As an IT pro, I'm often approached for guidance on purchasing a new computer. Over time, I've pulled that guidance together into a Computer Shopping Workbook, and this year, I'm sharing it with you on my blog. Whether it's end of year holiday sales, or time for you to retire that old Windows XP or 7 machine, or that old Mac Mountain Lion unit, or just time to purchase something with a little more muscle to do the things you're doing now, you'll want to make an informed decision - and that's the purpose of this article.
There are lots of options on computers, and comparing them online or in a store can be time consuming and frustrating. It’s always best to know essentially what you want before shopping. This article will help you think through what you want in a new computer, understand what work you’ll have when you do buy a new computer, and how best to comparison shop for one. It also includes a link to a workbook that you can fill out to help you define your needs, for better comparison shopping.
Questions to Help You Define What You’re Shopping For
Here are the considerations you’ll want to answer before you start down the Shopping road. Defining your Wants and Needs will help you more narrowly define your choices.
A General Note about Programs & Files
When you purchase a new computer, you’ll want your existing data and files on your new computer. This can be easily done, but know that you can only move files you have created – like documents, pdfs, spreadsheets, photos, videos, music, and so on. You can not move Applications that are installed on your current computer’s hard drive (like Photoshop, MS Office, Quicken, etc).
To get Programs or Applications from your old computer to your new one, you will need to re-install them (perhaps not an option on a new computer without a CD/DVD tray). Most Programs can be downloaded from their websites, and if it’s something you’ve purchased, you probably have a “security key”, license, or number printed on your installation CD or receipt. You should be able to Download those programs, and confirm your security number.
In other words: you can move any CONTENT (docs, images, info) you have created; typically you cannot move the APPLICATIONS that you may have used to create that information.
A General Note about Price
Here’s what you might expect to find while shopping for Desktops and Laptops, VERY generally:
Make a Wish List of Options
Once you’ve defined some specifics and some options for your next computer, make a wish list of those items. It will make your shopping easier, whether online or in person. You don't have to have a preference defined for each component - keep in mind flexibility provides you with greater options. With that in mind, I recommend something like this (the workbook tool will help you make your own):
Often when computer shopping you’ll see specs to choose from, and this can be more confusing than useful for general home consumers. Let's start with an example - you saw a great sale ad for this computer, but it may as well be partially written in Greek. Sample Computer Sale Ad: Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series: i7, 3.2Ghz, 8GB, 1T HDD, HDMI, DVD, Win10, Black. Knowledge is Power! So let’s break down that sample description one underlined term at a time:
Compare Your Choices
After defining your preferences and understanding the kind of language you're going to see if you start shopping for a new computer online you're ready to start Comparison Shopping. Use this Computer Shopping Workbook to help compare and contrast your shopping choices for smarter decision-making. The link will download an Excel workbook, usable also in Open Office or Google Sheets.
NOTE: This blog post and related Computer Shopping Workbook are based on my experience, and are intended as information and tools for general consumer level use only. Neither this blog post nor the sample Computer Shopping Workbook attachment imply any specific product or component endorsements or recommendations. Information tweaked in March 2019 and validated.
Do you have any Eureka Moments for computer shopping?
Please share them or any questions in the Comments section below!