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We're already a three-PC family, but the one in my 11-year-old daughter's room is too old and weak to run the Sims or hook up to our home network for AOL Instant Messaging. So she's constantly seizing the controls of what's supposed to be the grown-ups' PC.

It's clearly time to buy a new personal computer, and the new version of Windows sounds like it's worth having. And yet . . . I'll probably wait a good while before shelling out $1,000 in this slow economy.

That makes me one more lost customer in this year of plummeting PC sales. Maybe you fit that category as well. Or maybe you're a bit more tempted by some pretty good deals on some pretty cool home computers.

Either way, take a look at this third annual Computer Buyer's Guide. It's an effort to let you know what's on the market and give you the information you need to choose among all the confusing options. We haven't managed to banish all the technical terms you'll encounter as you shop online or in the stores, but there's a glossary to help you work your way through the jargon. And, as in the past, we are grateful to the editors of PC World for sharing their recommendations for the best-performing brands and models.

This guide is the handiwork of Times personal technology editor Dave Gussow, with contributions from designer William Lampkin and columnists John Torro and Jules Allen. You can read their updates on computers, the Internet and other personal electronics every Monday in the Tech Times section. You'll find it inside our weekly Business Times magazine.

_ Larry Liebert, Executive Business Editor