Monday, 15 August 2011

PC buying guide, thanks to Michael Fenton

Michael Fenton got in touch with the following, excellent buyer's guide on personal computers. No matter how experienced you are in buying PCs it's worth reading. Many thanks to Michael for his sensible advice and effort in helping his neighbours.


It occurred to me that there seems to be a whole horde of people out there that buy computers without knowing WHY they are buying them. I thought I could compile a list that might help save people from buying something they don’t need. Other people might not agree with me, well then they can add to the list. But at least on a weekly basis I’m asked “What computer should I buy”

My answer is quite simple….

"What are you going to use it for?"

There's no point buying a PC suited for typing out emails and working on spreadsheets if you want to play high graphic games on it. At the same time theres no point buying a PC suited for games if all you will ever do is type emails on it. Once you know what you want to use it for only then should you head out to a computer shop. Don’t go to the shop before you know what you need the PC for as this will only lead to confusion and “panic” next thing you know you are like a rabbit caught in headlights and you end up buying something just to get out.

Things I tell people to look at when buying a PC:

Memory – don’t confuse this with hard drive space.
Hard drive space – Don’t think “ooooooh I’ve got 320GB therefore I have a lot of memory”

Now what I would suggest for a “office PC” is something with the following minimum specs:
Memory – 2 Gigabytes
Hard drive space – 250 Gigabytes
Processor – You can get away with a Celeron here, but if you can afford it get something like an Intel Duo core or the likes. Processors are changing all the time so I won’t start a list. However look at what’s called the cache. The bigger the better.

If you are buying a PC for gaming be prepared to spend around P5000 (at least) I won’t go into this because I would hope that if you were an avid enough PC gamer you will do your homework.

If it’s a pc for home use:
Memory – more is better try to get 4 Gigabytes
Hard drive space – Get nothing less than 320 Gigabytes General rule is buy as much space as you can afford – you can NEVER have enough space (especially if you have kids)
Processor – Splash out for something like the Intel i3 with 3 megabytes of cache. You WILL need the multiple processing capabilities.

Once you have bought your PC remember, most off the shelf PCs that are “no name” brands don’t come with an operating system. This makes it cheaper but you still need to buy Windows. You will also need to buy the office suite. Windows and office can set you back by as much as P3000. But you will be legal.

Most PCs come with a one year HARDWARE warranty however if you take your PC back to the shop after a lighting storm because it doesn’t work you may have to pay because the motherboard might have been hit by a power surge or lighting. For this reason I suggest getting an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

SOFTWARE (Windows, Office etc) will NOT be covered by warranty. So make sure you get a decent antivirus.


Kasey Chang said...

A few comments from an IT pro, though on the wrong side of the ocean...

1) For "office use" (e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet), 2GB RAM and 1 GHz CPU is sufficient, as the recommendation says. However, if you plan to run several programs at once, you need 4GB RAM.

2) You can use which will save you the cost of buying Microsoft Office. I use it every day and I have had no problems.

3) Unless your local AC power situation is horrible (blackouts and brownouts once or twice a day) you do not need an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) unless you cannot lose ANY data. An UPS will allow you to work even if the power fails, so you have several minutes to save your work and shut down the computer. In most cases, a "surge protector" is sufficient for home use. Some surge protectors even offers warranty should a surge fry your equipment protected by it. However, not sure if you can claim that in Namibia.

4) There are many free antivirus packages out there, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira Free, and AVG Free. You don't have to buy Antivirus nowadays.

Michael Fenton said...

@ Kasey Chang,
I agree with your sentiments RE: using open office. However some people are not comfortable using open office and prefer the "familiarity" of MS office. Its a personal preference for the end user at the end of the day.

The reason I suggest a UPS instead of a "surge protector" is that most ups's now days will serve to protect you from surges. How ever if you take a direct lightning strike to the power lines I'm not convinced anything will help, other than having unplugged the pc from the wall before hand :)
A ups will however allow the person to save their work and shut the pc down "cleanly". Our power in Botswana is not the greatest.

And yup there are many free antiviruses.... Just hope the end user has internet ;)