Computer prices have dropped a lot over the past few years, and the computing power you get for your money is going up! I
don't recommend used computers for anyone, because the rate of change of computer technology will make most systems nearly
obsolete within three years. And used computers often come "pre-loaded" with viruses, spyware and damaged system files. If
you're a computer novice, wondering what kind of computer, monitor, hard drive, memory, and operating system to get... read
Buying a New Computer
Computer prices have dropped a lot.
Computing power you get for your money is going up.
I don't recommend used computers for anyone, because the rate of change of computer technology will make most systems nearly
obsolete within three years.
Used computers often come "pre-loaded" with viruses, spyware and damaged system files.
Windows or Mac?
The choice of operating system really doesn't matter. From a beginner's perspective, each has point & click interfaces that
are pretty easy to use. Both will take you to the same Internet, and enable you to send and receive email. Both offer word
processing, and the documents they create are interchangeable. Windows-based computers are cheaper.
A good entry-level Windows-based computer with monitor can be purchased for under $400, and sometimes you even get a printer
in the deal. A Mac Mini goes for about $600, but that price doesn't include a monitor, mouse or keyboard, so figure around
The CPU (central processing unit or “processor” for short is the brain of your computer. In general, the faster
the better. Processor speeds are measured in gigahertz (GHz) and as of this writing, the fastest models available operate
at about 4 GHz. Entry-level machines start at 1.5 to 2.0 GHz and are more than adequate for web surfing, email and word processing.
If you see a computer with a processor that has a speed specified in megahertz (MHz), steer clear -- these are older models.
How much RAM memory you need. Don't confuse RAM with hard drive (file storage) space. RAM is the temporary working memory
that your computer uses to perform calculations and manipulate files. When you open a document, it is copied from the hard
drive into RAM. As you and your word processor work on the file, the modified copy exists only in RAM. When you save the file,
it is copied from RAM back to the hard drive, or permanent storage. And as with CPU power, the more RAM you have, the better
your computer will perform.
Have a minimum 256 megabytes (MB) of RAM, but with 512MB or 1024MB (one gigabyte) you'll notice better performance.
The hard drive is your permanent file storage. All of your personal files, such as word processor documents, photos, music,
and emails are stored here, in addition to software packages and the operating system. Most new PC's come with a hard drive
that's 80 gigabytes (GB) or larger. I recommend you start with a hard drive of 80 GB, or more if you plan to keep lots of
photos or music on your computer.
Here's the formula: Larger Monitor = Less Eyestrain and Less Scrolling. I recommend a 17-inch monitor or even a 19-inch if
you don't mind spending a bit more. Don't worry about brand names here; they're all pretty much the same. Stay away from 14
or 15-inch monitors, they're just too small to be practical.
Most of the software you need will come pre-installed on your new PC. Windows comes with Internet Explorer (for web browsing)
and Outlook Express (for email). Many PC systems include a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, or OpenOffice.
Likewise, Mac systems come with the Safari web browser and Apple Mail for email. If your computer doesn't come with a word
processor, I suggest you purchase Microsoft Works for Windows or iWork for Mac, both of which will give you a capable word
processor and other useful programs.
Anti-virus and Spyware Protection
Windows users, look for a computer that comes with anti-virus software pre-installed. If yours doesn't come with any anti-virus
package, check with your Internet service provider to see if they offer anything for free. Look for FREE anti-virus, anti-spam
and other security tools. (see my page on Security).
• Look for a PC with Windows XP (about $400) or a Mac Mini (about $750)
• Processor: 1.5 GHz or better
• RAM memory: 256 MB or better
• Hard Drive: 80 GB or better
• Monitor: 17-inch or larger
• Software: Works (Windows) or iWork (Mac)
Look at your local computer store first, they may have some good deals and offer local support. Office supply and electronics
stores such as Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy are good options to explore too. If you're comfortable buying online, check
out Dell, Gateway, Apple
From: Ask Bob Rankin Newsletter, June 15, 2006
Hard Drive Failure
You may not know when your drive is about to fail. They have a limited life. However, you may be able to get advance notice
with this free program.
HDD Health is a full-featured failure-prediction agent for machines using Windows 95, 98, NT, Me, 2000 and XP. It monitors
hard disks and alerts you to impending failure.
HDD Health - free download