By Nancy C. Muir

Part of Computers For Seniors For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you’re purchasing your computer consider what type of computer model would work best for you and take into account the features that you find most important. Choose from these styles:

  • Tower: A form of computer that has been around for quite a while is a tower. A tower is one style of desktop computer that, because of its size, people keep on or near a table or desk.

  • Compact desktop: Compact desktops, which are the size of a shoebox and can sit on your desktop. Check into a compact desktop if you like your computer small but non-portable.

  • All-in-one: Another form of desktop computer is called an all-in-one. With this type of computer, all the brains of the computer are stored in a casing within the monitor, so the entire computer sits on your desk or table.

  • Laptop: A laptop is portable, weighing anywhere from 2 to 8 pounds. The monitor, keyboard, and mouse (in the form of a flat touchpad) are built into the laptop.

In addition to your computer’s model, take into account which of these features is most important to you:

  • Memory: Your computer should have at least 2 gigabyte (GB) of RAM.

  • Processor: Most processors today are multiple-core processors, such as the i3, i5, and i7 processor lines from Intel. Those with two processors are called dual-core; those with four processors are called quad-core; and processors with six cores are referred to as hexa-core. The bottom line with cores is that the more you have, the faster your computer can process instructions because all the cores can work at once with many applications.

  • Battery life: If you choose a laptop and will be using your laptop in settings without a power source, such as on a plane or in the doctor’s waiting room, look for a model with longer battery life (some offer 10 hours or more).

  • Keyboard: Make sure the keyboard feels comfortable to you.

  • Screen: Computers come with screens that range from 9 inches on smaller laptops to 28-inch desktop models. A 15-inch monitor is comfortable for most people, but if you do work with higher-end images or watch videos, consider a larger screen as larger screens may be easier on your eyes. Consider getting a touchscreen to take advantage of all of Windows 10 touchscreen features.

  • CD/DVD drive: Computers might come with a CD or DVD drive or not. If a computer is right for you in other ways but doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive, consider opting for an external drive.

  • Type of hard drive: Computers have traditionally used hard drives to store programs and data. In many computers a solid state drive is used in place of a hard drive. The access speed (how fast your computer retrieves data) of solid state drives is much higher than the access speed of hard drives. If you need a computer which processes information very quickly look for one with a solid state drive.

  • Wireless capability: To connect to some wireless devices and networks, you need wireless capability.

  • Included software: Some computers come with utility programs such as antivirus software or productivity software such as Microsoft Office. Be aware that some software offers only a short-term trial version and you have to pay to buy the full version upgrade.

  • Manufacturer support: Check the warranty and technical support available. Also check for helpful documentation on the manufacturer’s website.

  • Graphics and sound cards: If you want to use multimedia or game software, ask for more sophisticated sound and video features such as a discrete graphics card or discrete sound card.

  • A webcam: If you will be calling your friends or grandchildren over a service such as Skype, it’s useful to have a built-in webcam to transmit video images while talking. Most computers today include a webcam located just above the computer screen.