This isn't always the case, and no offense to small builders (I'm one) nor to those who carefully thought out their purchase and did necessary research on performance ratings, price versus value, and life expectancy of components.
For those who need a PC (or will soon) and don't expect it to have an apple on the case or Linux inside.. a few tips.
GET A FULL OS INSTALL DISC. If you don't own one, and can't get one from your seller, reconsider the deal. A full install disc of your preferred Operating System is only important when you need it. Rare. But when you DO need it, nothing else will do.
Get enough ram. 256 isn't. 512 might be. 1024 megs is Very Nice if you game or do large photography editing, and near mandatory for video edits.
Get as much graphics card/chip as you MAY need. Don't try to do gaming or video editing with onboard graphics unless you have the patience of a saint.
Get a second hard drive, and make both fast enough, and large enough, and most likely identical, unless you are certain why not.
Partition your hard drives. Put the OS on *enough* space, and the data you accumulate on a separate partition. This protects it in the event you must format the operating system partition. Partitioning is done at the original install, and is a bit of insurance that costs nothing, and might someday save years of accumulated work.
STRONGLY consider a dual install of the operating system, on the 2nd hard disc. AND, then boot TO that disc, default. Why? Because any trouble you may EVER have, with drivers, virus infections, corrupt files in the OS, or even the physical hard drive itself, can be diagnosed, repaired, or copied over easily from the Other hard drive nearly always, nearly instantly, and with a pure minimum of stress. Even a warranty return of the drive, for replacement, is relatively painless if you've got another already in place, and your data copied over.
Strongly consider a DVD R/W as a primary drive. They are under 100$ at present for 8X, and media is inexpensive (per gig of data). This makes backing up files fast, simple, and effective.
Lest all this seem like a huge expense, be aware that save for RAM, component prices are at an all time low for performance versus price. And even RAM is cheap compared to prices 2-3 years ago.
One can purchase (In the US) a midgrade or higher machine, with dual drives, and operating system, AND a DVD R/W, WITH a gig of ram, for under 1000$. Add a good gamers graphics card, if desired, and the price is still perhaps 1200$.
Cheap. Not *very* cheap, to be sure, but a solid machine that should give minimal trouble for 2-5 years, depending on useage and your habits.
That's a fair guesstimate of US pricing on non-cutting edge, but good quality and warranty, hardware. Now about your software..
Many useful programs are free. There is no reason to be impressed with the software 'bundle' that often is less useful to you than to the seller.
A few of the free programs that are Very Useful, are: XenTweak, which will allow you to custom configure the Operating System to your tastes; MBM5, a computer hardware gauge that allows you to monitor temperature and fan speeds; AVG, one of the better anti-virus scanners; and dozens if not hundreds of desktop utilities for everything from identifying media types, to office software, to specialty printing programs. Software for MOST common tasks is free if you'll look for it.
Equally, read ratings. Not all programs are created equal; not all programs play nice together. Find out, before you install a 'new thing' what it's downside may be. Does it require you to allow advertising? Did you just agree to be spammed forever, or worse, turn your desktop into an unending procession of pop-up ads?
There is no need to install aggravation. Find out, from informed sources, what works.
If there's one single bit of advice for those who havn't purchased YET but are going to soon, it's READ! Nearly all the information it takes to make a good decision is on the web. The part that isn't is YOUR desires, and the best way to accomplish them.
Remember that any tool must fit the task. Select the one that does the job you want it to.
Edited by mitchshrader, 15 May 2004 - 08:51 PM.