Originally Posted by hambubba
Win7, AT LEAST 4gb memory, and a 500gb hard drive should be your minimum. Don't buy celeron CPUs! Look for something in the 2.0 ghz range and higher for the CPU speed. Dual core is fine, multi core is better. 64 bit win7 is the way to go. Unfortunately, they are even switching in the outlet store to Winblows8.
In my experience the CPU speed is not really very important, particularly with newer CPUs with multiple cores. In practice a system with a 1.5GHz CPU is just as fast as one with a 2+GHz processor. (And the 1.5GHz system is significantly cheaper than the bleeding-edge 2+GHz system.) Modern PCs are rarely "CPU bound", that is, the CPU is rarely the slow part of the system. Generally computers are either memory access bound (slow data and address bus speeds) or most likely hard disk bound. For example, the time it takes for a computer to boot is almost entirely the time it takes to get the operating system off the hard disk. The CPU is mostly idle during boot. A faster CPU just "twiddles its thumbs" faster as it waits for data from the hard disk compared to a slower CPU. For most apps (Word, excel, Firefox) the startup time is also almost entirely due to the time it takes to get the program off the hard disk. Only rarely is a modern computer's performance really dependent on the CPU's clock speed. There are cases where CPU speed makes a difference but for most users and most tasks it is relatively unimportant. If you want a fast computer, one that actually seems fast to the user, you want (1) fast bus clock speed, (2) a fast hard disk and (3) the biggest cache size you can afford. In my experience, and given the current very low price of main memory, the cache size has a greater effect on system performance than does the amount of main memory since several GB of main memory is dirt cheap but a bigger cache adds a lot more to the system's price.
For a really fast system you would replace the hard drive with solid state memory. A typical user would think the system is running many times faster since the wait to get stuff off the hard disk basically vanishes.
Folks argue endlessly on the web about which of the various factors is the most important. Generally it is kind of a silly argument since it depends a lot
on what exactly you are doing with the computer. For serious number crunching (as in engineering and scientific computing) a fast CPU clock speed helps. For 99+% of users though other factors (bus speed, hard disk speed, ...) are much more important.
To get a rough idea how much the hard disk speed affects your computers performance you can just watch the hard disk's busy light. If the light is on the CPU is probably "twiddling its thumbs" waiting for data. Only when the light is off is it possible for the CPU to be doing something useful at anywhere near its rated speed (or it might not have anything to do). Watch the light during system boot, typically it'll go on solidly and stay on during the entire boot process. Basically that means the boot time is entirely due to the speed limit imposed by the hard disk. Same with starting up large programs like MS Word, the hard disk light will go on for the entire time needed to start the program and that time duration is determined mostly by the speed of the hard disk and not by the CPU's speed.