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Are you baffled by computer technology and technology? Intimidated by computer salespeople who grimace or grin when you say “gizmo?” Buying a Computer For Dummies 2005 Edition gives you the ABCs of buying a computer. You don’t have to be able to talk tech; you just have to know what you want and how to get it. This guide turns evaluating the mind-boggling ...
Are you baffled by computer technology and technology? Intimidated by computer salespeople who grimace or grin when you say “gizmo?” Buying a Computer For Dummies 2005 Edition gives you the ABCs of buying a computer. You don’t have to be able to talk tech; you just have to know what you want and how to get it. This guide turns evaluating the mind-boggling options into a simple five-step process, complete with software and hardware worksheets to help you pick a computer just for you. You’ll discover how to:
Written by Dan Gookin, the author of DOS for Dummies, the bestseller that spawned the entire line of For Dummies books, plus many other For Dummies big sellers, Buying a Computer For Dummies is updated to incorporate the latest technologies. It covers processor upgrades, flat panel displays, new peripherals, laptops, tablet PCs, wireless systems, and more. You’ll find information on:
It also arms you with important questions to ask a dealer and warning signs to look for in ads or sales pitches. Whether you are buying your very first computer, considering upgrading your current system, or replacing a system that’s outdated by today’s standards, this guide gets you past the jargon and into the wise buying mode. ASAP. PDQ.
Oh, and it also tells you what all of the acronyms at the top stand for!
Part I: Understanding the Whole Ordeal.
Chapter 0: Some Questions to Get Out of the Way.
Chapter 1: Buying a Computer (Step-by-Step).
Chapter 2: The Nerd’s-Eye View.
Chapter 3: Computers from A to Z.
Chapter 4: Introduction to Hardware and Software.
Part II: Hardware and Software Overview.
Chapter 5: All about Mr. Microprocessor.
Chapter 6: Memory Stuff (Temporary Storage).
Chapter 7: Disks of Every Type (Permanent Storage).
Chapter 8: Monitor and Graphics Stuff.
Chapter 9: Keyboard, Mouse, and Gamepad.
Chapter 10: Expansion Options.
Chapter 11: Modems and Sound.
Chapter 12: Networking Your Computer.
Chapter 13: Scanners and Digital Cameras.
Chapter 14: Special Issues for Notebook and Laptop Computers.
Chapter 15: Your Computer’s Operating System.
Chapter 16 Everything You Wanted to Know about Software (But Were Afraid to Ask).
Part III: Finding Your Perfect Computer.
Chapter 17: Shopping for Software.
Chapter 18: Matching Hardware to Your Software.
Chapter 19: Surveying the Shopping Landscape.
Chapter 20:0 Tips for Online Shopping.
Chapter 21: Searching for Service and Support.
Chapter 22: Buying the Computer.
Part IV: Living with Your Computer.
Chapter 23: Helpful Hints for Computer Setup.
Chapter 24: Time to Get a Printer.
Chapter 25: From the Old Computer to the New One.
Chapter 26: Selecting an ISP.
Chapter 27: When to Buy, When to Sell, When to Upgrade.
Part V: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 28: Ten Common Mistakes Made by First-Time Computer Buyers.
Chapter 29: Ten Warning Signs.
Chapter 30: Ten Other Things You Should Buy.
Chapter 31: Ten Tips and Suggestions.
In This Chapter
* The five steps to buying a computer
* Step 1: Decide what you want the computer to do
* Step 2: Find software to get that job done
* Step 3: Find hardware to make the software go
* Step 4: Shop for service and support
* Step 5: Buy that computer!
Whether you're just walking through the door of the computer age or angrily returning to the store to purchase your sixth system this year, there are definitely good ways and bad ways to buy computers. This chapter shows you the good ways.
Relax - You Have Nothing to Fear
It's easy to understand why buying a computer can be a scary thing. It's a big investment. Not only that, but lots of scary terms and frightening technology are involved. Are you getting the right thing? Is the salesperson baffling you with b.s.?
Unlike snakes, spiders, fire, and nearly bald guys with bad combovers, humans don't have a natural fear of technology. You have no need to worry about slipping into The Twilight Zone; no need to confirm that you're in a Fellini movie. As with buying anything, the more you know about what you're buying, the better you can make your decision.
A well-informed shopper is a smart shopper. The key to becoming a smart computer shopper is to follow the five easy steps outlined in this chapter.
The Five Steps to Buying a Computer
If you want to buy the perfect computer, the one Santa would have given you had you been good all year, you should follow these five simple steps:
1. Decide what you want the computer to do.
When you know what you want to do with the computer, the rest of the steps fall neatly into place. That's because the computer is a device that can do many, many things; you have more reasons to buy a computer than could possibly be listed by a computer! Getting a good idea of what you need the computer for - e-mail, digital photography, music, video, writing, education, or entertainment, for example - is that vital first step.
2. Find the software that can get you the result you want.
It's the software that does the work.
