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The Basics of Buying A Basic Computer | Arvig Learning Center Guides Skip to main content

By November 14, 2022February 29th, 2024Learning Center Guides6 min read
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The Basics of Buying a Basic Computer

Everything you need to know about your next (or first!) computer purchase
Your family has been hounding you for years to get a computer. You’ve been putting them off saying, “What would I use a computer for?” Well, over the past couple of years, how we communicate, do business, and even attend events has changed. Now, you find yourself missing out on all sorts of opportunities. No longer. You resolve this is the year you buy a computer!

With so many gadgets and gizmos available today, the buying process can be intimidating, even for the most tech savvy users. The good news is, however, for a few hundred dollars, you can pick up an affordable and highly capable computer that can be useful for five to seven years or more. (Or even longer with the right maintenance, upgrades and care.)

Now, you find yourself wondering where to begin. Below are our suggestions for basic home and business setups, followed by a glossary of terms to help you wade through some of the technical terms you will encounter.

Basic Home Use
Desktop or Laptop
Good for general web surfing, online services such as banking, email, printing and more.

  • Windows 11 Home (not S mode)
  • Intel Core i3 or better processor (CPU) or equivalent
  • 8GB RAM (memory)
  • 250GB minimum SSD or HDD (storage)

Basic Business Use
Desktop or Laptop
Good for most web-based software, office productivity software, general browsing and more.
We recommend you also review the specs of any business software you use frequently as they may have minimum requirements.

  • Windows 11 Professional
  • Intel Core i5 or better processor (CPU) or equivalent (Intel preferred)
  • 16GB RAM (memory)
  • 500GB minimum SSD or HDD (storage)

GLOSSARY:
A dozen good terms to know when shopping for a new computer.

CPU: Central Processing Unit. AKA the processor. This is the brain, the electronic circuitry, of your computer that allows all the other device components to function. In general, it is a chip. The CPU is composed of two or more cores.

Core: Think of a core like a cylinder in a car engine. Most laptops on the market have dual-core processors which are able to meet the needs of everyday users. Meanwhile, some users need quad-core processors which can improve the computer’s performance. Most CPUs have between two and 64 cores. There are two CPU manufacturers: AMD and Intel. For basic web browsing tasks, an Intel Core i3 is a good choice.

Desktop Computer: Also referred to as a “PC”, or personal computer. Components include a tower connected to a monitor (screen) and other accessories: keyboard and mouse. The tower and monitor must always be plugged into an electrical outlet and attached to each other, but the other accessories may be wireless or battery powered.

GB: Gigabyte. A million bytes. Unit of measurement of data storage for computers and other digital devices.

GHz: Gigahertz or clock speed. This denotes how many calculations a CPU can make each second. For instance, a clock speed of 3GHz is 3 billion cycles per second. Or, think of it as 3 billion instructions the CPU can handle per second. A clock speed of 2GHz is plenty for a basic home computer.

HDD: Hard Disk Drive. An internal storage drive which retains the stored data even when there is no power to the device. If you opened up the computer as it was saving or reading data, you’d see a spinning metal disk. HDD storage technology has been around much longer than SSD storage technology and is proven to be most reliable for long-term storage. Devices with an HDD are typically less expensive.

Laptop: A portable computer with a screen and attached keyboard. Easy to move around from room to room, especially with WiFi internet. Battery life for some now lasts more than 14 hours. You may also connect a bigger screen and a new hard drive without a lot of hassle.

macOS: Operating system created by Apple. Comes preloaded on all Macintosh computers, or Macs.

OS: Operating System. A software program preloaded into a computer or device to manage hardware and software applications on a computer. Every computer requires an OS to coordinate accessing the computer’s CPU, memory and storage. The OS creates an interface for the machine to be able to perform common tasks. The most common computer operating systems are Windows and macOS.

RAM: Random Access Memory. A computer’s short-term memory. RAM is a temporary memory bank. It keeps data your processor is currently using easily accessible. It gets wiped clean when your computer is off. Every computing device has RAM. The amount of RAM you need depends on the apps and programs you use and how many are open at one time. 8GB of RAM is a good start for a home computer. It will give you room to add apps as you become more comfortable using your computer and discovering the things it can do. For business use, 16GB of RAM is suggested.

Screen Size: The diagonal measurement from the bottom-left corner to the top-right corner. 27″ is a basic option for a desktop. For a laptop, a smaller screen like 13″ means the laptop will be lighter. However, a bigger screen like 17″ means images and text will be larger.

SSD: Solid State Drive. An internal storage drive which retains the stored data even when there is no power to the device. SSD technology is the latest in storage technology vs. HDD storage. The SSD has no moving parts but using integrated circuits, it instantly stores and accesses data. SSD technology transfers large amounts of data fast and uses less power. Computers with SSD storage come in smaller sizes and may be more expensive.

Windows: Microsoft’s operating system preloaded on most desktop computers and laptops used for work or home.

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