August: The time of year when folks start the reluctant preparation to go back to school. This time is met with much grumbling, sleep-in protests, and general unhappiness – much of it coming from the teachers.

Schools and universities are strongly encouraging students to have their own computers. For the learning institutions that don’t provide or prescribe a computer for the student, I’ve listed some important factors to consider when purchasing a new computer.

  1. Warranty. Most computers come with only a one-year warranty. Over the years, I’ve seen many computers encounter fatal problems between years 2 and 3. Here are some important principles to consider:
    1. If you’re purchasing a laptop, you might want to consider a three-year warranty. It takes much longer to remove and replace components for a laptop and the cost of labor and parts to fix it will often be more than the cost of the warranty.
    2. If you’re purchasing a desktop, you might be okay to stay with the one-year warranty. The cost of labor to replace a component after the warranty expires is a lot lower than for a laptop, so a three-year warranty is not as necessary.
    3. Find out the extent of the protection. The range of protection varies from one computer manufacturer to another so it’s important to know that you’re comfortable with the level of service provided.
    4. Find out the exchange process and how you will get a working computer if your computer has a serious problem. Some companies require you to ship the computer to them. Others require you to drop off the computer or ship it to them in exchange for an equivalent computer. Others will send the technician to the location of your choice to replace the components. Ensure that you’re happy with the exchange process.
  2. Windows 10 vs Windows 8. In my previous column (Don’t upgrade to Window 10. Yet.), I cautioned my readers to wait to upgrade to Windows 10 if you already have Windows 7 or Windows 8 on your computer. If you’re buying a new computer, it’s much better to get one with Windows 10 already on it so that you don’t have to upgrade to it later from Windows 8.
  3. The three most important components are memory, CPU, and hard drive type.
    1. Memory: If your budget supports it, I recommend that you go with 8 GB of memory. The least you should go with is 4 GB of memory. Anything less than that, your student might have an unsatisfactory experience.
    2. CPU (Central Processing Unit): This is the brains behind your computer.

If your computer belongs to the Intel family,

      1. an i3 CPU is adequate
      2. an i5 CPU is capable (and can handle video games)
      3. an i7 CPU is powerful (for everything, including video games)

If your computer belongs to the AMD family, it’s much harder to make comparisons between the different models. A good tip is that the more “cores”, the better.

    1. Hard Drive: You’ll see ‘SSD hard drives’ listed on some computers. SSD stands for ‘Solid State Drive’ and it’s the newest trend in hard drives. It does cost more and while most students don’t truly need it, it greatly improves the computer’s speed. You should go with it only if your budget can support it.

I hope this list gives you a good starting point as you look for a computer for your student. If you would like us to serve you in this endeavor, please email us at