Buying a new computer

Tips & Hints

Computers are complex and every person has their own needs. So when shopping for a new system you need to know what you want and to shop around.

Posted 31 October 2004

Shopping for a new computer can be a bewildering experience, there are a mass of options with obscure technical terms. To make it more complex, every computer shopper has their own requirements. When looking for a new computer there are a few rules which can reduce the risk of buying a lemon.

  1. Know the current specifications

    All users have different requirements, but there are some common aspects to all computers. We recommend all new home computers come with 120Gb Hard drives, 512Mb RAM, CD or DVD burner, Ethernet port, 128 Mb video card and a three year onsite warranty. Office workstations usually don't need a CD burner or so much video memory and hard drive space, but we recommend Windows XP Professional for business Windows users.

  2. Mac versus Windows

    Choosing a Mac as opposed to a Windows is a much bigger issue than we can cover in this article. But for many people the simplicity and superior security makes a Mac a good option. There are some pros and cons.

    The most important argument for a Mac is that it is far less prone to being infected with viruses and spyware, these are the most common problem for Windows users. On the downside, Windows users have to learn how a Mac works, and Windows based software has to be replaced, which adds to the cost. The purchase price of a Mac is higher, but the reduced support costs may justify the additional up front cost for most users.

  3. System disks
  4. To save a few dollars, computer manufacturers don’t supply the Windows disks. Instead many brand name computers come with a recovery disk. These disks make maintenance and reinstalling difficult, if not impossible.

    Not getting a Windows or Apple operating system disk is not like not getting a spare tyre with your car. In our opinion computers supplied without a proper Windows XP disk are not fit for their purpose. Insist that your computer comes with a genuine operating system disk and do not buy any system that comes with a "recovery disk."

  5. Pirate systems
  6. While recovery disks are the curse of brand name systems, at the other end of the market are the pirates. These people are prepared to rip off powerful multinationals like Microsoft so they aren’t worried about doing the wrong thing by you. Avoid them, the hundred dollars or so you’ll save isn’t worth it.

  7. Buying the first computer at the shop
  8. Shopping around can be a drag but it can save you a lot of money. Computer systems vary dramatically in price and the computer superstores are often the most expensive places to buy. When comparing prices make sure the systems have the same size disks, memory and monitor.

  9. Undersized systems
  10. Price is the driving force in the computer market. To get their prices down, dealers offer cheap, underpowered systems. A Windows XP computer should have a minimum 120Gb hard drive and 512Mb of RAM. Anything less is false economy.

  11. Warranties

    Get a three year onsite warranty. This will add around $200 to the price of your system. It is money well spent.

  12. Getting end of line specials.
  13. Many dealers find themselves holding old stock and try to clear it by selling it cheap. These can be a bargain, but be careful, the older technology may not be up to the current standard. Often the savings on offer don’t justify the lower specification.

  14. Cheap systems
  15. Although you should shop around, don’t just go for the cheapest price. Often the cheapest isn’t the best, some corners may have been cut. Check the quality of the goods and the dealer closely before buying.

  16. Overpriced systems
  17. Just as you can spend too little, you can also spend too much. Car dealers will try to oversell you on extras like tinting or rustproofing, computer dealers often try the same thing. The latest CPU may double the price of your computer without adding any improvement for your uses.

  18. Inappropriate systems
  19. Some specials may be totally wrong. For instance a computer designed for office use may have features like DMI and Wake On LAN, but not have a sound card or even a CD-ROM, making it a poor choice for a family computer. Make sure the system has the features you need.

  20. Second hand systems
  21. We don’t recommend second hand systems. Generally, customers pay too much for too little. With basic new systems selling for under a thousand dollars, we just don’t see the value of a second hand machine.

  22. Accessories

A common way of optioning up, or making a substandard system attractive, is to add "free" extras like printers and scanners. Generally, these items are cheap and low quality. Check carefully any extras included with a system. You may not be getting such a good deal.

A well known consumer magazine constantly compares computers to household appliances. They are wrong, computers are not toasters. They are complex pieces of equipment with many combinations and uses.

A bad computer purchase can be an expensive and irritating mistake. Shop around and check the offers before buying a system. It’s a competitive and complex market where the buyer needs to beware.

PC Rescue Pty Ltd
Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
ABN 082 635 765
ŠTechnology Publishing Australia, 2011