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About Personal Computers (PCs)
What you need to know about personal computers (PC) before you buy...
The first question you need to ask yourself is "why?". Why are you buying a computer? Are you replacing an old computer or is this a first purchase? Will you be doing business on the computer or will it be for personal use? How will you be using your computer? When you answer these questions you will know more about "what" kind of computer you will want to buy.
Simple tasks, undemanding work...If your tasks are very simple and you will only be using one program or application at a time then you will need less RAM memory and hard drive space. You won't need to look for the latest model with the fastest processor, a high-capacity hard drive or 1GB of memory. This could be overkill for your needs.
Speed, multi-tasking, demanding applications...If you want to play virtual reality games or work with graphics of any kind you will need more memory and processing capacity. Will you be running different programs simultaneously? Or have a need to frequently back-up your work? Will you be using a broadband connection? With these kinds of needs you will want to invest in a higher-end system with the fastest CPU/processor, 512M - 1GB of RAM, and at least an 80GB hard drive. You don't want to skimp on the options of your main system (CPU, memory, disk space, etc.) because you will want it to be able to accommodate your needs for the next couple of years.
At this point you have a clear idea of what you will be using your computer for, it will be time to consider how much to spend. It is easy to get carried away with optional features but make sure you have the basics covered first. Again, don't skimp on your CPU/processor, memory, hard drive. Especially, the hard drive since it can be difficult and expensive to upgrade later. If you need to cut corners do it by cutting back or delaying the purchase of peripherals or software. These can be easily added later.
There are several ways to stretch your dollars. Many systems are "bundled" with software, monitors and peripherals such as printers. If the extras meet your needs you will be in luck. Do be aware that some of the "free" products can end up costing you more in the long run, particularly printers. Printer supplies can often be very expensive and what looks like a bargain at "free" may be more expensive than buying a different model. If you have a limited budget, then finding a system that includes a monitor can be a great savings.
A couple of other ways to save are "end-of-life" or refurbished products. Manufacturers are continually improving the systems they produce. You are almost guaranteed that something newer and faster will be released the day after you make your purchase! Manufacturers will flag computer systems as "end-of-life". They will wholesale brand new systems because they are producing their latest and greatest and need to move excess inventory. You can find these systems with the manufacturer warranty in new, unopened boxes. These new systems cost considerably less than their original cost. Most of us don't really need the latest and greatest, that is why it pays to really assess what you will use your system for before you begin looking at different computer systems. Purchasing a refurbished computer is also a great way to save some money. There are many sites out there that purchase large quantities of refurbished computers and sell them for way less than you could purchase a new computer. Refurbished computers are basically a computer that was returned to the manufacturer because it was defective or simply someone decided they wanted a different model. These refurbished units are inspected and repaired by trained technicians and brought back to the original manufacturer specifications if needed. Then they are repackaged in boxes with all the necessary paperwork and accessories (CDs, cables, etc.).
If you are replacing an existing computer system be sure the new system you are considering can support your old peripheral equipment. You will want to know what kind of ports are need to connect any printers, scanners or other peripherals that you want to continue to use with your new system.
Now we come to the "where" question. Where will your new computer system be used? Are there space restrictions? You can find plenty of slim or "small-form-factor" systems to save on space. If that is a good option for you, be sure to check on the expandability of the system. The smaller space may mean that you don't have the option to expand like you would with a physically larger system. Flat panel LCD monitors are also great space savers but are more expensive than CRT monitors.
Finally, as you make your decision, read the fine print where warranties, "free" technical support lines and "free" products or services are concerned. Free technical support lines usually require a long distance call. Unfortunately, the hold times are pretty long so your "free" support call can end up costing you in long distance charges.
A driver is a program that interacts with keyboards, mice, monitors, hard drives, CD-ROM drives, DVD drives and other devices. The driver translates communication between the device and your computer. When you install a new device on your computer, you will need to install the driver for the device. If your computer had a device installed on it and you are replacing it with a new one you will need to uninstall the old "driver" or program and install the new one. You can do this with the "remove" button on the "device manager" which is located on your "control panel". Once you begin installing or uninstalling a driver, let it complete the process. You can always install or uninstall but do not cancel the process because it can damage your system.
CPU stands for "central processing unit" and is the term that is used more often than "processor". The CPU "processes" the instructions that come from the programs on your computer. In small devices or some personal computers, the processor can be called a microprocessor.
RAM is random access memory. It is the memory used by your computer while you are working on a program like a word processor. RAM temporarily stores the data you have typed while the program is running. When you turn your computer off, you will loose your data unless it has been saved to your hard drive or to other media such as CD-RW or flash drive.
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