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4/5/15

Buying a new PC

This is a preliminary list of notes.  I have not perfumed well in this area myself so I put together these notes to help me in the future.

The underlying lesson I learned is that you generally get what you paid for.  In 2014 I purchased a laptop with a touch screen, windows 8 and Microsoft office for $225.  Microsoft office Home and Student sells for $139 and Windows 8 sells for $91 so that does not leave much for the hardware.  Well obviously the manufacturer does not pay retail for the software but you get the idea.

I would encourage anyone getting a laptop these days to get a touch screen and give it serious consideration if you are buying a new screen for a desktop.  You may not think you need it now but the additional coast is small and you will probably want it before you current screen needs to be replaced.

CPU, Central Processing unit, the working brain part of the computer as apposed to the brain memory part which is the computer memory.
The big confusing area is the CPU.  There are hundreds out there and their names mean nothing to me and probably nothing to you.  Some are Intel and some are AMD but both companies make high and low perfuming products.  The way to find out how good the CPU is is to check its Passmark score.  With a detailed name of the CPU, go to https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php  and look up the performance. The first number in  the column is the Passmark score.  A score of 700 is horrible, 2000 bearable and 8000 great for non-gaming use.  For comparison, a Dell desktop for home use costing $500 (no monitor) had a score of 6692.   22000 is the highest number I saw and  the CPU alone listed for $1,850 so it is probably more than you want. (2017 numbers). On Windows 10 machines you can see what CPU you have by START>SETTINGS>SYSTEM>ABOUT.
I would be temped to assume that if this part was good on a computer from a recognized outlet that everything else was probably of comparable quality.

Memory,  (RAM) For a relatively modestly priced computer which is not expected to see heavy computing demands, then 4 Gigs is fine, for heavy duty computing needs, have 8 Gigs or more.  Memory also comes in many forms and with various speeds.  Adding more memory to a desktop computer is relatively straight forward, for laptops it may or may not be possible.

Storage (Hard disk)
, Different  users have vary different storage needs.  lots of movies, music files and pictures require a lot of storage, non of these means that you probably can't buy a hard disk small enough.  At any rate more space never hearts. If you are not a heavy user of storage than the default that comes with most systems should be fine. If you want to work the problem further, then a good start in deciding hoe much space you need is to see how much you are using now. Click on START (the icon in the lower left of your screen) then "Computer" then look at your C: drive, by subtracting the amount that is free from the total, you can see how much you use.    If you have other drives, repeat the process.  Also if you do not know what the others are used for, than that is an issue to look into.
Hard disks come in various speeds and a faster hard disk can speed everything up.  The fastest ones are Solid State Drives (SSD drives).  They are not disk drives at all but are like the memory in your smart phone or camera.  They are quite a bit more expensive so people generally use them for just things like windows and put things like My Documents on a regular drive.  Programs like Microsoft Office could go on either depending on space availability.
You may also want to have a separate hard disk for backup.  It will need to be a lot bigger than the amount of space you are using on your other hard disks.  I currently have 5 times as much space used on my backup hard disk as on all my regular disks combined.  When it gets filled up, I just erase everything and start over including a system image of everything on my computer.  A backup hard disk can be internal, external on on the cloud.

Video Card,
 Unless you are a gamier or video editor type person, the default would be fine.  The one other type you might want something special is if you want to have 2 monitors.  I have that now and it is fantastic.

Audio,
I always just go with the default. These days everything comes with a microphone input hack and speaker output.  Laptops all have a built in microphones. See the top notes in Speed Up Your PC for a way to get a general rating of all the components but getting the Windows Experience Index (WEI) numbers.  You can get the numbers directly for windows 7 and older machines but Windows 8.1 and 10 require that you download and run a small program from a third party.

A few of recommendations:
April 2017, I just purchased a Dell desktop tower with wired keyboard and mouse, no monitor (I will be using the mouse and monitor from the old computer and I never saw the advantage of a wireless keyboard). I was looking a computer for light computing and internet browsing and reasonable speed and one that would have a long life.
Dell has billions of models, this one has an Intel Core i5-6400 Processor with a Passmark score of 6692 and 8 MB of RAM for $499
March 31, 2017   Seattle Times article recommended  Asus ZenBook UX330UA with a Intel i5-7200U 2.5 GHz Processor with a Passmark score of 6691 for $699.   It as a solid state hard drive (SSD) but it is only 256 MB which is fine unless you store huge amounts of Pictures or songs  or large amounts of movies. Check what you are using now. They also recommended getting a Chromebook rather than a windows laptop like the one above if you want to spend less and will mostly be using it for internet access.

If you think you have gotten a much better deal than this, then check it out carefully, the salesman is smarter about this than you are.