How to shop for a new computer
Sep 2, 2013 / 5:00 am
Continued from last week’s column. A sensible approach to shopping for a home computer.
Last week (http://rlis.com/columns/column419.htm) I suggested that rather than start shopping for a new computer by asking what brand you should buy you should start by asking yourself what you need to do, what you like to do, and where you want to do it. Answering those questions will get you thinking about whether you want a laptop, a desktop, or an all-in-one. (If you are thinking about a tablet, I haven’t forgotten about you. We’re going to cover “real” computers first.)
This column is going to focus on the home PC user: You need to get to websites, get your email, read or compose a document or spreadsheet, look at pictures or edit them, listen to music and maybe watch a movie. You need to print. You might need to scan. Maybe you have an eBook reader or an mp3 player --- or an Apple or Android device --- you want to share files with.
It helps to know the proper names of the things
When discussing computers with people who sell computers, it helps a lot if you understand the language. Let’s cut through all the gobbledygook! Here are the terms you need to know, along with my recommendations.
Processor: This is a chip that makes the computer understand and carry out instructions. Sometimes you’ll hear it referred to as the CPU. The speed is measured in GHz. Higher numbers are faster and therefore better. The processor can consist of more than one “core” and many modern ones do. The two major manufacturers are Intel and AMD.
Look for an Intel i5 chip or an AMD one that is comparable in speed. i3 is a bit slower; i7 is fast, fast, fast!
Hard Drive: This is the physical medium on which everything is permanently stored. Your operating system, your programs, and your files all live here. This is not memory. This is storage.
Get at least 500GB in a laptop and shoot for at least 1TB in a desktop. Hard drives are like closets. Eventually you’ll want all that space.
RAM: This is memory. This is not the same thing as a hard drive, which you now know is where things are permanently stored. RAM keeps things moving nicely while you are using the computer.
You can never have too much RAM. Do not settle for less than 4GB. 8GB is better.
Operating System: The operating system is the program that’s the boss of all the other programs. Without an operating system, none of the other components we’ve discussed would know what do to.
Windows 8 is the current version. Windows 7 preceded it. Some people don’t like the new version. Others have embraced it. I’ll discuss that in another column soon. For now, just know that whether you go for Windows 7 or Windows 8, select the 64-bit version to future-proof your computer and to allow it to use more than 3GB of RAM. That’s very important.
Monitor: The screen on which the computer displays information. It’s built into a laptop and an all-in-one computer. Screen size might be important to you. If you’re planning on using an old monitor with a new computer, make sure the computer will accept the type of connection your monitor uses. Most common are VGA and DVI. Newer monitors can accept an HDMI connection.
All-In-One: All the components are in one unit, like a giant laptop or a kiosk in an airport. All-In-Ones don’t take up as much space as a desktop computer, but make sure you have enough room on your desk and in your office to view the screen comfortably.
One more thing
When planning for a new computer, be aware that you might also need to replace your old printer, get newer versions of important software like Microsoft Office or Simply Accounting. Files can be transferred to a new machine, but programs to use those files need to be installed. Make sure your old programs are compatible with your new Windows, or plan to replace them.
One more, more thing
OK, really the last thing this time. I’ll talk more about tablets and about Windows 8 in the near future. If you have anything to ask or tell, drop me a line at [email protected] and I’ll try to help.
Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!
Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].
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Read more Computers articles
- Dear Microsoft: Huh? Dec 9
- A little something extra Dec 2
- The lighter side Nov 25
- Thank you! Nov 18
- Odds and ends Nov 11
- Windows 8.1 - a slight improvement Nov 4
- Answers to your questions Oct 28
- Microsoft Security Essentials Oct 21
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