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(ARA) – As more people embrace technology, the number of families who own a home computer continues to grow rapidly. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1984, 8 percent of the nation’s households had a computer. In 2003, Census figures on home computer ownership rose to 62 percent, or 70 million homes, with 62 million households claiming Internet access.

As home technology becomes more prevalent and more sophisticated, an ever-growing number of people plan to purchase a computer for home use.

Many people, especially first-time purchasers, can feel overwhelmed by the myriad of options one finds when shopping for a home computer. To help ease technology jitters, Walter Dula, chair of the Business, Accounting and Information Technology department at Brown Mackie College – Atlanta, provides a few guidelines. This information will help those considering the purchase of a home computer for general use – that is, those families who want to share one computer among themselves for word processing, spreadsheets and general Internet browsing.
“In terms of configuration,” says Dula, “there are five things to consider: processing power, speed of processor, RAM (random access memory) capacity to handle temporary files, storage capacity for permanent files, and the graphics card.”

Processing power
The processor serves as the brain of the computer. When in the market for a home computer, don’t settle for less than an Intel Pentium 4 processor or AMD Athlon processor. “These are the two leading chips today, and there is very little difference between them,” Dula says. “When you buy, buy the top-of-the-line processor so that in two years, your system will still be usable.”

Speed of processor
Unlike processing power, it is not necessary to seek out high-end speed. According to Dula, “Most families will be fine with a speed of 2 .0 gigahertz or 2.5. They won’t need a higher range of speed, so why spend the money?”

RAM memory stores application programs and temporary files for easy access to data in current use. This is one of the most important considerations for all systems, especially one with multiple users. Memory capacity is measured in gigabytes. Dula recommends at least two gigabytes of memory for home systems.

Graphics card
The graphics card is a circuit board that controls screen displays of graphics and text. “I always recommend a high-end graphics card with memory," says Dula. “Why? Mom and Dad look at spreadsheets, Junior does gaming and Suzy shops online. Each function relates to graphic quality. A moderately-priced card, between $50 and $80, is well suited for home use.”

Memory storage on the hard drive is measured in gigabytes. “Typically, software requires 50 gigabytes of storage. In addition, families want space for music, taxes or the household budget and homework,” Dula says. “Storage fills quickly, so I recommend storage space of at least 250 gigabytes."

Another factor to consider before purchasing a computer is the number of USB (universal serial bus) ports available. “You’ll want to have at least four USB ports to accommodate a camera, recorder, perhaps a flash drive and external storage,” says Dula. “In addition, be sure there are additional expansion port slots in case you want to add on to the system in the future.”

Dula also recommends splitting the hard drive among system users. “It’s a logical configuration to slice up the C drive into different partitions. With partitions in place on the hard drive, each member of the family gets their own separate storage space. If Junior gets a virus, only his partition becomes corrupted. Other family members are not affected,” he says.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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