My First Computer ::

Whether you've used computers before, or if you've so far been able to manage with just a pen and paper, and feel it's time to move on, deciding on what computer to get can be a daunting task.

The first step on the road to buying your first computer is getting to grips with the lingo.

If you don't know your hard drive from your elbow then the Beginner's Guide will help clue you up.

If you are familiar with the computer jargon and what makes up a PC then you need to decide what you need, and how much of it.

Choose what you need:

Small system
For: the writer, the silver surfer and the keen student

Mouse/keyboard
Processing power: Celeron 366MHz or equivalent
Memory: 32Mb
Hard disk: 4.3Gb
CD-Rom: 30x
Graphics: Standard 3D card
Monitor: 14inch
Modem: V.90 (56K)
Software: Windows 98
Printer: colour inkjet (often bundled)

Video editing
For: the budding film director

Mouse/keyboard
Processing power: Pentium III 600MHz or equivalent
Memory: 128Mb
Hard disk: 20Gb
DVD-Rom: 5x
Graphics: 16Mb high resolution 3D card with video input
Sound: stereo sound card and speaker system
Monitor: 17inch
Modem: V.90 (56K)
Software: Windows 98/video editing suite.
Optional extras: home VCR/ printer/back-up storage system

Games system
For: the kids of any age who play games

Mouse/keyboard/joystick/steering wheel as required
Processing power: Pentium III 500MHz or equivalent
Memory: 128Mb
Hard disk: 13Gb
DVD-Rom: 5x
Graphics: 16Mb high resolution 3D card
Sound: stereo sound card and speaker system
Monitor: 15inch
Modem: V.90 (56K)
Software: Windows 98 

Standard system
For: the home worker, the artist and the geek

Mouse/keyboard
Processing power: Pentium III 400MHz or equivalent
Memory: 64Mb
Hard disk: 10Gb
DVD-Rom: 5x
Graphics: 8Mb high resolution 3D card
Monitor: 15inch
Modem: V.90 (56K)
Software: Windows 98/Office suite/ accounts suite/graphic arts suite
Printer: colour inkjet 600dpi (often bundled)
Scanner: 1200 dpi flatbed
Optional peripherals: Digital camera/back-up storage system/pen tablet or trackball 

Buying Second hand:

If you have decided to buy a computer, yet all you really want to do is to send e-mails and write letters, one solution is to buy second hand, even though it doesn't offer all the whistles and bells of a brand new machine. Most of the time, this means buying off some dodgy geezer who's selling his computer because it's on the way out and has a hard drive full of pirated software.

But one company, Computer Resale, based in Welwyn Garden City, hopes to change that perception by offering reconditioned ex-corporate computers for a very affordable price, which are ideal for the occasional user or student.

These machines, discarded by companies upgrading, benefit from having been run in and Computer Resale offers a 12-month warranty on all the parts. All the machines are stringently tested, cleaned and all data wiped.

Warrantees:

One of the most misunderstood aspects of buying a personal computer revolves around the thorny issue of warranties and technical support for the product once it has been purchased. There are a number of alternatives and not all of them may be right for your needs.

Most computer retailers and high street electrical stores offer extended warranties, extending the manufacturer's warranty with their own, often converting a one year warranty to three years. These seem enticing but are generally not very good value for money. Check to see if you can get a cheaper deal or arrange for a third party to undertake long term maintenance for an annual fee.

Some retailers and manufacturers offer an on-site warranty where they will visit your home and try to repair the fault there. Check exactly what is covered under the terms of the warranty, to ensure that all of the main parts of the system are included. Some of the larger peripheral manufacturers include this type of guarantee on their products as standard.

Many high street computer retailers provide telephone support for new PCs and software, but it often covers only basic operating software, and even then there will often be hidden telephone charges for making the call. Some resellers have been known to charge more than 1 a minute. Beware of extortionate premium rate phone number charges in the small print. Be aware also that there are limitations to what can be done over the telephone. Often a computer problem will require some sort of hands-on support which will need expert attention.

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