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Points to Consider When Purchasing a New Computer -
Without a doubt, the most important point to consider when making your purchasing decision should be your ability to upgrade your computer in the future. Component upgrades can significantly delay the need to replace your computer, but the very most important component in your computer is also the very most difficult to upgrade! The CPU (central processing unit) is the "brain" in your computer that does all the processing or "thinking" for all the hardware and software components on your computer. The faster your CPU, the faster your computer will perform overall, regardless of the other components on your system. If you buy a cheaper computer in the beginning that is equipped with a slower CPU, you simply cannot expect to improve its performance with a memory upgrade in the future. You will be disappointed, I assure you. So, if you don't read anything else on this page, be sure to purchase the very fastest CPU you can afford! The CPU is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to upgrade, but memory, hard drives, etc. are relatively simple to install.
Although I prefer to use the Intel processors, you might be perfectly happy with AMD, but that's your choice. I only recommend you stay away from the Intel Celeron processor unless you are purchasing a computer for a young child or retired persons who will only play Sesame Street types of online games or send and receive emails. (Click here to see why I make this recommendation.) Otherwise, you should purchase the very fastest CPU you can afford. The more money you spend on the CPU now, the longer you will be able to use your computer before it becomes obsolete and must be replaced! I define "obsolete" as a state whereby the computer will no longer perform the tasks that are important to you in a timeframe that is acceptable to you. Any Intel dual core processor running at 2.0 gHz or higher should be sufficient at this time (as of 08/22/08). You should also consider the L2 cache and FSB (front side bus) speed. These are important factors that will significantly affect the overall performance of your new computer. If you would like to see a very simple but interesting graph which demonstrates the overall processor speed of your current system compared to the new system you are considering, click here.
If you are purchasing a computer running Windows XP, then 1 gig is the minimum amount of memory you will need unless you are using other software or hardware that requires more. Vista will require no less than 2 gigs, regardless of any other hardware or software on your system. If you are on a tight budget, you should spend more money on the processor and add more memory when you have more funds available. It only takes a few minutes to install additional memory and I will do that for my regular customers at no charge in most cases. Keep in mind that the standard 32 bit versions of Windows XP and Vista will only use a maximum of 4 gigabytes of memory. You should also consider the speed of the memory as well as the overall size. The faster the memory, the faster the computer.
Hard Disk Drive
The smallest drive you will find available on most computers now is about 80 gb and that might be enough for you unless you need to store lots of pictures or music files. As with the memory, I would spend more money on my CPU and add more hard disk space as an upgrade in the future. Disk drive upgrades don't even have to involve opening up your computer since the introduction of USB 2.0, Firewire, and similar connection protocols. If you initially purchase a desktop computer with a smaller hard disk drive and find you need more space, you can simply purchase an external drive, plug it in and you on your way! If you are using a laptop, however, the process is a little more complicated unless you leave the laptop on your desk all the time. If you are purchasing a laptop and have lots of pictures or iTunes music, you should probably purchase at least a 250 mb hard drive.
You might also want to consider the hard drive speed. Most laptops come standard with a drive that spins at 5400 rpm, but 7200 rpm drives are available from most manufacturers. This upgrade is often only a few dollars and might be money well spent. (7200 rpm drives are usually standard on desktop computers.)
I would never purchase a laptop computer that does not have WiFi capability. In fact, you might find it difficult to find one that is not WiFi enabled! The standard WiFi protocols used in the past are 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g and the newest is 802.11n. It might cost a few dollars to upgrade from the 802.11g to 802.11n, but your wireless connection could be 3 to 4 times faster if the hotspot supports 802.11n.
When considering display size on a laptop, you must realize that the larger the display, the larger, heavier and more expensive the laptop. In addition, the larger laptops (17") require more power, so the battery will sometimes be depleted faster. If you are planning on using a large screen laptop in a vehicle with a dc to ac converter, you will need to purchase a larger converter than you would use on a smaller laptop.