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How to Buy a PC Without Being Fooled
Author: Gabriel Torres 58,702 views
Type: Tutorials Last Updated: February 2, 2006
Page: 1 of 4

If you are thinking on buying a new PC it is good to follow our tips in order to be not deceived. In this tutorial we will talk about the most common problems you can face when buying a new PC and also we will teach you how to check, without opening the computer case, if the PC you bought is really the one you ordered.

Our main tip is to check all hardware specs from your PC as soon as you get it, so see if they match to the specs you ordered. Since almost always the warranty is void if you open your computer, you will need to run a hardware identification utility in order to list all parts your computer have (CPU, motherboard, video card, memory, hard drive, etc).

There are several programs for this purpose available, like Sandra, Hwinfo and Everest (all available on our downloads section). We will show you how to identify the parts from your computer using Sandra.

Donwload, install and run Sandra. Click on the System Summary icon. The screen shown in Figure 1 will be presented.

Checking Your PC
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Detecting your computer parts using Sandra.

At Processor you can check which CPU is installed on your computer (at Model) and what is its clock rate (at Speed). Remembering that on AMD processors the CPU number isn’t its clock rate. As you can see in Figure 1, our CPU was an Athlon XP 2800+, which was running at 2.09 GHz.

You can check the CPU L2 cache size at L2 On-Board Cache. This information is important when you are checking AMD CPUs (for example, there are Athlon XP 2800+ models with 256 KB and 512 KB, each one running at a different clock rate).

Regarding AMD processors, we have already written several tutorials with reference tables listing the CPU real clock. If your system is based on an AMD CPU, check on the tutorials listed below what is the real clock your CPU should be running and check if your CPU is running at its correct clock rate or not:

Small differences between the clock your CPU had to be running and its actual clock rate can exist. This is perfectly normal. For example, a CPU with a labeled 3.06 GHz clock rate running at 3.05 GHz is normal. The difference can also be on the other way. Athlon XP 2800+ runs at 2.08 GHz but on our machine it was running at 2.09 GHz (see Figure 1). The problem is when you find an absurd difference, for example a 3.2 GHz CPU running at 3 GHz.

At Mainboard you can see what is the manufacturer and model of your motherboard. In our example in Figure 1 our motherboard was a Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultra.

At Mainboard, Total Memory you can check the total amount of RAM memory installed on your PC. On our example our system had 512 MB RAM.

At Video System, Adapter you can check what video card is installed on your system. On our example our video card was a GeForce FX 5700 Ultra.

At Physical Storage Devices you can check the disk drives installed on your system. In our case we had one 114 GB hard disk drive from Maxtor (model 6Y120L0, sold as 120 GB), one 75 GB hard disk drive from Western Digital (model WD800LB, sold as 80 GB), one USB flash drive (”pen drive“) and a DVD recorder from LG model GSA-4160B.

It is very important to notice that hard disk manufacturers label their products with a capacity above their real storage capacity. As you can see on our example, our 120 GB hard drive was in fact a 114 GB hard drive and our 80 GB was in fact a 75 GB hard drive. This happens because hard disk drive manufacturers define 1 GB as being 1 billion bytes and 1 MB as being 1 million bytes, while in fact 1 GB is 2^30 bytes (1,073,741,824 bytes) and 1 MB is 2^20 bytes (1,048,576 bytes). The difference between what the manufacturers define as being GB and MB and their real numbers makes the labeled hard disk drive capacity to be ”inflated“. So, losing some gigabytes on your hard disk drive when checking your hardware parts is perfectly normal.

You can navigate on the other options available on the program to collect even more details about your new PC.

Let’s now talk in details about the most common problems faced by users when buying a new PC.

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