What to Look For When Buying A New Computer
Sometimes when you talk to people who work in the computer industry, you hear buzz words like RAM, Storage, HDD etc. These terms can mean different things to different people, to some people, these are just fancy words you hear before purchasing a new computer system. When you visit the computer shops, you are presented with all these terms, as if they are part of your average vocabulary and you are supposed to know what they mean!
We have not all spent years in computer school learning about computer parts!
So, I guess the question is what is a computer? When buying a computer, what should I be looking for? What are the key parts of a computer that I need to understand, in order to buy a computer that meets my needs?
This blog will provide answers to these questions, while busting some of the most popular myths surrounding computers!
What Is In A computer?
First and foremost, a computer system is different from a monitor! Do not get them mixed up. A computer is a physical piece of intelligent hardware, capable of operating on its own. The computer monitor, on the other hand is what is referred to as a visual display unit. Most people refer to monitors as a “dumb terminal”. In a simple English, an unclever piece of item that is only able to display what a computer feeds into it.
A computer is not a sole unit and is made up of different parts, these parts are:
(A) Memory (RAM)
(C) Storage (Disk)
What is a Memory and How Do I Decide on The Right Memory for my Computer?
The memory is an essential component of a computer. A major role of the memory is to hold the information that you put into the computer.
For example, when you open Microsoft Word on your computer to create a document, you could type several words into the word document without having to save the document and then, while you are still working on the word document, open several other programs on your screen. You might even leave the computer for a bit, go and make a brew, chat with some friends and then return to the document the same way that you left it!
How is this possible? This is because your computer holds all these things in memory for you! Every program you have opened, is opened in the computer memory.
Hence the bigger the memory space you have in a computer, the more you are able to open various programs with ease. If you do not have a lot of memory space in your computer, the computer tends to slow down when you have too many programs open at once. This is why your IT Engineer will first suggest you close all opened programs when you complain of slow computer.
In the IT world, computer memories are referred to as RAM. This means Random Access Memories. In most modern computers, they are measured in gigabit (Gb).
Typically, a new computer will come with 4Gb of RAM. If you are comparing between 2 computers with the same price, it makes sense to buy the one with 8Gb of RAM instead of the one with 4Gb for the obvious reason of its good to have more memory space.
What is a Computer Processor and How Many Processors Do I need in a Computer?
The processor is another clever component of a computer. This is like the brain of the machine, the computer uses this for the “computation”, which is basically, calculations.
All the various tasks you carry out on a computer are called processes. The processor enables the computer to handle several processes at the same time. You have your computer clock in the corner of your screen, it ensures the time is synced and correct. At the same time, you could run an excel file with lot of calculations and permutations, while your email program is at alert checking for new emails. The processor is what allows all these tasks to run and display nicely on the screen in a controlled manner.
The processor is the tool doing all the hard work in the background and displaying accurate result to you on the screen. For example, you could open the calculator and enter the following multiplication, 56987 x 979 and you get the result on the screen instantly. That is the power of an inbuilt processor!
Just like the memory, a processor comes in different capacities. The faster the processor is, the quicker the performance of your computer.
The technology of processors has really improved compared to decades ago. Computers now comes with quad processors as a standard. Quad means that 4 unique processors are built into a single chip. So instead of having just one processor, you have 4 in the computer.
So, when you are making a choice of which computer to buy, it is better to buy the computer with 2 x Quad processors instead of the computer with 1 x Quad processor. The more processors you have, the better your computer’s performance.
What is A Computer Storage and How do I decide what to Buy?
The storage is like container or bucket of a computer. This is where you store all your various files.
When you create a document on your computer whether a letter, an essay or a nice CAD diagram, you click “save” to store it on the computer. The file you just created and saved is stored in a storage built into your computer. Many people confuse this with the RAM. The RAM only holds random files and files you are creating and have not yet saved. Once you clicked save, it is stored permanently on your computer.
When people say they lost a file on the computer, this could be because they have not yet saved the document they are working on and the computer switched off suddenly for whatever reason. However, once you have saved a document on your computer, you can then come back at a later time to either view, edit or delete the file.
The technical term for storage used to be the “Hard Disk” but is now referred to simply as a “Disk”. The larger the storage disk, the more you can fit into it.
Compared to a few years ago, storage disk prices have reduced considerably. At first, we used to buy storage in Megabytes, then we bought it in Gigabytes, and now we buy storage in Terabytes and at lower prices.
If you are buying a new computer and you have a choice of buying one advertised as 1 x Terabyte storage against 2 x Terabytes, like in the case of the processor, more is better, so you should buy the one advertised 2 × Terabytes.
There are 2 types of storage disks you can have in your computer:
(1) HDD stands for Hard Disk Drives. When you are writing and reading information from this type of storage, they are marginally slower compared to a more modern storage system like SSD.
(2) Solid State Disk (SSD) offers quicker access when writing and retrieving your data. As expected, this “quicker access” comes with a price tag. Hence SSD is far more expensive than HDD.
If price is an issue when buying, it is better to go for HDD. Another advantage to purchasing the HDD is that it offers more disk storage for your money.
Most manufacturers nowadays install 2 disks on computers; a smaller SSD for your computer system files, these are the files your computer requires to function, and HDD with its generous storage container is then added for your general day to day use. Hence you get the best of both worlds!
Computer Motherboard, Do I need to worry about this?
A motherboard as the name suggests is the “parent" which all the components in a computer attached to.
Memory, Processors and Storage Disks cannot exist without being attached to the motherboard. Each component is attached to the single board and the board works out how they all relate to each other.
As a buyer, you need not worry too much about the spec of the board. The manufacturers would have severely tested the boards to ensure optima performance.
However, you need to bear the following components in mind. If you are going to connect more devices to your computer, you need to ensure the board has more provisions for your connection. The most common items we connect to modern computers are USB and (HDMI) cables. By default, if you are not using a wireless keyboard and mouse, you are going to need at least 2 USB ports.
So, consider how many other devices you are going to connect to your computer.
You may need a USB port to charge your mobile phone or tablets. Do you have an external monitor you want to connect to your computer? You will need an HDMI port for this. You may want to buy a computer that has more of these ports to future proof your purchase.
In summary, remember that in the case of storage space, RAM and the processor, more is always better!