📘 PC Buyer’s Guide
Interested in buying a new or used computer? This guide will help you pick a personal computer that’s sufficient for your needs. There are three main specifications the consumer should consider: memory, processor, and storage.
🧠 Memory (RAM)
Memory, AKA RAM determines your computer's capacity for multitasking. When too many programs are opened, the computer can "run out of memory" and slow to a crawl.
DDR4 is newer and faster than DDR3. RAM also has a frequency spec in Hz: a higher number is better.
Don’t buy a computer with less than 4GB of RAM! Operating systems typically require more than this.
- 4GB is a good minimum. This should be enough for users that use one program at a time, or just a few.
- 8GB is a good middle ground that should cover most use cases.
- 16GB is enough for even the heaviest power user loads, gaming etc.
- 32GB or more because there's no such thing as too much! You might want a lot of RAM if your workload includes multitasking lots of resource-intensive programs.
It's relatively easy to upgrade a system's RAM. However, there are limitations, such as the number of available slots and the maximum RAM the processor can handle.
Processors do all the computer’s math. All computers have a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and some also have an optional Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). CPUs are general-purpose, while GPUs do processing related to graphics only. Having a GPU takes a big weight off the CPU’s shoulders.
You will need more powerful processors if you’re going to be doing any video editing or gaming. Otherwise, it’s not so important.
Generally, the best CPUs can be determined by checking these stats:
- Number of cores is the number of individual CPU chips. More cores are better.
- Clock speed, measured in GHz: Determines how many billion computations can be done in each core (thread) per second. Higher numbers are faster chips.
- Model number: Chipmakers do make incremental changes to their designs which result in small performance improvements. So, all other things being equal, look for later model numbers.
Processors can sometimes be upgraded, but the socket must be compatible with the new chip. AMD and Intel, the two big processor-makers each have their own socket type, so you can't replace an Intel CPU with an AMD CPU. GPUs are generally mounted on a graphics card which is easily interchangeable.
Storage determines how many files you can fit on your computer. This includes all documents, programs, photos, videos, music, etc.
A Hard Disk Drive, or HDD has a physical disk that's read by a laser. These are delicate items and prone to failure, especially when dropped. They are also slower than other forms of storage. However, they are cheap, even at high capacities.
Solid State Drives, or SSDs are faster, more reliable, and more expensive.
Flash media such as NVMe or eMMC storage are typically faster, more reliable, and more expensive than SSD storage.
- Less than 128GB is probably too little. So little storage will limit the number of programs you can install
- 128GB is a good minimum for most use cases, but won't hold a lot of games, music, videos, etc.
- 256GB is better if you have a small photo/music library or want to install lots of programs.
- 512GB will hold a decent amount of music and videos.
- 1TB or more is enough for almost all use cases, including large music and video libraries. (1024GB = 1TB) You might need more for storage-intensive tasks like massive video libraries or backups of multiple computers.