core is definitely a good idea, but not necessarily required so long as your processor is sufficiently fast enough. Gamers can usually benefit from a processor with 4Ghz or higher.

Memory

As a general rule with memory, the more memory that your computer has, the more applications you are able to run at one time without any hiccups and the better your PC will run.  You can almost always upgrade the memory in your PC after purchase if it does not have an adequate amount by purchasing a compatible memory chip and installing it in your computer. You should have at least 2GB of RAM in your computer for it to perform well and run most programs, however, 4GB – 8GB is preferred for best performance. There are multiple types of computer memory but DDR3 is currently one of the most common and popular.

computer parts for buying guide

Motherboards

Motherboards are the heart of your computer. Most of the parts in your computer connect directly to the motherboard and it is the most important part. There are a variety of things to consider when choosing a motherboard including peripherals, the cooling system, built in memory, and if you want to upgrade, the number of expansion slots. The motherboard in your PC should have at least one or two USB ports in the front as well as extra ports in the back. The higher end computer will have audio/video inputs that are easy to get to and most should also include built in ports for SD or an optics drive.

Case

Many people don’t think about the case when they buy a computer.  A case that is well designed can give you easy access to hard drives and cables which are color coded for internal parts and external ones as well.  Shape, size, weight, and color can also be considerations for many people.

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Graphics Card

A graphics card is a chip on your motherboard that is responsible for handling video and graphics on your screen. A graphics card can be soldered to the motherboard but may also be replaceable for anyone who would like to upgrade but upgrades do have to be compatible with the motherboard. Some computers also have an extra slot or come with dual graphic cards although these are more expensive. Anyone who would like to game should consider investing in a high quality graphics card because some games require very high quality graphics in order to even play.

Hard Drive

Hard drives have considerably increased in size over the last few years and can now have several terabytes of space come as a standard option. Hard drives are usually used to store any information on the computer and can range in size from under 100 GB to well over 2 TB. Special drives can even be purchased and installed into a computer with 30 TB or more of space! The basic rule of thumb is to purchase a hard drive to suit your storage needs. Usually an 80GB hard drive is enough space for anyone who does not want to store anything at all while 750GB is more suitable to standard use for saving photos, documents, and music. Usually 250GB and up is a good idea for most buyers.

Monitors

computers buying monitors

The size of the monitor you buy is pretty much a personal preference.  Most people will have a 17 or 19 inch monitor for a PC and a 13-15” screen for a laptop and they are happy with that.  The resolutions on a monitor will determine how well pictures and video look.  The higher the resolution on your monitor, the better graphics card you will need to keep video quality.  You should also look for a digital monitor instead of an analog one since the pictures appear sharper on digital.

Sound

For the most part, the basic sound system that comes in today’s PC should be enough.  However, if you want more sound, consider looking into an upgrade with a dedicated sound card that will provide you with surround sound.  With that, you will also need to invest in an adequate set of speakers including a subwoofer.  Most of the computers today have high quality sound but may be lower or less advanced then you prefer.

Operating System

There are two main operating systems that you can purchase new including Windows and Mac. Each of these operating systems has a range of versions but the most common include Windows 8 from Microsoft and OSX Mountain Lion from Apple. Both options are great options although Mac computers are typically more expensive than Windows computers. Macs are more user friendly, more simple, and offer less customization while Windows is more affordable, comes with a wider range of computer options, and is compatible with more software.

how to buy a computer

There are many additional details to consider when you buy a computer. For example would you prefer a more affordable desktop computer or do you prefer a laptop? What brand do you want to buy? Do you prefer Windows or Mac OSX? Do you want to purchase additional software? What about getting an all-in-one desktop computer?

Most operating systems come with a one month trial for an antivirus system as well as basic software such as text editor, photo editor, and usually a movie maker. You can decide on your own what you want to purchase based on your personal needs.  For most, each of these are very personal decisions but you should research and look into the issues before choosing an option.

About The Author
Harry Carver
Harry Carver is TheHTS resident science nerd and super gamer. As well as researching and learning about physics and chemistry, he enjoys playing the mad scientist in his home lab so be sure to watch for his chemistry and science videos here and on our YouTube channel. He has a dislike for social media, but you can find him on Linkedin should you want to know more.