Skip Main Navigation

Community College of Rhode Island

Get Adobe Reader

*PDF files require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view - Download here

Purchasing a Personal Computer

When buying a Computer

To make the most of your buying experience, and an idea of the variety of choices facing you, you should do your homework before you buy your computer given that it’s a major purchase decision. Listed below are some tips to consider before buying a computer:

Think ahead of time about:
  • What you want your computer to do?
  • What you want to spend? Don’t buy a more complex computer than you need, but at the same time think about what you might want it to do in the future. This will save you time and money in the long-term.

Don’t be apprehensive to speak to vendors

  • Give details on what you want your computer to do and solicit their recommendations.

If buying on credit, shop around because the vendor may not offer the best deal.

Vendors will sometimes sell computers in bundles that may include a computer, printer and scanner, perhaps a digital camera or various software packages.

  • Ask the vendor to take any items out of the bundle that you think you don’t want or need, and adjust the price for you.

When ordering make sure that you get and keep copies of all receipts, details of the order, confirmation, e-mail and order numbers of your computer purchase.

When buying online check that the company has a contact address and telephone number in case you need to get in contact with them.

Support and Repair Services

You should think about support options when, or even before, you buy given that computers are not always problem free. Find out exactly what is covered, how long it lasts and how much it costs.

Support services tend to be composed of:

Phone Helpdesk
  • Does the vendor provide access to a telephone helpdesk that you can phone for help and/or advice?
  • This can be a quick and easy solution, and is regularly the first place you are advised to go if you have a problem.
  • Beware you may be charged per call/minute.
Before buying
  • Call the helpline to see how easy it is to get through to a person. If you have to wait for an extended period then you should think about buying from another vendor – think about how you would feel if you waited as long to sort out your problem.
Online services
  • Does the vendor provide an area on their website for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and where you can ask questions?
  • Inquire from the vendor if they provide such a service and how much it will cost you to access it.

Installation services possibly offered by the vendor.

  • This may be useful if you haven’t used a computer before.
Repair services

The type of repair service offered varies between vendors and manufacturers, so ask before you buy. Pick a vendor that provides the best service for you. If your computer breaks down always check whether it is still covered by a warranty as explained below:

Vendor’s Warranty

This will automatically come with the computer. They typically cover repair and/or replacement and may include protection against accidental damage or theft. Read the small print before purchasing your computer or warranty and find out what it covers and how long it lasts. Software is not always covered.

Repair services are commonly organized in one of the following ways:
  • On-site repair service. Where an engineer comes out to you to fix the computer.
  • Return to Vendor. Where you have to send the computer back to the vendor for repair. You may have to pay the delivery fees for transporting it to and from your home/office.
What about a printer?

Printers are an important piece of equipment to go with your computer. However, buying a printer may not be as straightforward as it seems - check out the information below:

  • Before you buy, think about what you need the printer for – do you want to print in black and white only, or color photographs? Will you be doing a lot of printing?

Don’t assume...

  • that an inexpensive printer is always a good bargain. It may use more ink and therefore be more expensive to run. The best printer for you will depend on more than the initial price.
  • Ask the vendor how much the ink cartridges cost BEFORE you buy your printer. They can be expensive - ink can cost more than twice the price of the printer over its lifetime.
  • Ask the vendor how many pages an ink cartridge will print and how much it will therefore cost to print per page, for both color and black and white. Ask how many pages it will print per minute to check that it is not too slow.
What about Protecting Your Computer?

How can you protect you investment from power surges. A surge protector will blow a fuse if it gets hit by a rush of electricity, as a result protecting your computer. If you're using a modem, be sure to get a surge protector with a telephone jack included. A surge protector cannot safeguard your computer against a direct lightning strike, the only sure safeguard against lightning strikes is to unplug your computer and modem during a thunderstorm.

What about Protecting Your Data?

The only sure fire way to safeguard the data on your computer is to back it up onto a cd/dvd/flash drive/external drive . . .

Before Buying a Computer have you considered …

How will the computer be used? Do you plan to write papers for a class using word processing software, keep track of your finances or business on a spreadsheet, sending email, surfing the Web, or just playing games? Knowing how you'll use your computer will help you determine what type of minimum requirements the computer needs to have.

The IT Help Desk staff provides computing needs analysis and pre-sales support to the faculty
and staff at CCRI. They will assist in answering your questions and configuring your computer system to meet you requirements. For purchasing advice or more information, please contact us at x1112.


Prior to purchasing your computer, go over the list of the items (hardware and software) that you might consider purchasing. Ask the salesperson questions about the computer you are interested in and jot your notes in the space below.


Laptop or Desktop (Laptop models are portable, and if you travel a lot and need to bring your computer along, this is the logical choice. Desktops have larger screens and are easily expandable).

Processor Type


Processor Speed


RAM (memory)


Hard Drive Capacity


Backup Devices (USB/CD/CD_RW/DVD/DVD_RW external drive)


Sound Card


Monitor: Is it included in the price?


Monitor size


Speakers: (internal/external) Is it included in the price?


Printer: Is it included in the price?


Type of Printer (dot matrix, inkjet, bubble jet, laser)


Modem (internal, external, speed)


Can you set up a fax or voice mail on the modem?


Is there a toll-free technical support phone number?


What cables or items are needed to set up the system? (Surge Protector, printer cable, a power strip or cable to connect the Internet)?



Operating System: (version)


Software Included: (Office/Works/Other)


Antivirus Software Included: (MacAfee/Symantec/Other)



See if the warranty covers manufacturing defects and other problems. Make certain you recognize in particular what is covered under the warranty.

Many vendors offer an extended service agreement which, in reality, increases the length of the warranty. This is entirely up to you to purchase this plan. You need to investigate what is covered and evaluate the price of the warranty opposed to the price of possible repairs.

Does the vendor offer support if you have a question or need technical assistance? What form is the support available in (email/phone/live chat/documentation)?


How long is the Warranty?


This page developed and maintained by the Information Technology Department. Send comments and suggestions to .

Last Updated: 3/19/15