Cheat Sheet

Laptops For Seniors For Dummies

Laptops offer a world of convenience for seniors, but they can be a little intimidating, too. To get started off right, there are some important things to consider before buying your laptop. After you've purchased your laptop, implementing a couple of basic care and maintenance tips can go a long way to prolong its life. To round out your experience, there are some handy keyboard shortcuts for getting things done fast in Windows 8.1, and ten useful websites for seniors.

Shopping for a Laptop Checklist

With so many options available, purchasing a laptop can seem a bit intimidating. There are lots of technical terms to figure out, and various pieces of hardware (the physical pieces of your laptop, for example the monitor and keyboard) and software (the brains of the computer that help you create documents and play music, for example) to sort through. Here's a list of some essential features you need to understand before making your purchase.

  • Portability: The size and weight of your laptop may be important if you plan to take it with you when you travel or work away from home. Remember, however, that a smaller, lighter weight laptop will typically have a smaller screen.

  • Memory: Your computer should have at least 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM for a 32-bit computer and 2 GB for a 64-bit computer.

    RAM stands for random-access memory, which is the memory needed to run and access programs on a laptop or computer.

  • Processor speed: Look for a minimum of 2.8 gigahertz (GHz) processor speed.

  • Battery life: If you'll use 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. Some laptop keyboards may be as big as a standard keyboard, but others can feel cramped, especially if you have dexterity challenges.

  • Screen: Laptops come with screens that range from 9 inches to 17 or more. 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 laptop to take advantage of all of Windows 8 touchscreen features.

  • CD/DVD drive: Laptops may come with a CD or DVD drive or not. If a laptop is right for you in other ways but doesn't have a CD/DVD drive, consider opting for an external drive.

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

  • Included software: Some laptops come with utility programs such as antivirus software or productivity software such as Microsoft Works. Be aware that some of this software offers only short-term trial versions, 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.

  • A webcam: If you'll 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 laptops today include a webcam located just above the laptop screen.

Laptop Care and Maintenance Tips

Performing some basic maintenance on a laptop will help it last longer and keep your data protected. Here's some advice to keep your laptop secure and performing optimally:

  • Turn on Windows Firewall: Turn on the Windows Firewall feature to stop people and programs from downloading malicious code and viruses to your computer from the Internet.

  • Use System Restore: You can create a System Restore Point to save current settings and revert to those settings if your computer begins having problems. This can happen after installing a new program or driver for hardware.

  • Defragment your hard drive: Defragmenting your hard drive cleans out any damaged or obsolete files to improve your laptop's performance.

  • Check the battery life: All batteries wear out and your laptop's is no different. If your battery doesn't hold a charge as long as it used to, consider buying a replacement battery from the manufacturer.

  • Perform a Disk Cleanup: Use the Disk Cleanup feature to free up some disk space on your hard drive. This helps your laptop perform better.

  • Set up a password: By assigning a password to your Windows user account you may prevent people from accessing your files and personal data.

  • Protect your laptop from damage: Invest in a good case for your laptop to protect it from damage when travelling with it. Also, get a screen protector, which is a thin sheet of plastic that you place across your screen to prevent scratches.

  • Use a lock or fingerprint reader: Some laptops come with the ability to read your fingerprints so that only you can turn the laptop on and access files on it. You can also buy a laptop lock that you can use to secure your laptop to furniture to prevent people from walking off with it if you leave it unattended for a few moments.

14 Common Windows Keystroke Shortcuts

These handy little keystroke combinations are shortcuts that you can utilize for quick access to items you use on a frequent basis. Use these Windows keystroke shortcuts to handle common activities, such as cutting and pasting text, quickly and easily.

Key or Keystroke Combination Effect
Ctrl+X Cuts the selected text or object
Ctrl+C Copies the selected text or object
Ctrl+V Pastes copied or cut text or object
F1 Displays help
F2 Opens the selected item (folder or file) for renaming
Ctrl+Z Undoes the previous action
Alt+Tab Displays a list of currently open applications
Prt Scr Prints a copy of current screen to the Windows Clipboard
Windows Key Displays the Start Key menu
F3 Displays a search window
Win+C Displays Charms bar and information panel
Win+I Displays Settings charm panel
Win+L Displays Windows 8 lockscreen
Win Toggles between Start screen and Desktop

10 Useful Websites for Various Online Activities

As you begin to use your laptop, you may find the following websites to be good starting points for various types of online activities. From checking the news and sharing photos online to booking a vacation, here are just a few resources the Internet has to offer.

Website Description News site Financial news and advice Resource for things to do with your grandkids Stock prices Television program video streaming (free for basic, fee for premium) Travel planning/booking Photo sharing Senior-oriented dating site Social security retirement planning help Information on current movies and stars
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