Don’t Waste Your Money On Your Next Computer Purchase
Eager to take advantage of low advertised prices that look like great bargains, people often end up wasting their money by making these common mistakes when purchasing a new computer:
1. Memory neglect. In order to cut the price to the bone, vendors rarely include enough memory in the baseline product. 512MB is not enough memory. 2GB (2030-2048MB) is a good baseline for a home or office computer. If you are buying a computer for a “gamer” then start with 4GB.
Recommendation: ALWAYS add more memory.
Failure to Act: Even if you just plan on performing basic tasks like e-mail and word processing with an occasional spreadsheet thrown in, the performance of the system will be impacted. Simply applying the critical security updates that Windows, Office, and other programs regularly require will impact the performance of your system noticeably, over a period of months, if you don’t have enough memory to start with.
2. Processor ignorance. Separate from the memory in the computer (item 1), processors have their own memory. The lack of adequate memory on a processor can be the source of much frustration with a computer. Constant lock-ups or freezing, applications that run out of memory, even strange printing behavior may all be symptoms of a processor that lacks adequate memory.
Recommendation: If the computer will be used for very light Internet surfing and word processing or maybe balancing your checkbook, then by all means, a Sempron(TM) or Celeron(TM) is all the processor you need. If you plan on having more than two applications open simultaneously, and use your computer more vigorously (word processing, spreadsheet, several Internet browser tabs or windows, and e-mail open at the same time) then you need a more robust processor.
Failure to Act: A bruised and bloody forehead from beating your head against the wall in frustration. The cost of an entirely new computer. You cannot replace just the processor at a later date.
3. CD/DVD drives that don’t write or are not fast enough. Another way that vendors keep the price of a computer down is to equip it with a slower, read only CD/DVD drives. DVD media has a much higher storage capacity than CDs, so make sure you can always write to the DVD drive.
Recommendation: Always make sure you can write to the highest capacity storage media. At some point you will need to write to the device to backup your data, including any music you might download. Keep in mind that the ONLY way to backup songs that you download is to make a music CD or DVD. Simply copying the files to a flash drive or other storage device will not enable you to play them again should you lose the originals for some reason (such as updating your software).
Failure to Act: Could cost you real dollars in the long run. Whether it is data or music, you need to backup. Sometimes you may want to share something with another computer user and you are not going to want to part with your flash drive for this purpose.
4. Failure to bundle Office products with your computer purchase. Exceptionally low-priced computers do not come with Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, or any other Microsoft Office product. Some come with Microsoft Works, a product that is completely incompatible with Microsoft Word, or other Microsoft Office product. If you ever plan on exchanging a word processing or spreadsheet file with anyone else, you will need one or more of the Microsoft Office products. Purchase what you might need with the computer.
Recommendation: Always purchase Microsoft Office products with the computer when given the chance. The cost savings are considerably better than going to the store and purchasing them separately.
Failure to Act: You might spend a couple of hundred or more dollars than you would have if you had purchased the Office product(s) you needed with the computer. The cost difference is definitely significant.
5. Don’t cut corners with your monitor. Buy the biggest, highest resolution, flat panel display that you can afford. Again, these are often offered at a significant discount when bundled with a computer. We have yet to hear anyone express regret over buying a monitor that was “too big.” Your eyes will thank you.
Recommendation: High resolution, flat panel displays are the way to go and are almost always cheaper when purchased with your computer. Buy the best you can afford.
Failure to Act: Buyers remorse and “tired eyes”. If you work on a computer for more than a couple of hours a day, you won’t regret spending a few extra dollars on a good monitor. The cost of upgrading to a higher resolution, larger monitor at the time you originally make your computer purchase is much less than having to buy a whole new monitor at a later date. This is not the place to try to save a few dollars.
Avoiding these common mistakes can greatly increase the useful life of your computer and enhance your computing experience.
The decision to purchase extended warranties, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software with your computer are separate topics.