3. Find the hardware to run your software.
Most people confuse this step with Step 2, finding software. Despite all the advertising out there, software is really more important; the hardware merely obeys the software. To put it another way, you don't buy a home gym to own all that fancy metal and those pulleys and cushions. No, you buy a home gym to get into shape. You buy an oboe to play oboe music, not because it makes a unique vase. Likewise, you buy a computer to run software. Therefore, the software is more important, and you should look for it first. (I tell you more on this topic in Chapter 4.)
4. Shop for service and support.
This step is the most important one - more important than knowing whether to push or pull the computer store's front door. Too many shoppers overlook service and support and regret it later. I rant about this subject at length later in this chapter.
5. Buy that computer!
Although this statement seems obvious, I know lots of folks who put off the purchase, holding out for a better deal or newer technology that's just "moments away." Bah! When you're ready to buy, buy. 'Nuff said.
I use these steps myself and have touted them for years. They work. Especially when you're buying something high-ticket like a computer, you don't want to make a simple mistake.
Step 1: Figure out what you want to do with your computer
Believe it or not, knowing what you want to do with the computer before you buy it is really helpful. Even if your only reason for buying one is that it would match the décor of your high-tech office, that's a good enough reason. Other folks, though, usually have some inkling in mind about why the Emperor of All Gadgets would be useful to them.
The first step toward buying your own computer is to decide what you want to do with it. As with other handy devices you own - a telephone, a car, a refrigerator, and that lava lamp - you need a reason to have a computer. Well? What do you see yourself doing on a computer?
Step 2: Look for software
After you know what you want the computer to do, you go out and look for software to get the job done. Software refers to those computer programs that make the computer behave in a certain way. The programs are also called applications in that they apply the computer's power to help you accomplish some task.
You need to visit some software stores to hunt down the software to make your computer do what you need it to do. Or, if you already have a computer, you can browse the software selection on the Internet and visit online software stores as well as the developers who make the software. Finally, you can ask around and see what kinds of software your friends use or what your accountant recommends or what that brilliant 14-year-old Chess Club genius down the block thinks you need. Advice is good!
When you have found the software you need, take notes. Each software package has its hardware requirements listed right on the box - like the nutritional contents on a box of cereal. Write that information down, using a form similar to the one shown in Figure 1-1.
Chapter 17 shows you how to fill out the form. That's your ticket for the next step: Buy hardware to run your software.
Step 3: Find hardware
After reviewing your software lineup, your next step is to match the software's requirements with a suitable computer. The idea is to find the hardware that can run your software. The software knows what it needs (it's on the side of the box), and you have collected all that information on the Software Worksheet, so this next step is simple: Fill the order.
Figure 1-2 shows a sample of this book's Hardware Worksheet. The information you find there may look intimidating now, but after you do your software research, filling in the worksheet is a snap.
Thanks to the worksheet, you know exactly what type of computer hardware you need. You're never steered to the wrong machine.
Don't buy anything yet!
Step 4: Shop for service and support
Crazy Omar and Discount Dave may have deals on computers, and you can pick up a computer at the massive warehouse or membership store along with a six-month supply of pop and a vat of peanut butter - but what kind of support do those places offer? Especially if you're a first-time buyer, there's no substitute for after-sale support. The support consideration far outweighs getting a deal or finding the cheapest computer in the land.
Step 5: Buy your computer
When you're ready to buy your computer, buy it. You know what you need the computer for, you know what software to buy, you know what hardware to buy, and you have found a proper dealer with service and support. So, buy it!
The buying process is covered in Part III of this book.
Don't Sit Around Waiting to Buy!
It's only natural to hesitate a bit before buying a new computer. In fact, Step 5 (buying your computer) is the hardest of all the steps.
Money isn't the main thing that keeps people from finally buying a new computer. No, it's the rapid advancement of technology that instills hesitation. Computer technology speeds forward like a rocket sled on a frozen lake. A computer you buy today is guaranteed to be obsolete in three years, a dinosaur in five years, and nearly useless in ten. People see this situation as a warning: Don't buy today's computer; wait for the next generation!
Although it's true that the next generation of computers will be better, faster, and probably less expensive, it's also true that waiting ... gets you nowhere. It's like not catching a bus because you assume that the next bus will have fewer people on it or be cleaner. That may be the case, but while you're waiting, you're going nowhere.
The bottom line is when you're ready to buy, buy.
Have a little class
I don't steer any of my friends to a local computer store unless it has a classroom attached. It's wonderful to know that a store is so dedicated to happy users that it devotes floor space to a classroom.
Some people take classes before they buy their computers. I recommend buying the computer first and taking the classes afterward. That way, you have something to go home and practice on. Also, with the computer in your possession, you know specifically which questions to ask. (If you have already attended this type of class, you know that new computer owners ask more detailed and useful questions.)
I would like to tell you that lousy computer dealers don't exist, but they do. Even big businesses and longtime computer gurus get snagged into computer-buying tricks and traps. Here are my best tips and advice to avoid common computer-buying scams:
Excerpted from Buying a Computer For Dummies by Dan Gookin Excerpted by permission.
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