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Need a New Computer? 7 Key Questions to Ask First

If you think it's time for a hardware update, make sure you go through this checklist first.

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“How old is my machine?”

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PCMag suggests desktop computers should last about four years and laptops at least two. If you’re working on something older than that, you might upgrade. Any less time than that, it’s likely that you can extend the machine’s life with a memory expansion or by updating the operating system.

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“What do I use it for?”

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You might not need a standard desktop or laptop as you once did. If you mostly browse the web, a Chromebook (good for getting “online without spending a bundle,” says PCMag) might work; look at the HP Chromebook 11. Is your computer your entertainment center-slash-TV, with Netflix and Hulu? Shoot for something with a big HD screen—the Sony VAIO Tap 21 fits the bill and is fairly mobile, so you can easily carry it from room to room.

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“Do I need multiple devices?”

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You might want a computer dedicated to gaming or work that isn’t slowed down with excess files from web browsing. In that case, split your budget and get a reasonably priced desktop for work, and a tablet for media on the go: a Mac Mini with an iPad Air, perhaps, or Lenovo’s ThinkCenter M92p with a Nexus 7 tablet.

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“Should my devices all talk to each other?”

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Perhaps a bit obvious, but worth considering: If you’ve got an iPhone or an iPad, you might as well look into a Mac to keep everything in the same “ecosystem.” Use a Google tablet or Android phone? Chromebooks start to make a little more sense, as your work will be easy to consolidate in Google Drive. 

Originally Published in Reader's Digest