Information Resource Management


Purchasing a Computer

Contents

Hardware
Software
Networking
Purchasing

Hardware

May I use a computer that I already own?
You may bring an older computer, but please keep in mind:
  • The older a computer, the greater the risk of a hardware failure. Newbury College staff cannot fix personal hardware. We have neither the required personnel nor the facilities.
  • We also see hard disk failures with a resulting loss of many important documents. Every student should learn to backup documents by burning a CD-R or by copying to a USB key chain drive.
  • Windows Me and Apple Macintosh OS 9 cannot communicate with network data servers from the dorms. These old operating systems connect to the Internet, but they cannot get files from campus servers. Also, Microsoft no longer supports Windows Me, and they may not support Windows 2000.

Do I need an Apple Macintosh or Microsoft Windows PC?
Our students and employees use both with a majority using Windows. We support both.
Graphic Design tends to use Macintosh whereas Math and Computer Science uses Windows PCs. Other departments use a mix.
Our student email system is available with any Apple or Windows browser.


Which is better, a tower or a notebook?
A notebook computer with wireless allows you to work in the library during busy times like midterms and finals without waiting for a computer. You can also work in the dining hall, cafe, and the greens.
If you purchase a notebook computer, get the extended 3 year warranty because of expensive repairs. Some companies, e.g. Dell, do not cover accidental damage in their normal warranty. They offer a special extended warranty with coverage for accidents which you should consider.. Several students have spilled drinks on their notebook keyboards resulting in a destroyed motherboard at a replacement cost of hundreds of dollars. If you go with a Macintosh, Apple includes telephone software support with their extended hardware warranty, AppleCare.


I'm buying a notebook. What about a carrying case?
Students do not like to carry large, heavy notebook cases like you might see in the hands of a business traveler. Rather than risk having an expensive computer toted around bare, you might consider a protective computer sleeve or small carrying case.
If you are looking for a product on the Internet, here are some brands and models to enter in a search engine: Slipskin by Targus, Body Glove by Fellowes, and Neoprene Notebook Sleeve by Case Logic. We have not tested these; we're just providing a tip on where to start looking when shopping.
We use and really like the small cases by Higher Ground which are traditional cases with handles and straps, but they're more compact than usual.
What brand and model should I buy?

Newbury does not require or recommend specific models. Your budget is the determining factor.
We have done well with Dell and Apple computers. However, Dell has provided very good support to our students, especially with extended warranties.
It appears that the lighter the notebook computer, the more likely a student is to carry it when going to the library or class. This is a benefit. Students will carry a 3 or 4 pound computer whereas a 5 pound computer may be left in their room.

Memory needs?
Windows 7: Purchase at least 2 gigabytes of memory (RAM). 1 gigabyte is the bare minimum; it works but the computer will be very slow. Windows 7 needs a fast processor and a lot of memory.
Apple Macintosh OS X: Purchase 1 or 2 gigabytes of memory.

Do I need networking hardware?
You need a wireless card for wireless access on the Newbury campus. Almost every new notebook computer has built-in wireless.
PCs and corresponding internet access for home use are purchased at your own discretion. Please contact your Internet Service Provider for specific information.

New computers don't have floppy drives. What drives should I consider?
CD burners are excellent for permanent, read-only backups of documents, music, photographs, and other files.
A CD-R can also be used to carry documents, but there are serious limitations. One is that students often burn the CD in a way that makes it incompatible with other computers. They get to the classroom to make a presentation and the CD cannot be read. Second, the most compatible CDs are read-only. If you use it to carry a project to a public computer in the library, you can work on the project, but you cannot save it back to the read-only CD. Therefore, a CD-R is great for permanent backup, but it is not the best way to carry works in progress.
Floppy disk drives are obsolete because floppies are not reliable and they're too small for many types of files, e.g. music, photos, PowerPoint slide shows, etc.

Our recommended solution to the CD-R and floppy issues is to use a USB key chain drive, aka thumb drive:
  • It is very inexpensive.
  • It is very small and portable.
  • It is much more reliable than a floppy.
  • The 512 MB size holds as much as 320 floppies!
  • Unlike a CD-R, a USB drive is read and write, not read-only.
  • Finally, it can be used with any Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Apple OS X computer.

Software

Do I need special software?
We use Microsoft Office with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The current campus software is Office 2003 for Windowsand Office 2004 for OS X.
Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows is available, but it has a radically different interface and file format. If you have this version, please contact the help desk about the proper way to save documents before sending them to a professor.
Students are able to purchase Microsoft Office 2007 (Windows) and Microsoft Office 2008 (Apple Macintosh)through a 3rd party distributor.

What about security software?
New computers come with a "teaser" version of antivirus software that works for only 60 or 90 days and eventually stops protecting. You're supposed to be hooked by then and will therefore purchase the full product. Students don't do that and soon they have outdated, inactive virus protection and a corrupt, unusable computer. A professional cleanup is time consuming and therefore costly.
Please remove any old, outdated, non-functional, or trial antivirus software and install the one we recommend. AVG Anti-Virus Free edition is a popular solution available at no cost to home users and provides a high level of virus detection capability. AVG runs on Windows 7, Vista, XP, and 2000 but not on a Mac. If you need advice about uninstalling your old program or installing the new, please call the Newbury College help desk.
Windows Defender is very helpful in preventing and removing spyware and adware. It is a free download for Microsoft for Windows XP but it comes with Windows 7 and Windows Vista. See http://www.microsoft.com/defenderfor details. This does not replace antivirus software; viruses and spyware are different kinds of malware and require different security software. You want both antivirus and antispyware protection.

Which Apple Macintosh OS do I choose?
The latest versions of Apple Macintosh OS X are best, i.e. Leopard, Snow Leopard or newer.
OS 9 does not work well on our network and the help desk cannot support it.

What about the discs that came with the computer?
Bring the operating system and application discs to school, or at least copies of them. If someone has to perform maintenance on the computer, it may be necessary to have them readily available.

Networking

Will I have Internet access in my dorm room?
Each dorm room has wireless connectivity.

Will I have Internet access on the Newbury campus?
Most of the campus will have wireless capabilities. If you have problems connecting to the Newbury wireless network, contact the campus help desk located in LG 002 in the Academic Center.

Purchasing

I heard Newbury students can get discounts.
Dell gives our students an educational discount. See Dell student discounts here.
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Information Technology Department
Newbury College
helpdesk@newbury.edu