This guide is intended to help you buy a new computer. Making a choice about which computer system is right for you means understanding the components of the system and matching its capabilities to your computing needs.
A gamer, keen photographer or someone working with video has very different computing needs from a home user who is just looking to take some family photos, surf the web and check their emails.
Think about what you want to use your new computer for and keep that in mind when reading the recommendations below.
I prefer to buy PCs built by major manufacturers like HP and Compaq, but that is just a personal preference. Local computer stores build PCs out of individual components and I think unfortunately you can never be quite sure of the overall quality.
Budget systems tend to be made of budget components, so think about possible maintenance costs as well as the up-front price when deciding which computer to buy.
I would recommend a general home user needs a minimum of 1Gb of RAM for Windows XP, or 2 to 3Gb of RAM for systems running Windows Vista. I would recommend gamers, photographers and other more intensive users look at double that amount.
RAM is the single most significant performance factor in a PC and it is relatively cheap, so it pays to stock up at the start.
Think of RAM memory as your computer's IQ. The higher your IQ the faster you can think and the more things you can think about at once. Generally the more RAM memory your computer has the more responsive it will be.
You can never be too beautiful, too rich or have too much RAM.
The processor is the computer chip that processes instructions, so the more powerful and faster your processor, the more responsive your computer will be.
Family photographs are probably the most intensive thing a general home user will want do with their new computer, so processor type and speed isn't too critical for them.
Intel Celeron dual core and Pentium dual core processors are the current families of entry level computer processors and have adequate performance for the needs of home users.
Intel Core 2 Duo processors are higher end and more capable processors, but they also cost more. These processors are a must for gamers and video users, but home users may not really need the extra performance.
Processor speed is measure in GHz, with bigger numbers meaning faster performance. Gamers etc. should look for 2.8Ghz or better processor speed - but again, this is mostly irrelevant for a home user's needs.
Hard drives are the amount of storage space your computer system has for storing files (like music and digital photographs) and programmes. The storage capacity of hard drives is measured in Gigabytes (Gb).
New computer systems typically offer 160Gb-250Gb drives as a minimum standard. Unless you are going to take a lot of photographs, that much hard drive storage space will be plenty for a normal home user.
I would advise gamers or people working with video to look at a minimum hard drive capacity of 500Gb or more.
The built-in graphics on a motherboard should be sufficient for a home user. This is also sometimes called onboard graphics.
Gamers and other intensive users will require a more capable graphics card like an nVidia 8600GT or better with 512Mb or better of video RAM.
We hope this guide has helped you understand your needs and what to look for when looking to buy a new computer system.
If we can provide any more assistance, please contact us at Digital Forge.