The main types of systems are:
Then you must decide on either:
Conveniently priced and adequately sized personal computers suitable for personal or home use. PC is normally used as a term to describe Microsoft Windows operating systems. More than nine in ten computers sold are Windows PCs due to Microsoft's dominance of the market. Most software, such as Microsoft Windows XP, is developed for PCs first which makes them a good option, guaranteeing compatibility for data transfer with other PCs.
Macintosh or Macs are personal computers designed, manufactured and sold by Apple Computers. Macs or Apple Macs have about a five per cent share of the market. Many people find Macs a superior computer to many PCs and they are popular with designers and other creative professionals due to perceived benefits. There can be downsides though due to incompatibility issues when transferring data between Macs and Windows PCs.
Linux is a free open source operating system. The main benefit is that you use inexpensive PC hardware with zero cost for the software. Linux desktops are popular with IT professionals and those who wish to learn about software development. Also with home users on limited funds who just want a basic system. They are a tiny fraction of the market.
Unlike a bulkier desktop PC, laptops are smaller, lighter, more versatile machines that can be packed up and carried in a case. They often have a screen on a hinged lid and can be opened like a book. Laptops run on a battery or from a mains supply. They are capable of the same tasks as a desktop PC although they usually offer less power and capacity than similar priced PCs.
The simple answer is: why not? Computer literacy or E-literacy as it has become known is as important these days as reading, writing and arithmetic. What's more it's fun. With your own computer you have access to the Internet and its wealth of educational resources, plus other communication, leisure and creative possibilities. You can play games, maintain your accounts, download and listen to music, watch films, read the news - even write your novel. Computer literacy will not only boost your employability but it could open doors to further rewarding skills.
You can probably access a computer in a college or public library but if you own your own computer you will be able to work or play in your own environment in an atmosphere that suits you, when it suits you, with all your relevant equipment and information at hand. If you purchase a battery laptop computer you will be able to use it on the move, around your home even, on holiday, on trains and in cafés.
Not that anyone can think of but you do need to weigh up the costs involved. Can you afford it? As well as the main system you may need accessories: software, printer, paper, even the right seating and lighting equipment if you intend to work a lot from home. Remember, buying a computer is not a financial investment. Very little value is retained by second hand computers. Newer, more powerful models are being introduced all the time and the prices for older models can decrease in a short period. However, personal computers are becoming increasingly cheaper to buy and offer better value for money than ever before.
Internet access is available by an ISP - Internet Service Provider - typically for a monthly fee but sometimes for free. Many computers have a sponsorship deal when you set your computer up offering easy access and a free trial with a major provider but internet access is easy to set up with the provider of your choice. Ask friends for recommendation or check Review Centre reviews for opinions on Internet Service Providers, including broadband providers.
High Street computer stores supply ready made computers so you can leave the shop with your computer on the day. Online suppliers often build machines to your specification but you will have to wait for the build/delivery period. You can Shop around the High Street and take a look at the different types of computer available but the best place to buy invariably means the shop with the best price and at the end of the day the best price is usually found online. Follow Review Centre links for price comparison guides and manufacturers' sites and read Review Centre reviews for genuine advice on the best computer products on the market today. A little research goes a long way.
One you can afford and one that will suit your needs. Computers come in all shapes and sizes and many manufacturers will build your computer exactly to the specification you need. But you do need to ask first what are you intending to use it for? A basic word processor for letter writing? Surfing the web? Playing computer games? The more you need it for the more memory you will need is an important basic rule. A very basic system with a few megabytes of memory is OK for letter writing. If you want to use Windows then you need more. If you want web access and games and multi media you need even more memory and disk space.
Along with reliability and ease of use it probably is. You need to spend your money on an adequate hard drive, decent memory and sufficient disk space for your needs. 256Mb or even 512Mb is a minimum to aim for and even more if you can afford it. Increasing memory is one of the most cost effective ways of improving performance on your computer. The good news is that memory is fairly cheap.
Check what computer software comes with the machine. Typically this will be at least the operating system and possibly some basic packages such as a word processor and spreadsheet. There is a huge range of computer software so work out exactly what you need. A computer firm often wants to sell you software packages when you buy a computer but better deals can often be found separately. Web browsers and email clients can be downloaded free from the Internet, including excellent Firefox and Yahoo systems. And remember to budget for any software you need. One essential item is virus-checker software. You may also consider anti-adware and anti-spyware software. These types of software will offer protection from privacy invasion and potentially damaging computer viruses.
Think carefully about what accessories you actually need. Do you need a printer? USB flash thumb drives also known as key chain drives have become one extremely popular accessory that many people cannot live without. Flash thumb drives have replaced floppy discs for the portable storage of data. USB/Flash Thumb drives are a tiny modern equivalent of a floppy disc that you can stick on a key ring and provide good storage capabilities. What's more they are cheap. Whatever computer you buy make sure you take regular backups of important data and make sure you install a virus software and update it on a regular basis.
There are the basic components that make up a computer. It's useful to know what they mean.
The processor is the component that performs virtually all of the computation and controls the behaviour of most devices. The most common processors are Intel's Pentium and Celeron family. The measure of a processor's power is its clock speed in Megahertz (MHz) or Gigahertz (GHz, 1GHz = 1000MHz).
RAM is the fast memory that computers use for temporary storage of information for the tasks it is performing. Unlike the hard drive, RAM relies on power being supplied to retain information. When you switch the computer off the information is lost although it can be kept on the hard drive. The size of RAM is measured in Megabytes (Mb). The more the better.
Hard Drives are the magnetic storage components that hold programs and information in your computer when the computer is switched off. Information is exchanged between the memory and hard drive according to the needs of the tasks being performed. The size of a hard drive is measured in Gigabytes (Gb) with the more is better.
Graphics cards present information in a visual form on the monitor of the computer. The specification of the graphics card will affect the resolution that can be displayed on your monitor screen and the refresh rate of the display. The refresh rate is the number of times per-second that the screen is re-drawn. A high refresh rate avoids the flickering screen associated with older computers.