You want a new Windows Computer but don't have a lot of money?
What to look for:
and Where and When to Buy
Get a PC that's actually a pleasure to use without spending a ton of money!
No matter which brand of Windows PC you get there are four important things you should consider very carefully (look closely at the specifications).
Another way to save money on your new Windows PC is to get free software (freeware) for it.
Can't afford a brand new Windows PC but you still need a computer? Check out a Refurbished Computer or possibly even a Chromebook (if you just want to surf the internet).
After your purchase your new Windows Computer What Now?
As of 10/18/2021 - all new Windows PCs will ship with Windows 11 installed instead of Windows 10.
Windows 10S/11S ?
If you bought a PC with Windows 11S it's easy enough to switch to regular Windows 11 if you wish.
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. However if only Macs tickle your fancy you might check out The Refurbished Apple Store or Mac of all Trades. Apple has its own Certified Refurbished section at the Apple Store.
If you really don't like Windows and/or you don't wish to spend a small fortune on a Mac simply install Ubuntu or Linux Mint 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.
PRO: The best thing about Linux is that it is very secure since very little malware has been written especially for Linux.
32bit or 64bit OS
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.
However, with all of that said, if all you want is an inexpensive device that will access the internet a Chromebook may be all you need. Read more about Chromebooks here. Note: Don't be tempted to go too cheap. Remember - You generally get what you pay for..
Processor (CPU): 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.
Don't buy a PC that will aggravate you with its sluggishness!
Primarily, I recommend that you avoid cheap, weak processors such as MediaTek CPUs and Intel's Atom, Celeron, and even Pentium. Also avoid AMD's E-series and low-end A-series processors. 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.
Top of the line PCs usually have a late generation, top-of-the-line processor such as an Intel© Core™ i7-12700K or an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X 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.
How many Cores?
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 10 or Windows 11 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 (Especially if your new PC contains a Solid State Drive (SSD).
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, work with especially large databases and/or spreadsheets, or regularly have many open web browser tabs when surfing the internet.
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 more than 8GB of RAM memory.
What is Intel Optane Memory - And do you 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 storage 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 drive, which will make your PC start and run much faster.
If you are interested, see this page at the How to Geek site for a clear and more complete explanation of Optane memory.
Hard Drive - Your PC's File Cabinet
Your PC's boot hard drive (normally Drive C:) holds the Windows OS (operating system) files as well as all of your data (if it is the only drive installed).
It is preferable to get a PC with the largest capacity and fastest hard drive you can afford.
First of all, I recommend strongly that you avoid getting a Windows PC with a tiny 32GB (or even 64GB) eMCC hard drive which is soldered to the motherboard, you will surely regret it. Why? eMCC storage is much slower than SSD storage. In addition, Windows 10 or 11 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 SSD drive is the smallest size recommended for Windows PCs and even this size may leave too little room for the operating system, programs (apps), and your data. A 256GB SSD will provide adequate extra storage and supercharge your PC all at once! However if you have extra money to spend on your PC opt for a higher capacity 512GB SSD.
A 500GB hard drive spinning at 5400rpm is now a common size and speed for a low-end laptop PC. But this type of hard drive will aggravate you with its sluggishness (and worry you with it's lack of durability). You will be much better off with a SSD in your new laptop (or in your new desktop).
A SSD (Solid State Drive) is well worth the extra money. So get one in your PC if you can possibly afford it;
If your finances allow, replacing your PC's mechanical, spinning platter hard drive with a modern Solid State Drive (SSD) will energize and speed up your new or late model PC. As a matter of fact, a 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.
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.
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 one-year 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 extremely 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?
Also 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.
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.
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.
PC Manufacturers are now making laptops either difficult or impossible to upgrade
In addition it has been discovered by PC manufacturers 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 also make the case hard to open so that it is difficult to replace a failing battery.
If you don't absolutely need a portable PC you may be better off with a desktop, even a large tower desktop. You will get more PC for the money. And with a tower you will likely have a very upgradable and easily repairable computer. However if space considerations are a limiting factor then look at the computer types below.
Perhaps one of the best places to shop for a mini PC is the Minisforum. They appear to have lots of choices and the specifications look really good. If you're leaning more to an easy-to-use & ultra secure LINUX desktop this is the place to go!
What about a Mac?
For the same $700, you can easily find a Windows 11 Desktop PC with an Intel i5 (i7) or Ryzen 5 (Ryzen 7) processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1 Terrabyte 7200rpm hard drive or 256GB SSD drive - with a DVD burner, keyboard, and a mouse included. Add $125 to $175 for an excellent, good sized Full HD computer display. (Also add $60 to $100 for a SSD Drive size upgrade, if you buy it and install it yourself, which is not too hard)
By now everyone has either seen or heard about the iPad and its lower cost Android copycats. Most electronic tablets are great for reading books (or any kind of reading). Cloud computing and surfing the internet is also relatively simple, albeit on a small screen, but only if you have either a wireless router or cellular. Taking and viewing photos with a tablet is usually simple.
