What Should I Look for When Buying a Desktop Computer?

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Whether you've experienced a catastrophic failure or just want to replace an aging unit, shopping for a new computer can be a dizzying experience. With numerous manufacturers, models and options to choose from, it's easy to experience information overload. As you begin your search for new technology, consider the main elements you should look for in a new desktop computer.

Processor

  • A computer's processor is often referred to as its brain, and technology website CNET says this component is the most important piece of a desktop computer system. You can distinguish processors by considering the number of cores they have to process data. "Consumer Reports" says a dual-core processor is fine if you just use your computer to check email and perform basic tasks, but you should consider a quad-core if you'll watch videos on your desktop computer. Buy a machine with a six-core processor if you need high performance for graphic-intensive video games or plan to edit high-definition video. Among other sources, CNET's Desktop Buying Guide details an overview of some of the major processors presently on the market.

Memory

  • The amount of memory your computer has also plays a key role in how well it performs. Machines use memory to temporarily store data. "Consumer Reports" suggests you look for systems with 3 to 4 GB of memory, noting that "any more than that is probably not beneficial unless you plan to run multiple memory-intensive applications at the same time and use a 64-bit operating system." Memory in new desktops as of the time of publication usually comes in formats referred to as DDR2 and DDR3. The latter is faster and more energy-efficient, according to CNET.

Video Cards

  • Desktop computers come with integrated or discrete video capabilities to display your computer's output on a screen. Integrated video is slower and uses part of your computer's memory, which is not a big deal if you send emails, surf the Internet or watch Web-based videos. If you are a hard-core gamer or want to use more than two monitors, you should choose a dedicated graphics card. Users who play 3-D video games should get a card with 512 MB to 1 GB of video memory.

Hard Drive

  • A hard drive provides storage space for your documents, photos, videos and other data. When choosing one for your desktop computer, you want to consider both speed and size. "Consumer Reports" recommends a speed of 7,200 revolutions per minute (RPM) for desktop hard drives. The faster a drive spins, the more quickly you can access its contents. A hard drive size of 500 GB should be suitable for most users, according to CNET. Since hard drive failure is a common problem, especially as a computer ages, consider purchasing an external hard drive to back up your data.

References

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