Tech Yourself: Buying a computer doesn’t have to be a conundrum

Before you run out and grab the cheapest computer available, ask yourself if the computer will actually do what you want it to.

I had a gentleman come into the store and request that I do an article on computer purchasing. I’m going to try and cover some of the basics of what you may want to look for, and hopefully provide some information that will make the buying experience easier for you.

Computers have become very affordable these days, with options starting around $250. But before you run out and grab the cheapest unit available, ask yourself if the computer will actually do what you want it to. Make yourself a list of what you do on your computer, or if you are a first-time buyer, what you may want to do. This will give you some talking points when you talk to a sales associate about your new system.

Laptops are an excellent option, offering all the amenities you would expect of a home PC, but with the ability to take it with you wherever you go! You can also hook them up to your TV, or to a larger monitor at home if you need a bigger screen to work on daily.

I see that people become very confused when looking at the specifications of a computer. How do you know what processor to get, how much RAM do you need, and how big a hard drive? One of the easiest ways to explain those is to think of the computer as a kitchen. A hard drive is like the cupboard space — that’s where everything is stored. RAM is like a counter — the more you have, the more prep space you have. And a processor is like a stove and oven, letting you have more things actively running at the same time.

Operating Systems (OS) are another huge stumbling block for people. I’m going to rant a little here — buy the newest OS that is out! Computer technology is a fast-paced and evolving environment; if you are not getting the newest software, you are doing a disservice to yourself by limiting your ability to learn new things.

My best advice for finding a great computer, though, is asking a sales associate what their favourite model is, and why.

Often these will be models with higher specs than what is normally at that price range, or have some other feature that makes them unique.

Thank you to everyone who has come into the store to ask questions, and to the gent who requested I write this. Cheers and have a great day!

Aaron Mackenzie is The Valley Echo’s technology columnist and the sales manager at The Source in Invermere. He can be reached at