You want a new PC but don't have a lot of money?
What to look for:
and Where to Buy
No matter which brand PC you get there are four important things you should consider very carefully (look closely at the specifications).
prices that you can expect to pay for a new PC. You may also want to consider whether it is cost-effective to purchase an extended warranty for your new PC.
Look also at the difference between a laptop PC and a desktop PC and the limitations of All-in-one PCs and especially iOS and Android Tablets. Also check out Touch Screen Laptops.
View my suggestions about where and how to search for the best deals on your new PC, especially if you are buying and searching online or in a local store such as Walmart or Best Buy.
If you need a new computer display (monitor) along with your new PC see my thoughts on PC Monitors.
Another way to save money on your new PC is to get free software (freeware) for it.
I recommend Windows 10 for your new PC! Windows 10 Professional, if you can afford it. Because Windows is still the go-to operating system and Windows 10 pro has more security features.
Windows 10 S ?
If at all possible I recommend you avoid Windows 10 S, a lower-cost version of the Windows operating system that restricts you to apps from Microsoft's Windows Store. Windows 10 S was initially touted as a security feature which would prevent unauthorized apps from running on your PC, but that advantage is heavily outweighted by the disadvantages. If you want to take advantage of third-party free software stay away from a PC with Windows 10 S. See my Freeware page to see what I mean.
If you really hate Windows 10 simply install Ubuntu or Linux Mint Cinnamon before you load your personal data and programs. Both are free linux Desktop Operating Systems. And since you can run either of them from a USB installer disk before you install them I recommend you try them out first before installing either one. The big downside is that you can't run windows software in Linux without emulator software.
The MacOS is an excellent OS but you can't get it without buying an Apple Mac PC. Do so only if you do not care about initial cost.
32bit or 64bit OS
Generally you will not need to be concerned since all new Windows computers are now 64bit capable (x64 based processor) and have a 64bit version of the Windows OS installed. You would not want a 32bit OS in any case, since this would limit your available RAM to less than 4GB.
Beware of really cheap faux PCs with the Chrome OS (Chromebook) or the Android OS. You will need a reliable and relatively fast internet connection for a Chrome device to function properly. Generally you will be dissatisfied with either of them if you were expecting them to perform in the same manner and at the same level as a normal Windows PC.
Processor: The brains of the PC
Both of the major PC processor manufacturers, Intel and AMD, have continued to introduce newer and faster versions of their PC processors and rankings have become a bit muddled.
For the most part, I recommend that you avoid weak processors such as Intel's Celeron, and Pentium, and AMD's E-series and low-end A-series processors (A-9 and higher are still barely acceptable). Tasks that PC processors are expected to perform without hiccups and slowdowns are growing more complex daily as are many websites on the internet. Weaker processors will tend to make your new computer nearly obsolete out of the box, as well as agonizingly sluggish.
When you look at PC specifications look for computers with Intel core i3 or higher (i5, i7) or AMD A-10 or higher (Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7)
PCs with late generation processors tend to cost more than older generations. The latest generation for Intel processors is the 10th generation, with the 11th coming on soon. For AMD Ryzen the latest are the 3000 series that are just about to be overtaken by the upcoming 4000 series.
Top of the line PCs usually have a late generation, top-of-the-line processor such as an Intel© Core™ i7-1065G7 or an AMD Ryzen 7 3800X installed. These processors, especially the i7, are expensive, when compared with the others mentioned above. A PC containing one of these will usually be priced at least $200 above those with a less powerful Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor. However all of these processors will normally provide upscale performance without slowdowns or hiccups.
Random Access Memory: RAM
(sometimes referred to as Dynamic Random Access Memory DRAM)
RAM is the working memory of your PC. Very simply: the more, the better to enable your PC to run multiple programs at once and avoid disk swapping, a condition which can slow your PC severely at times.
Even the cheapest of PCs now comes with at least 2 Gigabytes (GB) of RAM memory. However, the minimum recommendation for Random Access Memory for a modern PC running Windows 8 and Windows 10 is now Four (4) gigabytes or more.
I recommend at least 8 Gigabytes of RAM in your new PC, if you can possibly afford it.
