Your child has finally reached the point of needing their own computer. Whether it be for college or home use, it is time to decide what is best and what they really need. With all the options available, sometimes parents have a hard time truly finding what is best. A little research can go a long way in the computer shopping process. The first rule of thumb: do NOT be afraid to ask questions.
How to choose the best brand?
Obviously, cost is going to be a factor for most people. Do not always go for the cheapest offer, however. Go to places like Yahoo Answers and search for best computer brand or something similar. This will give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Going to your local computer stores such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and even Wal-Mart and asking what their most popular models are, will help immensely.
Normally, the best brand will be the best value for the money. Even though you may find an Acer for $399, can it stand up to a similar Dell for $499? With a little research on my own, I found that the answer is no. The life is actually shorter on the cheaper brand. The higher priced Dell also offered more options.
What programs will I need?
This largely depends on exactly why you are buying this for your child or teen. For most, you will need some type of word processing suite like Microsoft’s Office XP or 2003, which are the most compatible with your child’s school. They can also use the free Linux version called Open Office, which can be downloaded by searching the internet.
The other applications your child will want are some type of music burning application and a media player. All Windows computers come standard with Windows Media Player, which will work perfectly with your child’s music and videos. Any computer purchased new with a CD or DVD burner will come with the appropriate software.
Otherwise, you will need some type of anti-virus and spyware protection. Many free programs are available such as AVG Free Edition, Microsoft’s Anti-Spyware Beta, and Adaware. Most computers will come with a trial version of Norton or McAfee Anti-Virus, which will cost you to upgrade each year. Both the free and pay versions offer regular updates and protect equally for the normal user. Business users may want a little bit more protection.
Understanding the hardware doesn’t have to be complicated.
First of all, RAM, or memory, is crucial. With computers running anything after Microsoft Windows 2000, it is best to purchase a computer with at least 1 GB of memory. This will sometimes be shown as 1,024 KB. This will allow multiple applications to run with ease, especially with newer computers.
The larger the hard drive, the better. Most teens will want, but may not necessarily need 100 GB or more. Since file sizes are increasing, try to go for no less than 80 GB on a newer computer.
Any computer your purchase should have a 56 Kbps modem, which will fit your normal phone line, and an Ethernet connection for connecting to most all regular networks. The modem is for dial-up connections. Wireless is also a plus. With colleges incorporating wireless into their campuses, fitting your teen with wireless can allow them to connect anywhere on campus.
These are the main things to look for in the hardware. Looking into battery life and processor speed is also important. Obviously, the longer the life, the better the battery is. Most computers are coming with Duo-Core processors. For the average use, anything equal to an Intel Pentium III or IV or better will be all you need.
How to choose an operating system
The most popular and widely used operating system is currently Windows XP. There are several versions, however. Windows XP Professional is the better option, but many users are just as content with the Home edition. Windows Vista is the new bad boy on the market, but still has quite a few bugs. Many applications have not been able to develop drivers and some hardware cannot be upgraded to work with this operating system.
Over time, Vista will become just as good as XP. However, many parents will find it difficult to find computers with anything but Vista. Going to places like Dell, HP, or Gateway online will allow you to customize your computer, including the operating system. To allow for the best compatibility, choose some version of Windows XP.
In a nutshell, go for the best combination of the above.
By using the guideline above, you should be able to choose the best computer for your child. Talk to them to see what they want and need. Be sure to distinguish between want and need. Also, check with their school or college to see if they have any particular requirements.
Good luck and have fun shopping for your child’s computer or maybe even purchasing one for yourself.