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The All Important Buying Guide

By The Admiral ·
The All Important Computer Buying Guide

Whether you are a standard every day business person or a hard hitting gamer, there are a few things that you want to take into account when purchasing a computer. Many of these things are not covered in a standard Magazine, but are just as important as the operations itself.

Things that you definitely want to look at when purchasing a computer you may already know, but there are a few secrets to computers that you may not know that this guide will help you with. The list of things to look at is as follows:

The company backing the system. Like many have come and gone before such as Packard Bell, Legend, Compuadd, just among the few, if your not building your computer by yourself, you want to have the backing of a company that has been in the game for a long time and has customer service that is responsive. Without being able to get up and running when you need it to, you have essentially purchased a very commoditized door stop.

What is the warranty and what does it cover? Computers like all other electronics have a mean-time-between-failure, or MBTF. All hard drives have one, and the components in the system also have one. This is the mean time that the company has tested the computer or component before they expect a failure. In some cases, the manufacturers do the testing and then adjust their warranty to either be on the low side of the failure rate, or after this time to ensure ample serviceability with it?s customers. This number should be high, the higher the better. The second point with this is that many warranties are one year. In the technical and computer field we call these throw-aways. You use the system until it fails then throw it away, since most of the time the cost of replacing or repairing the failed component outweighs the cost of replacement. Attempt to find a system with a three or five year warranty, and ensure that it covers the complete system, and the preload. Many companies will not support the operating system or other software, so find out who covers the software warranty. On a preload it is the manufacturer of the computer, not the actual software company.

What are the specs of the system? Many people generally purchase one off the shelf because of price, but do not look at the specs when they get home. Does the system have ample storage, backup, and operating capacity for your application? A business person may just need a system that connects to a company database, call tracking stuff and needs for documentation and do not need high hard drive or RAM capacity, but a gamer or a developer needs a greater video card with a higher amount of space. The important thing here is to do your homework and find out what others are purchasing.

Off the wall configurations are the hardest. At one point in time, all of the computer companies came out with their own version of technologies that wound up being problems later on with support and use. Programs would not recognize the hardware, and could not use it, or it required a lot of steps in order to do the function you wanted. IBM, Packard Bell, Hewlett Packard, Compaq and others were guilty of this, and it bit them in the buns when it came to support, because it ate their profit on the system away, and in one or two cases, it required that the company replace the item with good known working solutions.

Purchasing the first of anything. In many cases companies come out with new technologies that have not been field tested, thinking that a business professional has the time and patience to look for and correct any bugs. In my environment, we did not purchase Windows XP until after the first service pack, and we do not purchase new laptops until there is more than one model after about 8 months. We do this because we need a solution to run and do not want to waste money on fixing the problems for the company. It is like purchasing the first version of any automobile; any first version of a car will be a maintenance problem until the dealer and other shops are able to get ahold of the books in order to repair it. The general rule of thumb is to wait for the next version or 6-8 months. When purchasing technology, the bling value does not necessarily mean that you are not going to be trouble free.

What comes loaded on it? This may not be a big deal for companies that have their own loads, but when you are a small business, you need the system to run full blast out of the box. Some companies include Microsoft Operating Systems with Microsoft Office products bundled, others offer Microsoft Operating Systems with Wordperfect. In order to avoid other costs, make sure the system that you are ordering or looking at comes with at least:

-> An operating system that is well known or is standard
-> An office suite that you are familiar with or is up to date to read your company files
-> An Anti-Virus software bundle ? does not matter who it is ? as long as it has one
-> A Firewall software solution
-> A spam/Spyware blocker.
-> If your doing media projects, make sure that it is not the watered down media software, but the full version software.

Generally, you want to avoid anything that has more bling than functionality ? go with the well known brands and not something that is unknown. And you also want to find out what kind of support you will get out of the box for the software that you are purchasing.

Gamers generally tend to take their systems and re-format them to their specifications, so make sure that there are individual or a selective restore CD that will allow you to restore those items you want, and not those that you do not care about.

Can you upgrade it? It is well known that laptops can be upgraded two possibly three ways: Hard Drive, memory, and CD-ROM drive. But a desktop computer can be upgraded in any number of ways. Before you purchase your computer, ensure that your planned upgrades will be able to be accepted via the system, and if they are supported by the computer company. Some upgrades are not internal to the system. You may have a scanner, printer, webcam, USB Keyboard, USB Mouse or any other variety of peripherals. Before you buy, make sure that it has enough ports to handle your externals, and if not, check to see if the company will throw in an expansion device or at least discount one that is approved for your system. It is important to understand, however, that you and you alone have to make the determination if it is compatable, so it never hurts to ask the question. Then the question after that is if it is returnable if you find out it is not compatable.

Will they support additions? Many companies will not support additions to their system. In many cases companies have decided to take the narrow road on computers and will only support what is shipped in the box and nothing more. You need to find out if they will offer support on those items that you purchase for upgrade. In many cases, they will offer support for the hardware that you purchase from them, but will offer no support when you connect a non-company item to the computer, even if the item is part of the standards organization. In either case, you have to make the determination of who will support the product, and be prepared to be bounced around from company to company in the PD process. (PD ? Problem Determination)

Do not purchase on price alone. The cheaper the system is, does not necessarily mean it is better. Companies are now releasing $299 computers, but if you need support on the system, even if it is to get a replacement, the first thing that they will ask you for is your credit card number in order to charge you for the call. While price is a main factor in many computer purchases, buyers forget to see what the fine print is when it comes to support (800 number or toll call? ? or is it that you pay by incident?) You have to make the determination if you want no support, some support, or stellar support when factoring into your costs.

I hope that this guide helps many in their quest for the perfect PC. Most if not all of the items in this guide is things that are not thought of when purchasing a PC. I don?t know how many times I have heard that a person purchased a PC only to find out that the warranty on the product expired when installing a piece of needed software for their use, or the warranty expired when they got their first virus. It is important to know that there is more than one aspect to any purchase of a system.

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