When considering a computer/laptop, do you know what you need to know prior to your purchase? Here are some ideas to consider…
If the computer is going to be used for games or movies as a priority, then a screen and video card are the important things to consider. In this case a desktop computer would probably be best as it is easier to upgrade your video card and your video output device. Also, with games and movies the hard disk needs to be very large if you save any of the input. With a desktop you can always add more hard drives with ease.
If the computer is going to be used for creating spreadsheets, Word documents, or video presentations then either type of system would do. The only real consideration here would be the ease of typing the input. The keyboard on a desktop is easier to type on for most people. However, if you desire the laptop for portability or space requirements, you can always plug in a desktop keyboard (wired or wireless).
This now brings up the idea of portability. A desktop, normally, stays where it is installed. A laptop is made for travel. You can do your work at hot spots (i.e. McDonald’s, coffee shops, book stores, etc.) or just in different rooms of your home; you are not tied down other than staying within the range of your wireless LAN when at home. This makes it much easier to sit on the porch enjoying the nice weather, going to the kitchen for a snack, or catching up on you “important” television shows while still creating documents.
Software packages are a main concern when buying a new computer. The first consideration is that if the software you are currently using is not on CDs or DVDs in your possession, you will probably have to buy them again. As a rule, software cannot be copied from one computer to another. It must be installed on each computer using it.
The second consideration is compatibility. Even if you do have the software on hand, some computers will not run older software. With the changes in computers happening every two or three years, software and hardware must be verified to run with the new system. Some systems now are running 32 bit and/or 64 bit operating systems. This can be important because some software is honed in to one or the other of these. Currently, there is very little software out there that runs 64 bit or dual processors. this is a big advertising game to sell computers; however, tomorrow… ?
The third consideration is cost. Software needed for a new system usually costs as much or more than the desktop/laptop purchase. Again this depends on what you are going to use the system for.
As stated previously above, there is hardware that will not run on the newer computer systems. Sometimes the problem is the operating system of the computer not being able to talk to the hardware device. Sometimes it is because the drivers (the translators for device to computer communication) for the device has not or will not be created.
If your new purchase is to create photo output or high quality presentation output, as opposed to general documents, then you may want to consider putting your money into a printer of high quality and much less into the computer itself.
The quantity of hardware could also be an issue. Most laptops have 2 or 4 USB ports to plug in hardware. If you need more you can get a USB hub with additional ports; however, there are still some hardware devices that will not work through a USB hub and needs the direct connection to the laptop USB port. A desktop can have 4 to 8 USB ports to plug into. Again a USB hub can be used for more ports or a card can be installed within the desktop for additional ports. If this is a strong consideration, then you will probably need a high end system to push all the power needed for each device.
Security is always an issue in this day and age. The word virus gives a lot of people a case of anxiety. There are several ways to solve this problem and enjoy your computer. The first is get a good anti-virus and anti-spyware program. There are a lot of free ones out there – some are very good. There are a lot of others that charge (usually yearly) – some are very good. This is a case of either read about them fro sources you trust or rely on other people that you can trust. There will always be someone who will like each one or they wouldn’t all be on the market. And don’t be fooled; if you have a cable (Comcast, FIOS, Cox, etc.) connection, you are ALWAYS on the Internet whenever the computer is turned on. You do not have to initiate your email, Internet, or any other application to be hacked.
Another way to secure yourself from viruses, spyware, malware, root kits, and ID theft is to make sure that you use a LAN or network that you can trust and that has security within it. Of course, the only way not to be “hit by this bus” is to stay off of computers. But even this is not a good alternative as your bank account, your credit card, and other out-of-home shopping situations are almost all computerized and susceptible to being hacked.
A back up power supply and a back up for your computer files are also steps in the right direction for security. A back up power supply will help stop a computer from being struck by a power surge. A power surge has all the capability of entering the unit and destroying the insides including wiping the hard drive. The correct power supply has the ability to turn off your computer when there is an outage also. A back up for your computer files is good when your computer bites the dust or gets decimated by a virus. With a good back up procedure your data will always be safe even if your computer is not.
Now that we have answered most of what you want your computer for, what specifications (insides) are needed for this computer? Do you need a DVD drive that has the capability to write or create CDs or DVDs or just one that can read CDs (for installations) or DVDs (for movies)? How fast should the computer be? How much memory do you need? What size video output do you want? What about your network speed?
These can be very involved questions without any real clear-cut answers. Without getting too deep into these questions, a new computer made within the last year would be more than enough for most people. Reviews on the Internet from reliable sources could also be a big help.
The final thought is whatever you decide to purchase, I recommend that you be happy with what you have to pay for your system and don’t look at computer sales or ads for the next six months – because you will probably find something newer, bigger, faster, or on sale to make you rethink your purchase. Don’t.
If you want to use my experiences, then feel free to go to my website and contact me with any thoughts or questions. I am not the “know it all geek” and will never proclaim myself the “number one guru” but I have had my hands on and in computers since 1967 and have clients and experiences to support my convictions.
What about refurbished systems?
A refurbished system is usually a very good system. But if you want a warranty you may want to stick with new if you don’t know anything about computers or don’t have a handy IT professional friend.