Shopping for College Computers

The bad news is due to extreme competition and slim profit margins, you generally don't find any academic discounts on computer hardware. The good news is that because of that same competition and slim profit margins you can find some awesome prices on hardware, even if it doesn't have an academic discount.


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Parts & Peripherals

OEM vs Retail - Companies like Dell, HP/Compaq and Gateway rarely manufacture all of the parts in the systems they sell. Instead, they buy their computer parts from manufacturers familiar to consumers, manufacturers like ATI, Western Digital, Kingston, etc.

These manufactures create special versions of their products, know as OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or white box products, for sale to companies like Dell. Since these products are never intended to reach the retail shelves, they lack the colorful boxes fo the retail versions (this is origin of the term "white box"). However, most of the time, the hardware is identical no matter what "box" it ships in.
OEM products are sometimes available for the consumer to buy. The good news is that prices are frequently lower than retail versions of the same product. However, OEM products sometimes lack more than just the colorful box, things like manuals, cables and, worst of all, warranties are missing.

Carefully consider what is missing before deciding if the discount offered by OEM products is really worth it.

New vs Used - If you don't mind buying "obsolete" (more than six months old) hardware, auction sites like eBay are a great source for slightly slower yet drastically cheaper hardware. However, buying used has two significant drawbacks, no warranty and no tech support. Therefore, I recommend that you only buy used hardware if you know something about computers and are prepared to buy more stuff if the hardware goes south.

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DISCLAIMER: I have not used all of these companies' services personally so I cannot vouch for their quality. In addition, I am an affiliate and/or I accept advertising from some of the companies listed (after all, I need help paying my textbooks bills as well). However, I listed these companies due to their market position or their good reputation and not for any other reason. If you have a bad experience with any of these companies, please email me and I will remove the link of the company if I receive many complaints about it. Thanks.

I am an affiliate of:
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