TechSmartSenior Getting along with Technology after 50
Buying a computer can be a daunting experience. In future columns I'll explain more
about computer features to look for, such as memory, peripherals, and processors;
but for now let's look at some of the basic questions you should ask yourself before
you go shopping for a computer. How much do you want to spend? How will you use your
computer? Are you more comfortable shopping in a brick and mortar store or online?
The answers will help you take the first steps in finding the computer that's right
You can buy a computer for anywhere from US $250 to $5,000 or more, depending on
your budget and computing needs. You may start with a base model, but extras such
as a larger monitor or higher-end graphics card can soon add hundreds to the base
So where do you start? First decide where to shop. You can look in a retail store
for a computer or shop online using a friend's computer (and perhaps get his or her
help if you're brand new to using a computer). Consider researching different models
and prices online and using that information to negotiate your purchase in the store
if you prefer shopping at the mall. Be aware, however, that most retail stores have
a small selection compared to all you can find online on a Web site such as Dell.com.
Buying a computer can be confusing, but here are some guidelines to help you find
a computer at the price that's right for you:
• Determine how often you will use your computer. If you'll be working on it eight
hours a day running a home business, you will need a better quality computer to withstand
the use. If you turn on the computer once or twice a week, it doesn't have to be
the priciest model in the shop.
• Shop wisely. If you walk from store to store or do your shopping online, you'll
find that the price for the same computer model can vary by hundreds of dollars at
different stores. Consider shipping costs if you buy online, and keep in mind that
many stores charge a restocking fee if you return a computer you aren't happy with.
Some stores offer only a short time period in which you can return a computer, such
as 14 days.
• Buying used or refurbished is an option, though new computers have reached such
a low price point that this might not save you much. In addition, technology gets
out of date so quickly, you might be disappointed buying an older model. Instead,
consider going to a company that produces customized, non-name brand computers at
lower prices — perhaps even your local computer repair shop. You might be surprised
at the bargains you can find (but make sure you're dealing with reputable people
• Online auctions are a source of new or slightly used computers at a low price.
However be sure you're dealing with a reputable store or person by checking reviews
others have posted about them or contacting the Better Business Bureau. Be careful
not to pay by check (this gives a complete stranger your bank account number) but
instead use the auction site's tools to have a third party handle the money until
the goods are delivered in the condition promised. Check the auction site for guidance
on staying safe when buying auctioned goods.