Work Out the Bugs Before You Byte on a Computer.

CPU-buying-headWhen home computers first came into the market, they were viewed as a significant purchase because of their expense, even if their options and capabilities were simple (mainly because of the way people used them). Today, computers come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and capabilities, and all at a significantly lower cost than even five years ago.

The hardest part for most people when looking for a home computer is the intimidation factor: there are so many terms and numbers it can be overwhelming. But with a little help, anyone can feel empowered to make good buying decisions that fit both their computing needs and their budget.

Military computer users vary as much as their civilian counterparts. Some are really into online gaming and require the horsepower to run the advanced graphics that new games feature. Others may be interested in something portable with fast wireless to stay up to speed with all their Facebook friends. No matter which category you fall into, the first step in buying is the same:

List what you want to do with your new computer

Having a good idea of what you want to do with a computer will help you outline the capabilities and features you’re looking for. This is much more important than looking at price tags right off the bat or getting wrapped up with gigahertz of speed, terabytes of space, and gigabytes of memory. Making a computer purchase purely on price will ensure that the computer will probably be replaced much sooner than you planned.

So if, for example, your plans include travel, and the computer will be used for checking email, getting on the web, and video conferencing, the features that you need are easy to outline:

  • Portability: laptop computer
  • Ability to get online: wireless capability
  • Video conferencing: built in video camera

A unique question for the military buyers to ask is, “Will I need to be able to connect to a DoD web site on this computer?” If the answer is yes, that identifies some additional features that you’ll need:

  • Built in CAC reader or external CAC card reader.

This seems simple but, again, don’t automatically lean toward the least expensive computer. Getting the top of the line will typically be expensive, so it’s a good rule of thumb to purchase a mid-range computer in terms of processor speed, system memory, and hard drive space.

List the software you’ll need

While many manufacturers include bundled software applications on their computers, check and see if these are trial versions that will expire. If you’re upgrading from an old computer, some of your previous programs might work, but it’s important to check compatibility—that old version of Microsoft Office may not run on that new PC featuring Windows 8.

If you’ve jumped over from a Windows PC to a Macintosh, you’ll definitely need to include those new applications as part of your purchase cost. Also, think about antivirus and other utility software to help maintain your new toy. 

Do some homework and compare models

So now that you’ve narrowed down your computer type,it’s a good time to start doing some online research to decide which model is best for you. Even if you plan on getting a computer from a local merchant, spend some time reading up on the features that the manufacturer lists and see if they match your personal requirements.

Another great technique is to read online reviews. Other owners will offer an unbiased source of information that might just save you from making a bad purchase. Empowering yourself with some knowledge will make it easier to decide.

See about military discounts

Many computer manufacturers offer military discounts for members of the armed forces, some that are even configured with hardware and software commonly requested by military members and their families. If you’re a gamer and just have to have the latest and fastest machine, this can sometimes translate into significant savings.   

Consider a refurbished or lease return unit

Pre-used computers provide a great cost savings by enabling you to get a higher-end computer without a higher-end price tag. Most companies including Dell and Apple offer refurbished equipment at a reduced cost that is covered under a new warranty and, in some cases, an extended warranty at no additional cost. This provides peace of mind and a solution in case there’s an issue with the new computer.

Refurbished computers have been inspected and repackaged as if they were brand new and are an extremely common way to get a high-end computer. You can also get machines that were leased by a company and replaced once that company upgraded its systems. Both are good ways to get  a great deal on a better computer.

Where to find them 

Here are a few online resources available to assist you in finding your perfect computer:

Regardless of what type of computer you choose, taking the time to outline your needs, find a budget that won’t break the bank, and doing a little research will create a much better computer buying experience.  


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