A Guide to Choosing Components When Purchasing Your First Home Computer

So you’ve been sitting at the local public library and at your friend or relative’s home and it’s got you. Looks like you have the World Wide Web fever. The decision is made. You MUST purchase one. But where do you start? I’ll show you how to wisely choose your first home computer.

The first thing you need to think of is just what you’ll be using your computer for. Do you like games or artwork? Are you uses going to be mainly word processing, surfing the web and e-mail? Or do you want one that can do all of that?

First thing you need to do is understand what all those specifications mean that you read on the computer description. This may be a bit long but it’s not nearly as difficult to understand as you may think.

CPU or Processor: CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. Processing power is measured in “hertz” or “hz”. Older processors were measured in “Megahertz” or “Mhz” but any new computer you buy today the processor will be measured in “Gigahertz” or “Ghz”. 1000 Mhz equals 1 Ghz. The CPU is the quite simply the brain of your PC. And to today’s standards, (December 2005) it’s best to get at least a 2.0 Ghz CPU.

Intel and AMD make the two types of processors for a windows compatible computer. Intel labels their processors plainly as 2.0 Ghz or whatever. An Intel processor that is labeled 2.0 Ghz has a speed of 2.0 Ghz. An AMD processor that is 2.0 Ghz can be labeled a 2400+. AMD and Intel processors are designed differently and they label their processors that way to give consumers and comparison to Intel processors. An AMD 2400+ (even though it’s only 2.0 Ghz) will perform equally to an Intel processor that has a speed of 2.4 Ghz. This labeling system tends to confuse many but they have their reasons for it.

There are single core processors, 64 bit single core processors, and dual core 64 bit processors. A regular single core CPU is fine for most things. A 64 bit single core CPU offers considerably faster performance. A dual core 64-bit processor is the new kid on the block. Dual core is like having 2 CPUs in one and will allow you to run many applications at once with no decreased system performance. The future is in dual core.

RAM, DDRAM or Memory: RAM stands for “Random Access Memory”. RAM is often called simply “Memory”. Your operating system and other programs and games use RAM in order to store data that is required at speed. The more RAM or Memory you have in your computer, the faster it will perform. DDRAM stands for “Double Data Random Access Memory”. Most new computers contain DDRAM.

The Hard Drive: You may not think you need a big hard drive but you should defiantly get one. Your hard drive is you main storage device inside you computer. The more you get to know your computer you’ll see just what you can do with it. Text files don’t take up much space at all but music files, video files and photos can take up a lot of space and they can add up. Newer hard drives are measured in Gigabytes. One Gigabyte equals 1000 Megabytes. An appropriate size hard drive would be at least 80 Gigabytes or “Gigs”. Speed wise; a 7200rpm hard drive is enough for 99% of all computer applications.

Sound: Most new computers have “integrated sound” but you can always upgrade to a separate internal soundcard. You’re not stuck with integrated sound if you ever decide to upgrade and these days, integrated sound has become very impressive even for hardcore computer gamers.

Video: STAY AWAY from any computer that says it has “integrated video”. No matter how they word it to make it sound awesome, if you see the word “integrated”, move on to something else. Don’t let the salesperson talk you into it. If your computer has an integrated video module, which means that it is built into the motherboard. The motherboard is the main thing in your computer that EVERYTHING plugs into. And if it has integrated video it likely is not upgradeable at all. And a 64 megabyte integrated video module may be fine for MANY things; they are making 512-megabyte cards now which most applications don’t NEED that much video power but what about a few years from now? To today’s standards, I would say the minimum video card to get would be a 128-megabyte card. Depending on how they are made, a video card can plug into a PCI slot, an AGP slot or most recent a PCIE (or PCI express) slot. The future is PCIE and most new computers have PCIE slots.

Operating System or OS: This is the main program of your computer. An example would be Windows XP. Windows XP is the most popular and very easy to use. Even for someone who’s new to computers. Your sales associate can explain the differences between XP home, XP Pro or XP Media Edition.

For Internet, 99% of all new computers have a built in Ethernet or LAN for high speed Internet in addition to a dialup modem.

Monitor: This is the display unit that you’re looking at right now. The “flat LCD” monitors are neat and tidy but not cheap at all. If all you’re looking for is functionality you can save a considerable amount of money on a system with a decent BIG monitor.

Choices: If you’ve read this far, you’ve been educated. Now it’s time to decide what you’ll be using your computer for. If you like or think you would like all the latest computer games you’ll need to spend at least $1500 US dollars or up to $10,000 for a system. A big difference I know but it can easily be done. Many new computer games need a LOT of super fast RAM and a LOT of space. The average hot computer game on the market today takes up about 6 gigabytes on your hard drive. You’ll need a FAST hard drive and perhaps a few of them and a super fast and beefy video card as well as a killer sound card.

But if your main use for your computer will be looking around on the Internet, sending and receiving email and listening to downloaded songs, you can get a decent computer system for about $800. You’ll see them for much cheaper too but they’re generally not upgradeable. Remember that YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. Being able to upgrade your system is essential.

Now go out and grab yourself a Home Computer. You’ll be glad you did.

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