Before You Buy A New Computer… What To Look For In A New PC

by Lynnette

computer shopping, computers, laptops

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I’ve provided a lot of random computer tips on this site, but I’ve never really detailed the most important things to look for in a new computer before.

A friend of mine is in the market for a new computer, so these types of tips have been on my mind.

I thought I’d share with everyone here the same information I gave her.

Perhaps it will be beneficial to others who are considering buying a new PC…

Rely On The Experts

First of all, the 2 websites I turn to the most for expert computer advice are:

  • CNet (under “reviews” click on Desktops or Laptops)
  • PCWorld (simply click on Laptops or Desktops)

They have all of the latest research, reviews, opinions, and prices for practically every make & model of computer available.

So I’d start by reading through some of their basic tips on the subject of buying a new computer.

Then, when you’ve got some general idea about a few specific computers you’d like to explore, check out their detailed reviews on various brands, makes & models.

If You Want My Personal Opinion…

There are 2 big differences in the types of users and therefore the types of computers that will suffice for one person and not the next person.

They are:

(a) “Those who want a solid, reliable machine that is also upgradable over time and loaded with shortcuts & power tools, the ability to have a lot of programs open at once, a place to store & manipulate lots of digital photos, and maybe even maintain a website or two.”


(b) “Those who just want to check e-mail and get on the Internet once in awhile.”

If you’re (a), then I can’t recommend anything other than a Dell computer. We’ve purchased 4 of ’em (a desktop and a laptop for Jim; and a desktop and a laptop for me). Our Dell machines are far better than any other computers we purchased before (HP, Pionex).

Plus, Dell’s tech support is really good. Others might disagree, but we’ve always had good luck. It might have something to do with the fact that we bought our Dells through their “business department”, so we go through a different route to get different tech support people. If possible, try ordering your Dell through their business department — especially if you own a small business or you’re buying this computer for use with your job.

Plus, to top it all off, at the Dell website, they’ve always got specials going on — good sales that seem to make sense.

If you’re (b), then I’d probably get an HP at Walmart or something. That’s what my mom did, and she’s been relatively happy with her HP. Plus, the HP we had before our Dell computers always treated us well.

Just know that you don’t get any bells & whistles from most of the computers available at department stores. Plus, they tend to dummy-down things a bit for novices and junk up the computer with lots of unnecessary programs and ‘safety features’ that you really don’t need.

Customer support is basically non-existent (or really bad) on these types of computers, and you usually don’t get any software to “reinstall” things if your system should crash or something like that.

For what it’s worth, here’s what one “computer repair expert” says about computer brands:

From a repair tech point of view, stay away from HP, Compaq, Emachine, and any manufacturers that won’t give you the ORIGINAL CDs for all the installed programs and OS. The above names are also hard to upgrade/expand because of their PROPRIETARY hardware/software. I’m not a fan of Dell or Gateway either, but more for their poor customer service. I like Toshiba in the laptop department, and Acer in the desktop department for actual hardware. 

— Kim Komando

What Are The Minimum Requirements?

In general, the biggest thing is this:

  • Get the most RAM you can afford (…at least 1GB is the minimum)


  • Get the biggest hard drive you can afford (…at least 100 gig, but 200 GB is better)

The reason: digital photos take up a lot of space — as do games and other programs you might want to download just for the heck of it.

Which Windows Operating System?

Our machines are all running Windows XP at this time. (Update: we now have 2 new Dell laptops that are running Window 7 — which we love.)

For the most part, it’s important to know this:  “old” programs are sometimes not compatible with the newer operating systems. So if you have some really old favorite programs, you may want to think about that. (This means you may need to purchase the upgrades for those programs first, in order to use them on a computer running newer Windows operating systems.)

File this under “good to know”…

Microsoft now says security support for XP Home and XP Media Center Edition will end 2 years after Vista’s release. Support for XP Professional will continue for 7 years after Windows Vista’s release. 

— Kim Komando

Desktop or Laptop?

I would also encourage you to think long & hard as to whether you might want a laptop instead of a desktop.

Some people’s inclination is to get a desktop model to use as their primary workstation, but as people and technology are becoming more and more mobile, people are switching to laptops as their primary computers these days.

As I mentioned above, Jim and I have one of each, but then again, we’re on the computer 24/7 and our careers are computer-based.

Best Laptops & Reviews

While the list of top laptops changes practically every day (and depends on who you talk to), here are some of the best laptops worth considering:

Tips For Buying A New Computer

These videos gives you some insider tips from the experts on what to look for when you’re shopping for a new desktop or laptop computer:


After You Have Your New Computer…