How to choose a computer to buy?

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Introduction To Buying a Computer

Computers are undoubtedly the most confounding subject for most people, especially when someone starts throwing in technical terms. So you go down to your local computer shop to buy a new computer for yourself or your child and before you've even spent five minutes in the shop, you've been hit with a thousand and one option and a dictionary of words you don't understand. Well before you give up completely or put yourself through this, you should have a read of this guide.

Technical Terms In Plain English

So to start I'm going to give you a run down on the terms you'll most likely hear and what they mean.

* RAM - This means Random Access Memory. The best way to think of RAM is to think of the brain. RAM is a form of storage that the computer can use. It is fairly equivalent to the short term memory of the brain. When the power goes out anything the RAM is gone.

* CPU - This means Central Processing Unit. It's like the logic part of the brain. It does all the work calculating that equation you put in or allocating resources to run your web browser.

* GPU - This often less common but it means Graphics Processing Unit. Anything that's related to displaying things on your screen is handled by the GPU, Everything else is handled by the CPU.

* HDD - This means Hard Disk Drive. It's basically equivalent to the long term memory of the brain. When the power goes out. Anything saved here is saved for good. Also one of the few mechanical parts in a computer as most of them are electrical which means it can and will given enough time fail.

* Dual Core - This means you have 2 CPUs. This is a good thing but mostly uncommon nowdays with Quad Core and up.

* Quad Core - This means you have 4 CPUs. This is even better than Dual Core as you can now process more things at once and single tasks even faster than before.

* USB 2.0 - Mostly outdated with USB 3.0, however the computer might still have a port like this for compatibility reasons. Basically Mostly anything you plug into a computer goes into a USB port, as an example a wired mouse would go into this port.

* USB 3.0 - Same as USB 2.0 only it can handle more data at a faster rate. Other consecutive number will be fairly similar.

* Port - A slot on your computer where you plug things in like the power cable, headphones, speakers, external devices (mice, keyboards, external storage, webcams etc)

* Firewire - Is just like USB but configured slightly different. Generally doesn't make too much difference to the end user ie yourself but is probably less common than USB.

* HDMI - Is again another port. Mostly used to hook computers up to other displays, notably projectors and TVs.

* Ethernet - Is your standard connection to your modem. Often denoted by a distinctive yellow cable. The cables can come in all colours but the packaging will always say Ethernet.

* Cat 5 or some other number - Is just like the ethernet cable but often used for internal networking of several computers. For example three computers are connected to a device called a switch or server which is then in turn connected to a router or modem. This cable would be used to link the computers to the switch or server.

* Wireless - Is as the name suggests, no wires are involved. The computer has a small (about the size of a SD memory card) card inside the computer or a dongle that looks like a USB memory stick that allows access to the internet.

* GB, Mb, kb, byte - these are all storage space measurements. Generally things will be listed in GB or Mb in some cases. 8 bytes gives you 1 kb. 1024 kb gives you 1 Mb and 1024 Mb gives you 1GB. This might seem like a lot of numbers so here's an easy break down on average 1 document that's say 7 - 10 pages long with a few pictures will be about 5mb, so about 205 documents would be required to fill 1GB. A standard tv episode with out ads runs for about 40 mins, it's file size would be about 400mb so it would take about 2.5 episodes to fill 1 GB and a 3 - 4 minute song is roughly about the same as a document. Most dives are either 250, 320 or 500 these days. Lets take the 500 GB drive that means it would take 102 500 documents and songs to fill one drive and 1250 tv episodes to fill a drive. Keep in mind most computers often have 2 drives these days.

* OS - Operating System. Most people are familiar with Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Some Others are Novell, Solaris, NT, iOS, Android etc.

* Antivirus - As it's name says it protects against viruses. It also stops malware, trojans, worms and other bad stuff.

* Firewall - It's basically a wall that filters connections to your computer. An example might if you had a firewall on your telephone, it would stop a scammer calling you but let grandma's call through.

How to choose the computer

1. The Purpose

Before choosing Anything Ask yourself these questions first:

* Do I need lots of storage space?

* Do I need a quick Computer?

* Will I play games on my computer?

* Will I only be doing simple tasks like word processing or checking email?

* Do I need a computer that can handle heavy tasks like game development, video processing or other large tasks?

* Do I want extra ports or do I need them?

* What software will I be running?

2. The Computer Classification

By this I mean Is it a work computer, school computer or gaming computer for example.

