How to Purchase and Install a
Most first-time computer
buyers have little experience with computers - in fact, many of them purchase a
computer without really knowing what they are going to do with it!
How to Purchase a PC.
- 1. Determine what application software
products you need on your computer.
- Some products run on IBM PCs,
some run only on Macintosh computers (the two are not compatible), and
some run on computers with a UNIX operating system. Some software
packages have versions for either type of operating system.
- Most computers are bundled
with software - much of which you don't need and won't use. If
bundling is available, ask the salesperson if they have bundling options
that will enable you to pick what you want in software.
- Example packages you may need:
- Presentation software such as
- Web access software such as
Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.
- Database software to be used
to store and retrieve special data such as inventory data.
- Visit a web site that provides
reviews of computer software. An example is shown in the figure
below. We will visit this site on the web and explore the
information that is available there at:
- 2. Before buying a computer system, do
- Conduct research by talking to
instructors or salespeople at different computer stores.
- Learn about the following
- Processor speed.
- Size and types of memory
- Size and types of storage
devices such as hard disks, floppy disks, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, Zip drive.
- Input/output devices such as
the computer mouse, keyboard, monitor, printer, sound card, video card.
- Communication devices such as
modems or network interface cards.
- Other software needed for
- Typical system cost.
- One place to obtain research is
through the CNET hardware review web site at:
- Another way to obtain
estimates of computer system costs is by exploring web sites of computer
system manufacturers such as Dell or Compaq. Visit their web site
- 3. Look for free software. Free software called
freeware and shareware (almost free) are available through several sites
such as Tucows at:
- 4. Consider different purchasing options.
- Buying through the
school. This may provide you discount pricing agreements with
manufacturers. Maintenance support may be difficult to obtain.
- Buying from a local computer
dealer. Local dealers may provide good prices. They may also
provide local maintenance support.
- Buying from a large retail
store. I don't recommend this approach as large retail stores
rarely have salespeople who are truly knowledgeable of the
products. They rarely provide local maintenance support.
- Ordering via mail or telephone
or on the web. You often obtain your best price this way as you can
compare vendors and actually bargain on the price. They provide
on-line maintenance support and help.
- Local computer shows.
These provide absolutely the best prices, but the vendor is gone tomorrow
thus if you have a problem, you're stuck with looking for a local
maintenance support store to help you.
- 5. Stick with Name Brands.
- They cost more.
- They are best supported and provide
the best warranties.
- They are available from many
- 6. Compare prices and other
- Develop some type of
spreadsheet that compares the different options you have explored.
- 7. Look for Hidden costs.
- Additional telephone line for
the modem if you don't want to tie up your current line.
- The cost of the Internet
- Hardware not included with the
system, such as cables to connect the printer to the computer.
- Cost of computer furniture,
floppy disks, paper, replacement ink cartridges for printers.
- 8. Consider more than price.
- Give consideration to factors
that are not $$$-quantifiable such as the availablity of local
maintenance support and warranties.
- Consider vendor reputation -
check this on the web if you can.
- Ask if the vendor accepts
trade-ins so that you can upgrade if desired in a couple of years.
- 9. Select an Internet Service Provider.
- Typical providers charge about
- Some provide free access, but
the telephone charges may eat you up.
- New high-speed access through
cable-TV companies cost about $300 for initial setup and about $35/month,
but don't require an extra telephone line.
- 10. Purchase a system that is compatible
with ones that you use elsewhere, such as at the University.
- Makes it easy to transfer
files back and forth.
- Enables the purchase/use of
software that is compatible at both sites.
- 11. Consider an on-site purchase of a
- Many provide 24-hour on-site
technical support - good for those who are not experienced with hardware
and software problems.
- Can be obtained through the
local or third-party vendor.
- 12. Use a credit card to purchase the
- This may get you purchase
protection in case of loss or damage to goods.
- Gives you time to install the
system before you pay for it.
- 13. Buy the correct size of system.