Note: It is unlikely that you will need more than 8GB of RAM memory installed in your new PC even if you install an SSD, unless you plan to do a lot of heavy video editing or work with especially large databases and/or spreadsheets.
Even taking into account the above statements, an increase of RAM to 12GB or 16GB is not totally out of the question if you value the smooth running of your PC. But, expect to pay a premium for this much RAM memory.
What is Intel Optane Memory - And do I really need it?
Don't be confused or led astray about Intel Optane Memory? Optane memory is NOT RAM (Random Access Memory) and it's also NOT a hard drive nor a hard drive replacement. Just what is it and what does it do? And do you really want it or need it? (there are a lot of confusing claims and hype associated with Optane memory)
To answer the last question: No, you really don't need Optane memory, especially if you have to spend extra dollars to get it. You'd be much better off applying that money toward a SSD, which will make your PC start and run much faster.
If you are interested, see this page at the How to Geek site for an clear and more complete explanation of Optane memory.
Hard Drive - Your PC's File Cabinet
Your PC's boot hard drive holds the Windows OS (operating system) files as well as all of your data.
It is preferable to get a PC with the largest capacity and fastest hard drive you can afford.
I recommend strongly that you avoid getting a Windows PC with a tiny 32GB EMCC hard drive which is soldered to the motherboard, you will surely regret it. Why? Windows 10 64bit OS requires at least 20GB so this leaves very little room for Windows updates, Programs, and, finally, your data. Your really cheapo PC containing such a puny hard drive will choke, likely sooner, rather than later.
A 128GB hard drive is the smallest size recommended for Windows PCs and even this size leaves too little room for your programs and data.
A 500GB hard drive running at 5400rpm is now a common size and speed for a low-end laptop PC. But it is rather slow. You may not need a larger hard drive but if you can afford a PC with a faster one running at 7200rpm, (in your desktop PC) or with an 256GB (or larger) SSD in your laptop, get one.
A 7200rpm, hard drive and especially a SSD will load the OS faster, which allows your PC to start rapidly, access your data, and start programs quicker.
A SSD is well worth the extra money
If your finances allow, replacing your PC's mechanical hard drive with a Solid State Drive (SSD) will energize and speed up your new or late model PC. As a matter of fact, an SSD is the one component that will speed up your PC faster than any other as well as being more durable (shock-resistant) and more long lasting than any old-style mechanical spinning hard drive.
You can usually get a 250GB (or 256GB) SSD for less than $50 to $75 if you install it yourself. I recommend Samsung, Kingston or a WD branded SSDs. See my SSD page for more information.
Why you should be concerned with PC specifications
A computer with higher-end and more capable components will usually boot and start programs faster. It will also be far less likely to choke even when you load the PC with software that may add numerous startup items or try to run more than two or three programs at the same time.
Assuming software congestion, a hardware fault, or PC virus/malware is not the cause, even a brand new PC can run sluggishly if it has insufficient RAM memory, a weak processor, and/or a slow hard drive.
Additionally, the higher end PC will continue to perform at higher levels as it ages. That means your higher-end cheap PC will not become obsolete quite as fast as a really cheapo PC.
Cheap PCs price range: (These are prices for Desktops. Laptops may cost a bit more.)
Note: If you expected to get a good PC for less money you would be best advised to wait and get one on sale.
If you plan to spend more (normally over $550) then you should start looking at a Desktop PC with an Intel i5 processor or an AMD Ryzen 5 processor, 6 to 8 GB of RAM, and a 1TB (terabyte) hard drive, or a laptop with the same specs except with a small SSD instead of a spinning hard drive. Even though a 250GB SSD is preferable, a 128GB SSD is acceptable if it saves you money.
A dedicated video (display) card would also be an excellent idea. A 2GB video card should only add about $50 to $75 to the cost of your PC. Later on, if you decide you want to use your PC to play graphics intensive games you can usually add a faster card to most desktop PCs if you don't overload the power supply. Be sure to check first!
An installed display card (dedicated video) tends to take some of the load off the processor enabling the PC to run a bit more smoothly. This will help if you normally perform graphics intensive operations such as graphics or video editing - not so much with normal web surfing or office tasks.
If you wish to play graphics intensive games a display card may be a necessity.
