Buying a computer


My student loan money is coming in this week and I have to get a computer. I know nothing!! All I know is I want the Microsoft Office type programs like word and excel on it and for it to have wifi. I also want a laptop. From what I’ve read, all new laptops have wifi. I don’t know anything about memory or that kind of stuff. I know there are some pretty smart computer people on here so…HELP!!!



If you want Microsoft Office, you’ll have to buy the package because it doesn’t come programmed into the computer. Unfortunately, new computers and laptops come with the watered down version, “Microsoft Works.”

I bought my laptop in 2004, and I can take it just about anywhere and get a signal. It’s great.


Yes - you should confirm that your professors will accept documents in another format if you choose not to purchase a copy of MS Office.

I have a Dell laptop for work - it is a D620 - and I absolutely love it! I am guessing you are looking for a laptop and not a desktop so you can take notes in class.

If you are only using it for class work you will not need huge amounts of storage space, so don’t let a sales person talk you into some massive thing that is way over powered for your needs. Some techie here can give you some specifics - I’m just an IT Project Manager - the techies tell ME what works and I listen! :smiley:

You should make sure it has wireless capability as well so you can connect to the Internet - you will need the ability to send your assignments, and if you are somewhere without a direct connection (such as someplace on campus) it could be very helpful to have a wireless card.

Have fun!!! :smiley:



Most of the newer ones have the wireless card built into it, mine does. Prolly wouldn’t need the card, unless it serves another purpose that I don’t know about. :shrug: BTW, I have a Gateway, don’t know the specs, but I have been satisfied with it! :smiley:


If you’re only going to be using it for schoolwork, I would say you shouldn’t need any more than a 40 gigabyte hard drive… if you can find one that small anymore. I would just get the most scaled down version you can find while making sure that you have the built-in wireless card. Any laptop that you can buy today will have enough memory and hard-disk space for all the school work you could imagine and more. The only reason you would need a larger memory would be if you would have any need to have video files saved on it if you are taking a film class or something.


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!



why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free…

also, google documents is a GREAT resource.

bookmark this site… for a student, these resources will let you do just about anything at no charge…


beat me by 10 minutes!!


remember to look to your school for discounts on MS office…


I teach a class on the internet and I would prefer if all my students used MS Word since that is what our university uses and it’s what’s on my computer.

However, if you have another word processing program on your computer, you can save your file in rich text format (the ending .rtf) I can usually open it with MS Word. The formatting may be a bit wonky, but the content is there.


Amazon sells Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 for a good price, so go with that.

I only buy Dells for home and work. They’ve never let me down.

Get a notebook, and get a little more than the bare minimum. You’ll be using it for a few years, and you can’t imagine what you’ll want to do in 2010.

The new dual processor chips use more memory than the older single processor chips (because there are two processors) , so 1GB of RAM might not be enough.

Strike a happy medium between trying to cheap it out and getting one that’s loaded.


That is the great thing about Open Office, is that you can save stuff in the .doc format. I use it all the time when I send stuff to people or when I’m printing something on someone else’s computer.


Microsoft has made agreements with many schools discounting the prices of their software. At my University you can get Microsoft Office for $10 and Windows XP for $25 (maybe less now that vista is out.)

Call the computing offices to ask about it.


A more expensive but very stable and flexible option would be to get a Mac Powerbook, which can be bought preloaded with the Parallels software and a copy of Windows XP that runs in a “virtual” more so that you can run just about any MS Windows software while having Mac stability.


Your schools store maybe the best place for you to get a computer. Most college schools offer the best discounts on computers and software. Even community colleges so check their first unless you want something really fancy.


Do not buy MS Office at the computer store. Go the the college book store and purchase the student version. It is much less expensive and has all the bells and whistles. The only difference is in the licencing agreement. The student version may not be used in a business setting (if you set up a business and use Word or Excel or whatever). This includes typing up other people’s papers for a fee.
If you decide to use the student version for business, you are supposed to pay for a full business licence for the product. But as long as you are using for school, you’re home free.



Unless you have a very strong and concrete reason for preferring MS Office, I suggest Open Office as a replacement. It’s free, while MS Office costs the price of a computer. :slight_smile:

My advice is don’t be stingy but don’t cross your limits. For example if you see an 80 GB hard drive for $20 less than a 120 GB hard drive, don’t save the 20 bucks. Just make sure you get a good bargain and you aren’t making unreasonable savings. Similarly, it doesn’t make that much point buying a twice slower graphics card for a dozen bucks or two difference. Even if you don’t seem to need it, it’s just a bad idea to make small savings of cash at the expense of big differences in hardware properties. :wink: For example see that the numbers calculate well and remain in proportion - hard drive capacity to cash, graphics card benchmark score to cash, processor parameters/benchmark to cash. These ratios make a good purchase. :wink: If this sounds like Chinese, I can help you out.

Generally, if you tell me how much you want to spend and what company you want to buy from, I could help you make some choices. :slight_smile:

Note: If you really only ever intend to do office works, it may be a good idea to buy a used computer from a friend or some company which is doing away with post-leasing computers or some such and also use Open Office (which comes for free) to save the most cash and get the best results at the best price.


For students MS Office is $99 and you can run it on OSX.


I went through the same decisions a few years ago. I contacted the guy I bought all my office computers from, and he told me to buy a Dell. He said he couldn’t match their prices or quality. He also advised me to buy the extended warranty for as long as possible. While those are normally a waste, on laptop computers they are practically a necessity. One repair, even a simple one, is likely to cost more than the warranty. Dell even gave me a new laptop because mine was having issues.

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