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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Step-By-Step Summary Guide To Buying A PC ]

Step 3: Select A Manufacturer And Vendor

You have now, hopefully, decided what type of PC you want, have investigated PC performance and non-performance issues, and have evaluated and chosen your hardware. The next step in your odyssey is to select a manufacturer and/or vendor for your new PC.

The exact approach you take depends on exactly what sort of system you have decided to go with. All hardware has a manufacturer, of course, somebody has to make it. However, sometimes PCs are sold directly by their makers, and sometimes through third-party vendors: it depends mostly on the type of PC. And if you are building your own PC, you will likely be dealing with several manufacturers and possibly more than one vendor as you buy your components.

Here's what you need to do, step by step:

  1. Decide On A Source: Determine what general source you want to use for your hardware. There are three main source categories:

    Which of these is best depends in large part on what sort of hardware you are getting, as well as your personal preferences and shopping style. For a pre-built PC you can buy from any of the retail sources except a local PC shop, or from a large online vendor or group buying club. Configure-to-order PCs are usually sold directly by the manufacturer online or over the phone. Build-to-order PCs are usually made by local PC shops or smaller online PC makers, or at computer shows. Used PCs are usually sold by individuals. Components can be found just about anywhere, and auctions have just about anything. (This page shows a comparison of the attributes of different sources, and this one provides a cross-reference between sources and PC types.)

  2. Decide On A Vendor: Choose the vendor that you feel is best for you, after thoroughly researching all the important issues that distinguish good vendors from bad ones. I have broken these factors down into categories, some of which will be more important than others for your particular circumstances:

    That's a very long list of considerations, and you probably won't be able to thoroughly assess every vendor's characteristics to this level of detail. Just focus on what is most important to you. In order to make your decision, you will want to make use of various research resources to gather information about companies. A primary way is reading their own web sites and other relevant information, but you will also benefit from "word of mouth" research, offline independent research resources, PC-oriented magazines and online independent research resources.

Some important thoughts to keep in mind as you make your choices:

Tip: If you want to get some advice or recommendations on a vendor, try The PC Guide Discussion Forums.

Next: Step 4: Make The Purchase

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