1. Why do you need a computer?
Whether you are a new user or advanced one, whether this is your first computer or second (or even third), be clear as to why you want a computer before you even think of buying one.
How will you use your computer? Are you only interested in browsing the Internet and checking e-mail? Do you plan to use your PC as a programming machine? Do desktop publishing or video editing feature on your agenda? Or is it a gaming rig?
Consider these factors before stepping into a hardware shop.
The basic components of a computer system are the motherboard (containing the processor and memory), keyboard, mouse, monitor, diskette drive, CD-ROM drive and hard drive.
In addition, there are several other types of devices you may or may not need. A trackball, joy stick, modem, tape drive, zip drive, printer, plotter, scanner, sound card and speakers, television card and video capture card, to name a few.
Whether you buy these will depend on what you need the computer for and which software applications you intend to use.
Remember the golden rule: the fastest or most expensive computer is not necessarily the one you need.
Finally, the length of time that you plan to own the computer before replacing it will also help determine which computer to buy.
2. What is your budget?
This is the next thing you need to be certain of. How much are you willing to spend on a PC?
After you arrive at a figure, keep a margin of a few thousands. It will give you some room for flexibility. If you are short on money when you buy your computer and cannot add all the peripherals you want, be smart.
Buy as much as you can afford. Don't cut corners on the main system unit (monitor, processor, memory, disk space).
Remember, you want the computer to last at least four years. You don't want to run out of disk space or memory in the very first year, all because you trimmed down on the memory or got a smaller hard drive.
Hard disk capacity matters a great deal as it takes no time for data to fill the available space. A 40 GB hard disk is sufficient disk space, but 80 GB is the standard recommendation.
Random Access Memory is the amount of memory available for use by programmes on a computer. One of the important factors to ensure the smooth running of your system is the memory available.
The more the memory, the better it is. Make sure you can upgrade your computer's memory as and when required.
The RAM chip comes in capacities of 128, 256, 512 MB, even 1 GB. Most computers function efficiently with 256 MB RAM, though a 512 MB RAM does offer you an edge.
Hold off on the printer or a software application and other accessories that you really don't need right away. You shouldn't have any problem installing these after the original purchase has been made. Just ensure you buy components that are compatible with your system.
3. Should you go for a branded PC or an assembled one?
Assembled machines are popular because they are more economically priced.
Branded PCs cost around 35 to 40% more than their assembled counterparts.
Besides, you can choose your own specifications with assembled PCs. You are not forced to accept a rigid component configuration. You cannot customise a branded PC to suit your exact requirements.
With the same price that you would pay for a branded piece, you will be able to own a superior assembled PC.
Make sure the components purchased for the assembled PC are original. Take along an informed, reliable assembler to purchase the components so that you are not fooled by counterfeit parts.
The advantage of a branded PC is the reliability of the brand, the after sales service and the technical support. On the flip side, the after sales services and repairs offered by the brands are a tad expensive and not prompt most times.
Don't forget to look at the warranty. Generally, a warranty period of a year is normal for all major parts of the PC. But there are good brands that offer either more years or the option of an additional payment to top up the warranty period.
Talk to your friends and colleagues who have assembled PCs. Ask them about their experience and recommendations on whom to approach. Question them as to what happened when they had a problem. Was the individual easy to access? Did he offer prompt service? Does their computer give a lot of trouble?
If possible, meet two or three individuals before you finally zero in on one.
Spend some time on these three issues and you will be all set to buy your very own PC!