Computer Specs

If you have never bought a computer before you may be wondering what all this CPU, RAM, ROM, 24X, 128MB, etc. jargon is about. Fear not, these letters and numbers all add up. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the numbers, the better the quality. If there are any specific programs that you know you want to run, such as a digital imaging or gaming programs, you will want to verify that the system you want to buy meets those requirements.

Processor Speed

* This is the measure of how quickly the CPU (central processing unit, aka the microprocessor) runs; sometimes referred to as clock speed. * Measured in Gigahertz (GHz). A decent desktop will start at around 2.0GHz, but at least make sure to get something with a minimum of 1.5GHz. * The CPU is like the brain of the computer. If you want the machine to think quickly, you need to have a fast processor or clock speed. * The speed of the CPU is how fast the CPU can access and process information, which translates to how fast you can work on your computer.

Processor Make and Model

* If you have shopped around at all for a computer you will have seen things such as this: Duron. Certain makes are designed to be faster than others, but don't worry about their names, just go for the highest speed processor. * There are significant differences between the two major manufacturers, Intel and AMD. Visit CNet to read about the "prizefight" between Intel and AMD.


*Hard Drive * The CD/DVD Drives * CD/DVD drives have pretty much replaced floppy drives for data transfer, plus they are essential to burning CDs and watching DVDs. * If you plan to burn anything, check for an integrated DVD/CDRW drive. * Some offer CD burners only (CDRW plus the ability to watch DVDs. * If you opt for a budget model, you may eventually want to invest in an sound card that is up to snuff. However, sound cards are fairly easy to upgrade. * Remember that a sound card is only as good as the speakers.

Graphics Card

* Important if you are planning to game a lot or do graphics work on your computer. Many highcards'>graphics cards, such as the ATI Radeon or the Nvidia GeForce models. * Higher processor speeds are needed, as is more memory. * Always check for system requirements and compatibility between programs/games that you plan to use before buying a computer.


* When you look at a particular model and make of computer it is not always clear what Software packages will come included with the price. When in doubt, ask. * Most often software bundles come at an extra cost, such as those for managing finances, editing images and even doing word processing. ** Also, there are many products that manufacturers will say come included, however, they are often only trial editions.