Computers For Seniors For Dummies
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Computers offer a world of convenience for seniors, but they can be a little intimidating, too. To get started off right, see this checklist for what to look for before buying your PC (Windows operating) computer. (Got a Mac computer? Click here.)

After you’ve purchased your computer, follow these care and maintenance tips to prolong its life. To round out your experience, here are some handy keyboard shortcuts for getting things done fast in Windows.

Checklist for buying a computer

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 4 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 (SSD) is used in place of a hard disk drive (HDD). 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 Zoom or Google Meet, 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.

Computer care and maintenance tips

You need to perform some basic maintenance on your computer to keep it running in top shape. Here’s some advice to keep your computer secure and performing optimally:

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. It is probably already on.

Antivirus software: You can use anti-malware software such as Windows Defender, which comes with all Windows computers, or a third-party security program such as McAfee, to scan your computer and remove malware.

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.

Optimize your hard drive: Optimizing your hard drive relocates files so all parts of each file are contiguously stored; this modestly improves disk access time on traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). It’s not useful on solid-state drives (SSDs).

Battery life: If you have a laptop or tablet, you should be aware that all batteries wear out and your computer’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 computer 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: If you have a laptop, invest in a good case for it to protect it from damage when travelling. You might also want a screen protector, which is a thin sheet of plastic that you place across your screen to prevent scratches.

Consider using a picture password: If your computer or laptop is in a spot where other people surround you, consider using a picture password, which is almost impossible for people to get past. Also be aware that using a pin rather than a password is probably the least secure way to go because it’s so short and made up entirely of numbers.

Windows keystroke shortcuts

Use the following Windows keystroke shortcuts to handle common activities, such as cutting and pasting text, quickly and easily, or opening commonly used windows. (Or check out keyboard shortcuts for Macs.)

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
Ctrl+Z Undoes the previous action
Alt+Tab Switches between currently open app
Windows Key Displays the Start menu
Win+S Opens the Search pane
Win+I Displays the Settings window
Win+L Displays the Lock screen
Win+A Displays the Action Center
Win+E Displays File Explorer
Win+Tab Displays Task View


About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Faithe Wempen is an adjunct instructor at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). She is the author of over 150 books on computer hardware and software, and an online technology courseware developer whose courses have educated over a quarter of a million people.

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