Q: All the stores I shop at only have computers with Windows Vista. How can I get a computer WITHOUT Vista?

– submitted by Susan Young, Glen Carbon, IL
A: One simple answer many people overlook is to buy an Apple Macintosh. Macs, of course, come with the Mac operating system, not Windows Vista. (Side note: modern Macs can run Windows Vista or XP as well – Macs are like 2 computers in one). However, most people asking this question are wanting to get a computer with Windows XP. For those people, here is the advice I’ve been giving.

The first thing to do is to stop shopping at “big box” stores for your computers. Without going into too much detail, the quality of computer you can purchase at your average retail store is suspect, and the level of service and support you can expect to receive is usually quite low. Step out of the mindset that computers can be bought and sold like paper clips or toothpaste. With the importance of computers in our everyday lives or businesses, a computer purchase should be done with care and planning, not browsing and impulse.

For most computer purchases, I recommend that you establish a relationship with a quality and reputable vendor local to you. Local vendors can customize your computer to your needs, including the choice of operating system that your computer will run. Quality vendors should use more reliable components, increasing your odds of trouble-free operation over the years. Finally, quality vendors should also provide responsive and hassle-free support policies, so if you do have problems with your hardware, they will rectify the situation quickly.

If for some reason a local vendor is not an option, Dell is the only large on-line vendor to actively offer the choice of Windows XP with most of their computers (at the time of this writing). Dell gives you this choice easily through their on-line store. Gateway and HP do have some models available with Windows XP, but you must call them and ask for this option. They do not publicize this or give you the option through their on-line stores. The last time I checked, there was often an additional charge from Gateway or HP to customize your computer with Windows XP. So Dell is the easy choice, but if you prefer another vendor, you will probably need to talk to them on the phone and be prepared to pay extra.

A few words of advice: if you do purchase a computer from a large on-line vendor, stay away from the cheapest models. They are cheap for a reason. Also, make sure you get at least 1 GB of RAM.

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