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Computer Buying Advice - How to Buy a Computer

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One of the questions I’m always asked along with which computer to buy, is how to buy it? The answer to this question varies with your location and your experience with buying computers. So I have developed the following dos and don’ts.

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1. Do not buy computers from a discount store, computer swap meets, or on-line auctions. You wouldn’t buy a stereo or TV from these places would you? You have to be very informed to shop these places without being burned. Yes it’s cheaper but what if it breaks? What happens when you need to upgrade it?

2. Don’t buy mail order without a moneyback guarantee. I would only consider it if you can return items within 30 days without a restocking fee. There’s nothing like having the option of throwing a misbehaving computer into the trunk and hauling it back to the post office.
3. Don’t buy a computer by name brand alone. Some of the biggest consumer computer brands will cut corners when manufacturing computers (filling all available expansion slots, incorporating sound cards and video cards on the computers motherboard, and using cases with no extra expansion bays). It’s also possible that you could buy a non-current model unless you do your homework. Use the list of current computer specifications in our article Computer System Requirements to compare to what you are buying.


1. Get an on-site service warranty. An on-site warranty means they come to your home and fix your system. A 100% parts and labor warranty is not on-site service. It just means that if something breaks, you will either be mailed a part and told how to repair the computer yourself, or at worst, have to mail off your system (sorry there is no such thing as a loaner).

2. Know what you are buying. Computer ads and brochures must be read very carefully to determine what is being sold. For instance “Pentium 200 system on sale for $550" means very little to an informed shopper. There are at least 4 different flavors of Intel CPUs that the ad could be describing. You need to always find out what company built the system, is it new or used, what peripherals are included, and what software comes with the computer (some systems are sold without software or operating systems). Comparison shop. There are hundreds of computer manufactures out there, big and small.

3. Use our article Computer System Requirements. Its a good starting point to see if you are buying current components. Use this list of dos and don’ts to determine who is giving you the best computer package - hardware, software, and service. Remember the cheapest computer is not always your best value.



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