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1. Introduction and Index

2. Computer Buying Considerations

3. Computer Hardware Options- CPUs and System RAM

4. Disk Drive Options

5. Video Cards, Monitors, Sound Cards, Modems, etc.

6. Additional Features - Printers, Digital Cameras, Scanners, Networks

7. Recommended Software

8. Recommended Computer Systems

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Computer Buying Primer

Hardware Options Continued - Disk Drives

Hard Disk Drives

With hard disk drives, both speed and size matters. In terms of the brand, I would personally stick with the leading brand names like IBM, Seagate, Western Digital, or Maxtor. With hard disk drives there are basically five different types, EIDE, SCSI, Firewire, Serial ATA, and USB.

For SCSI, Firewire, and Serial ATA drives, you may need a separate interface card and the hard drives themselves are more expensive, but faster than EIDE drives.

Within EIDE you have three different types, regular EIDE, Ultra DMA and Ultra ATA. The difference is that Ultra DMA and Ultra ATA have higher speed in terms of disk access and data transfer since the hard disk runs faster (DMA 5400 RPM, ATA 7200 RPM and higher) and because of a special interface the data transfer rate is higher (66 MB/sec, 100 MB/sec, or 133 MB/sec).

Serial ATA drives are the newest type of hard drive and promise transfer rates of 150 MB/sec or more when used with a native serial bus controller.

The access to data on the disk (seek time) is very important for the overall performance of the computer. Data transfer rate is important if you are using big files like big databases or video files. Hard disk drives are relatively cheap.

Recommended hard disk: 40 - 200 GB, 7-9 ms seek time, 7500 RPM, ATA 100 or 133. See our articles Installing a Second Hard Drive, and our InfoHQ Tech Watch Newsletter for more information about hard drives.

CD-ROM, DVD, CD-RW, and DVD-RW Disk Drives

These drives come in four different forms; the standard CD-ROM, the DVD ROM the ReWritable CD-RW, and the ReWritable DVD-RW. (DVD multi-drives read and write all CD and DVD formats).

The standard CD-ROM is read only and can read standard Music CD-ROM's and data CD-ROM's up to 700 MB. CD-ROMs have various read speeds 32X, 48X, 72X etc.

DVD-ROM, is a different kind of CD-ROM that can read the same kind of CD's as a standard CD-ROM, and on top of that it can read DVD-ROMs. One single DVD-ROM can store up to 6.4 GB of software which is 8 times the size of a conventional CD-ROM.

DVD-ROM also gives you the possibility to view Digital movies on your desktop, although you also require a so-called MPEG2 decoder card or a software DVD driver.. This sometimes comes as part of the DVD set but may need to be purchased separately.

A CD (CD-RW) gives you the possibility to record your own CD's, both data and/or Music up to 800 MB of data or 80 minutes of music. The speed of writing a CD is from to 2x to 48x. At 2x speed it takes 1 hour to record 800 MB of data, at 48X it takes less than 3 minutes. CD writers can be purchased for as low as $50 dollars. This is a great way to make backups, copy software and create your own music CD's.

A DVD read-write (DVD-RW) drive functions in the same way as a CD-RW but has much greater capacity. DVD-RW drives have speeds of 2X-4X.

Recommended: 1 DVD-ROM ( if you want to watch movies on your computer)or 1 CD-RW 40X or faster (for backup or recording music) or a DVD-RW drive (if you want to record movies or large data files).

Floppy Disk Drives

While older computers were required to have a floppy disk drive, newer computers may not have one. This is the slowest type of disk drive and it holds the least amount of data ( the typical 3.5" floppy disk drive holds 1.2 MBs of data).
Newer computers replace the floppy disk drive with CD-RW drives. Another good alternative to a floppy drive is a flash memory drive.

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