As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (i.e., a "buy") or underperform rating (i.e., a "sell") in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The top 10 hardware buys
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the top 10 stocks that are involved in the computer hardware industry based on the number of CAPS members who have rated the stock an outperform. The companies include computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), networking master Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), and memory provider Seagate Technology (Nasdaq: STX). Remember that only the stocks rated four or five stars are consensus buys.

Company

Market Capitalization (in millions)

Outperform Picks

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)

$230,190

22,308

***

Cisco

$125,931

8,869

****

Dell

$23,617

3,964

**

IBM (NYSE: IBM)

$162,011

3,525

****

EMC Corporation (NYSE: EMC)

$38,853

3,061

*****

Hewlett-Packard

$95,294

3,019

****

Western Digital Corporation (NYSE: WDC)

$5,543

1,216

****

Seagate Technology

$5,367

1,014

***

Immersion Corporation

$151

979

*****

Logitech International

$2,723

920

*****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

More CAPS members think Apple is a buy than any other hardware stock. And the gap is significant. However, Apple still only rates 3 stars. The runner-up, Cisco, has a four-star rating -- so it's the highest-rated consensus buy. Do you think the rankings are wrong? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these popular stocks.

Anand Chokkavelu doesn't own shares of any company mentioned. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Logitech International is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a covered strangle position on Logitech. The Fool owns shares of Logitech. The Fool has a disclosure policy.