How to Buy the Right Family Computer

Assessing Your Family's Computer Needs

To know what you need in a computer, you've got to know what you plan to do with it. Before you head to the computer store, sit down with your family and discuss how you're going to use your new computer:

  • Do you just need a computer for basic, everyday functions like responding to emails and surfing the Internet? Then you may be fine with a basic model that has limited memory and an average central processing unit (or CPU -- the computer's "brain"). You can also get away with integrated graphics (built into the computer).
  • Will you be downloading and editing a lot of photos, music and videos? In that case, you'll want extra memory to store your expanding media collection. You'll also need a fast CPU (quad-core or six-core), and plenty of memory (RAM), as well as a graphics card.

Next, talk about costs. How much money do you want to spend? You can get a basic compact PC for as little as $300, or spend $2,000 or more for a high-end desktop [source: PC World].

Finally, think about where you'll be using your computer. Do you have the space for a full-sized desktop computer? If you're cramming the computer into the corner of an already packed desk, consider getting something smaller -- like a compact PC or laptop.