Last Wednesday evening we were having dinner with several other couples when one mentioned they were in the market for a new laptop PC. The words were just out of his mouth when the recommendations came pouring out, including from myself.

“You need at least an Intel i5 processor,” said one person. No, get an AMD processor, I said. “4GB of RAM should be enough,” said another. Nope, get 6MB of RAM if you are going to do video editing, I countered. Back and forth went the recommendations for buying a new computer without one of the most important considerations. How much money did this person want to spend on a new computer?

When I was teaching computer science classes for the Community Education Dept., at Columbia College in Sonora, CA., I was asked many times by my students what computer should they buy. I always responded by asking them the question ‘How much money do you want to spend?’ Or I would joke asking them ,’How much money do you have in the bank?’

Microsoft now offers a simpler way to select a laptop or desktop computer, with a website designed to help you make an informed computer shopping decision. The website is called Shop: Windows PC Scout, in which a consumer can make an intelligent choice about which Windows 7 desktop or laptop they should purchase.

The Windows PC Scout website is broken down into 5 computing categories, which include Everyday, Professional, Gaming, Entertainment, and Mobile computers. The Windows PC Scout starts by asking the user some general questions to ascertain how they will be using their new computer.

As the user proceeds through each page, they are asked a series of questions. Towards the end of the process the user is asked the question how much they are willing to spend. When I did a search for a laptop PC with my specifics, I was asked if wanted to spend $800 or less or more than $800. I choose less than $800 and I ended up with a list of 8 different laptops meeting my needs.

The laptop models varied and were from several computer manufacturers, including Lenovo, Toshiba, HP, and Asus. A specification sheet presented all 8 laptop systems and the specifications for each. A list of three sources showed me where I could purchase one of the PCs.

Overall I believe that Microsoft’s Shop: Windows PC Scout is a valuable source in helping to determine which PC computer is right for you and will meet your needs. Before you make a computer purchase, I would also recommend showing the list generated by Windows PC Scout to your family, friends or co-workers and garner their opinions as well. By doing this, I believe you will make the best choice possible for your next PC purchase.