Buying a computer for Vista ... and beyond

Guidelines to let you ride out Vista's waves and still end up with a viable computer for the long term

Once upon a time, you could buy a computer that, despite being technically obsolete the minute you got it home, could still be useful for years and years to come. Lately, however, technology has been gaining speed on good judgment. Do the words "accelerated amortization" sound familiar?

Whether you're an individual buying your own PC or an IT manager outfitting business users, it pays to plan your purchases so that your systems, whether desktop or laptop, last longer than the norm. Selecting computer hardware that will stretch two years out is easy. Making decisions that will support a three-year hardware life span takes a little more thought. But with some real fine-tuning and a well-honed knowledge of how the system will be used, you can move the marker out to four years or -- if you're both wise and exceedingly lucky -- possibly even five years.

We're here to help you sort through the bewildering array of choices when purchasing new hardware. Our basic strategy, with a few exceptions, will be to opt for components that are just under the current state of the art. We're not thinking about resale; we're thinking about getting our money's worth and maximizing the system's life span.

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