So the time has come up trash that old clunker of a PC and pick up a nice shiny new one. Great! While your specific needs may vary, here are some tips to help you save some money on your new purchase.
1. Figure out what you need. Dual-core chips are all the rage now, but do you really need one? These are processors that are essentially two processors in one, making that part of your computer nearly twice as fast. However, most pieces of software (including games) can't use both at the same time. There are exceptions, such as the latest version of Adobe Photoshop. In addition, if you often run multiple programs at once it can help. Otherwise, just stick with a faster (but cheaper) single-core chip.
2. LCDs aren't as great as you think. The cool thing now is to get a flat LCD monitor. However, compared to an big, heavy CRT:
-- LCDs don't look as sharp.
-- LCDs can't handle as wide of a variety of resolutions.
-- LCDs tend to cost more.
Now, if you need desk space then it might be worth getting an LCD. If not, you might be able to find a sweet bargin on a much larger CRT.
3. Keep your old monitor. Wanna save a couple hundred bucks? Keep your old monitor. If you'll continue to use your old PC (for the kid's homework or something), you'll need to go ahead and purchase another monitor. However, if you plan on not using your old PC any longer once the new one is going, you can just use your old monitor on the new system. There won't be any compatibility issues.
4. Dude, don't buy a Dell. Dells are cheap. If you compare the major features of a computer (processor, memory, hard drive, etc), a Dell is the cheapest almost every time. The problem is that they really skimp out on internal parts. If you need to upgrade down the road, you'll be in big trouble with a Dell.
To use an example, our church just bought a brand new, fairly nice Dell. I needed to add a second video card to it, and had very few options because of how the Dell was built. It didn't include a PCI-Express slot and it didn't even include an AGP slot - just some normal (older) PCI slots. This meant that out of the 25 or 30 video cards I was looking at in the store, I could only choose between TWO of them - the rest used PCI-E or AGP.
I don't fault Dell for this, as they're in the business of selling computers, and cheap computers sell very well. Just don't be one of the people that buys one.
5. Microsoft Office vs. OpenOffice.org. One of the biggest expenses when purchasing a new PC is getting Microsoft Office on there - you're talking about a couple hundred dollars. We all need it - Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, etc. The great news is that there is a free alternative - OpenOffice.org. It is a full-blown office package that is 100% free and 100% legal. I'll admit that it's not quick as slick looking as Microsoft Office, but it's real close. It will read all of their files and it does a nice job. Even if you have MS Office already, go ahead and check it out. www.openoffice.org
6. Virus scan is optional. I considered not putting this item on here, but thought I'd share my views. Running a virus scan program such as Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee Virusscan is a HUGE resource drain. They're constantly monitoring your system and really make it run much slower than it needs to. If you are a semi-literate computer user and you keep your Windows Updates current, odds are that you'll never catch a major virus. Realize that it's a slight gamble, though.
Here's the magic - your computer can't "catch" a virus. They don't just slip in there like a germ in the air. You need to work to get a virus - open an infected e-mail, download an infected program, etc. You still should run a system-wide scan from time to time, but there are free programs that do this just as well as the commercial ones. Your best bet is likely Avast (www.avast.com). Dig around on their site and you'll find the free edition.
Now, if you tend to download a lot of software, or have friends over that like to download stuff, you might want to consider sticking with a full-blown AV program like Norton or McAfee just to be safe. If not, then this is a good place to save $50.
Beyond those items, it's just a matter of what you want. It's a tough line to spend as little as possible but still try to buy something that will last for years to come. If you have specific questions about "what should I buy?", feel free to ask me and I'll try to help you decide.
For other tips on how to make your PC (new or old) run more smoothly, you can visit SpeedUPMyXP.com.
Save money when buying a new computer