Choosing a new laptop computer can be a harrowing task if you are brand new to the world of technology. For instance, there is a whole dictionary of new terms to learn. Add to that the challenge of deciding how much memory you need, what the difference is between ROM and RAM, what type of software to install and more and you could make a full-time job just out of researching computers. But there is a way to take some of the hard work out of shopping for a new laptop. Here are some basics that can guide you to a laptop machine that is perfectly configured for your needs at home or work.



The number one factor you must consider when shopping for a laptop begins and ends with your budget. This is because there are so many add-ons — from memory and screen size to graphics cards and fancy software — that if you do not set your budget before you begin shopping, you are very liable to overspend. If you know your budget going in then you can work to prioritize what you really need and save for upgrades for less necessary components.

Macintosh or PC

The second major factor to consider when shopping for a new laptop computer is whether you want a Windows or Macintosh operating system. While either can accommodate extras like an enterprise SSD to give you more memory and security, other factors may be worth considering. For instance, if you are buying a computer for work and everyone else at your company uses a Windows operating system, you may want to purchase a machine that is guaranteed to be compatible with your company’s software and peripherals.

Hard Drive Size

Once you answer the questions of budget and operating system, hard drive size is the single most important question you need to answer when you begin shopping for a new laptop computer. The hard drive is the component that offers you storage space on your computer. Most newer machines offer hard drives around 200GB (gigabytes) in size. This is more than sufficient for typical work-type activities unless you work heavily with multi-media or graphics files. In addition, most machines offer extra space so that you can buy aftermarket peripherals to expand disk space.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

Random Access Memory, or RAM, runs from 1GB to 6GB for most commercial desktop and laptop computers. RAM is different from ROM (read-only memory), which is typically present at much lower levels. RAM is the main memory for any computer and can be thought of as the memory that allows your software to run as you write and retrieve data in various programs during your work sessions.

CPU (Central Processing Unit)

The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, of your computer is more typically called simply the “processor.” As long as your computer runs at 1.5GHz (gigahertz) or greater you should have adequate speed for your needs. Athlon, Intel or Pentium are the market leaders in the CPU chip industry. It may cost a bit more to purchase a computer with a brand name chip, but it will be worth it in terms of reliability and speed.

Screen Size

Screen size is often simply a matter of personal preference. For desktop computers the screen size can vary dramatically, but this is not true for laptop computers — often the smallest and largest available screen sizes vary by only a few inches. If you are buying a computer to use for gaming, intensive graphic design or web work, multi-media or editing, you may benefit (as will your eyes) from purchasing a computer with a larger screen size.


Finally, the software you select to install on your new computer may vary greatly depending on how you plan to use the machine. Some computers come with software pre-installed for free. Most computers will come with trial accounts for the most popular software programs, including the Microsoft Office Suite and email software. You can purchase and install new software at any time as long as it is compatible with your new computer’s operating system.

This helpful list should give you insight into the most important facets of choosing a new laptop computer.

About the Author: Sharla Mahoney loves her job as the IT director at a small technology firm. In her role she often gets free “sneak peeks” of new products.