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January 25, 2010

Going out and buying a Windows 7 PC

Last weekend, I decided to go out and buy a new PC for at home. This PC would be used only as a “work PC” for when I do work at home. Sure, I could use my laptop but I’m sort of still a desktop guy. A lot of PC shopping happens online. Folks like Dell, HP, and many others have fantastic websites designed to give the consumer everything they need to make a purchasing decision for a PC. But a lot of PC shopping happens physically in stores too. I decided instead of ordering online, I would visit a local Best Buy and make my purchase there (of course if I found a PC I liked!).

I set out to find a PC based on the following criteria: doesn’t have to be a super powerful PC, has to be relatively low priced (around $500), had to have a small form factor (a desktop PC not a laptop), and had to carry the Windows 7 logo.


I wanted to primarily use this PC for blogging, email, and a bunch of scenario, hardware and software testing that I would end up blogging about. This PC wouldn’t be doing anything intensive like HD video editing.

I wanted in to Best Buy and went straight over to the Computers. I asked one of the Best Buy folks where I could find the small form-factor desktop PCs. He pointed me in the right direction. They had a row of tables with desktop PCs on them and section specifically for small-form factor desktop PCs. For most of their PCs, Best Buy puts out a label that has its price as well as hardware configuring usually listing a PCs processor, how much memory it has, how much storage (hard drive) it has, and sometimes graphics. I went an analyzed a few of these labels and weighed in spec and price for a few PCs. In the end – I found the perfect PC that met my needs exactly: the HP Pavilion (s5310y) Slimline PC.



The HP Pavilion Slimline PC came with the following specs:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Processor: AMD Athlon II X2 250 (3Ghz, 2MB L2, 400Mhz System Bus
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3 Memory
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 6150 SE Integrated Graphics*
  • Network: NVIDIA nForce 10/100 Mbps
  • Optical: SuperMulti DVD burner with LightScribe Technology**
  • Storage: 600GB Hard drive

*Up to 256MB of system memory may be allocated to support graphics. This may result in Windows 7 reporting that you have 4GB of memory but 3.75GB “usable”.

**What exactly is LightScribe? Here’s a good explanation.



The PC is small, and slim which it gets its name from. It’s about 4 inches wide (thick), 12 inches tall (when standing up), and 15 inches deep (from front to back). It’s exactly what I needed to sit on a small shelf next to my desk next to my Windows Home Server.


Total cost for the PC was $509.99. Not bad. Just about what had been expecting to spend.

For work, I needed to join this PC to the corporate Microsoft domain. This allows me to enjoy access to our internal Microsoft stuff. However, the PC ships with Windows 7 Home Premium which does not allow for domain join. I ended up picking up a copy of Windows Anytime Upgrade to move from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional.


Moving from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional was extremely easy. Essentially the Windows Anytime Upgrade package provides you with a product key. This product key enables the upgrade to happen. On the PC I purchased with Windows 7 Home Premium, I went to the Start Menu and All Programs and chose Windows Anytime Upgrade. There I entered the key I had and the upgrade commenced.


The upgrade was pretty quick (took 2 reboots). I am now running Windows 7 Professional.


The rest of the evening I spent time downloading and installing the Microsoft Office 2010 Beta and setting the PC up just the way I want it (Windows Live Essentials, Zune, etc.). I joined it to the domain; Outlook 2010 picked up our corporate Exchange 2010 server and downloaded all my email. I now have a nice little work PC here in my home office!

From going to the store, buying the PC, and upgrading it to Windows 7 Professional, took less than 2 hours. I had a great experience – hope when you go out shopping for a PC it’s a great experience too!