Click Here July 2004: Buying a Computer

“Click Here” column for the July 2004 Panther

Click Here by Lee C. Sonko, Computer Consultant

Before I get to this month’s topic, Buying a Computer, there are some announcements.

Get on the List
If you have a computer and live in The Valley, you should sign up for the Announcements e-mail mailing list. Just go to the PVPOA.com web site (username: pvpoa, password: pvpoa) and you’ll see a link to sign up.

When you sign up, you’ll receive occasional timely notices that we couldn’t otherwise send to everyone in The Valley. You’ll hear about important local events like water main breaks, pool closings and lost pets. Don’t worry if you don’t have electronic mail; This new mailing list isn’t a replacement for any of the current ways that we communicate with residents, but a welcomed addition. The mailing list lets us send you notices that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to you because they are too timely to appear in our monthly publication.

Local Calendar
We’ve been maintaining a calendar of Panther Valley events on our website for a few months now. It’s proving itself to be quite useful.

If you have a Panther Valley event that should go on the Calendar, email your listing to webmaster@pvpoa.com. We cannot guarantee when or even if your event will be posted, but of course we’ll do our best!

Read the Panther Online
You can read the current and previous editions of The Panther on our web site. Check it out at PVPOA.com!

Buying a New Computer
First, if your computer used to run well but it’s now running really slow, or it keeps beeping and complaining that there is a problem, you probably don’t need a new computer. If the computer was bought in the last 5 years or so, often you can repair the old machine. These kinds of problems usually don’t occur because the physical parts of the computer have worn out. Usually, something (often very fixable) has gone wrong with the software. You might try consulting a local computer expert. The problem might be easy to fix.

The most bothersome part about getting a new computer is transferring all of your programs and data from the old computer to the new one. If you didn’t save all of the CDs that the computer came with, this could grow to be quite a project. It’s important to note that you can’t just move a program from one computer to another as if you were moving a text document. You need those original disks! Moving to a new computer can take several hours of work depending on what you saved on it.

Let’s say that it’s really time to get a new computer.

How fast a computer is (how many megahertz) isn’t important for most new computer buyers today. If you’ll be using it to access the internet and send email, you’ll be happy with a computer running at 700 megahertz (MHz) or faster. That’s what I have. The slowest new computer you can buy today is about 2.4 gigahertz, or 2,400 megahertz! You’ll want to spend money on a fast computer only if you play those new 3-D graphics games or have a very specific need. If you play games, you’ll also want a really good graphics card, but that is a topic for next month.

To make your computer faster, how much memory you have is much more important than how fast the processor is. Most computers come by default with only 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM. I strongly recommend that any new computer have 256 or 384 MB. Dollar for dollar, this upgrade will go a lot further toward making your computer faster! Even an older computer can often be upgraded to a more useful state. Several clients have told me that they changed their mind about spending money on a new computer after seeing how much faster their computer ran with a memory upgrade. The best part about memory is that it’s getting cheaper every day. Before you run out to Circuit City and buy memory, check with the computer manufacturer or a vendor for the correct memory to get. There are many different types of memory and they all look very similar.. I don’t have space here to tell you how to upgrade memory yourself. It’s not terribly difficult but if you haven’t done it before, you should ask a knowledgeable friend for help.

Which is better, Mac or PC? Coke or Pepsi? McDonalds or Burger King? Both work well! Both have their devotees. Linux also has a following but it’s still an “experts only” operating system. What kind of computers do your friends and family use? Go hang out at an Apple store for 30 minutes and then a PC store; which has a vibe that you are more comfortable with? I’ve got to say that I (a PC and Linux guy) found the Apple Store in the Short Hills Mall to have a pretty darn good vibe.

In next month’s column, I’ll finish talking about buying a computer. I’ll talk about the different computer makers, hard drive sizes, bus speed, graphics cards, accessories, and the do’s and don’t of buying a used computer.

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