Tips for Buying a New Computer

First off, I believe it is important to determine the primary use of your computer. Will you be using your computer mostly to surf the web and do some word processing? If so, buy a slower processor (even the "slower" processors are still very fast) and a smaller hard drive. This will save you some cash. If you plan on using your computer for a good deal of multimedia applications (ie-video editing, photo editing, digital music, etc) then you should probably consider a computer with a larger hard drive, faster processor chip, an IEEE 1394 (eg-Firewire) port, and a higher quality video card. Either way, make sure buy lots of memory (RAM) for the computer. Skimping on memory will come back to haunt you quickly. Overloading on memory will allow your computer to run smoothly even as you upgrade the operating system over the next 3-4 years.

As far as the manufacturer goes, I recommend going with a bigger name company such as Gateway, HP, or Apple, Check the warranty on the computer...most come with a one year limited warranty. Milwaukee PC is another excellent place to have a computer built for you. If you already have an adequate monitor, keyboard, mouse and printer, you can save a substantial amount of cash by just buying the tower.

Even if you buy a new computer, consider adding memory (RAM) to your existing PC so you can have more than one PC in the house. Also, consider creating a small home network to share printers and your high speed connection to the internet amongst several computers in your house--this is great if you have several kids who are competing for home computer time. A mixture of a wireless network with a few network cable drops usually provides ample network coverage for a house.

A word on software: This can be the most expensive part of buying your new computer. If you buy Microsoft Office (this usually includes Word, Excel and Power Point) make sure you get the educational discount. Microsoft now has some type of home licensing plan that lets you legally install the software on multiple computers. Without the discount, Office is EXTREMELY expensive. When you are at a retailer, just show some type of proof that your son or daughter is a student.

A Note on Laptops:
All of the above applies for a laptop as well. When making a decision on a laptop, you need to weigh the size of the computer versus performance and features. The smaller laptops are lighter and easier to move around, but they typically are more expensive and come with a lesser feature set and performance specs. I've long been a fan of the Apple iBook (now the MacBook). It is a robust notebook computer, but it is slim and portable. The Sony Vaio notebook line has everything from their "ultra portable" PC to larger notebook computers.