Things to Buy and Not to Buy When Buying a New Computer

What to do when buying a new computer

Being a “tech” kind of guy, I frequently get asked by friends and family what kind of computer to buy, things to think about when buying a new computer, etc.  So, I put together this post to put my thoughts in writing, thinking that this just might be of some help to other people.

Hardware – Maximize RAM

While hardware and numbers and stats and this and that are constantly changing, I do have a few thoughts I give to everyone who asks:

  1. RAM – buy as much as you can.  Generally speaking, I tell people that the ONLY number that matters is the amount of RAM.  If you have a choice (and often you don’t), upgrade the amount of RAM.  It is the only hardware upgrade I tell people to worry about
  2. SCREEN SIZE – this only relates to a laptop, but… I tell people to not buy a laptop larger than 15 inches (that could be 15 point something – like 15.7).  Anything bigger than that is going to be too hard to carry around. It won’t fit in standard backpacks, it will be heavy, etc.  Stick with the 14 – 15 inch sized laptop

Software – Stay Away from MS Office

Again, there’s a ton of software choices available.  But here’s just a couple of options I tell people about:

  1. OFFICE – I don’t think MS Office is EVER worth the money.  There are many options available for cheap or even for FREE.  My favorite choice is OPEN OFFICE.  Open Office is completely free to use and can do just about everything that MS Office can do.  Considering that MS Office runs anywhere from $130 – $250, this is a great savings
  2. PHOTOS – one thing you will most likely be doing with the new computer is storing your photos.  I would suggest downloading and using a photo program.  Most digital cameras come with a photo program.  But, I tend to hate these.  I suggest using PICASA by Google.  It is a free program and does a great job storing and sorting your photos

Buy Online Backup

This is an area typically overlooked when buying a new computer.  How are you going to backup your computer?  A good backup needs to be simple (so we use it), automatic (so we don’t forget it), and off-site (so we have it even if our house burns down).  My favorite solution here is CARBONITE.  For just $60 a year, Carbonite offers unlimited online backup.  All you have to do is sign-up for an account, download the software, and let it run.  The software program automatically backs up your computer whenever an internet connection is available.  The back up is stored away from your computer and is encrypted for protection.  It is an incredibly easy solution that is a must have.  Use some of the money you saved from not buying MS Office to pay for Carbonite.

Install Anti-Virus

Assuming you have a PC, then you really need decent anti-virus software.  My choice is to use the free anti-virus put out by Microsoft.  The program is free and is called Microsoft Security Essentials.  While not perfect, for the price it is the best choice.  It is the only program I would install.  Don’t buy nor install other virus, spyware, malware, whatever crap.  Just install this one program and then forget about it.

Don’t Buy Extended Warranty Plans

A protection plan is one of the “contracts” you can buy when checking out. If anything goes wrong with your computer, you can bring it back to the place of purchase and they will fix it.  Typically I tell people NOT to buy these. They are simply insurance policies.  I think a much better option is to by your own insurance.  Simply save some money every month for PC repair.  Then if you do no use it, you still have the money.  In today’s low cost hardware world, I don’t think the extended warranty plans will pay off.

Change Browsers

I usually suggest to people that they consider downloading a different browser.  Just to make sure we are on the same page, a browser is the program you click to surf  the internet.  Typically, people use Internet Explorer (the big blue E).  While Internet Explorer is getting better all the time, I still think that other options are much better and much safer.  My favorite browser right now is Google Chrome.  Google Chrome is faster and more secure than Internet Explorer, at least in my opinion. It does take some getting used to.  It isn’t the same as Internet Explorer.  But, I think the end result is well worth the time spent learning a new browser (it wont’ take long)

So, that’s my list.  Six things to think about when buying a new computer.  I wrote all of these from the perspective of a PC.  If you’re buying an Apple computer, then the thoughts all change.

What do you think?  Do you have your own list of  “must do’s” for a new computer?  Let me know what’s on your list.

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