Rule Number 1 - Which Are You?
Think about what you are going to use a computer for, first and foremost. You will probably fall into 1 of 3 categories.
(i) Light user, ie just internet / email / word processing / playing DVDs / music / storing all your photos documents etc
(ii) Medium user, all the above plus a little gaming / photo / video editing
(iii) Heavy user, all the above plus high end gaming / advanced photo / video editing
Depending on which is you set your budget accordingly, a light user laptop when brand new should cost no more than £300-£450, medium user £450-£600, Heavy user £600+.
Rule Number 2 - Mobility / Space Saving
There are 2 whole points to owning a laptop, the first is mobility, the second is space saving.
If you want to be mobile battery duration will be very important, also ask your supplier what voltage the processor runs at and does it have power saving capability (otherwise called speedstep - which the processor slows itself down to coincide with what your are doing with it at any one time). Also when you have your computer turn off the stuff you dont need, ie disable it in device manager - pointless things such as modems, card readers, integrated webcams, card slots etc (if you're not using them of course). Next if you do want to be mobile you don't want to lug around a brick! - make sure you go with a 14.1" screen or lower, some 15.4" screens can be light enough but end up being quite flimsy. If its a space saver from a desktop you want then go for a either a 15.4" or better a 17" laptop
Rule Number 3 - Your Data Cannot Be Replaced - Never Trust Even A New Computer!
Every year goes by we are putting more and more important stuff on our computers, it may be worthless to everyone else, but to you it could be priceless. Always think about what if your hard drive went bang tomorrow - where would you be? Backing up is a doddle, there is software you can buy that will automate it for you, but the best way is to do it yourself - that way you know it's done. For XP navigate to your C Drive and go into the 'Documents and Settings' folder here you will see all the users on your computer simply copy and paste each named folder to an external source, this will contain all your document, photos, email if you use Outlook and Internet Favourites (if you use Internet Explorer). For Vista go to the C Drive and the 'Users' folder, here as above you will find all the named users on your computer, just follow the same procedure. Remember 2 copies are always better than 1!
In more and more new machines - especially the 17" ones we are seeing 'Dual Hard Drives'. These machines have 2 hard drives, and everything ever done since turning it on is instantly coopied to the other driver (known as a RAID mirror), so WHEN 1 drive fails it continues using the other as if nothing happened and warn you that a drive has failed. You simply take out the failed drive, swap it with the same and the data from the good drive will then get copied over during a fairly automated process. RAID Mirror's are getting near commonplace in desktops and will soon be in laptops, likewise Flash drives that are way more reliable than normal spindle hard drives and you can get these in Netbooks (the tiny 8" laptops that guarantee you a trip to Specsavers in the next 12 months).
Rule Number 4 - Warranty
We see so many laptops that fail shortly after the 12 month warranty period we are starting to think this is no coincidence. The old addage that older cars lasted for years, newer ones break down - do this that and the other is completely true - why? - becuase the more things on them - the more things to go wrong. This is exactly the same for computers. Always have your laptop covered under warranty, if yours is about to run out, get on the net and look for extended warranties, even ones with accidental damage. Most laptop repairs (espeically screens, motherboards) will probably render your laptop beyind economical repair.
Rule Number 5 - The Power Connector Is The Achillies Heel
Why manufacturers have not sorted this out yet is either lazy, stupid or a ploy just get repair bills out of you. It sounds silly but if your power connector is getting loose as you knocked the cable or stretched it too far, the kids have got their little hands on it etc - then replacing this IS NOT an easy or cheap job. It will involve the complete stripping and rebuilding of your laptop, the part itself costs very little, its the labour charge that will get you - we know as we have to charge it! - Always be careful with your laptop power connection.
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Cutting Through Computer / Laptop Jargon
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12 March 2009
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