Note: A dedicated disply card for a Laptop is normally only available in higher end laptop PCs. However, if you want a graphics card in your new laptop you will need to purchase a model that already has one. Unlike most common desktop tower or mini-tower computers, it is nearly impossible to add a graphics card to a laptop that shipped without one.
Do you really need to purchase an extended warranty?
No matter where you buy your new computer you will be faced with the choice to purchase an extension to the standard one-year in-home warranty that comes with nearly all new PCs. If you are buying online it will be easy to ignore the offers for extended warranties but if you are in a local store the salesperson may strongly suggest that you really need one.
My advice is to firmly decline. Why? Because if there is a manufacturing defect with with the computer you buy it will almost always show up sometime in the first few months of use, and then the standard warranty will take care of it. You will either get your computer repaired or get a replacement for it straight from the manufacturer.
Extended warranties are big money makers for those who sell them since it's rare when a manufacturing defect waits more than a year to make itself evident. If there's something mechanically wrong with your new PC it won't take long for it to go belly up!
You were trying to get a cheap PC anyway, right? So why pay more than you really need to pay?
Be aware that manufacturer's warranties do not normally cover software problems.
Also, if you bought your new PC from a place such as Amazon, which has a firm 30-day return policy for damaged or DOA electronics then the best thing to do is to return it for a full refund or replacement with another new PC. That way you won't even need to provide evidence (such as proof or purchase) for warranty purposes.
What about a Mac?
But for $500 to $700, you can easily find a Windows 10 Desktop PC with an Intel i5 quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1 Terrabyte 7200rpm hard drive - with a DVD burner, keyboard, and a mouse included. (Add $40 to $70 for a 250GB SSD Hard Drive, if you buy it and install it yourself)
Laptop (notebook PCs) vs Desktop PCs
The benefits of a laptop PC are: Display included - no need to buy a separate monitor. Compact and portable - use it almost anywhere. Touch screen models are available at a higher price.
On the other hand Laptops are usually a bit more expensive than desktops with comparable specifications. Laptops use lower-power mobile processors that are generally less powerful (and cooler running) than comparable desktop processors. Batteries generally do not last that long before requiring recharge, especially in low-end PCs.
In addition it has been discovered by PC manufactruers that Laptop owners rarely attempt to upgrade their laptop PC so the laptop builders are making more and more laptops that either cannot be upgraded by the owner or are difficult to upgrade. This means that most laptops have RAM memory soldered to the motherboard. Some even solder storage (SSD modules) to the motherboard and make the case hard to open making it difficult to replace the battery.
If you don't absolutely need a portable PC you may be better off with a traditional tower desktop. You will get more PC for the money. And with a tower you will likely have a very upgradable computer.
Expect to spend at least $550 to $600 for a decent, well-equipped laptop PC. Again, if you want to spend less for a good laptop PC, WAIT FOR A SALE!
Concerning touch sceens on Laptop PCs
Do you really need a touch screen on your new laptop PC?
This depends on whether you really want a touch screen, not whether you need it.
A touch screen on a laptop PC can be quite helpful at times but, in my opinion, no one really needs a touch screen on any PC, except a tablet PC that does not ship with a keyboard/mouse or a touchpad.
A laptop PC with a touch screen will normally cost at least $50 to $100 more than one without a touch screen.
As an example, I found two laptop PCs for sale online. One had a touch screen with 4GB of RAM and the other had no touch screen but had 6GB of RAM. The PCs were priced the same.
Personally, I would rather have the extra RAM than a touch screen on my new PC. However, I recommend that you try out a touch screen laptop, if possible, before you make your final purchasing decision.
However if you really need a computer (to get real work done) then buy a real PC. You will have a physical keyboard to do your typing, a large hard drive to store your files which will be easily transferable by means of USB flash drive or disk, as well as internet downloads.
A tablet's main drawback is its dependence on wireless communications and, with the possible exception of photos, its poor and clunky data transfer capability, especially without wireless availability. Memory space for tablets is usually very restricted and low compared to laptop or desktop PCs.
Another glaring weakness of many tablets is that the battery is usually non-replacable or not easily replaceable. If the battery fails your tablet is bricked unless you pay a substantial fee for a battery replacement. Occasionally the cost is prohibitive - possibly as much as a new tablet in some instances.
