Software Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

Software brings computers and mobile devices to life. Operating systems, image editors and video games are what we use computers for in the first place. The software you choose is entirely dependent on the types of tasks you want your computer to perform. This software buying guide will help decide what best fits your computing habits and what to look for in the software you buy.

Buying Software:

Software Buying Guide

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  • Software licensing:

    When you buy a piece of software, you're actually buying a license to operate that computer software on a computer or other device. Usually, that license agreement states that you cannot copy or resell software packages. Many software programs do allow you to install your copy on multiple computers or devices that you own, however. To find out whether your software license allows multiple installations, read the license agreement.

  • System requirements:

    Software developers are constantly creating newer, more powerful programs. Those programs require more PC memory and more powerful computers to run them. Check the minimum and recommended system requirements in the description of the software you are considering. If your computer doesn't meet those requirements, you might consider upgrading your memory, your processor or choosing a new computer entirely.

  • Software library organization:

    Most software requires key codes in order to activate. Should your hard drive fail, your laptop get lost or the program just stop working, you may need to reinstall the program. It's a good idea to have the original software installation CDs, manuals and key codes organized and stored in a place where you can find them easily.

  • Software care:

    The best way to maintain the programs on your computer is to keep them free from viruses, spyware and other intrusive programs. Security and utilities software are applications that help you manage the data in your computer system and protect the system from external threats. You might consider installing some of these protective programs:

Anti-virus software: Anti-virus software prevents outside software from entering and damaging your computer system.

Anti-spyware: Anti-spyware software prevents outside software from reading private files and sending sensitive data outside your computer system.

Backup recovery software: Backup software backs up selected files and folders and saves them in a specific location in case your computer fails or is corrupted.

Compression software: Compression programs reduce the size of files, allowing more files to be stored in a small amount of memory.

Encryption software: These programs protect sensitive files by encoding files that can only be read with that software.

Firewall software: This Internet security software prevents applications or devices in your computer system from communicating with outside sources via the Internet without your knowledge and permission.

Monitoring software: Allows computer system administrators to track use of computer hardware and software by system users; a great tool for parents to keep an eye on children in cyberspace.

Tips from

A home theater PC from can be your ticket to superior digital entertainment. Blu-ray drives can read and play Blu-ray movies, and your HDTV probably has ports that will let you connect your desktop computer. Put them together with the right computer cables, a great set of speakers and home theater software and you have a complete home entertainment system -- run through your computer and displayed your HDTV.

Add the right arts and imaging software to your setup and you can create, as well as watch, movies. A camcorder or digital camera from may include some free software that you can use to edit and record great home movies.

If you're taking advantage of your computer's video capabilities, you might want to upgrade to a more powerful video card. Video cards enable you computer to run graphics-heavy games, movies and imaging software without slowing down.