Tips for Buying a PC

Buying Your PC

Buying a PC that's right for you and your family is not all that simple task. More so if you're going to buy an unbranded or an assembled one. But branded or not, you have to get you facts right before you shell out your money. First, why do you want to buy a PC? Is it because almost every one has one these days, or that you have the money to spare. If these are the reasons are that you want to end up spending a lot of money on something you're unlikely to use. But if your reasons are that you want it for home based business, or for your kids for their education, or to work at home, or that you want to surf the net, you are on the right track. Now let's get down to specifics.

What do you need it for?

Take a piece of paper and write down what all you need to do with the pc.

Spreadsheets, Word processing, Surfing the Web, sending e-mail, playing games. Running multimedia, Watching movies, playing music ,CAD drawings, graphics designing, Web designing. Programming and Online learning.

Make your list. Why? Because different needs need Different PCs. You really don't need the latest computer if all you're going to do is browsing, no matter what the vendor tells you.

When you make your list be sure to look a little ahead and see what all other things you might be using the computer for. For instance, do you think you are likely to take up graphics designing? Or will the kids start playing all those high-end games?

How much money do you want to spend?

Get hang of the money you can spend on the PC. Then you have to look for the PC that suits your needs and your budget. This may need some balancing even, if your requirements are huge and the budget isn't. This will also decide if you should go for branded PC or an assembled one.

Brand or assembled?

This is a question that has gone on for a while now. A year ago, branded ones. We recommend that you go for a PC for which you can get assured service and support. Fort a more detailed analysis, catch our July story called Branded or Not?

What is it?

This is the part that has the computer's basic circuitry and components. The processors, meomory, BIOS, expansion slots, etc all go on the motherboard.

What's available?

Right now you have two broad choices for a motherboard. The motherboards based on Intel 810 chipset have the graphics and audio capabilities on to the board itself-that's what they mean by integrated graphics and audio onboard. In case you're looking for better graphics (say, you will be moving to high-end games, or graphics, or CAD or need better sound environmental audio, sound-editing), you'll have to get some high-end video and audio cards. Which such a motherboard won't support. You could, in such cards.

What to ask the vendor :

What are the upgrades possible on this motherboard? Which processors are supported? How much are the upgrades going to cost?

What is it?

The brain of the PC. You don't always have to go for the fastest. And just having a processor that's fast won't do. The rest of the system has to keep up with it.

What's available?

Among the low-end ones available are Celeron, AMD K6.2 and K6-3, and now AMD"S Duron. They are available in different clock speeds-go for the one you can afford. A Celeron 600MHZ. Among the high-end processors are Pentium III and AMD's Anthon. A PIII 667 MHz.

Also remember that a processor alone can't make the PC zip. For instance, A PIII on an 810 motherboard that doesn't have much graphics capability isn't of much use.

How much do you need?

If you are going to work on office application like word processors and spreadsheets, and some browsing, a Celeron or an AMDK6 series, or Duron would do. For work that needs more processing power you have to go for a Pentium III or an Anthon. You'll find some Pentium IIs in the market but Intel Doesn't makes them anymore.

What is it?

This is the place where all your program and data will b stored on the PC. Your PC's performance will depend upon the rate at which your hard disk can read data and give it to the other parts. The speed of a hard disk is measured in rpm. These days most hard disks come with a speed of 7200 rpm. And some other available in hard disk 7.5 GB, 15 GB, 20 GB, and for more on how to take care of your hard disk, check out The Hard Disk Guide in this issue.

How much do you need?

Most PCs now come with 8-10 GB of hard disk space. With fat OSs and fatter office suites and games, you'll need some bit of space. 17 GB is quite common, now even 30 GB doesn't raise eyebrows. So do take those offers of 1GB with a huge bag of salt.

What is it?

The place where information is stored for a while so that the processor doesn't have to keep hunting for it on the hard disk.

What's available?

The more you have the better it is. A lot of PCs still come with 32 MB RAM-we advise you to go for 64MB at the very least. If you're a gamer or into heavy graphics, you'll need 128 MB.

