The hard facts about computer hardware

When it comes to buying a desktop computer, we suffer from too much, rather than not enough, choice. Well, to help wade through the morass, here are my recommendations on the computer configuration an average small business user should be looking for at this time.

First of all, plan to spend about $1,000 to $1,200 for a computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse. Although you certainly can buy a decent computer for under $1,000, I’d rather spend a couple hundred dollars more to get a setup that will really sing and last longer.

When it comes to the core part of your computer — the computer processor — my bias is to buying higher-end chips. These days, this means an Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon processor with a clock speed of about 1.5 gigahertz. And if it’s a Mac you want, look for a G4 processor with a midlevel clock speed.

By buying a high-end, but not top-of-the-line, processor you can feel confident you’ll have a computer that will be able to keep up with the newest applications for the foreseeable future.

Because it really doesn’t cost much these days, don’t skimp on RAM or the hard drive. I would go for 256 megabytes of RAM. With that much RAM, you shouldn’t see a slowdown when using several applications.

Also, look for a minimum 20-gigabyte hard drive; one that large should give you plenty of room to store space-hogging music and video files. For fast access to your hard drive, look for one that has a rotational speed of at least 7,200 rpm.

Furthermore, don’t forget Internet access. If you’ll be connecting to the Internet via DSL or other high-speed access, make sure your computer is equipped with an ethernet card and network connection. Otherwise, a 56K modem needs to be added to your configuration for dial-up access.

Softwarewise, make sure you’re equipped with the requisite office applications and a copy of antivirus software as well. If you have your choice of operating systems, I prefer Windows 2000 over Windows XP because it’s the more mature operating system. Mac fans will have the niftily designed Mac OS X to use.

Accessorizing your computer? Look for a 16X-speed rewritable CD drive. Although CD-ROM drives are available and less costly, the ability to burn CDs is a terrific feature, particular for backing up key files. Of course, your computer also should be equipped with a sound card, speakers and a graphics card.

Need a monitor? Fifteen-inch LCD monitors have come down dramatically in price, which makes them worthy of consideration. However, traditional CRT monitors probably still provide the better overall value at this time.

These days, buying a desktop computer is a purchase that should last a few years. Make the right investment up front to ensure you have one with legs that will keep you running into the future.

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