You may be shopping around for one PC, or you may be a corporate buyer looking around to buy a hundred. In either case, the question is–where do you start?
Invariably, all of us start, and end, by specifying the clock speed of the CPU. In the simple world of DOS, this would’ve been enough. But given today’s wide range of applications, each with their own demands on system resources, and given the wide range of options you have when it comes to hardware, the choice is no longer as simple as that.
So, where do we start?
I, for one would recommend that you start off by identifying what you would primarily do on your PC.
Most office PCs run productivity applications such as word processors or spreadsheets. Most of the time, developers use their PCs for writing code, but they also spend quite a lot of time compiling it. So, they require a more capable system than is required for purely typing in the code. Most home PCs are used for running games or other content-rich applications like multimedia CD-ROMs. A CAD designer’s PC will have to run high-end design applications, and so on.
Obviously, all these needs can’t be equally met by a jack-of-all-trades PC. For the sake of convenience, you could group all these possibilities into four broad areas:
- Productivity applications,
- Home and gaming,
- High-end applications like software development, and
- Specialized applications like CAD/CAM.
Once you’ve identified your needs, the choice becomes easier.
You need to choose each of the following:
- The motherboard
- The CPU
- The type of video card and the amount of Video RAM
- The amount of RAM
- Speed and capacity of the hard disk
- The size and capability of your monitor
- The operating system, and
- The other add-ons you want to use
The correct choice could enhance the performance of your system and also give you enough room for expanding and upgrading in future.
Talking of the future, it may be worth your while to note that any upgrades you do would have to be within a year of purchasing your PC. After that, things would have changed so much that you would end up replacing almost the entire PC if you want to upgrade a critical component. For example, if you want to upgrade the CPU of your Pentium you bought two years ago, you’ll have to change both your
motherboard and the CPU. At this stage, your older video card and hard disk would end up constraining the performance of the system, and you would be better off replacing them too. In effect, you would’ve changed everything of value in the machine.
In the following pages, we’ll look at how to go about choosing each component of your PC, while
ensuring that you get the best results.