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[ The PC Guide | Articles and Editorials | There's No Business, Like Show Business... ]

What To Buy...

Computer shows have particular characteristics that make them far more suitable for buying certain types of products than others. You are shopping in person, in a very open environment, generally from companies you know little about. There are a lot of used, repackaged, unpackaged and older items for sale that you will rarely see anywhere else.

Here are some items that you will usually have good luck with at shows:

  • Small Components, Cables and Connectors: Computer shows are, hands-down, the best place to buy small components for your PC: power cords, hard drive cables, replacement fans, printer cables, etc. The prices are often less than half of those at computer stores for these items, sometimes much less, and these parts are very simple so there is little chance of a defective item.
  • Packaged Retail Software: You can usually find good deals on packaged retail software at computer shows, often discounted. Even better, you will often see hard-to-find older software packages, deeply discounted (for example, older versions of popular software). Just make sure that these are legitimate, full versions of software. (See next page for more on illegitimate software.)
    Some companies offer free or inexpensive upgrades to their latest software if you own an older version, and buying the older version and paying the upgrade can sometimes be hundreds of dollars cheaper than buying the latest and greatest at retail.
  • OEM Hardware Components (Except Hard Drives): If you are looking to build your own PC, this is quite simply the best way to save money. PC makers ("original equipment manufacturers" or OEMs) of course do not buy their components in fancy retail packages; they buy them in bulk to save money. This is not an option if you purchase from retail stores, but it is an option at computer shows (and by mail-order over the Internet.) Just be sure of what you are buying, and remember that some OEM hardware is slightly different than the identically-named retail hardware. Manufacturer warranties are often reduced as well.
  • Used Components (Except Hard Drives): You can sometimes get very good deals on perfectly functional used equipment at computer shows. Some caution is of course in order, but many people have good luck with this route. Choosing the right vendor, and ensuring that they are local, is critical when buying used.
  • Monitors and Other Bulky Items: Monitors are heavy, bulky items; your normal choices are retail stores at high prices, or mail order with substantial shipping charges. Computer shows can be a great alternative here. Other large items like system cases and printers can be found at good prices at computer shows.

Next: ...And What Not To Buy


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