Desktop Computer Guide

A desktop computer can still be your best choice for in-home use, and new all-in-one models are keeping the traditional format cutting edge. This desktop computer guide outlines your options.

Desktop Computers 101

Laptops and tablets offer mobility, but there are still plenty of reasons to choose a desktop as your next home computer. For starters they’re generally much cheaper to repair or to upgrade with additional ram or a better graphics card. Desktops also have more room for ports to connect your devices. And the new all-in-one models house the processor and hard drive within the monitor chassis, freeing up space on your actual desktop or workstation. You can save even more money by choosing a refurbished desktop selling at a fraction of the cost of a new personal computer. And if you have any gamers in the house, specialized gaming desktops are often their preferred platform.  

Types of Desktop Computers


General Purpose Desktops

The beauty of a general purpose desktop computer is that you can use it for any purpose, from web browsing, photo storage and personal finances to video gaming, streaming movies and kids’ homework. It’s a powerful workhorse capable of running memory-intensive software for home businesses and graphic designers or storing vast amounts of music and movies. And if your desktop computer runs short of memory, you can usually add more. Unlike most mobile computers, general purpose desktops typically can be modified and upgraded to extend their lifespan and postpone the cost of replacement. The latest desktop PCs are also more compact than ever, which is great when space is at a premium.

Gaming Desktops

A specialized gaming desktop can handle the extraordinary demands of today’s best video-game software. A gaming desktop features a powerful CPU (central processing unit) and advanced graphics capabilities to smoothly render the brilliant colours and incredible image detail at lightning speed, plus provide seamless interactive connectivity to other gamers. A multi-core processor and advanced GPU (Graphics Processing Units) are absolute musts for serious gaming, and you'll want to get the best graphics card you can afford. A computer with this kind of power can also easily handle day-to-day computing tasks, from schoolwork and family budgeting to casual browsing and social media updates.

All-in-One Computers

The first time you see an all-in-one desktop computer, you’ll wonder where the tower’s gone. That familiar bulky box has vanished, and the components it contained (the processor, hard drive and other electronics) are integrated into the monitor chassis. You’ll appreciate not having to coax multiple cables behind desks or around furniture, or having a tower humming at your feet. All-in-one computers are equipped with all the basic drives, ports and other features of standard desktops, with the added benefits of visual elegance and touch screen capability. There is a trade-off in power and CPU speed because of the streamlined design that is more typical of a laptop.

Desktop & Monitor Combos

This is a common and convenient way to purchase a complete desktop computer system. When you buy a desktop tower that's matched with a compatible monitor, you get an integrated system and save time because you're making just one purchase, not two. As well, your entire unit, including keyboard and mouse, will be covered by a single warranty instead of separate warranties from different manufacturers. Be sure the monitor offers everything you need in terms of size and features, so you won’t feel the need to upgrade. From an aesthetic perspective, desktop and monitor combos offer an additional advantage: your computer hardware will be colour and designed coordinated, rather than looking like a collection of random parts.

Refurbished Desktops

Buying a refurbished desktop is a great idea if you're on a budget, seeking an additional unit, or looking to add one for the kids to use. A refurbished computer is a computer that’s been used (often only slightly) and restored to like-new condition with updated parts and cosmetic fixes. Despite the sometimes huge price discounts, there is no compromise in quality and the full manufacturer’s warranty may still apply.

Desktop Computer Buying Tips:

• Buy the newest technology you can afford to avoid early replacement
• Read the product specs to ensure you're getting the features and performance level you want
• All-in-one desktops take up less space than towers
• Forego an expensive graphics card if you’re not a gamer
• Time your purchase for a good discount on an older model when the new models are arriving
• A refurbished PC can be as good as a new one but less expensive
• Read online reviews and recommendations by credible tech experts

Desktop Computer Features

Processor +

The speed of the CPU (central processing unit) is the single most important feature of adesktop PC and largely determines the price. Fast computing is a convenience, and the faster and more advanced the CPU, the more you’ll pay.For basic home computing a dual core processor can handle most tasks. Gaming PCs can have as many as six cores. Less important than the number of cores is the clock speed, measured in gigahertz (GHz). Today’s processors are so efficient that clock speed is no longer a major consideration.

