[ 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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"
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:
- Be honest with yourself in deciding what you need a
PC for, or you may overspend or under-spend and be unhappy with the results.
- Avoid the common traps associated with planning a PC
purchase, such as thinking of the PC as an "investment" (and hence
over-spending), or worrying overly about depreciation (and under-spending).
- If specifying a system for others, be sure to keep their
requirements in mind.
- If you need help determining your system's requirements, ask
a PC person you know for help.
- If you are on a tight budget, consider free alternatives to
buying hardware, such as using someone else's PC, updating your software, or
optimizing your existing system.
- Consider an upgrade to your existing PC if a new
PC is too expensive.
- If you are planning a system to run a specific piece of software, be sure to let the needs of that software guide your requirements
- If you are on a tight budget, remember that there are good
ways to economize (such as getting a slower CPU, reusing components or putting off
peripheral purchases), and bad ways as well (such as
buying a cheap monitor, getting too little memory, or buying a imbalanced system).
2: Design And Specify Your System
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