Good news, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a computer that will let you run Minecraft. As far as video games go, its requirements are pretty simple so you can usually get away with a lower end machine and still have fun.
But that being said, there are some tweaks that will greatly improve the stability and experience of the game especially if you want to add a lot of mods. So let's take a look at what you should ask for when hunting for a new computer.
Minecraft runs on both Mac OS and Windows so either will be fine (laptop or desktop). Note that Minecraft doesn't run on Chromebooks running Chrome OS.
Minecraft will run on any sized screen (although obviously the larger the screen, the better the gaming experience).
The CPU speed determines how fast the computer can process the game, and how well it can handle doing multiple operations like running Skype or a browser while you're playing. Dual or quad core will make this much easier, and you want to look for a speed of at least 2.6 GHz.
The minimum memory required to run Minecraft is 2GB, but you'll run into less problems if you have at least 4GB.
Hard Drive Size
Minecraft files are not large so really just about any sized hard drive will do. All new computers have more than enough space to run the game and store a reasonable amount of mods, so as long as you have at least 1GB you'll be fine.
This is probably the most important thing to consider when finding a computer to play Minecraft. Ideally you want a dedicated graphics card rather than an integrated one, ATI Radeon or NVIDIA GeForce are both good choices. Integrated video cards will also let you run Minecraft, but you're probably more likely to run into performance issues and a lower FPS (frame rate per second, which determines how quick the action appears on screen).
Operating System: Windows or Mac (won't run on Chromebooks with Chrome OS)
Laptop or Desktop: Both are fine
Display/Monitor Size: Any
CPU Processor: 2.6GHz or above, dual or quad core
RAM: At least 4GB
Hard Drive Size: At least 1GB
Graphics Card: Dedicated ATI Radeon or NVIDIA GeForce
Amazon make it really easy to search for computers by spec, allowing you to filter by all of these things to narrow down the results, so you shouldn't have a problem finding something that fits your needs. But since a lot of people ask me to point them to a specific example, here are some that fit these specs:
Other Gaming Equipment
The only other thing you absolutely need to play Minecraft is a keyboard. Any keyboard will do, but if you want to improve your playing experience then grab one that's been specially designed for gaming. Gaming keyboards usually have ergonomic features like a place to rest your wrists, and handy extras like a backlit keyboard to help you find the navigation buttons and keys that are responsive and easier to press (here's a good example).
Most players also prefer to use a mouse in addition to the keyboard. Any mouse will do, but there are some that are designed for gaming that cope better with fast movement and have buttons placed in strategic and easy to press spots. A good mouse pad is also a must, ideally one that grabs the surface it's on and allows the mouse to glide smoothly.
The final bit of gear you might want to add is a gaming headset. These are headphones that have a microphone attached, to make it easier to chat hands-free with buddies during multiplayer games. These ones from Logitech are popular and very reasonably priced.
And because people ask for examples:
Testing Whether Your Computer Can Run Minecraft
Minecraft has a demo mode that you can use to test out whether your computer can run the game before you buy a licence. It's also a good idea to do this if your computer has an integrated graphics card rather than a dedicated one.
To play in the demo mode you just need to register for an account and then download the Minecraft launcher. You can play for about 100 minutes before the demo expires. Note that if you already have an account with a purchased version of Minecraft, you won't be able to play demo mode when logged in with that account (but you can just create a new one).
A Note About Playing With Mods
These requirements are for playing the vanilla unmodded version of Minecraft. There are thousands of mods and they all have very different requirements and effect on the way the game uses system memory, so your exact requirements will depend on whether you want to play with mods, which mods you install and how many of them you run at one time. But in general, with these specifications you should be able to run most mods without too much drama.
Other Versions Of Minecraft
Obviously these specs are for the computer version of Minecraft. Here's what you'll need to play the other versions:
Pocket Edition - iOS device (iphone, ipad, ipod touch), Windows or Android phone
Console - PlayStation 3, 4 or Vita, Xbox 360 or One, Wii U
Hopefully that gives you enough information to start your search for a computer to play Minecraft with. You can also check the Mojang support page's list of requirements.
This article contains affiliate links, which means that I get a tiny commission if you make a purchase after clicking on that link. It doesn’t cost you any extra, so if you’re planning on doing some shopping anyway and you've found the resources here on MineMum helpful, then it’s a nice little way to say thanks!