Microsoft’s new OS may influence PC purchases
SECOND OF TWO PARTS
In our last column we began a series on what to look for when purchasing a new PC while keeping in mind that in about a year Microsoft
will be releasing a powerful new operating system called "Vista." Vista will require more robust (and more expensive) hardware, so if you're thinking of migrating to it, you need to purchase a machine that will be able to run it.
How much will a Vista-compliant machine cost? The good news is that hardware prices have dropped so low, you shouldn't have to spend more than $600 (without a monitor) to run Vista. If running Vista is not an issue, you can still get a powerful enough entry-level computer for about $500.
In case you missed Part 1, we'll quickly review it before going on to the second part of our series.
» Memory: You'll want at least 512MB -- 1 MB if you're going to run Vista.
» Storage: You'll want at least 100 gigabytes but 160 are better for the new OS.
» Video system: A card with 64 or more megs of memory.
» DVD drive: A fast multiformat DVD recording drive.
Now, on to other vital issues:
» Processor speed: Normally processors are one of those components that are overrated for the average user. However, Vista changes the equation. With it you're going to need more than an entry-level processor. Shakil Ahmed of PDC Systems suggests a D 840 3.2 Gigagertz from Intel would be more than adequate. You also might consider a processor that can handle 64-bit computing. This isn't going to be a requirement for Vista, but the software will take advantage of 64-bit processors such as AMD's Athlon 64 or the Intel EM64T series. (Note that if you go the 64-bit processor route, you'll need 2 gigabytes of RAM).
» Security programs: You'll need special programs that handle viruses, spyware and spam. You're also going to need a firewall. The good news is most major ISPs (e.g. Road Runner, AOL, EarthLink) provide free anti-virus, firewall, anti-spam and anti-spyware software. Ho'ala Greevy of Pau Spam is fond of Spybot Search and Destroy, a free anti spyware program which can be found at www.safer-networking.org and downloaded free. Also off the Net from www.gri-soft.com is a free version of AVG Antivirus for personal use.
» Data backup: A DVD recording drive will provide excellent backup capabilities but you also might consider doubling your hard drive capacity to set up a mirroring system, or buy an external drive such as the "One-touch" unit from Maxtor.
» Monitor: If you don't already have a flat screen monitor, consider a 17-inch model, which is very easy on the eyes. Prices start in the $300 range.
» Mainland vs. local: You won't go wrong opting for a well known brand such as IBM, Dell, HP, Sony, etc, but don't "dis" a quality local computer assembler just because it isn't a brand name. An advantage of a local vendor or computer is the support. (Dell Computers also has local support.)
» Warranties: The standard warranty, which consists of one year on the system plus three years warranty on the major parts, (including motherboard, memory, CPU, and hard drive) is just fine.The average life of a computer is less than three years and most of the parts will be covered on a standard warrantee.
general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable, has been a telecommunications and computer expert for 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org