PC Advice


Last Updated August 2006-

How Much Do I Need To Spend?

About £450.  You can spend much more than this, but once you get much above the £450 mark, you encounter the law of diminishing returns, which means you end up paying much more money to get a slightly better computer.

Desktop Or Laptop?

Desktop.  Unless you need to travel with your computer, or have very limited space in your house.  Desktops are better value, and you can adjust the height of your monitor in relation to the keyboard which makes for more comfortable operation.

Where Do I Get It From?

If, like me, you don’t feel the need to go down to a computer store and physically inspect your purchase, you can get a new PC delivered to your door without having to leave your arm chair :-

www.dell.co.uk  – 0870 907 5818

If you are the sort of person who likes the ‘hands on’ approach, you could do worse than go to:-

www.pcworld.co.uk          0870 242 0444



What Is The Minimum Specification I Need?

Unless you want to play the latest games at full speed, here is the specification of the PC you will need, which at the time of writing is available for approximately £500 (don’t worry if you don’t understand all the terms) :-

  • Windows XP Home Edition
  • 512MB RAM
  • 80GB Hard Drive
  • DVD / CD Rewriter combo drive
  • 3 GHz (or equivalent) CPU
  • 17 inch TFT monitor
  • Printer :-

What Sort Of Printer Should I Buy?

There are two main types of printer currently – Inkjet and Laser.

Inkjet printers start at around £30.  They generally give good quality results.  But bear in mind that if you buy an Inkjet printer, running costs can be quite high (as you will find when you have to buy a new ink cartridge for your printer).

If you are likely to print more than a few pages every now and again, it is worth considering a laser printer.  If you don’t need to print in colour (and most people don’t really need to), then a black and white (mono) laser printer can be picked up for something in the region of £70.  It will be cheaper to run, and faster too.

Click here to read an article from the New York Times about printing costs

Click here for printer reviews from trustedreviews.com

Is It Worth Buying An Extended Warranty?

No.  It is widely acknowledged that electronic equipment fails when it is very new or very old.  Extended warranties are not good value for this reason.

Do I Need Broadband Internet Access?

Yes (unless you only use your PC for very occasional emails) :-


What Exactly Is Broadband?

Broadband (also sometimes called ADSL or DSL) is basically a fast way of connecting your PC to the Internet through your existing phone line.  It allows you to browse web sites and share information with others much more quickly than was previously possible.  It also allows you to use your phone at the same time as the Internet.  NB – If you currently have cable TV, it is possible to get broadband Internet access from your cable provider which will not use your phone line, but for this article I will assume you will be using a phone line.

Click here for a beginners guide to ADSL from adslguide.org.uk

Click here for a guide to how ADSL works from adslguide.org.uk

How Much Are The Ongoing Costs For Broadband?

Broadband costs from around £15 per month.

What Do I Need To Know Before Signing Up To A Broadband Package?

Firstly, if you live in a rural area – you will need to check that your phone line is capable of broadband.  If you have access to the Internet, you can check here by typing in your phone number:-


If you do not have access to the Internet, you can check by phoning BT on 0800 800 150 (Be sure to say that you only want to check the broadband capability of your phone line, and do not want to order BT Broadband at this point).

I Have A BT Phone Line.  Do I Have To Get Broadband From BT?

No.  Broadband can be supplied by a large number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  BT Broadband is just one supplier (and not necessarily the best).  Deals change on an almost weekly basis.

Click here for an ISP comparison guide from adslguide.org.uk

Some of the better ISPs that provide broadband are (in no particular order):-


NB – I have been with Virgin broadband for over a year now and have not had any major problems. Also, Virgin is the only broadband provider that I know of that does not tie you into a minimum 12 month contract, so you are free to cancel at any time..

Also – Sky are offering free broadband if you already have a subscription to their satellite TV service – but as of 1st August 2006 this is unlikely to be available in Northern Ireland in the near future… UPDATE:-

Here is an email I received from SKY on 10th August 2006 –

” Thank you for registering your interest in Sky Broadband. We are currently rolling out our state-of-the art network across the country, but your area won’t become live for the next 12 months. “

If I Am Buying A New PC, Do I Need To Specify That I Require Broadband Internet Access?

Yes.  If you want to be able to connect your new PC to the Internet as soon as you receive it, most retailers will give you the option when buying to sign up to a Broadband Internet Service Provider.  Your new PC should then be provided with a Broadband modem, which plugs in between your PC and your phone line.

Once I Have Signed Up And All My Kit Has Arrived, What Do I Need To Do To Get Connected To The Internet?

Once you have received your Broadband modem and set-up CD, generally, all you need to do is insert the set-up CD into the CD Rom drive on your PC, and then carefully follow the instructions.

I Already Have A PC. Will It Be Able To Use Broadband?

If you have Windows XP, one free USB port, a bit of space left on your hard drive, and 256MB RAM, you do not really need to buy a new PC….


What Software Do I Need To Purchase For Use With My new computer?

It depends on what you need to do with it, with one exception….

One piece of software that you DO need to install and make sure it is set to regularly update is ‘Anti Virus’ software.  When you buy a new PC, from Dell for example, it will come with something like ‘Norton Anti Virus’ already installed.  You can leave this as it is and be fully protected.  Unfortunately, if you do this, you will have to pay an annual subscription – usually in the region of £20 per annum.  Alternatively, you can uninstall the Anti Virus software that came with your computer, and install a very good free alternative – ‘AVG Anti Virus’ from www.avgfree.co.uk (You should find it under ‘AVG Products’, ‘AVG Free Edition’)

If you need a spreadsheet, word processor, or presentation program, then you can download the excellent ‘Open Office’ software from www.openoffice.org . This software will do almost everything that ‘Microsoft Office’ will do, and does not cost a penny.

If you have a digital camera then click on the link below to download the free ‘Picasa’ photo software from Google:-


Do You Endorse The Google Adverts On This Page?

No. You need to use your own judgment when clicking on any of those links…


There is still some stuff I am not sure about…

If you live in the Ards Peninsula, feel free to E-Mail me with your question .

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