Buying a New Windows Computer

January 1st, 2008

WindowsThis article by Kim Komando has some good tips regarding what to look for in a new computer that runs Windows Vista. Vista, by the way, was named the year’s biggest tech disappointment by PC World.

Buying a New Windows Computer

By Kim Komando

You can still get computers that run Windows XP. But Vista, whatever its faults, is the future. We’ve used Vista all year in the office. It has worked fine.

Vista requires a more powerful machine than XP. That means you may have to spend more than you planned.

There are several versions of Vista. Vista Home Basic is just that—basic. Skip it. Go with Home Premium or Ultimate.

Home Premium and Ultimate give you a much better experience. You’ll be able to see all the improvements in Vista’s design. There are also more features in these editions. For example, they both include Media Center. To learn more about the different versions of Vista, read my buying guide.

With Vista, you’ll need plenty of RAM. The minimum you’ll need for Home Basic is 512 megabytes. For other versions of Vista, you’ll need 1GB. I would double this. Otherwise, be prepared to add more RAM later. This is particularly true if you’ll do photo or video editing.

You’ll also need plenty of graphics power. That’s due to Vista’s Aero interface. The minimum amount of video RAM you need for Vista is 128MB. Again, I would double this.

Buy a computer with a dedicated graphics card. The card will have its own memory.

Cheaper computers have the graphics system built in to the motherboard. This is called integrated graphics. If you buy a computer with integrated graphics, the system RAM will also be used for graphics. This will slow down your machine.

Things are different if you’re buying a laptop. You may opt for integrated graphics to improve battery life. Also, it will be more difficult to find a laptop with a dedicated video card. If you go with integrated graphics, settle for no less than 2GB of system RAM.

You may want to add RAM later. Make sure the laptop will accept more RAM. Some top out at 2GB.

Most people focus on the processor when buying a computer. These days, chips are powerful enough that most will do just fine. However, I’d stay away from the budget chips—Intel Celeron and AMD Sempron.

I would go with Intel’s Core 2 Duo or AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 dual-core chip. With laptops, buy AMD’s Turion or Intel’s Core 2 Duo Mobile.

Don’t worry too much about processor speed. Any of these processors will be fast. But if you can get a deal on a faster chip, go for it.

Hard drive capacities just grow and grow. If you’re buying a desktop computer, the hard drive will probably be 160GB or larger. This is more than adequate—unless you�re doing video editing. With laptops, hard drive size is more limited. I would aim for 80GB or larger on a laptop.

A CD/DVD burner is also essential. Fortunately, it should be standard on most computers you’ll see.

Also, the computer should have plenty of USB ports. Some laptops only have two; I would shoot for three or four. Memory card readers are also a nice touch. However, they’re useless if they don’t accept the cards from your gadgets.

Once you get your new machine, you�ll need to set it up. Vista has a tool that will help you transfer data easily. It’s called Easy Transfer. I have a tip that explains it.

Copyright 2008 WestStar TalkRadio Network. Reprinted with permission. No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written consent of WestStar TalkRadio Network. Visit Kim Komando and sign up for her free e-mail newsletters at: www.komando.com.

One Response to “Buying a New Windows Computer”

  1. [link]David Bradley Says:

    To be honest, if I were buying a new Vista machine, I’d be upgrading to XP Service Pack 3. It’s apparently a lot faster and you don’t have to worry about quite so many hardware incompatibilities. That said, I’m now re-working an ancient Pentium machine to see if I can boot it up with Linux and get it online as a server…

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