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
For a Desktop PC with a late-generation Intel i3 or Ryzen 3 dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive is my least recommendation, even if you are strapped for cash.
But if you can afford a little more then choose a PC with a late Intel i5 Quad-core or AMD Ryzen 5 Quad-core processor, with 8GB of RAM, and a faster hard drive running at 7200rpm or preferably a SSD.
Look at the specifications: What I recommend - (for both Desktop and Laptop)
Operating System (OS) - At least Windows 10 (S Mode is OK, since you can always switch out of it if you wish)
Processor (CPU) - Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen 3
RAM (memory) - 8GB
Hard Drive (SSD) - 256GB SSD (solid state drive)
Monitor (display) - IPS, full HD (1920X1080) resolution display (touchscreen optional for Laptop)
As I have implied above, the least powerful PC I believe you should get is one with an Intel i5 quad-core processor (or an AMD Ryzen 5 processor), 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD hard drive.
For a Laptop PC my least recommendation is a PC with, at least, an Intel Core i3 or Ryzen 3 processor, (Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 would be much better) 4-6 GB of RAM Memory (8GB RAM Memory would be much better) and a 128GB or 256GB SSD instead of a slow 500GB mechanical hard drive. A 512GB SSD would be much better if you can afford it.
Remember that most modern laptop PCs have both the RAM Memory and the SSD hard Drive soldered to the motherboard (along with all other devices) rendering them un-upgradeable!
For this reason it is wise to get what you think you might need when you purchase your laptop.
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)
Think about your computer monitor. You will be looking at it a lot. If you have a bad or worse yet, an old, bad display, eventually your eyes will pay for it.
You can now get a good 20inch flat panel PC LCD display for less than $150, or even less than $100 if you look hard enough. Most lower-cost LCD monitors are usually standard HD (1366x768), sometimes referred to as 720p. But for a bit more money you can get a Full High Definition (FHD) LCD monitor (1920X1080). Your eyes will thank you! (If you are picky about color reproduction and wide viewing angles, you should look for a monitor with an IPS screen as well as Full High Definition)
You don't always get the best price for a monitor simply because it's bundled with the PC when you buy it. Get the best computer display you can possibly afford! This also applies to laptop displays.
Use your HD TV as a computer monitor
Alternatively, if you have a late model 4K or full HD 1080p 40 inch or smaller LCD TV you can connect your PC to it with a HDMI cable which will give you both video and sound. Use your TV for double duty and surf the net on your TV! Get a wireless keyboard and mouse so you can back up a bit for comfortable viewing.
Note: A really large TV (46 inch or larger) may be overwhelming for a computer, but it's really a matter of choice. You'll almost certainly need a wireless keyboard and mouse to enable you to back away from a large TV for comfortable viewing.
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. Some PCs may still use an older connection called DVI. Most now use HDMI or Display Port. Some have multiple video connections.
Also, you really need and can also get a free antivirus program. You can simply activate (uninstall all other active antivirus software) Microsoft Defender Antivirus (it's already installed on your new Windows 10 or 11 PC) or choose from free third-party products such as Bitdefender, Panda, Kaspersky, Avast or Avira. See my recommendations. 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.
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 generally 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.
Also 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
Much better than a downgrade to Windows 10.
Your PC retains the advanced security features of Windows 11 and avoids possible device driver problems that a downgrade could introduce.
8.) Get beautiful desktop backgrounds for Free! (From the Microsoft Store) The simplest way to do this is to:
right-click any open space on your desktop
then choose Personalize from the context menu that appears. This will open the Personalization page in Windows Settings.
On this page click Themes.
Finally, Choose the Browse Themes button on the Get more themes from Microsoft store line on the Personalization page.
This will open the Themes page on the Microsoft Store where you can choose from dozens of beautiful desktop backgrounds and multi-image themes, (most are Free). Get as many as you like then choose one to be the active background on your PC by simply clicking on it after you have downloaded and installed it on your PC.
And Last, but not least.....
9.) Turn On System Restore (or be sure it's already on) for the primary hard drive in your Windows PC (the drive that contains the Windows system files - normally Drive 'C'). Simply go to my page System Restore to learn how and why you should do it. Scroll down to: What you can (or should) do - to learn how to turn System Restore on if it is off.
If these steps were a bit too simplistic for you just go to this page at PC World for more help.