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Buying a PC Things to Know: Spending Less on PC Hardware

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/3/2009

While it's often true that you get what you pay for, you can also save a lot of money if you know a bit about your purchase. It is easy to be disappointed by a deal that seems too good to be true, but you can get away with cheap computer hardware if you know what you are getting.

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    Cheap Computer Hardware Shopping

    Very few people aren't constrained by budgets when shopping for computer hardware. Most people are looking for the best bang for their buck. There are some circumstances where they don't want to spend more than absolutely necessary, and they are looking for something cheap. For many though, modest computing needs or budgets dictate focusing on cheap hardware exclusively.

    The less you know about computers, the less performance you are likely to need, and the less money you are likely to spend. The problem is, anyone willing to drop $2500 dollars can get a decent computer, from the local outlet of a large consumer electronic store (online retailers like are almost always cheaper), without doing any research. Buying cheap means you have to understand what you need and what you don't. That way, you know which corners you can cut and which you can't.

    Buying Open Box, Refurbished, and outright used, computer hardware can save money, but it is even more important to know what you are getting into. Buying cheap without doing your homework almost guarantees disappointment, and won't save money if you are forced to replace equipment much sooner than expected.

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    Upgrade or New PC?

    The first thing you need to know if you are looking to save money on computer purchases is this: upgrading is cheaper overall. Computers are highly modular; so you can often buy just the component that will get the performance you need. Upgrading isn't always the best way to do things, depending on what you are upgrading from and to. You'll need to:

    You'll need to know how to perform the upgrade in question, or get someone else to do it. This series is on how to build a PC, start to finish, but the individual articles each focus on the installation or connection of a particular component. Head to the appropriate article for instructions on your particular upgrade.

    If your current PC is not worth upgrading, you will need a new one. Building a PC (instructions for which are in the series just linked to) allows savings up front, and, with some good choices, you can leave yourself better routes to upgrade, over a ready made PC. Choosing parts and having a PC built will cost you a modest service fee and a little research, but you know what you are getting; and, perhaps more importantly for a cheap PC, what you aren't. Any small bricks-and-mortar store will be happy to provide advice, and many online retailers have Configuration tools to guide you through the process.

    Still, if you don't know a Gigabyte from a Cheesybite, and want to get "a computer" and leave it at that, here are 3 cheap PCs that can fit the bill. If you are building your own PC or choosing parts for it, the next page contains recommendations for the different components you'll have to choose.

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    Guidelines to Buying a New Computer - Buying Cheap Computer Hardware as Opposed to a New PCHere are recommendations for cheap computer hardware components. Everything on the list is from the value end of the PC spectrum, but it also has the quality to hold up and perform as expected reliably. These computer hardware parts prove that cheap doesn't have to mean bad. So while there are advantages of buying a new PC, lets look at some of the best PC upgrades and computer hardware, components, recommendations, advantages of buying a new PC
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    Good Upgrade and New PC Part Choices On the Cheap

    If you are upgrading, building your own, or selecting parts for a new PC, you'll need to know a few things. Specifically, you need to know what to look for when shopping for the component in general, and some, good, cheap choices to get you on your way.

    You can also shave a few dollars off hardware components by getting OEM instead of retail versions, depending on what you have lying around. OEM products don't include instructions, but you can usually download those from a manufacturer site. Sometimes retail boxed products have other things you might want though: like cables and screws; games and other software; or, in the case of a CPU, a cooler fan.

    Depending on if you're contemplating an upgrade or whole new PC, you may want to start with a look at our list of the best PC hardware upgrades under $100 or our recommended parts for a gaming PC under $750. Of course, the individual parts liseted in the system build are also good low-cost upgrade choices. A list of recommended cheap hardware follows, arranged by component type.

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    Cheap Computer Hardware Components

    • Optical Drives
      • Obviously, Blu-Ray and cheap aren't exactly in the same category yet. But everything else you want from a DVD/CD burner can be had for just over $20. Stick to reputable manufacturers.