Shopping for a computer doesn't need to be hard. First think about what you need. Are you looking for a computer to perform basic tasks or to meet special requirements? Then do a little homework, and finally go shopping armed with that knowledge. You'll get a computer you can be happy with, and you'll get the best value for your money.
Before you shop
Decide if you're better served by the PC/Windows platform or the Macintosh. You can generally get a faster computer for your money by choosing a Windows machine, but Macs come with more easy-to-use built-in software. Top brands are Dell, Hewlett- Packard, IBM, Gateway and Toshiba. Apple, of course, makes the Macintosh.
Think about whether this machine will need to work with your office or school server. Exchanging files between platforms is less of an issue than it used to be, but it's still worth noting.