Buying Components

We’ve bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of PC components over the last 20 years, for ourselves and on behalf of employers and clients. In the following sections, we’ll tell you what we learned along the way.

Buying guidelines

Until the early 1990s, most computer products were bought in computer specialty stores. Retail sales still make up a significant chunk of computer product sales—although the emphasis has shifted from computer specialty stores to local “big box” retailers like Best Buy, CompUSA, Fry’s, Wal-Mart, and Costco—but online resellers now account for a large percentage of PC component sales.

Should you buy from a local brick-and-mortar retailer or an online reseller? We do both, because each has advantages and disadvantages.

Local retailers offer the inestimable advantage of instant gratification. Unless you’re more patient than we are, when you want something, you want it Right Now. Buying from a local retailer puts the product in your hands instantly, instead of making you wait for FedEx to show up. You can also hold the product in your hands, something that’s not possible if you buy from an online reseller. Local retailers also have a big advantage if you need to return or exchange a product. If something doesn’t work right, or if you simply change your mind, you can just drive back to the store rather than dealing with the hassles and costs of returning a product to an online reseller.

Online resellers have the advantage in breadth and ...

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