How much do you need?

The more you have the better it is. A lot of PCs still come with 32 MB RAM-we advise you to go for 64 MB at the very least. If you're a gamer or into heavy graphics, you'll need 128 MB

What is it?

This is a card that carries out the processing for all that's related to the display. You could have a fast processor, lots of ROM and hard disk that keeps pace with it all. But if the display can't match all this-the speed at which the things have got processed will take ages to show up on screen. The card has its RAM- called video RAM (VRAM).

What's available?

As we said earlier, some motherboards have this function inbuilt, but others need you to have a graphics card for this. You get a range of cards now.

How much do you need?

If you're into heavy gaming and graphics and CAD and 3D modeling, you need to have a card with at least 8 MB VRAM, 16MB if you can afford it. For other purpose, 4 MB VRAM is good enough.

All software comes on CDs. A lot of computers magazines that teach you how to use computers come with CDs. So a CD-ROM drive is a must. Now you have the option of going for CD-RW drives or even DVD drives. And some vendors have the check to see PCs without them.

Higher X ratings-such as 48X, 52X for a CD drive doesn't mean that the drive will run at blazing speeds. In fact for routine things opening a CD tray, making a CD auto run-an 8X will do just fine. But if you were to rip songs from your audio CDs to convert them into MP3s you would need a faster drive.

A DVD drive is great if you are going to be watching a lot of movies on your PC- but make sure video card and sound card and speakers match up to it.

Go for a CD-RW drive if you are going to be burning a lot of CDs-keeping backups, making MP3 CDs, and so on.

The basic PC:

For running productivity applications: word processors, spreadsheet, presentations, Surfing. Using e-mail, using personal information mangers. Play music and videos, some light games and multimedia CDs


  • Celeron 550 MHz or above/AMD K6 series or Duron 550 MHz or above

  • 64 MB RAM

  • 15" color SVGA monitor

  • 10-12 GB ATA/66 hard disk

  • On board video abd sound

  • 48 x or higher CD-drive

  • 101-keys Keyboard

  • 3-button mouse

  • 56 kbps modem

The high-end PC ?

For heavy gaming, graphics, multimedia creation, sound editing


  • Pentium III 700 MHz/ k-7 700 MHz or higher

  • 128 MB RAM

  • 17 GB ATA/^^ hard disk drive

  • video card with 32 MB VRAM

  • 101-keys keyboard

  • on board sound (for those into sound editing and composing, a high-end sound card like Creative SoundBlaster Live is needed)

  • 17" monitor

  • Scroll mouse

  • 56 Kbps modem

Sound card and Speakers:

The sound card processes the sound that you hear on your PC. These days sounds cards not only make multimedia application sound great, they also let you compose record and edit your own music.


14" monitors are out. You can get in your some other type of the monitor in 15", color monitor, 16 inches and 17 inches monitor are available in the market.


Ports are where you plug in peripherals. The mouse and keyboard go into their respective ports. Serial ports take in modems. Parallel ports take in printer, scanners, etc, There are now USB ports for USB printers, scanners, digital cameras, etc. Now there are Fire Wire ports t00-but these are useful for those into video-editing and such tasks that need a lot of data to be transferred in a shot.

Keyboard and Mouse-

There is a range of mice to choose from Look for one that you fell comfortable working with. There are different types of keyboards. Again look for one that doesn't require you to thump hard to type, feels ergonomic. You could also go for devices go for devices that have programmable buttons/keys.


You need an operating system-the common one is of course, Windows 98. Now the latest version of Windows for the home is Windows Me.

You need an office suits, or at least programs that do word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. You need a browser to the Web, and an e-mail program. You'll also need an antivirus, some system diagnostic tools, some graphics programs, and some useful things like media players (to run your movies and play music), file compression tools like WinZip. Then of course, there is a world of games and multimedia titles to explore.

About The Author

Pawan Bangar,
Technical Director,

email: [email protected]
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