This checklist we created and provide at TwinBytes to all our customers requesting a new computer. We update the list as things change over time. Use this as a guideline to help you make sure you don’t forget a certain feature you might need in your new computer and avoid costly surprises having to go through a sometimes painful return process. If you’re not sure what this all means, just ask the person you are getting a quote from. If you need help with a lengthy list for compatibility; consultation charges may apply.
- Notebook or Desktop? Notebooks(Laptops) are more prone to being dropped, lost, stolen and overheat. Desktops have more expandability and are solid work horse computers. Points through to #6 are focused on notebooks but can apply to desktops too.
- Screen size: Bigger is better. More space to work with. If you are looking at a notebook, a larger screen is easier to read, but it’s also heavier to carry around.
- Finger print reader? Web cam? If you need it, make sure it comes with it. Finger print readers are good for security instead of remembering a complicated password. Web cams are good for video conference calls for business or just a personal Skype call to a friend.
- Keyboard: Standard keyboards here are U.S. English but you may find French/Bilingual which looks different. There is no Canadian. Number Pads on notebooks shift keyboard to left and so your keyboard will not be centered which annoys some people, but if you want the number pad, that’s the way it is.
- Mouse: With notebooks, a touchpad can get in the way when typing and cause the mouse to jump. Maybe you prefer a laptop with a TrackPoint (Little dot in middle of keyboard)? Regardless, you can always connect a USB or Wireless mouse.
- DVD / Blu-ray: CDs and DVD are not standard on laptops 14″ or less. Blu-ray is expensive and not standard on any notebook or desktop(tower). Unless you have the need to play Blu-ray movies or burn stuff to disk larger than 8.5GB, you don’t need Blu-ray, save your money.
- Custom Built Desktop versus Store bought brand name. Store bought is typically cheaper where we can’t touch their prices. However if you look closely at the value, and that is important to you, we custom build to your needs including all disks, warranty papers, etc. We don’t put crapware on the computer, you don’t need to ship the computer out for a week for warranty repairs. We don’t push extended warranties as most of the time they don’t apply or not needed. A store bought computer does not give you this. Not to mention, the limited availability of the operating system of your choice. (ie. Windows 7 vs 8 vs 10)
- Processor: Gamers and programs requiring complex calculations, go for the Intel i7, otherwise, Intel i5 is all you need. You wouldn’t notice the speed difference with Intel i7 doing basic tasks unless it’s for gaming or high end processing functions. Please note that with each CPU you could get DualCore or QuadCore. QuadCore is much better for multi-processing, but alot more expensive too.
- Memory: 4GB is bare minimum with 8GB the standard minimum. Your computer will always take full advantage of any extra memory you have. The more RAM you have, the less time the CPU has to go back and forth between RAM and hard drive. 16GB is great for the average person but you might need more depending on what you use the computer for.
- Hard drive: 500GB is the smallest size you can buy. 1TB (Terabyte) is standard now and you can go bigger. How much space do you need? Also, how important is the space versus the speed of your computer? For an extra small fortune you can get an SSD (Solid State Drive) which has claims of being 100x faster than a standard drive depending on the operation at that time. Currently a 240GB SSD goes for about the same price of a 1TB(1,000GB) regular drive. A 500GB SSD is at least double that price.
- Internal card reader: For reading memory cards from Cameras and Blackberrys, iPODs, etc.
- Video card: Built in is acceptable unless you’re a gamer/graphics designer. Is VGA quality good enough? A DVI port is better or HDMI which is the best.
- Wireless: Do you need wireless or cabled network / Internet? Laptops all come with wireless now and some desktops do, but if it’s a desktop, be sure to request a wireless card.
- USB Ports: How many do you need? Count the devices you use now that are USB and add a bit more for growth. You can always add a USB hub later if you need more. USB 2.0 is standard and fine for keyboards, mice, and other USB 2.0 devices. USB 3.0 is faster for USB 3.0 devices such as external hard drives, flash drives, data transfer cables.
- Firewire Ports: If you don’t have any Firewire ports now or devices that require Firewire, you most likely don’t need it as USB 3.0 has basically replaced that.
- Floppy drives: Extinct. Not used anymore, switch to USB flash drives. If you really need floppy, you can get an external USB floppy.
- Parallel ports: Do you use a printer that uses the large Parallel port cable rather than USB? If your printer doesn’t have USB ability, get a new printer. If for some special reason you have ancient software that requires it, there are options, but you should look at upgrading the software in this case.
- Com ports: Do you have any devices that plug into a com port rather than a USB? Maybe time to change that device to a USB version. It’s where everything is now, and it’s faster.
- New or used? 2 months warranty with used but save a lot of money upfront, vs. 1 year warranty with brand new? Used also has older generation CPU but still fast. Used also doesn’t have as long of support life because the operating system is typically not the current version.
- List all the software programs you use and the version number you have. Are they compatible with the new operating system you will be getting on your new computer? You may need to upgrade some of your software. Also is your printer compatible?
Install and run Belarc Advisor which is free and gives you a full inventory.
- Windows 7/8/10. 64bit or 32 bit? 64 bit is faster and standard now, but not compatible with some ancient programs. Going through your list you created from point #1 in the software section, see if compatible with 64 bit Windows. 32bit is limited to 3GB RAM total.
- Windows 7 extended support ends January 14, 2020 vs. Windows 8 extended support expiring January 10, 2023. Windows 10 expires Oct 14, 2025.
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