Before you buy, do some basic research by reading Consumer Reports magazine and computer magazines like PC World and Computer Shopper. Look for key points like customer satisfaction, reliability and level of tech support. If you know someone who is computer savvy, ask for their help, especially if you don’t understand what DRAM or any other terms mean.
If this is your first computer, go to a store that has several brands on display. You want to “try before you buy.” Do the keyboard and the mouse feel comfortable? Are the images bright and sharp on the monitor? Remember, you will be spending many hours “surfing,” writing e-mails, etc.
Now check the computer specifications. Look at processor speed, memory amount and hard drive capacity. Increase the memory and hard drive space if you can afford it.
Does the computer have the software you need? For example, you like a computer but it doesn’t have Microsoft Word. Ask the sales rep if you can get Word installed. They may charge extra or they may not. See if you can make a deal.
Make sure the computer comes with security software to protect it from viruses, hackers and spam. Some have it while others have a trial copy which you can upgrade to the regular product. Don’t even think of logging into the Internet without this protection.
It only takes one virus attack to harm your computer and possibly ruin your day.
If you feel confident enough, you may shop on the Internet. You won’t be able to “try before you buy” but if you stick with well-known brands you should be all right.
Check the websites for daily specials and don’t forget to increase the memory and hard drive space if you can afford it.
Ask the sales rep if the warranty includes on-site repair or if there is an authorized dealer in your neighborhood who can make repairs.
Whether you buy at a store or on the Internet, remember to:
- Check the computer specifications.
- Read the “fine print” in warranties.
- Ask about repair and tech support policies to find out what is and isn’t covered. Some companies have cut back on tech support and may charge a “per incident” fee.
- Ask about return and restocking fees.
After you get your computer, resist the urge to connect. Make sure you got what you paid for by reading the invoice and/or packing list. Then read the instruction and user's manuals to set up your computer the right way.