You should have some idea what you will be using the computer for. If you are going to play games streamed from the internet, you will need a better video card and a faster processor. If your goals are to surf the internet and maybe write a few documents, then your requirements will be much lower.
RAM is the computer memory. It stores the programs that are running. When you open a computer program, it takes the information from the hard drive, CD, internet, or electronic storage device such as a thumb drive and places the information to run that program into memory, or RAM. This is even how the operating system such as microsoft windows, linux, or apple run – all of them are stored in RAM at system start up. When the program is closed or the computer is shut down, the information in RAM (memory) is gone. When there is not enough memory, then part of the hard drive is used as a swap file (used like RAM) but it is much slower. If your computer seems slow when you have many files open, then you will likely need to add more RAM.
Video card is another specification to pat attention too especially if you intend on playing live action games, create 3-D graphics, or if you intend to use your desktop to watch DVDs. For most every day use, a lower end video card is quite adequate. If you have any doubts, go with a hire end video card. RAM and hard drives are easier to upgrade.
File Storage – Hard Drive is the most common storage. A Hard drive is what holds the files and programs until they are needed. When they are open, the file or program is temporarily stored in memory. If you are going to have a lot of computer programs or files, go with a larger hard drive. If you have a digital camera or digital video recorder and want to store a lot of pictures and video, then go with a larger hard drive. There is one caveat – if it is not a solid state drive, then it will take forever to virus scan a large drive. I had a 200gig HD in my computer and added a 500gig HD and now instead of virus scanning in 4 hours, it sometimes takes most of the day. Also, if a hard drive goes bad, you could lose more files with one larger hard drive. Many people have a 500gig (the most standard for a desktop now) and have an external hard drive as a back up or for picture / video storage.
Processors most generally used are Intel and AMD computer processors. As stated above, for 3-D graphics and gaming, a faster and better processor is needed. This is not the item to skimp on. If you are not sure, then get the faster and better processor. You will not be able to upgrade the processor if you find it is not adequate for your needs.
There are a lot of computer brands: HP (Hewlett-Packard), Acer, Toshiba, Sony. eMachine, Dell. Most can be adequate although some types of computers use odd type of RAM and it may cost a lot more to upgrade it than other types of computers. The salesperson helping you can give you advise with what brands are less trouble than others.
Most desktop computers now come with a LAN (network) card. A wireless card is easy to add if you need one. Sound cards are now standard with most computers. Make sure your computer comes with an operating system such as microsoft windows Vista or newer (or windows XP if you can get it and want it) Some computers are listed at prices too hard to believe – until you realize the small print says ‘operating system extra’ Some people that want to install Linux or that have an operating sytem they want to install, this is not a problem but it is a horrible shock / surprise to someone who wants to start working right when they get the computer plugged in.
- It is easier to upgrade RAM and hard drive size than to upgrade the video card or sound card (but both of those can be upgraded too)
- Do not skimp on processor speed – this cannot be easily upgraded
- Don’t go overboard – there will be something newer / faster / better in six months