- Decide if you want a desktop PC or notebook/laptop PC. Desktop PCs can be more powerful but notebook PCs are portable
- Decide how much approximately you want to spend
- Decide what you will be using the PC for. You won't need a particularly powerful system if you're only going to browse the Web and send e-mails
- Read some computer buying advice magazines such as What PC?, PC Advisor and Personal Computer World
-Talk to friends, relatives and colleagues about what make of PC they use, where they bought it and their experiences, this provides you a good idea before you start your own research.
Where To Buy From
Main street stores may seem the most obvious place for first-time PC buyers but although they do offer some advantages (such as being able to see and touch example PCs and get an idea of the size of the screen) they are not always good value and you may find yourself spending more than you need to.
Often the sales person will also try to sell you warranty packages. These may provide some peace of mind, including things like health checks and repairs, but if you look after your PC and keep your security software up-to-date, you will most likely never use the service and will have paid a lot of extra money for nothing.
You could try small local computer shops who can often put together a PC package to suit your exact needs, though you may find the price a lot higher than the standard packages offered by high-street stores. For first-time buyers a standard package often seems far simpler than trying to figure out the specific types of components you need.
Buying online is another option; if you decide to buy online then begin the process of searching for online stores and comparing packages and prices. As with any large purchase you make, you will want to be cautious and have all the facts in front of you before you make a decision.
What to look for
Often when reading about PC packages you will be confronted with a huge list of specifications which will mean nothing to you if you don't have much knowledge of computer hardware. Some companies may try to confuse you with technical details, hoping that by mentioning large enough numbers you will think the PC is better than it really is.
Computer specifications change all the time, and your needs will determine what size or speed components are appropriate for you. The following is a general guide with some tips on what to look for.
Desktop or Notebook
the type of PC you need will depend on how powerful you need your machine to be and whether you want to be able to do work on the move. Desktop PCs are usually more powerful than notebook/laptop PCs for the same price, but the latter have the advantage of being portable and taking up much less space.
Monitor - it is important to check this is mentioned as although this may seem like an essential part of a desktop PC system, some packages may not include one. TFT (Flat Panel) monitors are common nowadays because of how thin they are compared to the old bulky CRT monitors. When buying a monitor you want the highest resolution, which will give a more detailed and sharper picture. A resolution of 1280x1024 should be fine for most users. Response time is also important - the lower the number, the better.
Tower - the shell of the desktop PC contains all the components which make your system work including the processor, memory and Hard Disk. You should check how many USB ports are included, as you will need one for each peripheral you connect such as scanners and printers.