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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Requirements Analysis | General Requirements Analysis Issues ]

Common Mistakes In Planning A PC Purchase

There are several common "traps" that PC buyers fall into when considering the purchase of a PC. These are often based on "common knowledge" passed around between friends and acquaintances. In other cases, they are based on extrapolations from truths inherent in the purchase of other products and services, which simply don't apply well to PCs.

Here are the three I hear people using the most:

  • "I'm willing to spend a lot of money on this PC because it's a good investment": Whenever I hear the word "investment" used in the context of a PC, I cringe. I don't know about you, but I expect investments to increase in value, or provide money in return. For most people, PCs do the exact opposite: they quickly lose value, often in a matter of weeks. If purchasing a PC directly leads to your making money, it's an investment. If the PC is really just something you need to get so you can do your taxes and entertain your kids, these are very valid reasons for buying a PC, but it's an expense, not an investment, and should be treated as such. If it's something you're buying so you can chat online, play games and the like, that's of course your choice, but you should consider the PC as an entertainment cost, like any other.
  • "I shouldn't spend much money on this PC because it will depreciate": The "depreciation" trap is the converse of the "investment" trap. It is true that PCs depreciate rapidly, and this is a good reason not to spend too much on high-end technology unless you need it. At the same time, you shouldn't sit around worrying about how your PC's value is dropping by the hour, and you should definitely not "under-buy" just to minimize depreciation. Loss of value will occur over time, but that doesn't impact the usability of your system. As long as you are honestly buying what you need, and you recognize that the money you spent was an expense and not an "investment", you should just enjoy the use of the PC for a period of years. After all, your car and TV and kitchen appliances are depreciating every year too, and you don't worry about them, do you? Consider any resale value at the end of the PC's usable life a nice bonus.
  • "Oh no, my PC is obsolete! This one drives me nuts sometimes. :^) The manufacturers of various products are constantly putting out new devices, and updated versions of old ones. They of course market these by pointing out how shiny and superior they are to the old, dull, crappy ones they sold last year (which, of course, last year were shiny and superior to the ones they sold a few months prior.) If you spend a lot of time on the Internet looking at review sites --which always cover the latest and greatest of everything for obvious reasons--and listening to PC enthusiasts bragging about their expensive hot-rods and deriding anyone using a "junky old Pentium II", it's enough to make you feel inadequate.
    Ignore all of this, because it's nonsense. A device is not obsolete simply because you own version "N" and version "N+1" just came out; it's not obsolete because it's a bit slower than someone else's; and it's not obsolete because it lacks a feature or two compared to a newer unit. Something is obsolete when it puts you in a position where you can no longer do what you need or want to do with it. That is when you should consider upgrading or purchasing new hardware.

Next: Obtaining Assistance With Requirements Definition

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