My personal preference on brands is Dell. I should be receiving my third Dell laptop tomorrow (YEA!!!) and I’ve been happy with all of them.
The first thing to think about is what will you be using your computer for. Basics like word processing and internet? Will you want to keep music on there? Watch movies? Store photos? Play games? You will also want to decide if you want a mac or a PC. I’m going to assume PC since that is the most common though.
Next you will want to decide on an operating system. Windows Vista is the one that was released earlier this year, but some places still have Windows XP available. There are positives and negatives to each. Vista is newer so will have more bugs, but it also has some newer features and a pretty new interface if you get Home Premium or above. It also needs more memory. XP has many of the bugs worked out and is pretty reliable, but at some point, Microsoft will stop supporting it.
Then you can start thinking about how much memory, how big a hard drive, and what other features you want. If you want XP 1 GB of RAM will be good, Vista will run on that much, but not well and 2 GB is considered the way to go. The hard drive size will depend on how much you want to store. Most hard drives are pretty big and they often have special deals going. Yes, most new laptops come with a wireless card, but you should always make sure. You will also want to think about what kind of drive you want, a CD writer/DVD player or a CD and DVD writer?
As for Microsoft Office, many places you can order that with your computer but if you want Word you have to make sure it is MS Office and not Works. There is also a WONDERFUL program called Open Office available on the internet for free. It has all the components of MS Office and the ability to save in both the Open Office file format and also the MS Office format. I highly recommend it and it will save you quite a bit of money!
So there is some stuff to get you started. If you can share more about what you want in a computer I can help point you some more. Good luck!