Hard Drive +

Every desktop computer comes with a hard disk drive (HDD),which stores everything from your operating system to games, music, office software and family photos. Before buying, it's important to determine how much storage capacity you'llrequire. Most people needat least 500 GB of memory to hold all their files. More expensive desktops have a solid state hard drive (SSD); this type of hard drive has no moving parts to wear out and operates faster, but has less storage space. Another option is a combination HDD/SSD hard drive, which offers increased overall performance.

Optical (Disk) Drives +

Nowadays, most computer files — everything from documents and games to music and movies— can be received through email, downloaded to your hard drive from the Internetor accessedonline. But there could still be occasions when an optical disk drive comes in handy. For instance, you may require a disk drive to view your old digital photo library or household financial files from prior years. Most desktops still come with an on-board DVD player/burner for just those purposes. You can always forego the on-board DVDat the time of purchase and add an external one later if you need it.

Wi-Fi Connectivity +

A wireless network card is included in most desktop computers. You'll need this component to enable your computer to connect to your home'sWi-Fi network.A computer with a wireless network card is able to connect to your Wi-Fi network from anywhere in your home as long as the signal is strong enough. You can also hardwire your internet connection by running an Ethernet cable from your modem or router directly into your computer. Desktops always have one or more Ethernet ports.

Video/Graphics Cards +

A basic-quality graphics card is adequate for most computing needs. However, if you plan to use yourdesktop computer to play video games, you'll need to step it up. The rich details and incredible colour palettesin the latest games demand considerably faster graphics performance than abasiccard offers. If you’re a serious gamer, then you’re probably already looking at a higher-end computer equipped with an advanced GPU (graphics processing unit).

Ports +

Desktop computers come with a variety of standard ports. USB ports allow you to connect a wide range of hardware, including wireless network adapters, external DVD players and, portable storage and flash drives. To expand the number of USB ports on your computer, consider installing a USB hub. These handy add-on devices come with as many as eight additional ports. A VGA port is used to connect a basic monitor to your desktop, while the HDMI port is designed to connect an HDTV monitor.

Monitor/Touch Screen +

Unless your monitor comes "bundled" with your desktop computer, you’ll need to purchase one separately. Modern desktop monitors are typically flat panel in design, feature either LCD or LED technology and range in size from 17 inches to 24 inches. A 19-inchmonitor is a good size for normal web browsing. If you watch a lot of movies on your computer or tend to keep multiple programs open on your screen, you’ll do better with a wider screen, from 20 to 27 inches. The most common screen format is widescreen (16:10 aspect ratio), which is the preferred format for watching movies. Touch-screen monitors eliminate the need for a mouse and are usually found on all-in-one computers. Make sure your monitor has an HDMI port if you want to connect a Blu-ray disk player.

Keyboard & Mouse +

A keyboard and mouse are essentials for many computer tasks, including the basics like navigating on screen, writing emails and working with documents. Wireless is the way to go to avoid the hassle of tangled cords and excess clutter. Remember to keep spare batteries on hand for your wireless keyboard and mouse.

Backup Battery +

A backup battery power supply or UPS (uninterrupted power supply) protects your work in the event of a sudden, unexpected power failure. With a UPS in place, your desktop computer will keep running long enough for you to save open files, run backups and shut down your computer properly.

Antivirus Protection +

Purchase and install a reputable antivirus and security software program before you connect your desktop to the internet. The program will run quietly in the background and protect your machine from intrusions by viruses and malware. In addition, these programs will scan your hard drive periodically to identify and remove potential threats that have slipped by the initial line of defence. The best antivirus programs are regularly updated through your Internet connection and offer upgrades when new versions are released.

Webcam +

Video chat is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family members when you can’t visit in person. You'll need a built-in webcam or add-on camera, together with an audio mic, to capture your image and voice for others to see and hear. Look for a monitor with an installed camera or purchase a separate webcam and mount it on your screen. A benefit of a separate webcam is that it can be moved and pointed in any direction.

See all +

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Desktop Computer Maintenance Tips:

• Install antivirus and security software and update regularly
• Make sure system updates are enabled to download automatically
• Switch your desktop to “sleep” or energy-saving mode when idle
• Use compressed air or a vacuum to keep your computer free of dust
• Keep liquids a safe distance from all desktop components
• Use password protection if your computer is shared with other household members
• Complete and submit all warranty information according to the manufacturer’s instructions
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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