How to Buy a New Computer

Buying a new computer can be very confusing if you don’t know what you are looking for. There are many components that make up a computer, and you may not know exactly what you need to include in your computer. For example, how much memory or hard drive space will you need, or what type of graphics card?

In this post, I will discuss the various components of a computer and provide a rough guide as to what you will need for each component.

Motherboard

If the processor is the brain of your computer, this is the heart. Everything in your computer connects to this single board of chips, which makes it the most important piece in your computer.

When it comes to a motherboard, I tell people to make sure they get a brand name motherboard, as cheap motherboard could cause problems in the future. Brand names include Asus, Abit, Intel, and Gigabyte. If the motherboard in your computer is from one of these companies, then you are off to a great start.

Recommendation: If you are not into gaming, photo or video editing, any new motherboard will suit your needs.

For those that perform the above mentioned tasks, find a motherboard that supports a fast front-side bus (FSB) speed (800Mhz+), and multiple graphics cards.

Processor (CPU)

The CPU is the brains of your computer. It is a chip that plugs directly into your motherboard. Unlike a motherboard, you are pretty much guaranteed to buy a brand name processor from either Intel or AMD. Processor speed is measured in Megahertz (Mhz) or Gigahertz (GHz), where 1000Mhz is equal to 1Ghz. The larger the number, the faster the processor.

Recommendation: For those that do gaming, photo or video editing, but the fastest procesor you can afford, preferably a processor with at least two cores. For everyone else, any of the current processors will be more than fast enough to suit your needs.

Memory

When your operating system and applications are loaded from your hard drive, they are stored in the memory of your computer. When looking for computers, the memory is called RAM (Random Access Memory). RAM is extremely fast compared to your hard drive, which is why your applications a run from it. Unfortunately, unlike your hard drive, you don’t have nearly as much RAM.

Recommendation: Many computers come with at least 1GB (1 billion bytes) of RAM, which is the minimum I would recommend. In this case the more memory you have in your computer the better.

Graphics Card

The quality of graphics your can now display on your computer is remarkable. Graphics cards have really advanced significantly in the last 10 years, as well as requiring more power and memory. Some high-end graphics cards can cost more than a new computer, but a blazingly fast. Each graphics card has its own on-board processor and memory to allow your computer’s processor and memory handle the actual application. Most graphics chips are produced by nVidia and ATI.

Recommendation: For those that play games you will need the most powerful graphics card you can afford. I would recommend that you use two graphics cards in your computer, as long as your budget allows.

Any graphics card on the market today can handle the day-to-day tasks such as surfing the Web and reading your e-mail.

Sound Card

A sound card does exactly what is says: provides the sounds to your speakers or headphones. There are many different sound cards for your computer but if you want a brand you can trust, check out Creative Labs sound cards.

Recommendation: This part of a computer is not important unless you play many games or do video editing. For most people, even the sound included with your motherboard (if it is included) is all you would need.

Network Card

Network cards, whether wired or wireless, allows your computer to connect to other computers. If you have broadband, you will need to ensure that you have a network card. Most computers sold today automatically include a network card, and some have one built-in to the motherboard.

Recommendation: If you are looking for a laptop, make sure it includes a wireless network card along with a wired one. If you look at desktops, you can go with a wireless card as well, however, if you are connecting to a wire or modem that will be beside the desktop, stick with a wired network card.

Hard Drive

Hard drives are the massive storage devices within your computer that contains your operating system, applications and your data. The disk space of each hard drive is measured in Gigabytes (GB), which is equal to 1 billion bytes. For hard drives, I usually stay with brand names because you know your hard drive will perform without issues. Companies such as Western Digital, and Seagate are two that produce quality hard drives.

Recommendation: Stay with the brand name hard drives, and get the largest hard drive you can afford, especially if you like games, edit photos or videos. You may also want to look into external hard drives for backup purposes.

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