Desktop PCs

Questions to ask the retailer

1. Do you provide delivery? Is it free?

You would be surprised what responses you will get. Ask this before you hand over money and thus ensure you don't pay extra.

2. Do you extend the warranty?

The longer the warranty period, the less chance you will need to incur additional costs should anything go wrong.

3. Do you provide after-hours support?

PCs give you grief at all hours of the day. Not all retailers supply such a service.

4. Is the PC in stock?

A $2000 PC today may well be worth $1500 in two months' time. There is no point 'buying" a PC and then having to wait months for it to arrive at which time you could buy it for less.

5. What operating system and software are included?

Most desktop PCs and notebooks come with some flavour of Windows, with Windows Vista now being the standard. Older, sell-out stock from your local retailer may still come with Windows XP Home or Pro. You'll be hard pressed to find Linux or other alternative operating systems pre-installed on any desktop or notebook PC.

You may pick up some real bargains in terms of bundled software, including utilities, productivity software (such as Microsoft Works or an office suite) and occasionally games or multimedia titles.

6. How can I tell if the software is legal?

One of the biggest concerns with bundled software is whether you're getting the genuine article. To help those wanting to know more about how to identify pirated software, Microsoft has established a licensing section on its Web site dedicated to protecting users from pirated copies of its software products.

According to the Microsoft site, the best ways for you to confirm that the software you have been given with your PC or notebook is authentic software from Microsoft is to first check your end user licence agreement. If you have purchased your PC from a retail outlet and have been given the software with it, check the Microsoft licence pack and look for the certificate of authenticity (COA) on the box.

Alternatively, if the software has already been installed on the PC, look for the COA which accompanied the product. For OEM products, the COA is either on a separate page or affixed as a label to the PC chassis.

Open licence customers can view their electronic purchase history via the Microsoft Web site. This site also maintains a free software inventory analyser, which can tell you what Microsoft products you have loaded on your PC.

For more information on these, check out the Microsoft Web site.

Besides the operating system, PC or notebook buyers may also receive a range of other software products either bundled with or pre-installed on their system, including reference, business or education programs.

For more general information on pirated software, the BSAA has compiled consumer guides on what to look out for when purchasing PC software. These not only cover new software, but also look at purchasing new or second-hand software online. More information is available on their Web site.

The site also provides links to piracy statements from a variety of software providers, such as Macromedia, Symantec, Autodesk and Adobe. All such sites advise users to purchase their PC and related software from a reputable reseller, and to check that all software comes with authentic packaging and a licence agreement. Even if the software has already been pre-installed on your PC or notebook, the reseller should still provide you with a software licence agreement. You should also receive the original software discs and manuals for all of the software pre-installed.

Users can seek further information on anti-piracy laws and report suspected pirated software to the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). The trade organisation has over 800 member companies from the software and Internet industry worldwide.

Finding the right retailer

Thinking of going the local route? Word-of-mouth advice is a good place to start. Follow these tips to help you home in on the best store.

Do: visit recommended stores in person -- just to chat. Ask to meet the owner and trust your gut feelings about how responsive the store will be.

Do: follow the 5/25 rule if you can: choose a store that has been in business for at least five years and is located no more than 25km from your home or office.

Do: pursue multiple options. Compare prices, warranties and support hours.

Do: show the sales staff that you've done your homework on parts makers. If the store doesn't stock the brand you want, ask whether staff can hunt the item down.

Don't: choose a store that pressures you to buy 'today' because of a massive sale.

Don't: purchase from a store where the sales representatives try to talk over your head using technical jargon, or make you feel like you're not worth their time.

Don't: be impressed by 'paper' technicians. Industry certification should not sell you on a store's tech support staff. Instead, ask how long techs have served customers; the more years, the better.

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