What you should get in a PC



Minimum Typical
Monitor   15 inch (diagonal measurement) flat panel 17 "
Operating system Windows XP Home Windows XP Home (Pro only if your a computer geek)
Memory -

(Temporary processing storage)

256 MB (megabyte) 512 MB (megabyte) - the higher the better, but this is easy to upgrade in the future.  Unless you doing a lot of graphical stuff, 512 MB is fine.
Hard Drive-

(long term data storage, don't call this memory unless you want to sound like you have no idea what you're taking about.

40 GB - if all you do is internet/email/word/excel 80 GB -  this will give you more space for loading massive programs like some games and photo editing programs
Video Card something with 64 MB 128MB PCI Express™ x16
Micro Processor 2.6(GigaHertz) 3.0 Ghz (GigaHertz)- the higher the processor the more expensive with barely noticeable results.
CD ROM/DVD 16x DVD -this won't burn anything 48X CD-RW/ DVD Combo Drive - this will burn CDs, but if you want to burn DVDs you'll have to pay more.
Productivity Software MS Office Basic- Outlook, Word, Excel MS Office Small business- Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint (Access comes in MS office Pro)
Warranties/Support 1 year 2 year (add more if you want)
Printer -Only if you need it) ink jet laser printer if you can afford it.
Speaker mostly part of speakers will do For more advance music lover, you might want a sound system that is 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 meaning they will be surround sound with 5-7 separate speakers and a subwoofer.  THX is a high end speaker system
Sound card Any Cheap pair, SoundBlaster is a good brand 5.1 or better depending on you enthusiasm, SoundBlaster is a good brand
Keyboard Should be USB Go wireless if you want
Mouse Regular roller ball cheapo Optical mice are much better

Things to watch for:

  1. Flat screen doesn't always mean flat panel (ex. the screen may be flat but it is still the size of your TV)  - panel generally means the nice slim ones you see on the dell website. A CRT is the regular size one not the panel.
  2. Every PC should come with a network adapter (Ethernet port and phone modem).  If you use broadband you'll need this, if you use dial up you'll need the phone modem.
  3. CD-RW will burn CDs which may not work in some older CD players.  DVD-ROM will play DVD on your PC but won't burn them.  DVD+/-RW burner will burn DVD.  Double layer burning will write to both sides of a DVD at once ( more expensive)
  4. When quoting prices, sites (including dell) start with Word Perfect of Microsoft  Works  which  are not what most people use.  These are OK they are not what is commonly used.  Upgrading to MS Office Basic will add $150.
  5. PCs now don't come with floppy drives (this is outdated hardware).  The choice most people use to transfer data currently is to email it, burn it to CD or use a jump drive (uses a USB port) also know as memory key or flash drive
  6. Some systems give you 3 or 6 months free of an anti-virus.  You can save some money by not getting this and downloading AVG for free.  Do a Google search for AVG to find it.
  7. The Video Card should definitely be PCI not APG (this is old).  Most likely all your choices will be PCI