What to Look For in a New Desktop

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Buying a desktop PC might seem to be a straightforward process, but choosing an ideal configuration requires some important decision making. Should you choose a SATA drive or an SAS drive? Should the PC include a Blu-ray drive? Many newer features are increasingly affordable and increasingly necessary, while others are things you can definitely wait on. To help you decide which options are must-haves, and which you can bypass, we've put together a checklist of options to consider. Read on for help in deciding how to configure your next desktop purchase.

Operating System: Go Forward to Go Back

Let's face it: Microsoft Vista has suffered some black eyes from people and businesses that have had serious trouble getting it to operate consistently, reliably, and quickly, as well as from those who simply prefer the XP interface.

That's why you may find the option for an XP downgrade on new PCs welcome, if rather odd. You're essentially buying Vista, but getting XP for free, and obtaining an upgrade disk for Vista when and if you want it. If you buy the Vista Business edition, models and makers that support this option will impose no additional charge; if you buy a cheaper Vista version, you may have to pay additional fees, or an XP downgrade may not be available.

Dell's arrangement is typical: by choosing its "bonus" edition of Vista Business or better, you can opt to have the factory install Windows XP and include an upgrade DVD for that flavor of Vista. Dell offers support through the computer's lifetime warranty for both XP and Vista. You can even downgrade back to XP if you choose.

Since most businesses haven't standardized on Vista, you're unlikely to have problems with coworkers or other companies you work with if you stick with XP; operating systems rarely affect compatibility, either, only tech support.

Our verdict: For your operating system, buy Vista Business with XP preinstalled for the greatest flexibility.

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