Marshall Adult Education



TECH TIP:  How to buy a computer.

I get a lot of people asking me that question.  So here are the basics - just the basics!

The most important considerations your want to consider are: 

1.  Processor:  You want a Pentium 4.  Stay away from a Celeron - cheaper, but not worth it!  (An AMD is also excellent)

2.  Processor Speed:  Computers are so fast these days, this is not a big issue anymore.  You'll probably be talking 2.0GHz or higher.  Let's put it in perspective - 2.0 Ghz is 2000MHz.  The earlier Pentium (1) computers ran at 66 to 133 MHz. 

3.  Hard Drive Size.  Many computers come with 40GB (gigbyte) hard drives - not too bad!  But if you plan to do digital video (make you own movies) get at least 80GB or more - 120 GB - to 240 preferred.

4.  RAM (Random Acces Memory) - maybe the most important consideration - this determines how well your applications run.  The more RAM, the better!  Your computer may come with 128MB.  Better upgrade to at least 256MB.  You'll be glad you did!  Go to 512MB if you can afford it.

5.  CD Drive - lots of options.  You can get just a CD player; you can get a CD burner (to make your own data or music CDs); you can get a re-writable CD burner (you can use your CD's over and over - not a big deal - I have on - I rarely use it - CD's are so cheap!); you can get a combo drive - a CD burner plus a DVD player (you can watch DVD movies on your PC);  or you can get a combo drive with a CD burner plus a DVD burner (you can make your own digitized movies).  Well - decide what you want to do and go for it.

6.  Floppy Disk Drive - they aren't automatically include in a lot of systems these days.  Floppy drives are fast going the way of phonographs and 8-tracks.  But they only cost an additional 30 or 40 bucks (if they aren't included) - and they are still useful.    (BTW - I use a tiny 128MB Lexar Jumpdrive to carry my documents back and forth - no more floppies for me - about 40 bucks -

7.  Monitor:  You will be very happy if you get a 17" monitor - really makes computing fun!

8.  Modem and Network Card:  You'll want both.  The modem for dial-up service to the internet, and the network card if you decide to go with a cable modem (like Charter).

9.  Brand Name:  It gets a little dicey here.  Some people swear by one brand - others by another.  Some like to buy locally, some like to buy mail order or over the internet.  These days, most major brands are going to meet or exceed your expectations - assuming you followed the above recommendations.  But - you are asking my opinion - it's simple - Dell!  They have long been known for quality, customer satisfaction, and support.  Now that is not to say an HP from Walmart or a system from a local dealer won't provide you just as much quality, satisfaction and support.  So - it's you're call.  (Let's not forget our Mac-heads.  Macintosh computers have always been known for their user friendliness!)

10.  Price:  Computers are cheap these days - a Dell dimension is $499 (after the $100 dollar mail in rebate).
(No - I'm not a Dell salesman - and I don't get a commission!)  Shop around - compare prices - you don't have to spend tons of money to get a great computer.

One last note - If you read about "how to buy a computer" on the internet, be sure it is a current article.  I did a little searching for an good article - it's amazing how little I found that was current (look for the word Pentium 4).  The next link is a pretty good one - even if it says "small business PC."

That's it!  Happy Shopping for a computer.