Computer Purchasing Advice for Non-Techies


The final G+ repost here...

So, as the family "computer guy" who often has to give advice to relatives on what kind of computers to purchase, etc., I've done some research in light of the recent Lenovo/Superfish fiasco as to what kinds of advice to give to people asking me what kind of computer to buy. These are general rules of thumb for people looking for something basic. High end gaming machines, workstations, etc., are a different beast that may require somewhat different advice. Anyway, here are my rules in no particular order:

  1. If Apple is acceptable, buy Apple.
  2. If Linux is acceptable, buy the cheapest system that does what you need (make sure all the hardware is properly supported) and install Linux. Feel free to nuke Windows on it if comes pre-installed and you're never going to use Windows.
  3. Do not buy retail from common places like Best Buy, Staples, etc. They'll have tons of crapware on them. The exception is if you're buying Apple or nuking Windows to install Linux.
  4. Do buy retail from the Microsoft Store. I believe they only sell their "Signature PCs" which are guaranteed to just have basic Windows and Microsoft Security Essentials on them. Microsoft also has an online store for their Signature PCs but the stock seems to be very limited, especially for the less expensive models.
  5. If buying a desktop, buy a machine from a lesser-known, but still trustworthy builder that sells machines that only have "clean" Windows on them. This could be your local computer shop or something like PCs for Everyone, iBuyPower, or CyberPowerPC (note that I've heard some customer support horror stories from these latter two guys, but then again, I'm not sure they'd be any worse than Dell or HP or any of the other big boys).
  6. If buying from the likes of Dell or HP or any of the other big boys (probably your only option if buying a laptop as I'm not sure what the quality is like for small-vendor laptops), do not buy from their home/consumer lines/website sections as they'll be riddled with crapware. Instead, buy from their small business sections as they'll only ship with basic Windows and a trial version of Microsoft Office. Again, if you're nuking Windows for Linux though, it doesn't matter.
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