If you have a computer at home that is five or six years old, it may be about time for an upgrade. People that have dealt with this process in the past know what to look for when purchasing a computer or laptop, but if this is your first time you are sure to have lots of questions.
You want to get a lot of bang for you buck but don't necessarily want to shell out a fortune, particularly now with the economy as bad as it is. With that in mind, here are several factors you must be familiar with before heading to the store.
1. Operating System - First and foremost, you need to decide upon the operating system. If you're not a computer geek, you can probably throw out Linux as an option because this is not very popular among newbies - it will ultimately boil down to Windows or Mac. You've probably watched enough TV to see those PC vs. Mac commercials and don't know what to make of them. Macs tend to be more popular among the artsy type people, but after using one I have to say I'm very impressed by the ease of use and the beauty of the system that PCs just don't have. Thing is PCs have a stranglehold upon the vast majority of people and they are unwilling to learn or switch to something different. If this is you, I have no problems with PCs. Yes, you will probably get more random errors, programs crashing, etc. But as long as you buy a good system from a trusted vendor you will get your money worth.
2. Desktop or Laptop - This decision is pretty simple. If you're looking for a home computer for the whole family to use, it's probably to set up a computer desk and get a desktop PC or Mac. You don't want a family computer floating around, and you will get more for your money with desktops as compared to laptops. If it is a personal computer and you travel a lot, or you would like the convenience of using the computer in any room of your house or apartment, a cheap laptop would be a great option. You do pay a little extra in the way of convenience for the small size, but even these models are becoming cheaper by the week. You might also want to look into a netbook - kinda like a mini-laptop.
3. Figure out the main use of the computer - If the computer will serve solely for web surfing, e-mail, and writing documents, you don't need too much in the way of extra or upgraded components. If you're into making movies or other forms of media processing, you will definitely want to look for higher end graphics cards - this is something a MacBook Pro is good for. If you're into music you'll probably want an upgraded sound card. If you're a multi-tasker and like to have many programs open at once, you'll want to get enough memory (RAM) to handle several applications running simultaneously. Another beautiful innovation in this respect is multi-core processors. This allows several operations to run in parallel which can greatly increase the speed, or reduce the lag time when you are doing a lot at once. I highly recommend Dell for building a PC - you can choose each component and customize your system based on your needs and preferences.
4. What Brand? - You might find some good deals on cheaper brands, but we can't recommend buying one. The bigger brands generally have better components, or at least allow you to upgrade to higher quality components. They usually have much better customer service which could be essential for a computer beginner. They normally have better warranty plans which might come in handy if you have rambunctious kids. This is one product where you really should stick to the better known names.
These are just a few simple suggestions for computer beginners. I highly recommend that you go to your local electronics store and at the very least ask some questions. You will probably find better deals online, so keep that in the back of your mind, but it's tough to rival person-to-person interaction in terms of getting answers to your specific questions. Hopefully this computer buying guide puts you on the right path to the right computer for you!