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What to Look for When Purchasing a New Computer

Updated: Jan 5, 2020

Whether your favorite computer just conked out and you need a replacement, or your in the market for a computer for the first time, or it’s just been awhile since you’ve last needed to purchase one, this article is designed to help you make a well-informed decision on how to make that next computer purchase worthwhile.

There are many manufacturers and operating systems to choose from, but this article will not promote or bash any of them. Instead we will focus on how YOU can make the best decision for purchasing a new computer for YOUR use.

There are two very important things to consider before purchasing a new computer, they are: knowing your budget as well as the purpose the new computer will primarily serve.

Let’s first briefly discuss your budget.

If you’re on a tight budget...Your budget may dictate some aspects of purchasing your next computer. However, thanks to how advanced computers have become over the years, you don’t have to settle when it comes to performance if you buy used or refurbished (more on the differences between used and refurbished later).

If you have more room in your budget to buy new….. To buy a new computer that will serve the purpose you need may be great, but the variance in prices for increased performance can be very great also (more to come on why discretion could be needed even on the biggest budget).

Speaking of performance in both budget scenarios, let’s now address in detail what contributes to a computer functioning the way you’d expect it to for a specific purpose.

Let’s take a look at some the following categories and choose the one that best matches your need. These are broken into two groups, basic needs (Personal or Professional/Home Office use) & specialized needs (graphic design, audio/video editing, and gaming)

For your basic needs:

The majority of computer user’s either fall into one of the following two categories or a combination of both.

Personal use (web surfing, social media, etc.)

For this one, depending on how mobile you want to be may be the biggest determining factor for your next purchase. You don’t necessarily need a desktop or laptop for this sort of use these days now that tablets and smart phones are on the scene. It’s best to go with the computer or device that’ll give you the most flexibility & usability for your money.

Professional/Home Office Use (Document processing, accounting, spreadsheets, etc.)

Now the lines can be blurred a bit when it comes to deciding to get your next computer if you not only need it for personal use, but also office use as well. If that’s the case, it’s better to use a combination of what’s mentioned in both of these categories to get you what you need.

Now depending on how heavily you’ll rely on your new computer for professional or home office use, you may want to go with a computer manufacturer that can provide time-tested durability and longevity (best to look at what the reviewers say for help with this).

On top of that, you will need a computer that will give you some multitasking ability. In order to achieve this, the number of processor cores and amount of RAM play a huge part in giving you multitasking ability. The more processor cores and GB of RAM, the more multitasking you can perform and vice versa.

If you’re not a big about multitasking and just need solid performance for professional or office use, start with at least 4 processor cores and 8GB of ram as a rule of thumb (at the same time allow some room to increase RAM in the future if needed).

For more specialized needs:

If you’re in the market for you next computer and you have a specialized need for you new machine, the following categories are for you. If not, feel free to skip ahead to the section entitled "Whether to buy new, used, or refurbished."

These are general guidelines and are not hard fast rules that even IT professionals themselves use when either custom building a new computer or upgrading pre-built machines for a client depending on what their specific needs are.

Graphic Design & CAD/CAM

“Because of the large amount of information that’s being used on this computer, it’s very common to have SSD for high speed storage. This is often combined with high end video because these are complex graphics with very intricate detail. And because these applications are so detailed, it’s very common to maximize the amount of RAM available in these workstations to be able to support these high end applications.” --excerpt from (A CompTIA certified IT course instructor).

Audio and/or Video Editing

“These are usually systems with the highest quality audio and they usually have enhanced graphics capabilities so that you can edit the highest resolution video. These types of systems are constantly reading and writing information from storage, so it’s very common to have an SSD so that you have the fastest possible reading and writing of information. And it’s not unusual to have dual monitors with this, as well, so you can edit your video on one screen and view the results of that edited video on the second screen.” --excerpt from (A CompTIA certified IT course instructor).


“...You want to have storage systems that have SSDs for fast start and fast load times. It is also very common to have graphics processing systems on these devices that are able to support these high end graphics required by these games.

In many of these games, the audio is just as important as the video, so you want to be sure to have a high quality sound card, as well. And don’t forget about the cooling system inside of this computer. These games are usually running for hours at a time, maximizing the capabilities of the hardware. So you want to be sure that your system stays as cool as possible.” --excerpt from (A CompTIA certified IT course instructor).

Whether to Buy New,Used, or Refurbished.

Now it’s time to determine based on your budget and computer performance needs which is the best option for you to go with, whether to buy used, new, refurbished, or even custom built if need be.

Buying new.

Buying a new computer can be like buying a new car. Usually everything works well when you purchase new as the computer has no previous user history, usually comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, customer support for help or if things go wrong, etc. However, as mentioned before based on your performance needs, prices can vary greatly.

Also, just like cars, a new computer’s value can depreciate quickly once purchased and used as well... Discretion is needed when deciding whether or not you will need to buy a new computer or components every few years depending on what you will be using it for (this is especially true for specialized needs, such as high-end gaming).

Buying used.

Buying used can be a bit risky depending on how you purchase. For example, purchasing from a random local computer owner (ex: garage sales or Craigslist) without being able to thoroughly test the computer first, can leave you hundreds of dollar invested into a paperweight that’s shaped like a computer with no hope of a refund.

Buying used is not always risky business though. For example, if you buy from a respected local pawn shop or from a reputable seller online, be aware of what their return policy is. If there’s something wrong with the computer and you find out in so many days from the date of purchase, you can likely get your money back or go with another option they may be offering.

Either way, make sure you can leverage the opportunity to return if needed and do thorough testing while you can to make sure that you’re getting your money's worth when going this route.

Buying refurbished.

Buying a refurbished computer can be likened to buying a car that’s “certified” pre-owned. When refurbished from a manufacturer, refurbished computers may at times (depending on the manufacturer) undergo far more testing than “new” computers to ensure their reliability for when they’re sold.

Also, manufacturer refurbished computers or laptops may also have brand new parts on it such as the chassis, keyboard, mouse, and/or track pad. To make things even better, they may even include a legitimate manufacturer specified warranty and be eligible for refund or exchange if damaged somehow.

However, there are many sellers these days passing off “used” computers and devices as refurbished… Get with the seller and ask them what makes their computer or device refurbished versus used. Do your homework and know what you’re buying from them and if it can be returned if defective and whether you can have your money refunded if necessary.

Custom Built Computers

Buying custom built...sounds fancy right? It can be. A computer can be totally custom built using parts that the buyer sees fit to either put together themselves or request to have put together by an electronics or computer re-seller to make the ultimate machine built for their specific purpose of use.

Of course, this is usually less expensive when building and compiling this list of parts yourself. There’s no “middle man” that does all this work for you so you literally can save hundreds going this route.

Customizing pre-built computers.

Computers on the market today can also be customized. Where a buyer feels that the manufacturer’s factory specs for a specific computer or laptop model doesn’t fit their individual needs, they can request that the seller add the components they need or they can be purchased separately and added to the new computer by the buyer themselves.

FYI, for those who buy used or refurbished...this can usually be done for these computers too, allowing you to get more specialized use from your next computer purchase as well.


When it comes to any big purchase, you want to make a well-informed decision and hopefully the content in the post helps you to see which components matter most.

Well, that just about covers what to look for when buying your next computer and like some readers, we wish we would have published this article BEFORE black Friday too...Anyway, we hope you find our blog post helpful and as always feel free to share this article with any you think may benefit from it, or just because you loved it so much.

Thanks for reading!!

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