Computer Shopping 101

The computer world is full of acronyms and abbreviations, and many are similar to one another. Making sense of all the terms and focusing on what is most important are the keys to getting the best deal on  your next computer.

33What is the CPU?

The CPU is the heart of your computer, and it is important to understand just what it does. CPU stands for central processing unit, and its job is to take incoming numbers, perform calculations and return results.

You can think of the CPU as a very sophisticated calculator. The calculator in your pocket might be able to do two or three calculations a second, but the CPU in the average computer can perform billions in the same length of time.

Most of the computers on the market today come with multi-core processors. The multi-core setup allows the computer to perform better by makeing multitasking easier and more effective. Instead of a single processor working on several different tasks, the computer can assign each processor to a different task. This increases overall speed and makes your computer experience better.

While there are eight and even sixteen core processors on the market, the most common setups are dual-core, which combines two processors into a single ci[, and quad-core, which uses four. All else being equal and depending on the types of applications you are using, the quad core processor will give you better performance, but the price tag of the computer will be higher as well.

How Much RAM?

RAM stands for random access memory, and it is a very important part of the computer shopping process. Even the fastest multi-core system will not perform well if there is not enough RAM onboard.

If you have ever seen the inside of a computer, you will recognize the sticks of memory that make up the RAM. These sticks are inserted directly on the motherboard, and they provide the computer with the temporary storage space it needs to perform calculations and maintain information.

When shopping for a new computer, you should look for one with a minimum of 4GB of RAM; 8GB or more is even better, and relatively easy to find these days. RAM is relatively inexpensive these days and it’s the easiest and least expensive way to increase your computers performance.  Another added benefit of having more RAM is it lessens the workload on the Hard Drive which can increase the lifespan of the machine.

Hard Drive Storage

RAM provides temporary storage, but the hard drive is responsible for storing information permanently. As with RAM, the prices for hard drive storage have fallen sharply. That means bigger is better when shopping for a new PC.

It pays to buy more storage space than you think you will need. You may not think you need a 500GB hard drive, but the large size of video and music files means it may start filling up before you know it.

As you shop, you may encounter two separate types of hard drives – HDD and SSD. HDD means hard disk drive, and it is the most common type of drive on the market. HDD are inexpensive and able to store a lot of information for a low price, but they are also less durable and slower than SSD’s.


SSD stands for solid-state drive.  They do not have moving parts the way HDD drives do, and the lack of moving parts make SSD drives both faster and more durable, but they are also much more expensive. The storage capacity of SSD drives also tends to be more restrictive, and the price per gigabyte of storage is much higher.

If you can afford the upgrade, we recommend using your OS (operating system) on a SSD and install a large 1TB or bigger HDD for data and media storage.


Knowing the terms can help you get the best deal on your next computer. Whether you are shopping for a laptop or desktop, having a basic understanding of terms like RAM, HDD, SSD and CPU will make comparing brands and models a lot easier.  If you have any questions, we are always here to help, please give us a call at 386-248-0000 or email us at  We offer both a computer purchasing service (to help you get the most for your money), or we can build you a custom pc or server.