Buying A Computer? Check Our Computer Shopping Tips First

by Jacques Sprenger on January 2, 2009

Buying a computer anytime soon? Check out our computer shopping tips before making your purchase.

Stuff I Learned While Buying A Computer

A couple of months ago I had a need for a new desktop computer; mine was 5 years old, which is equivalent to 80 years for a human 😉 . After searching the Internet (where else but places like, Dell Home Office, HP) for 2 weeks, I finally decided to take a ride to Best Buy (yeah, I know, I like to put my hands on what I buy, unless it’s an intangible, of course.)

I tried to do my homework, so I was full of precious technical information (I am no geek in electronics, but still), such as RAM and ROM, video card size, GHz, WSVGA TFT, gigabit Ethernet, etc. You get the full picture, I hope, because I still don’t. To make a long story short, I finally bought a CPU that was on display for almost 50% less than new. But before I took it home, I talked to the specialists. They told me what I wanted to know and that clinched the deal.

buying a computer, computer shopping tips
Image by Dvice.

Computer Shopping Tips

1. Find out the kind of computer technical support you’ll get.

The best part of buying a computer is the service that comes after the purchase. After all, most good brands are similar in quality and price; but many of them “suck” (pardon my French) when it comes to good support. They simply told me at Best Buy that all I had to do was to take the CPU to the store and they would fix the item for free for one year (I could always buy a warranty extension).

2. Check ratings and reviews for the best computers and best support available.

If you’re in the market for a new computer, check the latest recommendations, reviews and rankings available. The web is chock full of information that will tell you which computers are consistently topping the rankings. For example, here are the best desktops (according to Consumer Reports® at MSN Shopping): HP Pavilion m9100t, HP Pavilion a6250t a6350t (see HP for details), Dell Inspiron 530s (see Dell for details).

3. Decide if you’ll spend for an extended service and support plan.

We can learn a little bit too from what says about the best extended service and support companies:

“Along with Apple, Dell and Gateway’s extended plans were also better at problem solving than their standard support. Spend no more than 10 percent of your computer’s price for each year of extended coverage.

4. Anticipate and build in any extra expenses as part of your computer shopping budget.

Check on other computer-related expenses. What marked a profound difference between my new computer and the one I bought from Dell 5 years ago is the software Microsoft Office. I had to fork over $150 additional precious dollars to get it this time, while my first computer had it loaded already. I don’t know if it’s some legal wrangling between Gates’ company and the government, but it sure is a sweet deal for Microsoft. What else am I going to buy after almost 20 years with Word and Excel? My fingers are already conditioned, not to mention my brain. So be prepared for some extra expenses that may crop up when you pick up a new computer.

5. Update your computer, instead of buying a new one, to save money.

If you cringe at the idea of forking over close to $600, a lot more if you are a ‘crazy’ gamer, there is always the old trick called updating. I was stunned to see so many cheap advances in computer power, from additional memory, new video cards, separate hard disks, DVD players (like the one we discuss in our Blu-Ray DVD player review), and the old trusted memory card you can implant inside the CPU yourself (I did this all by myself, so anybody can do it); there should be some empty slots for the memory upgrade.

6. Touch the merchandise and check on the real thing, before buying.

I’d comparison shop online, but then I’d check on the real thing, before buying. I’d want to get my hands on the desktops, literally.

So take a look at what stores have to offer; the “used” processor I bought at Best Buy (I also checked with Circuit City, they had nothing), had been there for 3 months; but customers touch the screen and the keyboard, not the CPU, and it was in great condition. Besides, the warranty is still there for a year, and I saved around $300. Wouldn’t you rather check the merchandise yourself than trust the Internet for such a big expense? Then again, you can always return or exchange a defective machine if you get something bogus online, just as long as it’s from a reputable etailer.

That said, please watch out for stuff sold on eBay; be extra careful about what you’re buying there.

7. Consider refurbished computers only if they have warranties.

Right now, it’s a shopper’s paradise in the world of retail! Many sweet and incredible deals can be made with brand new electronics and gadgets these days; lots of deep discounts abound, as retail prices slip to attract shoppers. But as we mention in our post 10 Things To Buy New, if you’re open to getting used computer models, then pick a refurbished one with an existing warranty so that you’re covered for problems for a period of time.

Very well then, happy computer shopping!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike @ TheThriftyLife January 3, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Good post. I’ve worked in IT for a dozen years and buying a computer for someone not in the industry can be confusing and frustrating. One thing I do want to mention though in regards to your comment about extended support.

“Along with Apple, Dell and Gateway’s extended plans were also better at problem solving than their standard support. Spend no more than 10 percent of your computer’s price for each year of extended coverage.“

I don’t know about Gateway, but for Apple and Dell support there is no different between standard and extended support other than the length of time of your support contract. For example if you buy a Mac, you’ll get one year hardware warranty and support and 90 days of phone support(from your first call). If you purchase “AppleCare” you can extend your support for an additional two years. As a repeat Apple and Dell customer, extended support is a must. Especially with Apple, being able to walk into any Apple Store and make an appointment for free to have a technician look at your computer is well worth it.

So, don’t confuse extended support and standard for anything else but a difference in the amount of time the contract lasts. When you call the support number, or visit an Apple Store, you’ll have access to the same tech support staff. So as long as your support contract is in effect – you’re good to go.

2 SVB January 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Thanks Mike, for the details and clarification on extended support. This should prove helpful for many of those who shop for computers who aren’t very tech savvy. Well, even those tech savvy among us may not know what stuff is available out there in terms of extras. Your input is greatly appreciated!

3 On the Money February 2, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Agree about upgrading your computer. However, I suggest ditching Windoze and replacing it with Linux. Indeed, anyone thinking about getting a new machine might consider getting a second-user PC and giving it a new lease of life with Linux.

Thanks for this interesting post!

4 Marc May 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Shopping malls and shopping centers nowadays are packed like a package deal. It is because malls have services to offer like, salon and barber, real estate broker, arcades, internet cafes and many more. You could see all of these in one mall so that you don’t have to go from mall to mall to satisfy your needs.

5 Soccoro October 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm

I totally appreciate the “lessons” you shared. Been on the lookout for a new computer, but I still have to find THE one. lol. Anyway, I’ll consider the information you shared and hopefully I have a new computer by then. Cheers!

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