In a post on PC World‘s site, several good tips were given on choosing a new desktop PC for your office. These are interesting ideas to keep in mind and can save you money in the long run.

The first tip addresses the question we have been asking for the past year or so: Should I go with Vista? This is where the so-called “XP Downgrade” option can come in handy. As the post explains,

“You’re essentially buying Vista, but getting XP for free, and obtaining an upgrade disk for Vista when and if you want it. If you buy the Vista Business edition, models and makers that support this option will impose no additional charge; if you buy a cheaper Vista version, you may have to pay additional fees, or an XP downgrade may not be available.”

Wow, the best of both worlds! You get the Windows XP stability and compatibility, while investing in Vista for when you are ready for that step. This can be done at no additional cost if you buy the right system. Dell has been doing this for awhile.

“Dell‘s arrangement is typical: by choosing its “bonus” edition of Vista Business or better, you can opt to have the factory install Windows XP and include an upgrade DVD for that flavor of Vista. Dell offers support through the computer’s lifetime warranty for both XP and Vista. You can even downgrade back to XP if you choose.

Since most businesses haven’t standardized on Vista, you’re unlikely to have problems with coworkers or other companies you work with if you stick with XP; operating systems rarely affect compatibility, either, only tech support.”

The next tip was about future expandability, so that you have a machine will last you awhile (at least four years, if you use my hardware upgrade cycle). Before you buy, find out a few specs, like:

  • Maximum RAM the motherboard can handle, and how many RAM chip slots it has.
  • How many internal hard drives can be added later?
  • How many external ports, like USB and FireWire does it have? (Okay, that one’s mine)

Also, if you are planning on using more than one monitor, or a single one that is 30″ or more in size, be sure that you have a video card that can handle it. Do not rely on any on-board video chipsets – get a separate video card to pop in a slot.

Next, we are all looking at cutting energy expenses. Therefore, it is important to consider Energy-Star rated machines. As the post states,

“If you’re upgrading computers and your new machine uses more energy than your old one, you’re increasing your so-called carbon footprint; but a system that meets Energy Star guidelines at least increases your power use less than does a comparable system that hasn’t been designed to meet the marks of this Environmental Protection Agency program.”

This should not be used however, to reject a machine. “Energy Star shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but it’s worth crunching numbers with your local electrical rates against other models you’d be considering.”

Finally, make sure your machine does not come with a load of “uninvited guests” in the form of preloaded software or software trials that you do not want. They clutter up the machine and take time (i.e. lost productivity) to remove. The post put it best:

“Every computer maker should offer the option to provide a computer with no comarketed, preinstalled software packages that generally serve more to slow down your new system’s performance than to enhance your computing experience. Yes, antivirus and firewall software trials can make sure you’re safe out of the box, but this is also a lock-in strategy with marketing dollars involved, not something that has your interests directly at heart.”

It is best if the machine comes without this stuff. However, if it doesn’t, PC World offers some help.

Technology is always changing. Therefore, when buying it, we need to consider how long it will meet our needs. Things like future expandability, the option to go to Vista when you are ready, and making sure that you get options you might need in future when you buy the machine, when they are often cheaper bundled, are very important. Keep them in mind, and your purchases will serve you well for years to come.