Buying a new media center computer can be a daunting experience, with so many different options and models, it can be difficult to choose which one will suit your needs best. Take your time when deciding and your money will be well spent and you'll have a dependable desktop that does what you want it to do. Here are some questions to consider when looking for a new PC.

How much do I want to spend?

Cost is the biggest consideration when buying a new PC. Computers range anywhere from $400 to over $4000-plan on spending around $1000 for a decent machine. You don't want to spend lots of money on the fastest, most powerful supercomputer with all of the latest components if you're not going to use them. On the other hand, you don't want to have to upgrade your computer the first year you have it. Educate yourself on computers, study the different makes and models and choose one that is well within your budget and will perform all the necessary tasks.

What is the main purpose for the computer?

Depending on what you want to do with your computer will determine what kind of computer you buy. Are you going to use your computer in the home or office, for academic or recreational purposes? If you're going to use the computer for simple word processing, spreadsheets and to browse the Internet, almost any computer will do. Contrarily, if you're a heavy gamer or like to edit and create multimedia, you'll want a large hard drive, top-notch CPU and lots of RAM.

Also, consider the devices you want to use with your new PC. If you want to hook up camera equipment or a DVD burner, you'll want accessible USB ports or maybe even a Fire Wire port.

What type of furniture do I have or am going to buy to accommodate the desktop PC?

You want to make sure your new computer tower will fit in or under your desk. If you're tight on space, consider getting a LCD (flat panel) monitor. Many of the new flat panel monitors are equipped with optional wall mounting ability, to save even more space.

What other devices come with the computer (printer, speakers, monitor, etc.)?

Many computer packages come equipped with speakers, monitors and some even come with an all-in-one printer, scanner and copier. A package that comes with the essentials can be a big money-saver.

Should I buy local or online?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both buying locally and online. An obvious advantage to buying local is the time factor. You won't have to wait for shipping and you can save on shipping costs. Additionally, some people like the idea of being able to talk to someone face to face when buying a computer and being able to go to a physical location for support.

If you buy directly from the manufacturer, often you are able to customize your computer with the components you need and leave out the ones you don't. This can save money and ensure you get exactly what you want.

PC or Mac?

There are devout PC users and people who will only use a Mac. Nowadays both operating systems will accommodate almost any software. However, Mac is known and recognized for having the best applications and hardware for music, photos and video editing. The Windows XP Professional will let you take advantage of some management features like Remote Desktop. You can access your work desktop from any computer remotely over the Internet. Additionally, if you are going to be using your new computer in conjunction with other computers or networks, they will need to be compatible. A good example: maybe you are going to a college that uses mainly PC computers. You'll want a PC so you can transfer data back and forth.

How important are warranties and customer support?

Local colleges, high schools and other educational institutions provide courses on computer use. Most computers come with an owner's manual with valuable information. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for delving into a program and learning by trial and error.

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MetLife, (2005). Buying a computer. Retrieved Mar. 24, 2006, from Web site:,1674,P1564,00.html.

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