Your New Computer Buy Checklist

New computers have come down in price over the past months. It’s only natural to think that now might be the time to retire that old PC and get something new.

Like most people, you probably have many questions that you would like answered before you talk to a salesperson.

I wrote this simple minimum requirements list so that everyone could use it.

Your New Computer Buy Checklist


Processor speed is measured in Giga Hertz, GHz for short. In the spec sheet for a new computer it’s written something like this: Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor (2.80GHz)

This means that Intel made the processor. It’s a Pentium 4 model, and it’s speed is 2.8 GHz.

For basic computing a 2.4GHz processor or better provides enough computing power. Typical today is a 2.66GHz or 2.8GHz. 3.0GHz processors are even faster and are decently priced.

The Graphics card is important because it creates the images you see on the monitor. In lower cost systems, these are chips mounted on the motherboard (no actual removable card). These are more that adequate for business applications and Web surfing. You can spend much more, up to $400, for a gaming card.

Hard drive capacity should be a minimum of 40GB (giga byte). However most new systems will have 80GB and larger drives. The general business computer will only need 40GB to 120GB. Save $50 on the drive.

RAM memory should be a minimum of 256MB (mega byte) to properly run Windows XP and your programs. 512 MB will give the best results. Increased RAM memory allows the software to work less from the hard drive. Your programs will run faster and smoother.

A CD read/write drive is required for making back-up’s of documents and photos. Most new computers, but not all, incldue CD R/W drives. Be sure to look.

Flat Panel Display. A 17″ flat panel display is roughly equivalent in viewable area to a 19″ standard monitor, and is much lighter with a smaller footprint. They are also more expensive. However, flat panels use half the electricity, look great, and are rumored to have a longer useful life. A high percentage of new computer buyers are getting the flat panel display regardless of the additional cost because of these reasons.

Microsoft Windows XP is the only operating system you can buy with a new computer unless you are interested in an Apple computer.

When buying on sale, do not buy a computer that does not come with “service pack 2″. Although you can update Windows XP to SP2, there are only problems ahead when you need to reinstall Windows XP for some reason (such as a spyware attack).

Floppy drives are on their way out. Already many computers come without this 3.5″ drive. You may need one for your digital camera or back-up up files. If the computer you want does not have a floppy drive, a USB external drive can be purchased for about $35.

Personally, after working on hundreds of computers, I believe that Dell gives the best bang for the buck.