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by JB Burke

Q. My current computer is over 4 years old – with a Pentium P4 and 256MB of RAM. I’d like to upgrade to something newer and faster. What should I look for?

A. I get this question all the time. It all depends upon what you want to do with the new computer, and also with your budget. The primary components of a computer are the processor, memory and disk, and you’ll see all of these described in computer ads. Processors are now up to dual or “quad core – meaning 2 or 4 processors on one chip. Memory (RAM) will be 1 to 6 GB (gigabytes), and disk can now be up to 500GB or even 1TB (terabyte). The question is – what proportion of those, and other less often mentioned components, really make a difference to your needs.

If you will primarily do email and web browsing, you can get away with 2GB of RAM, a 250GB disk and a dual core processor or less. On the other hand, if you edit photographs or video, or use other compute intensive applications, you will want a good bit more. Then I’d look for a quad core processor, 4+GB of RAM and a large disk, 500+GB. Now another component, the graphics adapter, rises in importance. Most computers come with graphics on the motherboard – fine for casual use, but lacking in zip for the intense graphics user. So look for a fast graphics card with memory onboard the adapter itself. There’s a lot to this, but I hope this helps.

Published: Courier 2/1/09 - Page 5C