How to Choose and Buy a New Computer

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At this time of year, thoughts often turn to buying a new computer (by which we mean buying a new new computer, not one that is used but “new to you” or one that is already in your grasp but you are making “new” when you buy new computer components for it).

The first question to ask yourself should be “Should I buy a new computer system?”, or even “Do I really need to buy a new computer?”

But assuming the answer to a new computer buy is “yes” (or even if you don’t really need a new computer, but just want in on all the new computer technology), this leads to several more questions people should ask themselves before they buy new computers: “A Microsoft new computer or a new Mac computer?” And if you are going to go Microsoft, then “A new computer with Windows 7, or Vista or, heck, maybe even a new computer with XP?” (Yes, they can still be had.) “Do I really need all the new computer technologies or should I consider some of the cheap new computers?”

Ultimately, when purchasing a new computer, the best new computer for you is the one that will gives you the most use, with the least hassle, and the most satisfaction.

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[At this point we should disclose that we have a strong preference for Macs, both because of their ease of use and elegance, and because they are still so much safer and less prone to viruses and hacking. And that is likely to remain true so long as Microsoft-based computers are in the majority of households and businesses, as hackers and virus-writers will almost always write their evil software to attack the biggest, juiciest targets yielding the biggest payload.]

Once you have decided on which type of computer you want to purchase (Windows or Mac and, if Windows, the brand (HP, Dell, Gateway, etc.), you need to decide on the form factor: desktop, or laptop? These days laptops are so powerful and have so much memory and disk space, that we always choose a laptop. You can always create the desktop experience by attaching a keyboard and monitor to a laptop, but you can’t really create the laptop experience by lugging around your desktop box and peripherals!

Once you have nailed down exactly which computer you want, the last two things to look at are 1) from where you want to purchase it, and 2) warranties.

If you have chosen to get an Apple computer, that narrows things right down: your choices are to get the computer from the Apple store (online or in person) and to purchase an Apple Care warranty, or to get it from one of the few authorized dealers, such as Best Buy, and purchase their extended warranty. Some authorized dealer extended warranties are, we’ve been told, better than Apple Care because they cover more scenarios. That said, we have always received superlative service at every Apple store to which we’ve taken a sick computer, even without a warranty.

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Your choices for where to purchase a Windows-based computer are much greater than for Apple computers, both online and in-store. The same holds true for warranties; most manufacturers, and some suppliers, offer a warranty of some sort (usually 90 to 365 days), and nearly all, if not all, major electronics retailers offer an extended warranty – indeed that is where they make a great deal of their money.

In the case of both Apple and Windows computers, once you know exactly what model you want, it pays to shop around for the ideal combination of both price and warranty. Often being willing to wait a few days (for shipping) or to drive a few extra miles can save you as much as a few hundred dollars, or provide you with a better warranty, or both.

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