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Select school computers that fit students' needs
Many students are buying more than just pencils, scissors and glue as they prepare for the school year ahead. Families are finding that a computer is a necessary item that often does not make it on the traditional back-to-school supply list. More and more, students need computers to research school projects, participate in online learning modules, dissect frogs in virtual reality labs, and practice Spanish with language pals halfway around the world.
Buying a computer can be a daunting task, but there are several key questions to keep in mind when shopping for a computer. The first question prospective buyers should ask themselves is who will be using the computer and for what purpose? Computers for checking e-mail need significantly less memory and hard drive space than do computers for playing games. Before buying a computer for a college-bound student, contact the prospective college department and ask if they have any special requirements for student computers. Many communication, engineering and art programs require specific hardware.
“Hardware specifications” is a technical term that refers to the computer’s ability to perform. For example, if a computer comes equipped with a 500 GB (gigabyte) hard drive, the computer can store about 128,000 (4 MB high resolution) images. Most computers on the market today come with at least a 500 GB hard drive. A 500 GB hard drive is fine for the everyday user. The next size up is 1000 GB, or, as it is also known, 1 TB (terabyte). Many manufacturers are choosing to market their computers with 1000 GB rather than 1 TB because 1000 GB makes the consumer think they are getting more.
Manufacturers will try to save money or reduce the cost of the computer by lowering the amount of memory. Memory, or RAM (Random Access Memory), as it is also called, is a key determinant to how fast the computer retrieves and processes information. More RAM equals a faster computer. Most computers on the market today come equipped with 6 GB of memory.
There are three basic types of computers: desktop, laptop and netbook. A netbook is only appropriate for checking e-mail and running one or two programs at a time. The biggest difference between a laptop and a desktop is that the desktop is easier to work on if it needs repairs, and it is stationary, thus making it more durable. A laptop is best for portability.
A good rule of thumb is to purchase as much hard drive and memory as you can afford. However, hard drive and memory will be of little value if you fail to adequately maintain your computer and avoid viruses and malware.
If you are looking to save money on your computer purchase, make sure to buy your computer around the fall when students are headed back to school or around Christmas. Additionally, you can often save 10 percent to 15 percent on the purchase by checking the company’s website, Facebook and Twitter account for special deals. Another place to look for computer deals is at http://www.newegg.com, as they usually post the top computer deals of the week.