Before You Buy: How To Select a Desktop Computer
There are plenty of reasons why people still choose to buy a shiny, brand-new desktop computer in the age of mobile devices. Despite the size, it packs a lot of processing power, memory, and storage. It can also do more compared to a laptop at the same price point. And if you’re an extensive personal computer (PC) user, you’re probably drawn to the upgrade capacity of desktops.
This brings us to the options you have on the market. This guide will show you what to look for, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.
Below is a breakdown of how to select a desktop computer for your needs.
What Do You Need a Desktop For?
Of course, everything starts with your purpose. What are you planning to do with this big-ticket purchase?
Some prefer to use a desktop for doing work while others want to run games on it without any problems. There are other purposes in between, so figure out what your main purpose is and prioritize the right factors for your needs. For instance, if you’re looking for a gaming PC, you’re going to want a high-frequency central processing unit (CPU). The more cores your CPU has, the better. Now, if you’re searching for a work PC in general, you’re going to need a lot of memory storage to go with a high-frequency CPU.
We will explain more about CPUs and cores and other specifications below.
Choosing the Operating System (OS)
The operating system is the software program that enables your computer to run, making it functional for anyone to use. Without it, you will have to input code to launch other applications – which was the case before the OS existed.
You probably know one or more of the most popular operating systems available today:
- Windows: Microsoft Windows is arguably the most marketable OS today. It’s particularly in demand among gamers since all of the latest PC games are released on Windows. The most recent Windows version comes in two different releases: Pro and Home. For business professionals, Windows Pro proves to be a worthy investment because of features like remote desktop, policy management, and IT business support.
- Mac: Mac OS powers Apple’s line of personal computers, including the iMac. Thanks to its closed-environment operations, it has fewer active users and virus attacks, making it an excellent choice for data safety and protection. However, its solid protection and safety features come at a higher price and quite complicated repairs and updates if it does get infected.
- Linux: Open-source and efficient, this OS can be downloaded and installed for free on as many machines as you like. Different versions or distributions exist to match user needs, such as Linux Mint and Ubuntu catering to all types of users and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) serving commercial and enterprise purposes.
- Chrome OS: This relatively new kid on the block is based on Linux and designed by Google. Chrome OS-powered devices include the Chromebase, Chromebox, and Chromebox. While it’s modern and simple to use, it’s pretty limited in terms of functionality. It can only run Play Store and Linux apps, so you can’t play high-performance games or launch programs like Adobe Premiere Pro.
If you’re used to a particular OS but aren’t sure which one it is, you have several ways to check.
There are two ways to find out which Windows versions you have:
Press the Windows logo key + R on your keyboard. Then type “winver” in the Open window pop-up and click OK.
- Select the Start button. Go to Settings > System > About.
- Open the About settings.
- Under Device specifications > System type, check whether you’re running a 32-bit or 64-bit Windows.
- Under Windows specifications, verify your Windows version and edition.
For Mac OS users, you can check your current version through these steps:
- Click on the Apple logo on the top-left corner of the screen.
- Click on About This Mac from the drop-down menu.
- A window will appear displaying the Overview tab by default. If that isn’t the case, click the Overview tab at the top of the window.
Choosing the CPU
The next thing to consider when choosing a desktop computer is the central processing unit (CPU). Often called the brain of the computer, the CPU carries out program instructions in sequence. So each CPU has a feature known as a core, which acts as the executing unit. CPUs used to have a single core. But to boost speed and efficiency of modern-day computers, CPUs now contain multiple cores, ranging from two to 18. Aim for at least a dual-core or quad-core processor if you’re an average user, and higher if you’re performing heavy tasks like data analysis and video editing.
When it comes to manufacturers, two major brands dominate: Intel and AMD. Intel has long been a top player and known for its reliable performance. On the other hand, AMD comes a bit cheaper at higher price points. AMD processors are also more efficient and boast a longer battery life.
How to check your CPU on Windows:
- Go back to the About window.
- Under Device specifications, look for the Processor label to know which CPU you have.
Breaking down the example above, we can see the computer has an Intel CPU. This brand’s Core i7 sports four or more cores. This CPU runs at 2.40 gigahertz, which means its internal clock beats 2.4 billion times a second. A higher number means your computer runs faster and better.
Choosing the RAM
Computers rely on RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory, for short-term storage. It is where active applications and the data they use are loaded to allow for faster processing. You can find information about the RAM under the Device specifications in the About window.
In the example in the previous section, the computer’s RAM has 8 gigabytes (GB) of storage space available. This is an appropriate amount of RAM for moderate to average users. However, those running data-intensive applications like video games, development software, and design tools will want to add more RAM. More RAM prevents your computer from experiencing bottlenecks when you run multiple applications at once.
Choosing Between HDD and SSD
Hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs) are both types of secondary storage devices you can use for your desktop computer. An HDD uses spinning disks to store data magnetically while an SSD relies on flash memory. In general, SSDs are more reliable than HDD, delivering faster boot times and loading.
Take note that some systems and applications nowadays can run or be accessed via cloud. Files are also stored in the cloud, such as in the case of iCloud and Google Drive. This enables users to minimize the data they store locally.
If your current computer came with a drive, you can check the type you have by following these steps:
- Follow the same steps you took to go to the About panel. But instead of clicking About, look for the part labeled Storage on the left-hand side of the window.
- On the right side, you can see the breakdown of your storage space. Scroll down to More storage settings > Optimize Drives. In the example below, you can see the computer is using an SSD.
What about the ideal storage? Here are some storage suggestions for various requirements:
- 128GB+ should be sufficient for users who just need to access their email, social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, and streaming sites like Netflix.
- 256GB+ should work for people who have a handful of applications, music, and photos.
- 512GB+ is adequate for individuals with many applications and multimedia files stored locally and no cloud storage to back it all up. Add a couple of video games to the mix at this level.
- 1TB+ should be the standard for gamers who run multiple high-performance video games or professional developers, photographers, and videographers who handle large files and run heavy applications.
Post-Purchase: Caring for Your New Desktop Computer
We’ve broken down how to select a desktop computer that aligns with your requirements. Aside from the factors shared above, you can also take graphic cards and ports into account as needed.
Further, keep in mind that buying a desktop computer comes with some responsibilities. You need to be able to maximize the specifications you have worked so hard to acquire. At the same time, you should be prepared to fix issues that may arise involving device driver matching, deceptive software detection and protection, system cleanup, and more.
Optimize performance to experience your desktop’s potential, defend it from malware, simplify system updates, and boost your web browsing sessions with an all-in-one solution like Solve iQ software.