Checklist for buying a PC

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Much emphasis is placed on components, speed and storage when purchasing a computer, but do you really need everything for which you are paying?

1000GB of space, 1024MB ram, NVIDIA GeForce 9800 graphics card.

Are you lost? Most computer purchasers pretend to understand what the components of a computer do, but in reality, they have no clue about what it means to the overall computer and how it meets their computing needs.

Let’s take a look at the main components of a typical desktop computer:

Central processing unit (CPU)
The CPU is the brain of the computer. This is the engine of the computer and oversees everything the computer does. The more complex the CPU, the faster it can oversee.

Random-access memory (RAM)
RAM is used to store information temporarily while the computer is working on it. The more documents and programs you have open, the more RAM is required. You will find that your computer starts to slow down significantly when you have exceeded your RAM limits.

The Motherboard is the veins of the computer. It is the system that connects all the internal components together.

Power supply
Supplies and regulates the electrical flow used by the computer

Hard disk
The permanent storage used to hold information such as software, documents, programs. The more programs, movies, songs, documents, other items you save onto your computer, the larger the space required.

Graphics card
The graphics card translates image data from the computer into a format that can be displayed by the monitor. The more complex the graphics card, the faster and crisper these images will be. The more advanced graphics cards come with their own processing unit, which helps the computer run faster.

Now that you understand the components, you need to consider the use to which you plan to put the the computer.

What am I going to use the computer for?
This is the single most important question when purchasing a computer. If the answer to the above question is in the range of “Email, internet, news, documents, movies”, most new computers in the low to medium price range (-$800 without a monitor) will suit your needs now and in to the future. If your answer involved creating and editing movies, graphic design work, playing graphic video games regularly, then you would be looking at something in the medium to higher price range ($800).

Where will I use my computer?
Purchasing a desktop is great. It means you have your computer room just for computer work and it does not interact with other aspects of your life. However, with increased mobility, laptops are becoming more popular. Do you want to read your emails or surf the internet in the comfort of your bed, or while you are watching television? Do you want to take the computer with you on holidays? These are all important life changing questions when purchasing a computer.

How much hard disk space do I really need?
The average computer user will never use over 200gb of hard disk space. You would be hard pressed to fill this space downloading music. The only exception to the above is if you download movies or songs on a regular basis. These items take up a large amount of space (1 movie = 1gb). In any case, you can always delete those movies you do not watch (or for about $100 purchase an external hard drive on which to store them).

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