~~ Pre-built or Home-brewed
For the average person buying a new computer is not dramatically different in price from building one yourself. Most name brand systems are often less expensive than a home-brewed solution. A significant benefit with the pre-built route is that you will have a warranty that will protect your investment in case something goes wrong. If you stick with some of the national name brands, you often get a very powerful support system with that warranty.
This is wonderful for those who do not have the time or inclination to be working on building one themselves. Now if you do want to you will need to spend time making sure you purchase the right components and do not over pay on parts.
~~ To upgrade or not to upgrade
If your computer is 3 or more years old, I would recommend upgrading. It makes it more likely that your current components may not be supported by the latest technology, and will need to be upgraded eventually. Also the average warranty is from 1 to 3 years.
Do you need more RAM, processing power, or a new video card? If the part is easy to upgrade, while the rest of the computer is fine, then upgrade.
Is the cost of the upgrade close to or 50% worth of the actual new purchase of a new system? Your budget is the most important thing to consider because a good quality computer can be bought for 500 dollars. Think about the cost of parts you want to upgrade, versus getting a new one.
~~ Should you avoid the standard upgrade
Before you upgrade here are some things to think about.
1. New software will slow down your computer
Almost every software upgrade demands more RAM and a faster processor. The most visible symptom of this after the fact is a sluggish computer. This means your computer will be slow to perform your normal tasks. Not upgrading the software means your system will perform as it is.
2. Avoid the "upgrade cascade"
After you upgrade your software, you likely will decide you need more memory and upgrades to other programs that are incompatible with the software you upgraded. This often causes computer owners to have to upgrade many pieces of software or pieces of hardware. Ultimately leading to more money being spent than a new computer.
3. It is easiest to make a transition all at once
If you wait to upgrade your operating system and software until you get a new computer, you have to make just one transition every three or four years, rather than a series of time-consuming transitions, one or more each year.
4. Upgrades costs money
This may seem obvious, but you can save money by staying off the upgrade treadmill. By waiting to upgrade until you get a new computer, you can often skip a version or two of the software or hardware you use, saving time and money in the process.
~~ The right time to upgrade to a new computer
Here are a couple of times when it is right to upgrade to a new computer:
1. Sometimes you cannot do what you want to do without an upgrade
If you are trying to open documents that are many versions ahead of you or need to run programs that your computer does not even support, you may need an upgrade.
2. Your current operating system is no longer supported
Computer operating system makers typically discontinue support for operating systems after they have been on the market for about six or seven years. If you bought a computer three years ago with a three-year-old operating system on it, your operating system was probably fully mature and quite stable, but it may soon lose support. If you plan to hold on to the computer for another two or three years, an operating system upgrade (along with a memory upgrade) is probably a good idea.
~~ Determine what you need in a computer
Do you need more RAM or hard drive space? Is your computer crashing? Do you lack hardware like USB 2.0 or FireWire ports, a wireless card, or a scanner? Do you want to watch and record TV on your new machine? Write down a list of options you must have in a new computer. Do not just get rid of your computer because it is too slow unless you have looked at really if it is too slow for what you are doing or just needs to be rebuilt.
~~ List current setup
Most computers are sold with expansion capabilities that never get used. As it is, you are probably not getting the most out of the machine you have, and a few components could be just the extra power you need.
~~ Look for the right place to buy
Some people like to go to places like Best Buy or Computer City while others like to use online vendors like Dell or HP. No matter who you buy through make sure they have a good warranty program, offer competitive prices, and will give you the support you need if there are issues.