This is a basic guide to help you as you look into purchasing a new computer. If you want help, fill out this form and we'll help you pick out a computer that best suits your needs: New Computer Request.
Before you Begin
Consider Your Goals
Pull out a pen and paper real quick and jot some things down. Think about the following things:
- What does your computer need to do? Why are you purchasing it?
- Basic User:
- Surfing the web
- Editing Word, Excel, and other documents
- Super User:
- Photo or video editing/creation
- 3D modeling, engineering, and design
- What are your preferences?
- Do you want a touch screen?
- Do you want something light to carry in your bag?
- Do you have a screen-size preference?
- What are your wants vs needs?
- Decide what aspects are essential and what are nice-to-haves (e.g.: touch screen capability)
- What is your budget?
- If you have a real budget, then be honest. Can you spend $2500? $250?
- Can you wait for a deal?
- Black Friday
- Cyber Monday
- Prime Day
Pro Tip #1: Define your needs, do your research, and take your time.
Desktop or Laptop
Laptops are great because they are an all-in-one package that you can take anywhere you go. The screen, keyboard, mouse (trackpad), and computer are all there!
Desktops are great because they are usually more easily upgradable and if something breaks can be easier to fix. If you won't ever need to bring your computer anywhere outside your home or work, then consider a Desktop. However, keep in mind if you go the desktop route you'll want to be sure you also get a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and the proper cables.
What to Look At: Operating System, RAM, Storage, and Cost
Windows vs Mac
When buying a new computer, it can be more convenient to purchase one that is similar to your previous one. There may be a learning curve if you've used Windows all your life and suddenly buy a Mac, and vice versa.
Pro Tip #2: Stick with what you know
- There are generally more options. More software, more computer choices, more everything.
- You can pay a few hundred or a few thousand, it is up to you.
- Highly customizable.
- Can be less secure. Hackers target Windows devices because they're used by most of the world.
- Can be glitchy and have weird issues.
- Some Windows laptops need adapters for HDMI and common USBs, etc.
- Can be more secure/ safe. Check out this informative article about Mac vs Windows Security.
- They just work.
- Simpler, more intuitive design.
- Not many options - that includes compatible programs. It's a closed ecosystem.
- Currently the latest mac laptops need adapters for HDMI and common USBs, etc..
Random access memory (RAM) is your computer's short term memory. When you are running something on your computer, small amounts of info are stored in the RAM which your computer will then use to make things work quickly and flow smoothly. If you run out of RAM, your computer starts to seriously lag so it is very important that you have enough for your usage.
Pro Tip #3: If you run heavy-lift programs or a lot of them all at once, then you'll want more RAM.
- A basic user will need at least 8 GB.
- A super user will want at least 16 GB.
You can get computers with more than 16 GB of RAM, it doesn't hurt anything, but it also doesn't help anything unless you actually use it. It won't make your computer run faster or better. With RAM, you use what you use and that is all.
When it comes to storage, you want to make certain that you get a Solid State Drive (SSD). It's difficult to find a new computer nowadays without one, but nonetheless be sure to check.
The amount of storage one will want is always very specific to their needs. If you do a lot of work with photos and videos for example, you'll want a lot because that type of data eats up storage space. Documents however are often very small and won't require excess storage. It would be good to look at your current disk space on your computer(s) and see how much you are using now compared to how much you have available.
Pro Tip #4: Look at what you currently have to create a baseline for what you need.
Also look into cloud storage options like Google Drive and OneDrive for Windows, or iCloud for Macs. These subscription based storage solutions can help you ensure you never completely lose your data by backing it up onto the cloud. Having to deal with data backups yourself can be messy. Cloud services do all the work for you.
Make sure throughout this process that you don't get caught up in the weeds. It can be easy and fun to learn more than you need to know when buying a new product. People often get overly involved and then they justify buying a nicer product than what they truly need or can reasonably afford. By all means, learn something new, just make sure at the end of the day you stick within your price range and you prioritize the stuff you care about over features you've only just learned exist. They may be cool, but you should ask yourself - does this feature help me accomplish my work more effectively?
Pro Tip #5: Save up for what you actually need, don’t just buy what’s cheapest.
If cost is your largest concern, don't go with Macs. They are more expensive, you'll need adapters, and Apple products in general are a much more costly way to go. It is especially recommended that if you've used Windows PCs and have been happy with them, then stick with Windows. Not only will it be cheaper, but you won't have to learn a new environment.
That said, cheaper is not always better. If a more secure machine that will reliably work is what you're after, then despite their price, Macs should be amongst your top choices - even if you haven't used one before. However, both a Windows and Mac can pose security risks. The best bet is to harden your Windows or Mac computer and implement cyber security best practices. You could also partner with a Managed Service Provider
Want to Know More
One thing that we skipped out on here is the CPU of your computer. The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the brain of your computer. It performs the millions of calculations that your computer executes so that you can use applications, browse the web, watch and edit videos, and everything else that one does on a computer. The CPU is very important, however, we did not go over it in this article because this article is more meant for the most common buyer. Most people do not need to worry much about what CPU they get, what the clock-speed is, how many cores it has, etc.. If you think you may be one of those people, or you'd just like to read more on CPUs, then we recommend this article.
If you'd like to know more about the guts of a computer and get a bit further into the weeds, then take a look at our Knowledge Base article titled Get to Know Your Computer
Want help? Fill out this form and we'll help you pick out a computer that best suits your needs: New Computer Request