What To Look For When Purchasing A Computer

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When shopping for a computer, the processor is one of the most important components that the average computer user never considers. Unfortunately, people will often evaluate a computer based on criteria that doesn’t determine the quality of the computer. And in doing so, they spend more money in the long run because they buy a new computer every 3-5 years and they are unhappy with them most of that time. The computer that I use as of this writing is over 7 years old and I have no desire to get a new one any time soon. It was not inexpensive, but it has excellent components. I want to help you have the same success. Here are the main components of a typical computer and the importance of each:


  • Hard Drive: People are often impressed by the size of the hard drive. The truth is, the worst computer on the market might have a 2 terabyte hard drive. The hard drive is the physical disk that stores your programs and data files, so when evaluating the hard drive you do need to choose one that is large enough to meet your needs, but bigger is certainly not better. The only people that need a 1 or 2 TB hard drive are those who are storing a vast number of large files like photos and videos. A 500 gigabyte (GB) hard drive is more than enough for most users. A solid state hard drive is different from traditional SATA drives because there is no spinning disk so they cannot “crash” like a traditional hard drive, but like any computer component they can still fail. The major benefit to an SSD is speed, but with that benefit comes a higher price tag.
  • RAM: RAM is the Random Access Memory. Very simply put, it holds the temporary calculations as the processor (“brain”) works. You typically would not evaluate a computer on the brand and type of RAM used in it unless you were building one yourself, but you should consider how much RAM it has. According the Microsoft, the minimum requirement to run Windows 10 on the most common (64 bit) computers today is 2 GB (gigabytes). The key word there, being MINIMUM. I do not recommend less than 8 GB for a Windows 10 computer.
  • Processor: Even a large amount of RAM will not be of significant value if the processor stinks. Like referenced to previously, the processor is like the brain of the computer. If you start narrowing down your search for a new computer by the processor you will be well on your way to making a good computer buying decision. Typically, if a computer has a higher-end processor, the other components are going to be good as well. When evaluating a processor you really need to consider the particular model, not just the type. The Intel i7 is a higher-end processor family, but even within all of that family of processors there are excellent ones and moderate ones. This page at Futuremark.com gives you a concise ranking of them where you can select “laptop” or “desktop” at the top to narrow it down further. I suggest that you print or bookmark that webpage in your phone so you can have it with you at the store. Seeing this type of ranking will give you a better understanding of why the laptop with the  i7-7500U is $521 and the one with the  i7-6700HQ is $999. The processor is the most important component to consider when purchasing a computer. Unfortunately, it is often the one that the average user overlooks.

I hope that this information will help you wade through the selection of computers at the store or website where you shop. But if you still would like assistance purchasing a computer, please contact The Computer Monkey to schedule an appointment. One final tip is to not be intimidated by the salesperson in a computer store. Some are great and really knowledgeable. Others are not, but they like to sound like they are, or they have certain models or brands that they have been instructed to push. In my experience, the salespeople who try to intimidate you with their “vast knowledge” are the ones who know the least. The best ones will have a teacher’s heart and genuinely want to lead you to the purchase that is best for YOU.

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