computer shopping what the numbers mean, terms explainedI’m often asked to give an opinion on what computer a friend or family member should buy. With this post I’d like to give a brief explanation of the terms used to describe and sell computers. What do the numbers mean? Which numbers are important, and what do I need to know about them? It may sound like gibberish to you, but they do mean something and they’re very important. A lot of the individuals I work with don’t understand the importance of the particular terms, and perhaps think the bottom line is the size of your hard drive, or having a lot of RAM. Maybe you don’t really know what these terms mean at all. There are a whole lot of articles you could read that will get really technical, this post is written to make things simple.

Here is a simple Computer Terms Glossary that highlights 4 key components of a computer system, what’s important, and what you really need to know.

1. Processor

The processor (also known as CPU, the Central Processing Unit), is the most important part of a computer system. It makes all the important calculations, and is the primary influence on the overall performance / speed of the system. The faster the processor the better your system will run. All other things aside, the first and most important thing to consider when buying a computer is the processor. These days manufactures increase the performance of a system by using multi-core processors (dual core, quad core etc.) This basically means they have plugged two or more individual CPUs into one circuit. A dual core should be twice as powerful as a single core, but it isn’t, the gain is about 50%. If you’re in the market for a new machine you a probably going to be looking for a quad core processor. The number of cores in a computer is often represented by X and a number such as X3 or X4.

2. Clock Speed

The Clock Speed or Clock Rate is measured in GHz (gigahertz) which is a unit of frequency measured in cycles per second. Modern machines run at anywhere from 1 to 3 GHz or faster. The Clock Speed is directly tied to the CPU. Clock Rates are complex, and it can not be used as a bottom line when measuring the ‘power’ of a PC. Clock Speed is essentially the speed at which a computer makes calculations. Choose something with a clock speed around 2 – 2.6 GHz and you’ll be fine. A website lists this machine “2.9GHz AMD Athlon II X3 435” from what we’ve learned so far we can tell there are 3 cores in this computer and they run with a clock rate of 2.9 GHz. Keep in mind that the Super Nintendo clock speed was about 21 MHz (You need 1000 MHz to make 1 GHz, so we’ve come a long way!). We only broke the 1 GHz mark in early 2000 with the Intel Pentium III chip.

3. RAM

RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is a critical component of your computer. RAM stores data and allows it to be accessed in any order. Newer desktops will be sold with DDR3 SDRAM which is faster than its predecessor DDR2 and is not compatible with it either. It’s important to be aware of how much RAM your computer has as its performance is directly related. Consider that Microsoft recommends a minimum of 1 GB of RAM for 32-bit versions of Windows7 and a minimum of 2 GB for 64-bit versions. These are minimum requirements just for your operating system! So, if you plan on actually doing anything with your computer then you definitely need more than the minimum. I recommend 4 GB of RAM for the average user. Gamers and those that are doing media intense work will want to consider more than 4 GB.

4. HDD

Your Hard Drive is another key component to consider when buying a new computer. The Hard Drive is where all the information you place on your computer is stored. Software, games, pictures, videos, music etc… all are stored on your hard drive. With this in mind you want to make sure your hard drive is big enough for the things you’ll want to do. Hard Drives are commonly measured in GB (Gigabytes) or TB (Terabytes). One Terabyte is a thousand gigabytes. Consider that one DVD holds about 4.7 GB and on that DVD you could fit about 900 MP3s (aprox.) …

Where to Buy?

I highly recommend Amazon for shopping online, they are reliable and sell products at affordable prices! As an affiliate I also earn a commission on any purchases made through my referral (so we both win!). Take a look at these deals by following this link Desktop Computers at Amazon.