Five Things to Consider When Buying a Computer
When it comes to purchasing pre-loaded software with your computer, our advice is to avoid it at all costs. Most companies, like Dell and HP, will allow you to decline at least some of the crapware that comes loaded on a PC, but only Sony offers the option of getting an unmolested Windows 7 install. While it's tempting to have Microsoft Office and security software (a necessity on a Windows machine) preloaded on a new PC, you can often save yourself time and money by buying exactly what you want elsewhere and installing it yourself. In fact, you can save hundreds of dollars by skipping over Microsoft Office when ordering a PC. For one, it can be had for steep discounts through schools and employers, and, unless you absolutely need all of the advanced features of Excel, can be replaced by other tools like Open Office, Google Docs, AbiWord, or iWork.
Microsoft offers free downloads of video editing software, photo management tools, and security software. When combined with Windows Media Player, those programs comprise a suite comparable to Apple's iLife in terms of functionality, if not quality. Most Linux distributions also come with similar collections of software installed. For example, the popular (and Switched recommended) Ubuntu ships with Open Office, Rhythmbox Music Player, and F-Spot Photo Manager. There are, of course, plenty of other free and commercial software options that don't come with your OS.
The volume of options out there might make shopping for a new computer seem intimidating, especially when you're looking for a Windows PC. But don't freak out; it's just a matter of identifying what's important and how you'll use it. Once you've got that figured out (with a little help from us of course), picking out a PC isn't any tougher than buying any other gadget. All it takes is a little patience and some common sense.