Bottom Line - Recommendations
Download free software to save money
If you want to get any real use out of your new PC you will need software for it. You will need a decent word-processing program and a good anti-virus program at minimum.
The good news is that you don't need to spend a lot of money on computer programs. If you have internet access you can download a free office suite - LibreOffice - that has much of the functionality of Microsoft Office. You can easily get LibreOffice using Ninite.com
Also, you really need and can also get a free antivirus program. Activate Microsoft Defender Antivirus (it's already installed on your new Windows 10 PC) or choose from Bitdefender, Panda, Kaspersky, Avast or Avira. Take the free stuff and run!
For more information about free software, tips about downloading it, and advice for avoiding the pitfalls - see my page Freeware for specific recommendations for free software, free security programs, and links to the downloads.
Where to buy
And When to Buy - Find the best deals
Look at the offerings from the major computer manufacturers. Especially the ones with online stores:
Dell Computers, HP Computers or Lenovo PCs.
Note: If you decide to buy directly from a computer maker's online site be aware that you may have to wait a week or more for your new custom configured PC to be delivered.
Also check Walmart and Best Buy online. Don't forget Amazon.com.
Don't forget the other online only stores such as CDW, newegg, and Tiger Direct.
In addition you may want to check the Tech Bargains to look for current brand specific discount coupons that may enable you to save money when purchasing a PC directly from a PC maker's site.
Other excellent places to look for current deals are PC Magazine's Deal Page and Laptop Magazine's Deals Page.
Another site to peruse for special deals is DealNews which publicizes the sales and best prices from stores like Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, Tiger Direct, Walmart and others.
The Best time to buy
As I mentioned earlier on this page. It's always best to get a PC on Sale if you can time it right. You can usually find the best PC deals during the Black Friday sales the various PC manufacturers and online stores have going on the day after Thanksgiving. These sales usually start earlier in the month of November and run for a few weeks before Thanksgiving.
You can find PC sales at other times of the year (Christmas, Easter (Spring), Memorial Day & Forth of July), Back to School, etc. But the Black Friday sales generally provide the best deals.
Shop by brand?
Get coupons to save money
For a number of reasons some of these specials and coupons are not highly advertised. You must actively search them out. So if you do not urgently need a new PC take some time to view the specials & sales and look for discount coupons at Tech Bargains and other discount sites.
Computer Monitors (Display)
If you already have a good flat panel monitor look around to see if you have an adaptor for it for the newer video connections that come with new PCs. Most older PCs use a VGA connection. Many newer PCs use a connection called DVI. Some even use HDMI. Some have multiple video connections.
Be ready for disaster
(and other non-Windows devices)
As I mentioned earlier on this page, Chromebooks, Android devices and Apple iOS tablets (iPads) are well suited to surf the internet and run their own (often cloud-based) versions of productivity programs. Many Chrome and Android devices can be considered cheap internet appliances. Even though iPads have come down in price in the last few years, they cannot be considered cheap.
Some Chromebooks cannot be considered cheap either!
Chromebooks seem to be overtaking Apple's iPad in educational settings since they are less expensive, normally have a keyboard, and surf the internet just as well as any other PC-like device.
The caveat, is that all of these devices require a robust internet connection to perform their basic functions. A Chromebook without an internet connection and a wireless router is severely limited in use compared to a traditional Windows PC.
With all of that said, if you have no need to use Windows software and have a good internet connection along with a decent wireless router then a Chromebook may be exactly what you are looking for.
Before you buy
Before buying a Chromebook to replace your old Windows PC I urge you to do some research first.
See the Google Chromebook page and see if a Chromebook will fully serve your needs.
Check to be sure the Chromebook you have chosen is not on the list to expire soon. (When a Chromebook's auto update expires it will no longer receive system or security updates.)
See this PCWorld Magazine article that explains everything that happens when a Chromebook expires. (Article includes lists of expired or soon to expire devices>)
See the Chromebook reviews from the different online PC magazines.
Also, see Amazon's Chromebook page for their recommendations
Chromebook specifications (what to look for).
Refurbished Computers and Monitors