A Guide to Buying a Personal Computer

Ebony, May 1999 | Go to article overview

A Guide to Buying a Personal Computer


Money Talk$

LIKE any major purchase, buying a good computer at a good price takes time, research and a little bit of luck. But you can tilt the odds in your favor by knowing exactly what you need in a personal computer.

The first step in buying a computer begins before you browse through magazines or step foot inside a store. Decide what goals you hope to accomplish with your machine. Students mar want a computer that's capable of word processing and light graphics, while business people may be more interested in a machine for spreadsheet programs or desktop publishing. Whether the computer is for individual, business or family use, you should assess your needs. Will you require a computer system with multimedia capabilities (sound and voice)? Will you need a CD ROM for educational software? Will you need a modern to access cyberspace?

"Make sure you know what you want to do with the computer," says Ron Davis, a math and computer science instructor at Kennedy-King College in Chicago. "Don't buy the [computer] hardware and then say, `Now, what can I do with it?'"

Instead, jot down what you envision as your major golds for the computer--numbers-crunching, playing games, word processing. Then do a little research. Go to the library or local computer store and find out which machines are best for the tasks you have planned. In general, Macintosh computers are easy-to-use and work well if desktop publishing is your primary goal. Windows software has made PCs (IBM-compatibles) just as user-friendly, say some experts, they also excel in computer gaming and mathematical applications.

Next, think about what software programs you'll require. Head to the computer store armed with a notebook and a buy-later mentality. Do some homework and steer clear of salespeople who may talk you into buying a machine you will regret later. Copy memory requirements, often listed on the side of the software box, and include them in your planning. Make sure you get a computer with enough memory for the jobs you'll need.

"Software drives the kind of machine you'll need," Davis says. "The biggest mistakes people make is getting a machine too powerful or not powerful enough to fit their needs. Do some investigation and find out what will make you happy."

There are two main kinds of memory--internal memory called RAM and external memory. Davis compares the difference in the two memory types to components of a car. RAM, he says, fuels the programs you run on your computer. …

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