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Cheap or Free Alternatives to Buying Hardware
Let's say that you have decided that you do need a PC, or that your current PC is under-powered and you need a new one. There are still some options you may want to explore before you plunk down what will likely be four figures for a new system.
If you don't have a PC at all and need to use one, consider possible alternatives to buying a system. If you only need to use a PC for a couple of hours a week, maybe you have a friend or relative that would be willing to let you use their machine. This solution is probably ideal in this circumstance.
Another possibility is to use a PC at work. Most companies have strict policies against using their PCs for personal purposes without permission; that doesn't always mean "no", but rather that you should ask for permission! If the request is reasonable, and especially if it is made with an offer of recompense (say, offering to help do maintenance on the machine, or contributing a software item of use to the office), only a fool of a boss would refuse to at least consider it. Some companies will be glad to let you use their PCs in the hopes that your computing skills will improve, and thus, your on-the-job productivity. Of course it depends entirely on your particular situation.
If you already have a PC that is not meeting your needs, there are a few things you should definitely cover before you run out and get a new one: