How to Buy a Computer: Saving Money by Only Buying What You Need

Those who are new to computers often do not know what to buy when customizing their desktop or laptop when buying online. In this article, we will teach you what each piece of hardware does, and which ones are most important for productivity or gaming.

STORAGE

This is where all your data is stored. Your documents, pictures, movies, programs, games, and operating system. It comes in two forms: hard drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs). The higher the read and write speeds, the faster your loading times from the load screen and programs will be.

Hard drives vs. solid state drives.

Pro Tip

If you want more storage without paying for the cost of an SSD, pair a smaller-sized SSD with a larger HDD. Save your operating system and important files on your SSD and your less-important files like photos on your HDD.

PROCESSOR / CPU

The central processing unit (CPU) handles the processing events that occur inside a program. The most important metrics for a CPU are the number of cores and clock speeds. You want a processor with the most number of cores with at least 3.0 GHz.

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. This is the most important piece of hardware for gaming. It handles how smooth your gaming experience will be and the graphics settings.

MEMORY / RAM

The computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory) holds the short-term information can be accessed by your computer at any given time. Programs you have open use a certain amount of memory. Google Chrome uses 2GB and Microsoft Office uses a fraction of that, 50MB. Generally, you’ll want at least 8GB of memory, and 16GB is more than enough.

You can check the memory required for each program using CNTL + ALT + DELETE on your keyboard.

THE POWER SUPPLY

The PSU (power supply) generally does not have a large impact on computer experience. You generally want to have a power supply that has enough wattage to handle your computer components. Most laptops PSUs are non-configurable, so I would not worry about this for laptops. For a desktop workstation, a PSU above 500 watts should be enough for both gaming and productivity.

MOTHERBOARD

The motherboard physically connects all the pieces together and provides an electrical link between the main parts of your computer above. Most laptop motherboards are non-configurable, so I would not worry about this for laptops. Motherboards above the $80 range are generally sufficient for any gaming or productivity needs.