Terms to Know When Buying Computers

leasing computers & purchasing IT assetsWhether you’re leasing computers or purchasing IT assets, it helps to understand product lingo when deciding.

Here are some terms provided by the non-profit technology organization TechSoup to help you make your decision:

1. CPU (Central Processing Unit, or just processor)

What it does – Essentially it’s your computer’s brain, which processes information. The faster the processor, the faster the computer.

What you need to consider – How well the processor will perform. This is based mostly on the number of cores (single, dual, etc.) and the processor speed (also known as “clock speed”), which is measured in gigahertz (GHz).

Minimum standard – Dual core processor with a clock speed of 2.6 GHz.

2. RAM (Random Access Memory, or simply, memory)

What it is – RAM stores information temporarily while your computer is running. Having more memory allows your computer to run faster. Do not confuse “memory” with “storage.” Memory is what your computer uses in the short term to perform basic functions. We will touch on storage later in this list.

What you need to consider – The amount of memory available, which is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). Each gigabyte contains 1,024 megabytes.

Minimum standard – Four GB.

3. Storage (or hard-disk storage)

What it is – The amount of information (files, software, photos, etc.) a computer can store.

What you need to consider – The amount of storage, which is usually measured in GB.

Minimum standard – That depends on your hard drive, which we’ll cover in the next section.

4. Hard Drive (or hard disk)

What it is – This is where most of your computer’s information is stored. There are two types of drives. The traditional one, which features a spinning disk, and is susceptible to mechanical failure. (A hard drive “crash” means the disk literally crashes on the plate beneath it.) There’s also a solid-state drive, with no moving parts. They’re faster and quieter, but also costlier.

What you need to consider – The amount of storage space on the disk.

Minimum standard – 250 GB of storage

5. Networking

What it is – This is how your computer connects to the Internet, or other devices in a network. You can plug a computer into a router through an Ethernet port, connect wirelessly through a wireless card or adapter, or connect to other devices through Bluetooth technology.

What you need to consider – Wired and wireless connection capability.

Minimum standard – A wireless card or adapter and an Ethernet port or adapter.

6. Ports

What they are – Device ports are how your computer connects to other devices like the keyboard, the mouse or a printer. Audio and video ports are how your computer connects to speakers or a visual display such as a monitor.

What you need to consider – Which devices you’ll need to connect to your computer.

Minimum standards – For device ports, look for several USB 2.0 ports. For audio and video ports, check for a VGA port and HDMI.

7. Graphics card

What it is – This card or chip allows your computer to process and display visual information. There are two types of graphics cards: integrated, which are built into the computer and share its memory, or a dedicated card with its own memory.

What you need to consider – The amount of RAM you have and the tasks you need to do. If you have at least 2 GB of RAM, the integrated graphic card will usually be enough. But if your work involves a lot of digital video, you’ll need more RAM and/or a dedicated graphics card.

Minimum standards – See above.

8. Optical drives

What they are – Optical drives let you read and record CDs and DVDs and Blu-rays. A “burner” or recorder – typically labeled “RW” –allows you to record or write information to a disc.

What you need to consider – What media you’ll be using, and what devices can and need to read the data in question.

Minimum standards – A functioning DVD-ROM/CD-RW device.

9. Peripherals

What they are – This refers to the equipment connected by cable – or wirelessly – to your CPU: the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, printers, scanners, etc.

What to consider – For monitors, consider screen size and display resolution.

Minimum standards – For a desktop monitor, you’ll need one that’s at least 15 inches, with 1024 X 768 screen resolution. Laptop screen size will depend on the needs of your organization, but the screen resolution should be the same as for desktop monitors. Keyboards and mice should be fully functional.

We hope this guide helps you as you begin your computer leasing or purchasing journey. And if you’re ready to purchase IT assets for your company, get in touch with CWI.

We’ve spent more than 20 years helping our customers find quality refurbished computers. Now that you have a better handle on the lingo, come pay us a visit.

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