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What to look for when buying a new PC

The time often comes when an old computer just isn't cutting it anymore and you need a new pc. The following guide will help you to answer the questions of what you need, what do I upgrade, and more. Also, you may be interested in reading our comprehensive guide to speed up your computer before purchasing a new PC if you would like save money and keep your current machine.

The first thing you need to consider is what you will be doing with the PC. Are you a gamer? Will you be running hardware intensive programs like autocad, animation/design programs that need to render, etc? Will you need to store a lot of video, pictures, and music? Will this be a media center PC? Or will this just be a basic email, websurfing, and word processing machine? Answers to all of these questions can help you decide what hardware you need.


This is the brain of your computer. The two most common brands are Intel and AMD right now. For most people, the processor an average new computer comes with is fine for you. However, if you will be gaming, rendering, or using your system as a media pc, you may want to upgrade the processor. Right now, Intel makes a better processor for the price. I would recommend a higher speed, multi-core processor if you will be doing any of the CPU intense activities listed above.

Memory (RAM)

This is one area of the computer I would recommend upgrading no matter what you are planning to do with your PC. Many computer slow downs can be attributed to a lack of RAM. I would recommend at least 4 Gigs for Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8. If you can afford to go higher, this is one area I would suggest doing so. It will be worth it in the long run because it will keep your system running faster for longer. Also, before making a purchase, you may want to ask yourself if a simple memory upgrade will solve your computer slowness.

Video Card

Most average computers don't come with a seperate video card and just come with an onboard graphics card. These are fine for most users. However, if you are a gamer, you will want a video card for sure. New video cards change often and the top of the line cards are very expensive. I would recommend getting something in the middle unless money is not an option. Usually the best price for performance will be in the 150-250 dollar range. Make sure you read reviews of the card before deciding which one to go with.

Hard Disk

The speed of most hard drives is comparable across the board. There are higher end hard drives that are faster, but I have not found these to be worth the price for most people. One exception is if you are planning on running a server. For most people, only the hard disk size is any issue. If you do a lot of multi-media stuff such as taking pictures, downloading or taking video, storing music, etc, you will want to consider a larger hard drive or even a second hard drive. Also, if your new PC is going to be a media PC, you will also want a large hard disk. The reason for this is because recording TV, especially HDTV, takes up a whole lot of hard drive space. You can also check out our hard drive buying guide for more detailed information.

Popular Brands

For most people a basic Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Sony, or HP will be fine. If you are really into design and art, an Apple may be good for you. Dell and Alienware make great gaming computers if you are looking for that. Also, another option is to build a desktop yourself. I would only recommend doing this if you know what you are doing and you need a higher end system. It is generally not worth building a computer just to check email and browse the web.

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