So, you are thinking of buying a computer, eh?
Only maybe you are not to sure how to go about it, nor how to
make sense of all the pamphlets and advertising material that the
retailers thrust in your face.
Well, here is a simple, straight-forward guide to buying computers, written in plain English.
This guide is divided into three main sections:
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two ways to make a computer. One way is to buy all the parts needed,
one at a time, and then assemble them into a computer. This is what the
Custom Sellers do. These are generally your local technicians and
local computer shops. You tell them what you want, and they use their
knowledge and experience to make sure you are buying a computer that is
just right for your needs.
The advantages of dealing with a custom seller are:
The disadvantages are:
second method of making a computer is to buy the parts by the thousands
or the millions, and to assemble the computers by the warehouse-full.
This is what manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, ACER and Dell do (to
mention just a few well-known companies). They then either sell them
direct to the users (in the case of Dell), or through the major retail
chains (Hewlett-Packard and ACER).
The advantages of this are:
The disadvantages of this are:
Rule One: Buy for your current needs.
is no advantage in buying a computer with speed, size or features that
you don't currently need, or won't need for a long time to come. Chances
are that anything you buy today will be thoroughly out of date by the
time that you do need something new!
Here are a few good rules of thumb when buying a computer for home use:
Rule Two: Consider your future needs.
people know exactly what their computer has to do, and nothing much
changes from one year to the next. For others, however, their computer
is a work in progress, with hardware and software constantly needing to
be added or upgraded.
If you are one of those people whose needs are likely to change, here are a few questions to ask when you consider buying a computer:
Rule Three: Consider maintenance and repair.
all other kinds of machinery, computers can break down. Sometimes,
they can break down quickly, in which case you may be able to get them
repaired under warranty; other times, they can break down after many
years, leaving you hunting to buy replacement parts.
Here are a few questions to ask befor buying:
Rule Four: Consider the Internet.
In recent years, two things have happened in the world of computers:
Here are two questions to ask before buying:
So, you've just received a leaflet in your letterbox, and it is filled with wonderful computers at amazingly low prices. But what does all the gobblegook in small print mean?
Here is a quick guide to computer sales-talk.
Home vs Business Computers.
Many advertisers label their computers as being foe either "home" or "business". if you want a computer mainly for sending and receiving emails, surfing the World Wide Web, and maybe writing the occasional letter, then a home computer is for you. If, however, you want to do more - play games, create high quality graphics or make movies - then you will need to buy something more powerful (and more expensive).
Laptop or Desktop.
Most people own a "desktop" computer. That's the kind you see in libraries and offices, with a box or tower containing the working parts of the computer, and the monitor, keyboard and mouse all sitting separately. By contrast, "laptops" (also called "powerbooks") are the small portable computer popular with business people, students and travellers. Whilst laptops are portable and handy to have, they are more expensive, are more difficult to fix, and can be awkward to type on for some people due to their small size. A desktop is not easily portable but is much cheaper and easier to repair, and with more hardware options available for future upgrades.
Windows, Macintosh or Linux.
In a nutshell, the world is divided into Windows, Mac and Linux computers, each having its own special set of advantages and disadvantages.
speed refers to the speed with which a computer carries out its tasks.
A slow speed means that everything takes a long time to happen, while a
fast speed means exactly the opposite.These days, advertisers usually refer to processing speed in terms of "megahertz" (MHz) or "gigahertz"
(GHz). A 100 MHz (0.1 GHz)computer is (by modern standards) unbearly
slow, while a 5,000 MHz (5 GHz) computer (for most purposes) is
lightening fast. For most home users, any computer made within the last
10 years will be fast enough.
An older way of indicating processing speed was to refer to the model of Pentium chip being used. Pentium is a brand name; the name of the chip manufacturer. Over the years, Pentium has brought out a variety of models, which are generally known as Pentium 1, Pentium 2, Pentium 3 and Pentium 4. For most home purposes, Pentium 2 or anything above will usually be satisfactory. (There are other brands of chips, including Celeron and AMD, but these do not have a widely recognized coding system.)
speaking, this refers to how many tasks you can ask the computer to do
at once. Computers with little memory tend to slow down dramatically -
or even stop altogether - once you ask them to do more than one or two
things at once.
Memory is often referred to as "RAM", and is measured in either "megabytes" (Mb) or "gigabytes" (Gb).
So how much memory will your new computer need? This depends on the operating system that you choose. If you choose a computer with Windows 98, 64Mb of memory will usually be fine, while , at least 256 Mb is preferred for Windows XP.
computer's hard disk (also called a "hard drive") is where it keeps
data for daily use. Harddisk size is measured in either "megabytes"
(Mb) or "gigabytes" (Gb). New computers are likely to have at least 40 Gb or 80 Gb harddrives - with more being better than less.
If you are planning to buy a home computer, any size will probably be big enough.
Floppies, CDs and DVDs.
are different ways of transfering and storing data. Transfering data
means being able to transfer data - programs and applications, emails,
photos, music or whatever - to and from your computer. Storing data
means putting your personal data into some kind of long-term storage.
Together, they allow you to share data with other people, and also keep
your personal data safe should your computer's hard disk fail.
For normal home use, the absolute minumum requirement is a CD player, which allows your computer to get music or programs from a CD. The best choice, however, is to choose a machine with either a CD or DVD burner, which allows your computer not only to read CDs or DVDs, but also to burn your data onto them. Apart from that, a floppy drive is desirable, but not essential.
In brief, the choices are:
computers are sold together with a monitor, but not always. If a
particular cheap deal is on offer, look carefully to see whether or not
it comes with a monitor.
Monitors come in two types, CRT or LCD. In both cases, take care to check the size of the screen (anywhere from 14 inches to 21 inches) and the optimum resolution (such as 1024 x 768 pixels).
CRTs are the standard monitor you see on many computers; they look a lot like a normal TV. Large and often heavy, they are not easily portable. They are, however, quite cheap, and usually very reliable, lasting well beyond their warranty. Second-hand CRTs are often excellent value; just be sure to see them working first, though.
LCDs, or TFTs are winning popularity due to their light weight, small footprint and flat screen. They are also easier on your eyes than a CRT if used for long periods. They are, however, more expensive, are more limited in what resolutions they can accurately portray (which is mainly a problem for game machines), and may not last as long as CRTs.