OK to buy a PC at Best Buy, Circuit City, etc?

Is it OK to buy a computer at a store, or is this asking for a bad machine?

I’ve been buying Gateways and Dells by mail order for almost 20 years, but now I want to get a gift quickly and don’t have time for mail order. I always figured any computer in a store would be junk, but no longer remember why.

It’s okay to buy one from those evil entities, but pray to Og you don’t need to go to them for service.

I’ve bought five PC’s from Best Buy and you’re quite likely to get a good machine there. If you’re willing to pay a little extra, they’ve got the Geek Squad, which is in-home service. They do have the annoying habit of bundling them up into packages which includes a free printer that end up being more expensive if you don’t take the printer, beucas you don’t get so many rebates without taking the whole enchilada.

I got my present computer, a Medion something or other, from Best Buy.

It was a hell of a deal. 3.2 gig P4, half a gig of ram, decent video and sound cards, Lexmark inkjet printer, 17 inch flat screen monitor, keyboard, mouse, decent speakers all for $650 after rebates.

When I first bought it I took it apart to put in a wireless NIC and was presently suprised at how well it was built. Soild case, wires all routed and wrapped up,etc.

I haven’t had a problem with it. I did up the ram to a gig.

I don’t think I would take it in for service due to the service costs and the fact that I am a computer geek and can repair it myself.

I wouldn’t worry about buying from big chain stores. I might, on the other hand be a little wary about buying from a local computer store.


Bought my computer at Best Buy in 1998. It’s still running just fine. Had to take the original monitor back because it didn’t work out of the box, but other than that eerything’s been fine. I have several friends who have bought there since then and haven’t had problems either.


My mom bought a computer from Best Buy a few years ago. It never worked right, and she had to take it in for service more than once. The last time she took it in, they had it for almost a year before finally admitting to her that they weren’t really sure where it was and gave her a new one, which was about as crappy as the one she had in the first place.

On the other hand, when I got a new computer a year and a half ago, I ordered one from Dell. It was on my porch three days later, and this was in mid-December. (I figured with the Christmas rush and all, I’d be lucky to see it before January.) I have never had a problem with it.


I bought mine as an out-of-box “as it is” computer at Circuit City two and a half years ago and have never had a single thing go wrong with it at all. Worked out just fine for me.

Another consideration: Join Costco. They let you return computers up to six months from date of purchase, no questions asked. It’s hard to beat a six-month free trial.

One warning: Avoid a brand called E-Machines. In fact, if you see it, throw up your arms and run out of the store screaming. They sell this brand at Walmart, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know right there. Everything I’ve heard about E-Machines (and I do mean, quite literally, everything) suggests that they are the cheapest, most unreliable crap computers you’ll ever find.

Some, but not all, Dopers agree with you:

Emachine makes one shitty computer
Computers by E Machines

Personally, I have no major complaints with mine, but I don’t know how it compares with other brands.

One warning: Avoid a brand called E-Machines. In fact, if you see it, throw up your arms and run out of the store screaming. They sell this brand at Walmart, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know right there. Everything I’ve heard about E-Machines (and I do mean, quite literally, everything) suggests that they are the cheapest, most unreliable crap computers you’ll ever find.

I’m on my second E-Machine now, which I bought at Circuit City. The first one, while not fancy, was reliable and served me well for about 4 years. The only problem I had with it is that eventually the fan went out (well after warranty) and I was too lazy/short on funds to take it in to be fixed. I imagine it would have been easily repaired. It did still run without it though, but would overheat in the summer. I’ve had this one now since December of last year, have DSL and it is able to handle all sorts of applications at once. I tend to like to play poker and read message boards alot and boyfriend tends to like to play huge megabyte eating games that move easily in this system. No problems yet, and for less than $500, I’ve gotten my money’s worth and am sure to get much more before it needs to be replaced.

      • Cheap PC’s with WinXP work much better than cheap PCs with Win98 and WinME did. XP lacks the memory leaks and uses a better method for selecting device drivers.

  • When considering low-end PC’s and assuming that the processor type of the two examples is the same, I find that a slower-processor and more RAM is more practically useful than a faster processor and less RAM. Problem is, most places tend to sell PC’s based on emphasizing the processor speed, not the RAM amount.
  • E-Machines is cheapo hardware, won’t do games well but it can work fine for general use.
    The two big problems I hear with store-bought PC’s these days is non-standard operating system configurations that use a “system restore” CD, and people getting SCREWED buying extended warranties–particularly when the PC won’t work right, and the terms of the extended warranty keep them from really doing anything to fix the PC on their own. If you can afford to be the least bit picky, don’t buy a PC if it doesn’t include a regular Windows install CD, and don’t buy an extended service warranty.

