I'm Buying A New Computer, What Do I Need?

We get asked this a lot. Here's what to consider when buying a new computer:

  1. RAM - This is the single best thing to have more of in a computer:
    RAM = Random Access Memory, and the more memory, the better. 256 MB is good, 512 MB is better, 1 GB is best. Anything under 256 MB (MegaBytes) will make your machine run slower, and your Hard Drive will have to work harder.
  2. Hard Drive:
    For most users 40 GB (GigaBytes) is adequate. If you are going to store lots of pictures and / or music, then step up to an 80 or 160 GB drive.
  3. Processor speed:
    These days, the fastest you can get is about 3.6 GHz (GigaHertz). For a desktop computer, 2.2 GHz or better is fine. For a laptop, get the most you can afford.
  4. Flat Panel screen vs. a Conventional CRT monitor:
    If you can afford it, get a Flat Panel, it takes up less room, uses less power and is nicer to view. If money is a concern, go for the CRT monitor, it'll do a fine job for you.
  5. Video Card:
    If you are a Gamer, or graphics designer, go for a high end video card. If you are just a casual net surfer, emailer or card game player, take the stock video card that comes with the machine.
  6. Keyboard and Mouse:
    Most stock keyboards are fine. Get an Optical Mouse with a scroll wheel.
  7. Anti-virus program:
    wifimw.com recommends AVG Anti-Virus. You can use the free version and be well protected or purchase the full version for even better protection.

Printers: Some manufacturers offer a printer with their systems. That printer is often their brand, and not a common brand like Canon or HP. You should avoid buying or taking the free printer that comes with a new computer. Why? You may not be able to get ink cartridges from anywhere but them, and if you need one NOW, you're stuck. You can buy a printer from any superstore and get new ink cartridges whenever you need them.

For Desktops There are a lot of low-end computers being sold today that are in the $400 - $500 price range. Just because they are "low-end" does not mean they are junk! In fact, we've installed our wireless systems in lots of them, and they really do work well. They are considered low-end because they usually come with small Hard Drives, small RAM and a standard video card with a CRT monitor. Most of these can be upgraded at the time of purchase, and for an extra $100 or so, you can build a pretty slick machine.

Start by visiting some websites: Dell (www.dell.com), HP (www.hp.com) or Gateway (www.gateway.com) and see what they have to offer. Some of their models can be found at Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, Best Buy, etc.

For Laptops If you are considering buying a laptop, get one with a wireless card built-in. That way, you'll be able to connect at WiFi hotspots, and to the WiFi Midwest system!

Also, one thing to consider. Laptop batteries will go dead quickly from lack of use. Be sure to use your laptop frequently, and to keep the battery charged. Batteries often cost in excess of $100, so it's not a cheap item to replace.

Buy the insurance when you buy the laptop! If you drop it, and the screen breaks (which has happened to us!) the laptop repair will often cost more than a new laptop.