I have been in this business 15 years. Building, upgrade & repair pc's is 50% of my job. I didnt see the question but I'm sure I can offer some advice. There are 2 questions that depending on how you answer, determines which PC to buy.
1. What do you need this computer for?
2. Do you have someone in your family or have a friend who is tech savy?
The first question will determine how much
of a machine you need. The second will decide if you need a brand name or not. I personally do not believe in paying for a name but then I fix my own machines so I dont need their tech support. When you buy a DELL, ACER (previously known as Gateway) or HP you're paying for their support. Of the 3 I would say DELL has the best hardware support. If something breaks they will send a tech to your house with replacement parts. HP and Acer just send replacement parts that you have to put in yourself or take to a repair shop to install.
If you have someone who is comfortable opening the tower and has some software knowledge then you can save a bunch of money buying from a company like Cyberpower
or Tiger Direct
. Before you buy from them understand that you will NOT get any type of telephone support from these places after the first 30 days. If you have a hardware issue you will need to contact the manufacturer. All parts are usually waranteed for 1 year.
If you or someone in your house plays RETAIL computer games (like World of Warcraft, Left4Dead, Oblivion etc) then you absolutely need a fast processor, good video card and at least 2gb of ram. Look for a computer designed for gaming
then double the installed ram. If the machine comes with 1gb of ram, upgrade to 2.
If all you plan to do is surf the internet, pay bills and check email then any machine will do. My mother plays java type games online (bejeweled, slingo etc), she has a standard, nothing special computer with 1gb of ram. Make sure you have a decent size hard drive for pictures and documents.
One thing I always
recommend people do is have 2 physical hard drives. One smaller one (80 to 100gb) for just the operating system (Windows) and one big one for programs and files. This way, should disaster strike and you need to reformat or replace the drive all you have lost is the OS, you wont lose a single picture or document. If having 2 installed hard drives isnt an option then I suggest a USB external drive.
As far as which operating system to get, opinions vary. I love Vista. I have Vista Home Premium 32 bit. Vista is about to be replaced with what Microsoft is calling WIndows 7 (basically Vista SP3). Some people still complain about Vista stability so you can still get Windows XP pre-installed. I would stay as far away from XP Home as possible.
I hope this helps a little. Feel free to PM me if you have more questions.
forgot to mention the most important thing ever...
The single most important thing you can do to extend the life of your computer is to make sure you always have updated antivirus on your machine. I would stay away from the free ones if possible.