a Home Computer Parent's Guide
Home Computer Table of Contents
Buying a Home
Home Ccomputers Operating System
Know Your Dealer
Home Computer Research
What is the Averge Cost for a Home Computer?
Much Should You Spend?
Should We get a Laptop or a Desktop Computer?
Buying at a Local Store
or onthe Intenet or by Mail Order
Are Warranty and
Extended Service Plans Worth the Cost?
What Parents Should Know About Buying a Home Computer
Buying a home computer can be a lot like buying a
car since it is a major purchase decision. Computers have many makes and models, and many
people willing to give advice and opinons about what to buy and where to buy it. To make
the most of your home computer shopping experience, and sense of the variety of choices
facing you, you'll want to do some research first. And, whether
buying new or used, know what you want the computer to do for you and how much
you can afford to spend.
Computers can be categorized into two basic operating
systems or types-those designed primarily for graphics work (Apple)and those primarily
intended for word processing. Although both are capable of either functionand have Internet connectivity. To
help you decide between the two operating systems, determine whether you will
use the computer more for graphics or mainly for writing project, the type of
software you want to run and which type of computer it runs on (although most
software has versions for both operating systems). If you're buying the
computer for your child's use, see what kind of computer is used in his or her
classroom. If you want to send files back and forth with your sister, check out
her system. Both systems are great- one is not better than the other-but it
helps to know what you want to do with your computer before you commit to
Know Your Dealer
Buying your computer from a reputable electronics
dealer means you're more likely to get a better warranty and better service.
The computers they carry have succeeded because of the high-quality of their
machines and their service. Find out if you have to return the computer to the manufacturer for repairs or if they can be locally done.
What to Consider Before Buying
How will you use the computer? Do you plan to write
papers for a class using word processing software, keep track of your finances
or business on a spreadsheet, send electronic mail (e-mail) to relatives across
the country, surf the World Wide Web, or just play computer games? Knowing how
you'll use your computer will help you determine what type of minimum
requirements the computer needs to have.
Bigger Programs Require More Memory
Keep in mind that the size of the software you plan
to run will dictate how much memory your computer should have. Consider how you
will use your computer, then ask about the software you'll need. A sales
associate should be able to tell you how many megabytes of memory you'll need
based on your planned computer use. Typically, you'll need a minimum of 64
megabytes of memory to adequately run most programs. Most computer systems come
with preloaded software. Be sure to check the inventory of what's on the
computer, so you'll know what you're getting.
KEEP IN MIND THAT THE
SIZE OF THE SOFTWARE YOU
PLAN TO RUN WILL
DICTATE HOW MUCH MEMORY
YOUR COMPUTER SHOULD
How Much Should You Spend?
With computers, it's a good rule of thumb to buy as
much as you can afford. Depending on your needs, be prepared to spend between
$1,000 for an entry-level computer to $3,000 and up for a higher-end computer.
You don't have to buy the biggest, fastest or most powerful computer on the
market, but you should buy the best system you can- that includes monitor,
microprocessor, memory, hard drive, keyboard, printer, etc. You might want to
hold off buying any software until you've had a chance to take a look at the
software which should come with your new computer.
WITH COMPUTERS, IT'S A
G00D RULE OF THUMB
TO BUY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AFFORD . . .
Laptop vs. Desktop Computers Models
After you've made all the decisions about what you
want in a computer, you also can choose what type of model you'd like: laptop
or Desktop Computers. Laptop models are portable, and if you travel a lot and need to
bring your computer along, this is the obvious choice. Desktop Computerss have larger
screens (although you can use a larger screen with a laptop model) and are
easily expandable. Laptops are generally regarded as companion computers to
Desktop Computerss, but they are sophisticated enough to be your primary computer. There
are some laptops, called notebooks, that weigh less than five pounds.
IF YOU DON'T KNOW A
MOUSE FROM A RAM, THEN
YOU NEED TO BRUSH UP
ON THE LANGUAGE OF COMPUTERS . .
Computer Terminology Glossary
If you don't know a mouse from a RAM, then you need
to brush up on the language of computers. Here's a crash course.
Cache: Cache is another type of
memory kindred to RAM. Cache is used by the computer to quickly move data
between the RAM and the CPU.
CD-ROM Drive: Most new computers now
come with a CD-ROM drive as standard equipment. A CD-ROM drive reads data from
a disc. These CDs look like a music CD, but hold data instead of music. CD-ROMs
also contain games, dictionaries, recipe files . . . the list is endless.
CPU: The CPU, or central processing
unit, is the brains of the computer. Most new Windows based programs use a
Pentium processor. New Macs use a different type of CPU called Power PC.
THE CPU, OR CENTRAL
IS THE BRAINS OF THE
COMPUTER . . .
Disk Drive: Virtually all computers
come with a disk drive that can read and save information on portable
diskettes, also called floppy disks. You can use floppy disks to save
information or to load new software onto your computer.
Hard Drive: The hard drive also is
called the hard disk. You'll probably never see it because it is nestled inside
your computer. It's the computer's electronic filling cabinet, and it stores
the computer's operating system, files, programs and documents.
Keyboard: Just like a typewriter
keyboard, this device is the primary way of inputting data into many programs.
A KEYBOARD IS THE
PRIMARY WAY OF INPUTTING
DATA INTO MANY
PROGRAMS . . .
Megahertz (MHz): This is the clock
speed of the microprocessor. The higher the number, the quicker the information
is processed. MHz relates to how many millions of instructions can be processed
Memory: This is the circuitry or
device that holds information in an electrical or magnetic form. There is
read-only memory (ROM), which is information primarily stored on a disk, and
random-access memory (RAM), which is chip-based storage inside the computer.
