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Tips from Tonna for your PC
I want a New Computer, What should I get?
by Tonna Kutner

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Q:  I’m ready to get a new computer.  I mostly do word processing, spreadsheets, financial management, and the Internet.  I’m thinking about a digital camera.  What should I get that will last me a long time?

Editors Note:  Please examine this as a piece of history.  This was written in 2002 - how dramatically things have changed.

A:  Keep in mind that computers will last for about 3-5 years. Often they become obsolete before they actually break. Think how much computers have changed in the last 3-5 years.  We don’t know what the next 3-5 years will bring, but it will be MORE.  Also consider that it’s cheaper to get hardware installed when you buy your computer than to upgrade it later. So for the longest life, you want to buy something that has more than you need right now.

Hard Drives:  Get at least a 80 gigabyte hard drive. This will give you plenty of room for pictures and music files.  Even if you don’t use them now, you may well find this useful in the future.  Upgrading the hard drive is one of the cheapest upgrades you can get on a new computer.

Memory:  Get at least 256 megabytes of memory. If you can spend some extra money, get 512 megabytes.  

Operating System:  Windows XP, Windows 2000 or Windows 98 Second Edition.  If you get Windows XP, be sure to get the patches for it on the web.  These will help secure your system.

Processor:  Pentium 4 with 1.8 gigahertz.  The hertz rating is the heartbeat of the computer.  It processes a command each time the heart beats.  The larger the number the faster the computer processes commands.  If you’re on a budget and not using any exotic programs, save some money by getting a Celeron or AMD chip or a Pentium III machine with 800 megahertz or more.

Monitor, keyboard, mouse:  If it will fit on your desk, get at least a 17-inch screen. Everything will be bigger and clearer. The flat panel monitors are very nice and the 15" flat panels are quite reasonable.  If you’re on a budget, you might be able to use your old monitor, and get a new one later. Do get a new keyboard and mouse with your new machine.  Consider a wireless mouse and keyboard if you want to get rid of some wires.

CD Drives:  I recommend a CD-RW drive. It does everything a standard  CD does, but you can also write to a CD-RW and use it for storage and backup.  They are more useful for your computer than a DVD drive.  The DVDs are nice though.  For not much extra you can get both.

Internet connection:  If you currently use a modem for the Internet or faxing, get a 56K modem on your new computer.  If you use DSL or cable, get a Network Interface Card (NIC) in the new computer.  I recommend getting a NIC anyway as it is inexpensive, and your computer will be ready when you decide to go to a faster internet connection.

Maintenance:  Make sure it comes with a maintenance agreement for parts and labor for 1-3 years.  Make sure you’re buying from a dealer that has been in business for a while.  BUY QUALITY.  Remember, the cheapest price is not necessarily the best way to buy.  You’re buying for the long term, not for the next few weeks.

Software:  You must have anti-virus software.  Norton is good, so is McAfee.  Some computers come with “free” software.  Some is valuable and some is not.  Microsoft Works is not of great value as it is difficult to trade documents with others.  MS Office is much more valuable.

Dell has a great web site where you can build your own computer and change the options and see how the price changes – www.dell.com.  This is a good way to go or it will give you some comparison prices when you go shopping. 

Don’t forget to recycle your old computer.  Check out the article on recycling: www.computer-lynx.com/a-recycling-old-computers.htm.

If you have a computer question you would like answered in this space, send it to tonna@computer-lynx.com.

For past columns of Tips from Tonna, check out the web site: www.computer-lynx.com.

Tonna Kutner, Computer LYNX, works with companies to list and develop their web sites.  Phone (206) 575-3979 or email tonna@computer-lynx.com. Visit Tonna’s website at www.computer-lynx.com.

Printed in "Verve"March  2002.  Copyright Tonna Kutner

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