My older brother worked for a major electronics retailer for a couple of years and he told me that the Emachines failure rate was astronomical. I’m talking in the 20-30% failure range.

The old E-machines had a problem with lousy power supplies.

The later versions corrected this and no-one I know has had any problems with the later models. If you look at what’s inside them, it’s basically industry-standard parts, just put together at a low price. I’ve recommended them to relatives looking for a low-end, inexpensive computer, knowing that if anything went wrong, they would most likely come to me to fix it. I haven’t had anyone come back to me for repairs. I did replace one of the power supplies in one of the earlier models, and it didn’t have any further problems.

I have an e-machine my parents bought at Best Buy for me when I moved into the dorms. That was two years ago to the day. It was 300 dollars. The Lexmark printer the store made me get (included in that 300 dollars) never worked. This computer has moved with me in all my nomadic existance in the past two years without a problem. I put in another stick of RAM at one point as it came with the minimum requirement for XP. Now it works like a charm.

If I had the time and money, I’d put a system together myself, but I have no problems with crappy Best Buy computer. Plus, unlike with a Dell, my USB ports aren’t annoying to use.

I have worked on a lot of computers over the years, and while Emachines’ older boxes were crap, they have really shaped up in recent years, and quality wise these days are no worse than the crud you get with Dell or HP.

I know the Emachines boxes that they sell at Walmart now are actually pretty good machines - Athlon 64, 512MB RAM, 80-100GB HD, DVD burner, Radeon xPress 200M video chip (fastest integrated video chip currently available) has a PCI-Express x16 for graphics card update, for $600 or $700, depending on whether you want the 17" CRT monitor or the 15" LCD. I’ve cracked them open, and they seem to have bog-normal parts in them.

I had a bad experience with Circuit City. I used their six months same as cash deal. The credit card company that they used at the time sent me a bill for the first month. It was due on the 21st and I had my bank send the check on the 14th. They didn’t cash the check until the 27th and they billed me a 35 dollar late fee. I found this to be unfair, especially since the check went from Harrisburg PA to Baltimore MD. About 100 miles. Even the us post office doesn’t usually take this long to travel by check. I contacted the credit card company and they ignored my request to remove the charge. I contacted Circuit City and they called me to let me know that they could do nothing. Since their representative cost me 35 dollars more than I would have paid elsewhere, I will not buy from them. YMMV.

This has been interesting.

I found a fascinating discussion in PC Magazine’s 2004 and 2005 surveys, based on about 30,000 computer users. They put eMachines and Gateway (now parent company of eMachines), and Compaq and HP (now parent of Compaq), near the bottom of their reliability list.

Apparently eMachines had a very unreliable history but by a year ago had turned this around and become very reliable. However, when they were bought by Gateway, reliability plummeted again. In fact, I bought Gateways for years, starting with a 25 MHz 386 for which I paid $3500 - but having gotten a couple lemons, I gave up and switched to Dell.

I have read terrible, terrible things about HP. Used to be, whatever HP made, nobody else made it better. Then they dumped their good calculators, splintered their instruments off as Agilent, and got into printers and then PCs. My friends at HP’s gas chromatography businesess shook their heads and said accountants were taking over. Now they’re selling one of the least reliable PCs in a commodity market through cheezy retailers.

Enough scary stories. If I knew how one of the store-bought PCs would turn out, I might go that way, but I don’t feel like dealing with getting unlucky. I just spent $450 on a Dell with 512 MB RAM, 100 GB drive, CD-RW and DVD, without the monitor, including shipping, and the free printer that nobody wants.

So, how’d printers get to be free, and how’d floppy drives get to cost $50?

Thanks, all, for somuch illuminating information.

I think a lot of HP’s decline in quality can be blamed on the CEO they had that resigned earlier in the year, Carly Fiorina. Reportably, HP employees were singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” after they heard the news.

My one experience with eMachines was my roommate buying one. I don’t know how it worked for him, but I do know that it was the loudest freaking computer I had heard in a long time, possibly even louder than the old 286 and 486 computers my family had.