Since our internet cafe opened its become apparent that a mix of PC’s are needed and I would recommend buying second hand initially as they have already reached their “bottom” value and may already have a windows license if it came from a corporation. But how far back do you go? Well the minimum spec for a chat/browsing machine I would recommend is a Pentium 4 with at least 2000 processor, with SATA drives (get good ones you can always move them to other machines if you upgrade) and a minimum of 512k of memory. The reason you need the SATA drives is that the older drives are slow even if defragged, Windows is a chunky operating system to start with so adding older drives can take over a minute to boot up. A way round it if you have a busy internet cafe though is hibernating the machines rather than shutting them down, this way they are running at a minimum level but have Windows primed to go.
For a gaming machine with the demand of the people wanting to play it appears that our minimum of 2700 dual core processor, 1gb fast graphics card and 2gb (recommend 4gb we will be upgrading soon) are pretty much able to run anything on the market currently. With a 250gb fast SATA drive it takes a few seconds to load aswell. Problem we are having is it makes it look like a Porsche sat next to a horse and cart when people see the difference from the chatter machines which is why we are going to up the price on the hourly rate slightly to justify the difference.
So what would I recommend for your internet cafe? I would recommend you find out who your users will be we have kids as young as 5 – 6 upto adults using our cafe and for completely different things. The younger kids like things such as Barbie, 7 – 10 prefer things like simple online games mainly FPS (First Person Shooter). From 10 onwards you get a mix of students wanting to game and others wanting to do homework and printing. This is where we are working around our clients as we need around 50% gaming and 50% for study, printing and chat. The noise level of the gamers isn’t good for the chatters etc so advise splitting the two sections up which is something we are currently not doing as we are in the middle of refurbishing the building before moving the whole cafe to a purpose built area which will be sub-divided on top of that removing games from the “chat/student” machines to reduce the likeliness of gamers wanting to play on them.