Need a homework machine for your kids? Or maybe you want a PC that will act as dedicated storage for all your digital devices? A low-cost desktop could be the way to go. That\u2019s right a desktop. Although most of us rely on laptops, not to mention tablets and smartphones, desktop PCs still have plenty of uses for the consumer.\n\tAnd because desktops PCs\u00a0are relatively cheap, you can buy one to fill a need that would otherwise be too pricey. Adding a desktop PC\u00a0to your home network makes it easy to store files, pictures or music that you\u00a0can then share with any device that can access your network. That way you\u2019re always backed up, and you take the load off other devices, such as tablets, that don\u2019t have much built in storage, but still have the content readily available.\n\tSimilarly, if you like your younger children to get started using computers, a low-cost desktop PC will run any of the programs they\u2019re likely to use, and you\u2019ll be risking less if the milk spills or the peanut butter somehow finds its way to drive door. And you might like a spare in case your PC is in the shop or a family member has borrowed.\n\tAnother plus: Nearly all desktops come with a built-in optical drive, something many of today\u2019s compact laptops no longer offer, plus they generally have lots of ports to plug in many peripherals and other digital devices. (See the back of the Inspiron pictured below.)\n\tOne caveat. None of these prices include a monitor, so if you don\u2019t already own one, you\u2019ll obviously be spending more than $400. Still there are some good deal. Dealnews was the source for a number of these systems; I found others by checking around the Web.\n\tDell\u2019s Inspiron 660 is a compact system for $299. You have choice of Windows 7 or Windows 8 --don\u2019t opt Windows 8 since you won\u2019t have a touchscreen. If you want this machine for backup, spend an extra $89 and double your storage space to one terabyte.\n\tDell Vostro 270s Intel Pentium 2.9GHz Desktop PC is $349 with free shipping. It features an Intel Pentium G2020 2.9GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM, 500GB 7200 rpm hard drive, DVD burner, 802.11n wireless, media card reader, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Deal ends July 31.\n\tNewegg is selling the Lenovo H520s, which offers a faster CPU and more storage than either of the Dell systems. It comes with 4GB of memory and a one terabyte hard drive. It\u2019s selling for $319 and ships with Windows 8.\n\tNewegg also offers the refurbished Gateway DX4870-UB308 Intel Core i3 Dual-Core 3.4GHz Desktop PC, for $299 with free shipping. The system has a Sandy Bridge Core i3 processor (a newer chip than other bargain desktops) and also sports a 1 TB hard drive.\n\tHewlett Packard offers what it calls Essential Home Desktops. The line includes four systems starting well under $400; two are under $300. Again, they come without monitors and you\u2019ll pay sales tax and shipping, but still worth checking out if you are interested in a bargain desktop.