Which Pc is right for you

The ideal computer does not exist. It all boils down quite simple to balancing costs against the features you get. Obviously, the more you pay the more features you get, but are these features the ones that you need? Hopefully, this page, together with our deciding what you want page, will help you figure out what exactly you need in your computer.

There is no easy way around it. You will have to familiarise yourself with some computer basics. You will need to be acquainted with terms like RAM, hard disk and video cards. Knowledge is what differentiates the novice who walks into Dixons and lets a trainee salesman sell him the highest margin computer, from the savvy buyer who knows exactly what he wants and is therefore in a superior position to shop around and get the best deals.

For the purpose of this page we'll assume that you are not necessarily looking at a new computer. This presumption will let us cover facts relating to both new and second user PCs.

Don't buy a PC older than a 486 (like a 386 or a 286). As you can get 486's from as little as 2000/- it doesn't make sense to go for anything cheaper.

Ensure that your computer has at least 32 MB of RAM if you want to run Windows 95 or Windows 98.

Some cautions to observe:

Check the computer thoroughly. Play an audio CD, dial out using the modem, try the monitor on different resolutions and different colour and refresh rate settings, try reading and writing from the floppy drive, shut down and start up the computer a few times, run a text and a graphics file through the printer, run a full surface scan on the hard disk if time permits, go into the bios and run an autodetect on IDE devices to ensure that the hard disk is the size you think it is, check that all passwords have been erased (use delete on booting up to go into Setup),

Make sure you get all driver disks with the computer. If any of these devices are in your computer you will need drivers for them: Soundcard, CD drive, graphics (every computer has this), modem, SCSI card, other cards, and external devices like printers and scanners. Make sure also that you have not just DOS drivers but drivers for the Windows 95 or Windows 98 that you intend running on that computer.

Ensure that you have a clean hard disk. You want to erase any software or user files that the previous owner had on it.

Get a copy of every piece of software sold you with the computer. Programs installed on the machine will be of no use to you if you have to re-format the hard disk and start from scratch (this does happen with PCs). Make sure you are given the CD or floppy disks with the programs on them, including the operating system (Windows 3.x, 95 or 98).

If you can format the hard disk and re-load the operating system, do it. Or get a friend to do it for you.

Ask to see the original purchase receipts and get a copy if possible. Get the warranty transferred if the computer is still under warranty. (Call the manufacturers and they'll usually be able to confirm if it is still under warranty). Ask them if the warranty can be transferred to your name. Check that the warranty seals on the computer are intact.

Get the original packing if it is available. You may need it later.

For Notebooks/laptops: Ensure you have the charger, test any additional batteries offered with the machine, test the PCMCIA slots.

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