Money Productivity Technology

How to Buy a PC: Saving Money By Only Buying What You Need

Those who are new to personal computers often don’t know how to tell if a computer is good for gaming or productivity or not. In this article, we’ll teach you how each piece of hardware fits into a computer, and which ones are the most important for productivity and gaming.

1. Storage

This is where all your data is stored: your documents, pictures, movies, programs, games, and the operating system.

Storage comes in two forms: hard drives (HDs) and solid state drives (SSDs). The most important metric is the read and write speeds, which generally come in MB/s (megabytes per second). The higher the read and write speeds, the more responsive your computer is in starting up, loading programs, games, and files.

Tip: If you want more storage without paying for the cost for an SSD, just pair a smaller-storage SSD with a larger HDD. Save your operating system and important files, programs, and games onto your SSD, and when done, move them over to your higher capacity HDD.

The read and write speeds are generally listed on the website. However, if they are not, you can do a Google search or ask the manufacturer.

2. Processor / CPU

The computer processing unit (CPU) handles much of the actual calculations and processing events that occur inside a program or game.

The most important metrics for a CPU are the number of cores and clock speeds. To use a car analogy, the clock speeds determine “how big your road is,” and the numbers of cores determine “how many roads you have.”

Tip: Generally, most middle-end processors can handle just about any game or program and will not be the bottle-neck in your computer. Anything with more than 4 cores and 2.8 GHz should be able to handle any just about any game or program.

3. Graphics Card / GPU

The graphics processing unit (GPU) handles much of what is displayed on your computer monitor after it is processed by your CPU.

If you’re doing gaming or video editing, this component will generally be the most important piece of hardware. If you’re not, the GPU isn’t important. It handles how smooth your gaming experience will be, in addition to your graphic settings (low, medium, high, ultra). The most important metric for GPU performance is memory (in GB).

4. Memory / RAM

The computer’s memory (random access memory) holds short-term information that can be accessed by the processor at a given point in time. Think of this as the number of programs you can have open at one time. Some programs use a certain amount of memory. For instance, Google Chrome uses 2GB, and your operating system uses 1 to 2GB.

Generally, you’ll want at least 8GB of memory, and ideally 16GB if you’re gaming, video editing, or if you like having 15+ internet browser tabs open.

You can access how much memory your computer is using by going to the Task Manager by holding down CTRL + ALT + DELETE on your keyboard at the same time.

5. Power Supply

The power supply generally doesn’t have a large impact on gameplay or background programs. You generally want to have a power supply that has enough watts to handle your computer components. The most important metric for your power supply would be the wattage (W).

For laptops, I wouldn’t worry about this since most laptop power draws are non-configurable.

For a desktop workstation, any power supply above 600W should be enough for both gaming and productivity.

6. Motherboard

The motherboard physically connects all the pieces together and provides an electrical link between the main parts of your computer above.

For laptops, I wouldn’t worry about this since most laptop motherboards are non-configurable.

For a desktop workstation, any motherboard above $100+ on Amazon should be sufficient for your gaming and productivity needs.

Why is this Important?

If you’re like me, I like to save every penny I can on consumables and technology. Knowing which parts to buy and which to skimp on can be the difference on a few hundred dollars on each PC purchase and how the computer will last.

The Takeaway ― Numbered Most Important to Least

So Which Are The Most Important Parts For a Gaming Computer?

  1. Graphics card
  2. Processor
  3. Storage
  4. Memory
  5. Power Supply
  6. Motherboard

So Which Are The Most Important Parts For a Productivity Computer?

  1. Storage
  2. Processor
  3. Memory
  4. Graphics card
  5. Power Supply
  6. Motherboard

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