Buying a New Computer:
A Beginners Guide to Computer Basics
Buying a new computer can be a daunting task, especially when you have no idea what the specifications mean. Those numbers and letters may look confusing, but in reality they are fairly simple to understand. This guide will help give you a basic understanding of the key specifications, so that you know what type of computer you need to buy. For example, if you only require a computer for email and browsing the Internet, then you only need a very basic machine with low specifications; however, if you want the computer to be able to play the latest video games, then you would need a much more advanced machine. It is important to know what level of machine you need, so that you are not pressured into buying an expensive, top-of-the-line machine, if you only want it for email and the Internet. Similarly, you do not want to buy a computer only to find out later that it does not meet your needs. The following components are the main ones you are going to come across:
The processor (or CPU) is the brain of the computer. It is the core component that carries out of all your instructions. The speed of the processor is usually measured in GHz and this number generally falls between 1 and 3. If you only want to use a computer for basic things like email, the internet, and watching DVDs, then you only need a processor on the lower end, say between 1 and 2 GHz. However, if you want to play video games, or use demanding programs like video-editing software, you are going to need a higher spec machine. For most games around 2Ghz is fine, although for playing the latest, graphic-intense games, closer to 3GHz is recommended. Also, note that some processors are measured without the GHz, for example AMD 2800. This roughly equates to a 2.8GHz.
The term memory is slightly misleading. Think of computer memory as the computer’s workspace – it is the place the computer uses for its work and where the activity takes place. The more memory, the faster your computer will run, as it has more workspace to deal with. For a basic user who will just surf the net and use email, listen to music, a minimum of 1GB RAM would be a good start. For more regular users who intensively multitask and have moderate gaming needs, 2GB RAM is recommended. For really new, graphically-intense games, graphic design, and multimedia editing, at least 3 or 4GB RAM is recommended. Basically, unless you are using really intensive programs, anywhere between 1 and 2GB of RAM is suitable. The larger the memory, the quicker your machine should run.
Hard Disk Space
The hard disk (or hard drive) is where all your files are typically stored. Storage is measured in gigabytes (GB). To put that term in perspective, a song is usually 3-5MB (there are 1000MB in a GB). For basic use, like saving documents, a few videos, some music, and pictures, then between 30 and 60GB is adequate. If you have a large collection of music, videos, high-quality pictures, and are quite an avid gamer, then 100-300GB is recommended. Do not worry about the size too much, since you can always store extra files on DVDs, so long as your computer has a DVD Rewriter, which is standard nowadays. At the extreme, if you use 3D-imaging software extensively, save a large amount of multimedia files, play a lot of video games, and you want a great deal of storage, then go for anything up to 1TB of hard disk space (1000GB).
A graphics card (video card) is what creates the images you see on your computer. You only really need to be concerned about the quality of your graphics card if you play video games or do a lot of 3-D imaging work. For casual users whose requirements include browsing the web, word processing, and email, the standard supplied integrated graphics card is absolutely fine. If you play games occasionally then a low to mid-quality card will suffice, whereas if you are a serious gamer that wants to play the latest video games, you will need a high performance card.
If you only require a computer for basic tasks such as browsing the net, listening to music, and writing documents, then you are looking for a machine with the following specifications:
- Processor: 1 to 2 GHz
- RAM: 1 to 2 GB
- Hard Disk Space: 30-60 GB
For intensive multitasking and higher use tend to go towards the higher end of the range; for those very casual users who just want a basic computer for minimal cost, then the lower end will suit you.
Advanced Use – High Performance/Gaming
If you are an occasional video game user and the kind of games you play are over a year old, then the lower end of the following range will suffice; however if you wish to play the latest, graphically-intense games, use 3D imaging or multimedia editing software, then the highest end of the range is strongly recommended. Computer suppliers generally have a selection of gaming computers, which specifically have the sort of requirements you are looking for. As a general guide, however, the following requirements will give you a basic idea:
- -Processor : 2GHz or greater
- -Hard Disk Space: 300GB to 1TB
- -medium to high-end graphics card
By Frank Hicox