- This is also called avoid the
smallest or largest choice unless that is the correct system for you.
- Most people tend to buy a
system that is too small - needs more memory, faster printer, color
printer, larger hard disk.
- Make sure the system you buy
can be made larger - easily upgradeable and check into the cost of adding
memory, etc., later.
Purchase a Laptop Computer.
- These provide computing capability while you travel.
- 1. Purchase a laptop with a large
- Active-matrix screens have
high-quality color that is viewable from all angles.
- Typical screen sizes are 12,
13, and 14 inch (approximately).
- Resolution needs to be at
least 800 x 600 pixels.
- 2. Experiment with different pointing
- There are lots of pointing
devices that serve in place of a mouse. Most of these work pretty
- I suggest purchasing a mouse
that can be plugged into the back of the laptop for working at a regular
- 3. Make sure the laptop has a CD-ROM or
- Most modern laptops have one
of these built in.
- You can get an external CD-ROM
that plugs into a port called a PCMCIA port. I recommend the built
- You need the CD-ROM to load
- 4. Considering buying a docking station.
- This is useful if you use the
laptop at home and on the road.
- A docking station includes a
floppy disk drive, CD-ROM, and connector for a full-sized monitor.
- A docking station eliminates
the need to transfer files to another computer as your laptop will not
function like a desktop PC.
- 5. Upgrade memory and storage at the time
- It is often cheaper to do this
when you purchase.
- The vendor will do the upgrade
- If an upgrade on the hard disk
storage is not available, look for another vendor's laptop.
- 6. Purchase an extra battery.
- If you are on the road where
you can't plug the laptop into an electrical outlet, you will need the
extra battery power.
- Use lithium-ion batteries -
they last longest.
- 7. Purchase a well-padded carrying case.
- 8. For overseas travel, obtain a set of
electrical and telephone adapters. Overseas countries use different electrical
outlet designs and different voltage levels.
- 9. Ensure the laptop is compatible with
video projection equipment.
- Laptops are often used to give
- Make sure yours will be
compatible with the projection equipment you will have available.
Install a PC.
- 1. Read the installation manual.
- Most of these now have just a
few pages that describe installation.
- Many new computers come with a
large sheet of instructions that gives a diagram as to which wires are
plugged into which ports.
- Most diagrams and new
computers are color-coded - plug the red code into the red port!
- 2. Do research.
- If you are installing extra
hardware that is not adequately described in the installation manual, you
may find directions on the web.
- 3. Set up your computer in a good work
- You need a good ergonimically
- Correct chair and desk height.
- Keyboard pad to prevent wrist
- Proper lighting.
- 4. Install bookshelves to keep manuals and
- 5. Have a telephone outlet nearby.
- This is self-explanatory - you
need to plug in your modem.
- Consider two telephone jacks -
one for the computer and one for a telephone.
- 6. Be aware of health issues.
- Minimize neck discomfort -
- Adequate lighting.
- 7. Obtain a computer toolset - or get a good maintenance
- 8. Save paperwork for the computer.
- Put all paperwork in a safe
- You'll need it for maintenance
or to sell the computer later on.
- 9. Record all serial numbers.
- Create a single comprehensive
- You'll need the numbers for
telephone computer support.
- 10. Send in the registration cards.
- Most people don't send them
- Most people don't get the
support they need because they didn't send them in.
- Makes you eligible for special
prices on upgrades (may also make you eligible for telephone marketing).
- 11. Keep shipping and packing containers.
- You may need these to move the
- You may need these to send the
components in for repair.
- You may need these to sell the
- 12. Identify device connectors.
- These are often color-coded on
the back of your CPU box.
- If they are not color-coded,
use a special marking pen to mark them.
- 13. Install the computer in an area where
the temperature and humidity are constant.
- Temp should be between 60 and
- Don't use space heaters in a
- 14. Keep the area clean. - avoid smoking and eating
near the computer.
- 15. Check to see if your insurance policy will cover the computer as it
is an expensive item.