Work(light)

You generally do Simple tasks for work such as writing a report or updating a spreadsheet or checking email. You probably require a decent amount of space for storage but you don't need a super powerful CPU or GPU. A Dual Core is probably ok for what you do and you probably only need 4 - 6 GB of RAM. You can go to almost any shop and buy just about any computer and it would fit your needs. When you buy one, know what you need and then what you want.

Work(heavy)

You generally do heavier tasks like processing video or large database work or image processing for example. For a computer to do this it would need a lot of storage space, processing power and sometimes bandwidth. If your working in teams on tasks like these and sharing large files, you should try and ensure that you have a good connection such as wired as it is up to 10 times faster than wireless, you need at least Dual Core I'd recommend a low to mid level Quad core and a fairly powerful GPU but not high end. You would also probably need a lot of RAM so my recommendation is 8GB or more but it also depends on the software running on the computer.

School

Assuming as a child or teenager they only use the computer for school related things which is HIGHLY unlikely a computer like this would be fairly comparable to the Work(light) computer. Tasks such as word processing or research on the internet would be most likely. You would possible need a slightly better computer if it's for Uni as it's use can vary from course to course.

Gamer

You obviously like spending time on fun things instead of other things and Gamers are probably one of the biggest users of computer technology other than companies and often from my experience quite aware of what they need for their computers. But in case you're new and don't, you'll need an almost extreme level of storage. The average game takes 5GB to install plus you add expansions and extra content like mods and you're looking at 20, 30 even 40GB of space gone. To play games you definitely need 6GB of RAM as a minimum, I would recommend 8GB as a minimum. Games will often use 3-4GB of RAM. I would definitely recommend High end Dual Core or mid level Quad core. Most games take a lot of processing power. I have Quad Core @ 2GHz and it takes a quarter of the processing power to 1 half to run games. Oh and the 2GHz is the speed at which it works. the Bigger this number is the better. A Dual Core processor running a 3GHz for example is actually quite good. And finally you need one heck of a GPU. Mid level as a bare minimum, especially if you want to run High Def 3D games. Expect to spend a good chunk of money for your computer unless you happen to know how to custom build it since you'll save a bundle if you can custom built it.

Home PC

Your good ole' trusty multi-purpose PC. It's likely every member of the house will use it and possibly in completely different ways. Plenty of Storage space for everyone is recommended, a decent amount or RAM, especially if you want to play a few games casually, A low - mid level GPU and probably at least a Dual core. Generally a but more powerful than your specific work or school computer but not as high powered as your Gamer machine.

Tech Savy User

This is often your video playing, music playing, game playing, downloading teenager or young adult but can be of a different age. They need a slightly more pumped up computer than a Home PC but definitely not Gamer machine. The big thing here would be for you to have a good internet plan and the computer to have good storage capabilities. The rest is fairly similar to the Home PC but maybe a little more powerful.

3. Add-ons, Extras and Accessories

This is the point where people try to convince you that buying this oh so nifty $50 bag is worth it. Here is where say you always wanted wireless mice and keyboards, you would buy them. If you properly thought about what your computer needs, then it should meet your needs without the need for extra items. This is where you can fill out those extra wants that haven't already been covered.

Software

This is a crucial part to buying a computer as it will often come with preloaded software. First you need to know what operating system you need/want. It is well know that Windows needs lots of RAM to run Aero in windows 7 but Macs for example don't need as much. You could also be daring and have a linux operating system. Most people over look it but surprisingly, it's actually quite good. Most of the OS or operating systems are free and open source which means anybody can look at the code and add their own suggestion to improving it. Also much of the software is free and open source and linux can interface with both Windows and Mac computers. I would also HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting an antivirus and/or firewall program(s) to protect your computer even if you go the linux or Mac route. I DO NOT RECOMMEND Norton Antivirus as it is notoriously bad. Even though Windows computers are the most targeted, it DOES NOT mean that Mac or linux haven't been targeted or will be targeted again. And Finally I cannot say with absolute certainty that this is accurate where ever you are but I know here I Australia,  as a consumer of a computer It is my right to seek a physical copy of all the software that is preloaded onto my computer and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you seek the same sort of thing for yourself. In the event that your computer's hard drive fails which is very likely, you will at least have a copy of all the software so you can reload it onto the computer again.

A final note from me, to save yourself some heart ache in the long run. Do a backup regularly and check your backups to make sure they are ok. If you don't, you'll learn the hard way what it's like to lose all your data. If you're still stuck remember Google is your friend. I hope you have a good day!

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