Just Make it Work: How to buy a computer!

by Meg on November 22, 2010

Laptop Keyboardphoto © 2007 Declan Jewell | more info (via: Wylio)

Just make it work is a series of articles aimed at helping women embrace technology to make their life easier!  Tech for non-tech girls by girls.

Just Make It Work: How to buy a computer – 3 Simple steps!

I had a friend ask me the other day what are some of the things she should consider when buying a computer?  Here is my quick list of things to consider that never get outdated as technology gets newer!
It’s a simple as 1, 2, 3!

1. Laptop, Desktop, or Netbook/Tablet?

Before you think about brand, size, price – I would figure out if you want a desktop, laptop, netbook/tablet first.  Here are some things to consider about either:

-Tend to always include “more bang for your buck” than a laptop.  ie – If you only have $1000 to spend, you will always get a much more powerful machine with a desktop vs spending that money on a laptop

-Desktops are much better equipped to handle media without breaking the bank.  If you want to do a lot of video and photo projects, but don’t have a lot of cash, you can often upgrade to a much nicer video card and bigger hard drive without many problems.

-Desktops are often a better place to act as your technology hub – ie – for where you want to store your main files if you have a few computers. They don’t move around and so it makes it easier to sync MP3 players and phones to a desktop as well as maintain a backup solution!

-If you’ve never owned a laptop before, the first time you have one there is a sudden sense of, “Wow, I can do this anywhere!!!”  It’s quite possible that you might really want computing freedom to be when you want it to be vs locked down to a desk.

-Laptops can run most programs pretty well.  Programs like video editing and simulators can make a laptop run hot and work harder, but if you have the money and can buy a very high end laptop, you should be okay.

Pro-Tip: Getting a laptop?  Get the extended warranty.  By nature, a laptop will move around a lot more and is more likely to encounter various physical issues, this your need for an extra warranty goes up.


-If you’re looking for a device to just browse the internet and not much else, get a netbook or tablet.

2. Make a list of the specs you will need.

Now that you know what kind of computer you want to get, the next best thing is to make a list of at least minimum requirements you need to have in your purchase.  I’ve made up a few lists I would use to shop, depending on what sort of computer I was going to get:

If I wanted an overall good machine that should last technology the next few years I would get:

Operating System:
PC Desktop/Laptops: Windows 7 64 bit

Apple Computer: Latest version of OSX

Hard Drive:
Desktops: 500GB – Minimum

Laptops: 180GB – Minimum

Memory / RAM:
Desktops & Laptops: 4GB

Desktops/Laptops: Intel i5 chip or AMD Phenom II


Should be included

HDMI or DVI-I out

3. Factor in the extras

When shopping for a PC, the best way to figure out what deal you really want is to have your minim specs (as listed above – tweaked to your needs), and then look for the extras that stores like Best Buy might offer.

Think about:

-Do you need a printer?
-How big of a monitor do you want?
-Do you want Blue-Ray in your computer?
-Do you want a scanner?
-Do you want a web camera?

These are the sorts of factors, that while extra, will really help you narrow down what is the right machine for you to take home.

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