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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Step-By-Step Summary Guide To Buying A PC ]

Step 1: Analyze Your Requirements

The initial step in buying a PC is to analyze your personal requirements and determine what you need your PC system to be able to do. This essential first task helps ensure that you buy a system that will do what you need it to do. If you skip it, there's a good chance you will end up dissatisfied with your purchase.

Here's how to analyze your requirements, step by step:

  1. Determine Your Needs and Wants: Considering all the various uses for PCs, determine what you will use your machine for. Make a list of the software you plan to run, and decide what your priorities are. This will help guide you to the right type of PC.
  2. Be Sure That You Really Need A PC: There are alternatives to buying a PC; they aren't for everyone. Make sure you really need one before spending a good chunk of money and time.
  3. Prioritize Requirements Factors: There are a number of different factors to take into account, that represent different requirements PC buyers have for their machines. The most important ones are cost, performance, expandability, reliability, warranty and service, ergonomics and aesthetics. Decide which of these are important to you, and which ones are not.
  4. Decide On A Desktop Or Notebook: Notebook PCs let you take your computer with you or work while you travel. However, compared to desktops, they are worse in almost every way but portability: more expensive, lower in performance and capacity, and worse in terms of reliability, expandability, selection, configurability and upgradeability. Decide if you really need the portability enough to justify these drawbacks; if you do, plan on a notebook, but otherwise get a desktop.
  5. Decide On Building Or Buying: Most people buy a pre-made PC because it is simpler and faster than building your own, and less knowledge is required. However, building your own PC teaches you about PCs and gives you the ultimate power and control to create a system that does exactly what you need, and is easy to upgrade and expand. Assuming you are going with a desktop unit, decide which way you want to go (you can't build a notebook).
  6. Determine Your Budget: Decide how much money you want to spend on your PC. This isn't easy to determine; you will need to decide for yourself if you want to start with a hard budget limit and buy whatever fits into it, or remain "flexible" until you figure out how much it will cost to get enough system to meet your needs. Bear in mind the following general points about budget:

I have created a number of PC use profiles, which describe different ways that PCs are common used. For each, I discuss typical applications, which requirements factors are most important, typical PC types, budget and so on. These may help you understand how to put all the pieces together in analyzing requirements--just don't assume you have to try to fit yourself into one of these "cookie-cutter" stereotypes.

After these steps are done, you should have a good idea of roughly what you need and want in a PC, the general approach you plan to take to get it, and what you are willing to spend. Here are some general tips to keep in mind during requirements analysis:

Next: Step 2: Design And Specify Your System

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