Computers: The Basics
Shopping for computers doesn’t have to drain your savings — if you know how to find the best prices. Our team of experts review the sales and publish the best computer deals so you don’t have to work half as hard.
Basic Computer Terminology
You don’t have to be a tech wiz to buy your next computer. Make note of these common terms to help you when you’re shopping computer sales!
- Operating System (OS): This is the system that controls how your computer performs basic functions. The most common operating systems you’ll see right now are Windows 10 and Mac OS X. They perform comparably, so picking one relies on personal preference.
- Random-access memory (RAM): The short-term memory of your computer. Your RAM controls how quickly and efficiently your computer is able to switch between tasks. The higher the RAM, the better the performance.
- Processor (CPU) : The powerhouse or “brain” of the computer, your processor handles your computer’s basic instructions, such as using your mouse and keyboard, or running applications. The two most popular CPU manufacturers are AMD and Intel. You can read about which processor is right for you in this article from Digital Trends.
- Storage: There are two types of physical computer storage, hard drives (HD) and solid state drives (SSD), sometimes called flash drives . SSD storage is more common these days because they are more stable and faster. While it’s ideal to aim for greater storage space, a bigger drive will cost more money. Determine your storage needs based on how you plan to use your computer. Abt recommends starting with at least 500 GB of storage space.
Basic Software for Your PC
When you start using your new computer, you’ll want to install some basic software to get going. Most pre-built computers come with a suite of software pre-installed with the OS.
Whether you opt for a package like Microsoft Office or iWork, opt for freeware like Open Office, or choose an online software pack like G Suite, it’s always a good idea to install a productivity software to help you with tasks like making spreadsheets, word processing, and viewing PDFs.
Microsoft Edge and Safari are the standard browsers that come with a new computer, but many shoppers rely on browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Check out TechRadar’s review of the most common browsers here .
Not only does cloud storage give you more space than the limited physical storage on your PC, but it also gives you access to your files anywhere. Many companies like Google or Dropbox offer a limited amount of free cloud storage.
Antivirus tools do more than simply keep viruses at bay; they also protect against malware, phishing, adware, spyware, and more. Windows 10 comes with Microsoft Security Essentials as a default, and security options are built into Mac OS X (as opposed to a standalone program). That said, antivirus suites like Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender may offer you more protection.
Many laptops and desktops no longer include a physical media drive. If you plan on watching any videos locally (not streamed online), it’s useful to have a media player. Typically, this software is built in, but check out this list for some info on the best media players for Windows 10 and this one for Mac.
Not to be confused with a media player, a good music application is worth installing on your computer. Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora are some common favorites that give you access to a practically limitless selection. The desktop versions make it easier to browse and build playlists.
Check Out These Computer Blog Posts
Computer Deal Subcategories
DealNews offers the best deals on computers and computing accessories. You can browse our deals in different categories including, but not limited to:
Whether you’re looking for a new work laptop, or want to find a quality gaming system, check out our selection of the best laptop deals here.
Did you know you should replace your computer every 4 to 5 years to get the best performance? Check out the best computer deals for your next desktop here.
Did you know that DealNews first launched as a deal website for Apple Macintosh products? While we’ve grown significantly since then, we still know how to find the best Apple computer deals!
Maybe you’re in the market for a larger streaming device for your kids, or maybe you’d like a device to serve as your e-reader (with a few extra perks). Whatever you’re searching for, check out the best tablet and iPad deals here.
When shopping computer sales, check out DealNews before going anywhere else, so you know you’ll always find the best deals!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I purchase a laptop or desktop?
It’s important to review your needs before buying a laptop or desktop computer.
- What’s your budget? Because they’re bigger and more modular, desktop computers tend to outperform laptops . A desktop’s customizability means your budget can go a lot further. However, laptops have other advantages over desktops.
- Do you need portability? High-end laptops are generally more expensive , but a laptop will always win the portability debate.
- How much power do you need? Desktops have more room to work with, so you can add more RAM, more storage, a bigger graphics card, and other performance improvements. But if you don’t need all that, then a mid-tier laptop may be the cheaper choice.
- Are you a gamer? Laptops that are built for gaming are among the most expensive on the market. That said, if you’re not comfortable selecting individual pieces to build a gaming desktop, you may be willing to pay a premium to get that performance.
- Don’t forget the repairs. If you’re handy, you can often repair or replace parts in a desktop computer with the help of online guides. Most laptops require specialized tools and skills to repair, so desktop fixes tend to be cheaper.
Overall, desktop computers have a lot of advantages, but the lack of portability can be a deal breaker. No matter what you decide, be sure to check out specs and buying guides from the DealNews Blog and other reputable sources like CNET or PCMag . Then shop DealNews for the best computer deals!
How do I get my external hard drive to show up?
Once you’ve ensured that your external drive is plugged in and powered on, check out these steps from PCMag :
- Try a different USB port.
- Try a different PC.
- Update your drivers.
- Format the drive.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for “virtual private network.” A VPN protects your internet usage by routing your internet connection through a private server. Using a VPN keeps your online browsing more private and also grants you access to websites and content that may not be available in your country.
How can I boost my WiFi signal?
When your internet connection seems impossibly slow, the cause isn’t your provider, but your WiFi signal strength. Check out these options to boost your WiFi signal :
- Update your router firmware. Each router is different, but you typically can use the steps found here to run updates.
- Place your router in the most optimal space. You want to place your wireless router away from any walls or obstructions. If possible, put it in the most central place in your home.
- Pick a different frequency. If you have a dual-band router, try using the 5GHz band. This band offers higher speeds, and may get an additional boost if there are fewer devices connected to it.
- Change the channel. While most routers will automatically choose the channel with the least congestion, some cheaper routers may require you to manually update it.
- Upgrade your router. How old is your current router? If it's a previous-generation 802.11n model, you could upgrade that to improve your wireless signal. If you have a newer 802.11ac router, you're already in good shape.
- Replace the antenna. You may boost your signal by simply adding or replacing an external antenna. PCMag recommends purchasing one marked “high-gain,” and to opt for a directional antenna — rather than an omnidirectional one.
- Add a wireless range extender. If you only want to boost coverage in one or two rooms, a WiFi extender can help you boost your signal in dead spots. Check out this guide from the DealNews Blog .
Switch to a mesh WiFi system. Wireless mesh networking is becoming more popular, because it can provide more complete coverage throughout the home. Mesh systems replace your router
A Georgia girl with three years of experience in IP Law and grounded in understanding marketing and consumer motives. When she's not working with the fabulous staff of DealNews, you can find her whining at rowing practice and browsing the Hot Deals on the site.