Memory is typically measured in megabytes (MBs).
Modem: This mechanism connects a
computer to a phone line so information can be sent from one computer to
another or the user can access an Online service or the Internet. In view of
the popularity of the Internet, a modem is now considered basic equipment and
comes on practically all new computers. Most modems come with fax capabilities.
Monitor: An output device that
allows you to see what you are doing. Most computers come with 14 or 15 inch
monitors. This size is good for most people's needs. Larger 17 or 21 inch
monitors also are available, but may cost more.
Motherboard: The motherboard is the
circuit board that everything in the computer plugs into. The CPU, RAM and
cache all plug into the motherboard.
Mouse: The mouse is another input
device that makes getting around in your computer easier. It is a handheld
object that is good for doing tasks such as moving and pointing to objects on
the screen, and can replace the function and control keys of the keyboard.
Printer: A printer is an essential
part of the computer if you want a hard copy of your work. There are four types
of printers on the market: dot matrix, inkjet, bubble jet and laser. The dot
matrix is the most basic. Most inkjets and bubble jets can print color and
graphics, and a laser printer offers the best resolution at the highest speed.
RAM: Computers save data in two
ways: on the hard drive and in random access memory or internal memory. New
computer buyers should look for models with at least 16 MBs of RAM (or more,
depending on what types of programs you'll be running). Make sure that the
computer can be upgraded.
Scanner: A scanner is a useful
accessory to have if you are working with lots of artwork or photos. This
device can copy written documents, pictures or photographs directly into your
computer. There are three types of scanners: handheld, hopper-feed and flatbed.
Sound Card: This device allows your
computer to reproduce music, sounds and voices. Make sure you have a sound card
if you're planning to play multimedia games.
Video Card: The video card is the
part of the computer that sends the images to the monitor.
YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS
WHEN BUYING A COMPUTER:
YOU CAN PURCHASE
YOUR EQUIPMENT LOCAL OR
THROUGH MAIL ORDER .
You have two options when buying a computer: You can
purchase your equipment locally or through mail order. They both have
advantages. If you buy from a consumer electronics dealer in your area, you can
often get free demonstrations, and you can return to ask questions and buy
additional equipment. Mail order computers are generally less expensive. If you
have questions, you can call the company's customer service number and speak
with a technician on the telephone. If you need to return the computer for
repairs, you may have to ship it back to the manufacturer (save the original
box and packing materials). Investigate both local and mail-order sources and
buy from the one you feel most comfortable with.
Computer Buyer's Checklist
Before you walk into a computer store or call a mail
order source, go over the list of the items (hardware and software) that you
might consider purchasing. Ask the salesperson questions about the computer you
are interested in and jot your notes in the space below.
QUESTIONS / NOTES
Processor Speed in MHz
Hard Drive Capacity
Monitor: Is it included in the price?
Printer: Is it included in the
Type of Printer (dot matrix, inkjet, bubble jet,
Modem (internal, external, speed)
Can you set up a fax or voice mail on the modem?
Is there a toll-free technical support phone number?
What cables are needed to set up the system?
Additional accessories that might be useful, e.g.,
storage cases, furniture, extra cabling, anti-glare screen for
Look for a computer with a warranty that covers
manufacturing defects and other problems. Make sure you understand exactly what
is covered under the warranty. Most new computers are covered for a year, and
some warranties include on-site maintenance.
Many retailers offer extended service agreements
which, in essence, lengthen the warranty. Whether or not you purchase an
extended service plan is up to you. Find out what is covered and weigh the
price of the warranty against the price of potential repairs.
YOUR COMPUTER IS AN
EXPENSIVE PIECE OF EQUIPMENT,
SO PROTECT IT
FROM POWER SURGES WITH A SURGE
PROTECTOR . .
Your computer is an expensive piece of equipment, so
protect it from power surges with a surge protector. A surge protector will
blow a fuse if it gets hit by a rush of electricity, thus protecting your
computer. If you're using a modem, be sure to get a surge protector with a
telephone jack included. Don't expect your surge protector to safeguard your
computer against a direct lightning strike. The only sure protection against
lightning strikes is to unplug your computer and modem during a thunderstorm.
The best way to safeguard the data on your computer
(including software) is to back it up onto a disk. If your hard disk fails, at
least it won't take all your software and information with it-as long as you've
backed them up. Make periodic copies of the information on the hard disk. It's
also important to protect your data from viruses. Anytime you use a disk to
install a new program, copy files or download a file from the Internet, you are
susceptible to a computer virus. It's a good idea to install a virus protection
software program on your computer that will review each new file and check for
THE BEST WAY TO
SAFEGUARD THE DATA ON
YOUR COMPUTER IS TO
BACK IT UP ONTO A DISK . .
Learning to Use What You Purchased
There's no substitute for sitting down at the
keyboard and trying out your new purchase. But be sure to check out
introductory computer classes offered through computer stores, colleges,
libraries and continuing education programs. Many software programs also offer
tutorials which will help explain their specific features and uses.
WITH A NEW COMPUTER YOU
WILL FOREVER BE
EXPANDING YOUR MENTAL REACH
You may surprise yourself at how quickly your
computer knowledge can grow. Very soon you may be streamlining your financial
records, writing long letters, communicating through e-mail and helping other
new computer users. Perhaps a computer will lead to a second career-or maybe
your first, a sideline business, a hobby, or a computer club membership. Not
only can your computer open all of these possibilities to you, but you will
forever be expanding your mental reach.
source:Federal Citzens Information Center
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Parents Guide to Buying Computers