Computers: Getting Personal With Computers
No matter how ubiquitous computer technology has become, true comfort and ease with computers remains elusive for much of the world. It’s no surprise that there are libraries’ worth of information online on the progenitor of the Web: the personal computer.
Many of us use computers but rarely stop to think about how computers work. A basic understanding of the technology in front of you can greatly enhance the computing experience, and help you advance as a user.
- In this guide and on the sites referenced, you're certain to run into a fair amount of techno-babble. Use the Webopedia glossary to look up computer and Internet terms.
PC Tech Guide
brings you explanations for each individual component of your computer within their "Guides" tab. Find histories of the parts, as well as technical explanations of their workings in this layman’s guide.
has a book in PDF format that explains how computers work from the very basics to the very technical aspects. Using simple illustrations and a no-frills format, the book begins with the fundamental concepts of digital computing.
is an online museum dedicated to chronicling the history of computers. The site includes pictures, information and history on most old computers, starting from the 1950s behemoths and ending with desktops from as late as 1995.
Computers double their processing power roughly every 18 months. Learn how to keep up with the technology with advice on choosing a computer.
- When choosing a computer, technical support is often overlooked. Types of useful support include 24/7 phone support (with a real person), online “chat” support, online tutorials and tips, a good repair and replace policy, and walk-in service at certain locations.
- Computer specifications and features can sound great, but they don’t really tell you how the computer is going to perform. Try to browse as many user reviews as possible before you choose a particular computer.
For help deciding on a computer …
Paul Corr’s Homepage
takes an unbiased look at the advantages and disadvantages of Macs and PCs, and offers a list of questions to ask yourself that may make the decision easier.
talks about the switch from Windows to Macintosh in this 2007 post, "Mac Learning Curve." Watch the video for his advice and scroll down to "Further Reading" for more articles on the topic.
For help choosing what Mac to buy …
The Apple Store
has technical information on its products. Choose one of the computer options to view specifications and prices.
offers a buyer’s guide with the latest development rumors on Apple products. The best feature of the guides are the recommendations on whether to buy now or wait for a future update. The main "Guides" section
also has useful information. All the guides are in wiki format, and should not be trusted to be 100 percent accurate or timely.
My First Mac
helps users choose and use Macs. Explore the articles to find hordes of information on switching from a PC.
For the latest PC reviews …
has a large database of product guides and reviews. Find tech news, help with software and hardware, and more.
reviews many of the latest laptops, desktops and accessories with the average user in mind. The site presents an out-of-10 rating with the reviews, giving you a quick look at the product.
For information on Linux ...
is devoted to Linux. Linux open source OS, and the applications for it, are all open source, meaning free and free to modify. Find applications, documentation and more.
offers news and reviews of "quiet, low noise, and/or silent computers and components" for the PC enthusiast.
There may be a number of benefits to buying a computer online. Many manufacturers and retail stores give you the same service online as off, and often you’ll find the best prices from Web-only stores.
- Often third-party accessories, including replacement parts like power adapters, are cheaper than the original manufacturer’s products.
For online computer retailers and shopping sites …
offers various product categories, including “Apple” products and “PCs & Laptops.” Narrow your browsing results using the options on the left menu.
is a CNET site that lets you narrow your search with different criteria. Once you’ve found the computer you want, the site displays multiple online sites with prices. Type in your zip code to calculate the applicable tax and shipping costs.
Buying Guides give quick rundowns of various parts for different classes of computers, and what you should look for in each. The site also helps you find low prices on the Web from various vendors.
For specific manufacturers …
The Apple Store
lets you browse, compare and learn how to use all of Apple’s products, and makes ordering them easy for direct shipment. You’ll occasionally find great deals for students here, like free iPods with new computers during back-to-school time.
lets you build your own computer on its Web site, and have the customized machine shipped directly with software or add-on accessories. Dell also offers technical and buyer’s support online.
has taken over the time-tested IBM brand. Order computers on the site, and find product support and upgrades.
My Super PC
is for those who want to build their own computer. Find out what you need, how to put it together and the costs involved.
Even for the experienced techie, keeping a computer in tip-top shape can be a challenge. Luckily, you can find online computer support with a click of the mouse.
- Be careful when receiving third-party online computer technical support. Tampering too much with your computer can void warranties.
For general online computer support …
does more than just offer advice, though the user forums are a good place to start for common questions. Sign up for a free account to scan your computer and collect a huge amount of system information, which you can then make available to experts online.
isn’t the prettiest online computer support site. However, the well-organized question-and-answer section, forums and the ability to e-mail and sometimes even chat online with support experts make it a good choice.
For Apple online computer support …
support site includes tutorials, tips and troubleshooting guides, as well as software updates, hardware repair services and the Applecare extended warranty service.
Mac OS X Hints
hosts a huge database of user-submitted OS X tips, searchable by keyword. The user forum is also a particularly active and useful one, offering sections on all aspects of Apple computing.
For Windows online computer support …
support site provides support for Windows, Office and the other programs it makes. For help with your PC hardware, you’ll have to consult the specific manufacturer or a third-party support service.
Learning more about your computer and its capabilities through computer tutorials can open up new possibilities that you didn’t know existed.
- For offline learning, check with your local computer store. Many of them, including Apple stores, run seminars, classes and even private computer tutorials.
is a directory of the many computer tutorials on the Web. It has many technical categories, including computer guides and Internet tutorials.
hosts a number of online computer tutorials and courses, including general guides like PC troubleshooting and more specific guides.
Home and Learn
is a U.K. Web site that offers free Web tutorials on many aspects of home computing.
has guides better suited to visual learners. If you’d rather see how something is done than get a long explanation, these quick computer tutorials are for you.
Use the links in this section to learn how to transfer files to a new computer, and find out what you'll need to protect your personal information and data.
- Getting rid of your old computer? Be sure to protect your personal information, and responsibly dispose of the machine. For more information, see the, “Computer Recycling and Donating Computers” section of this guide.
- If you purchased and installed software programs on your old computer, hold onto the installation disks so you can install it on your new computer.
For switching to a new computer …
has a series on how to transfer files to a new PC. Though the information is directed primarily at Windows users, the majority of the advice is applicable to Mac users. Continue with part 2
, part 3
, part 4
and part 5
. For those switching to the newer Windows Vista OS, check out this series: part 1
and part 2
offers help on transferring your music files to a new computer using an iPod. If you use iTunes, and especially if you have purchased music on it, following these instructions will make sure all files work properly on the new machine. Make sure to read the link about authorization and deauthorization
helps you transfer files to a new Windows Vista machine. The download is free, but if you want a special cable to assist in the transfer, there's a charge. If you don’t want to spring for the cable, your local computer store most likely has a substitute. For more information on migrating to Vista, read this help page
Charlie Arehart’s Blog
takes you through the steps of creating a “virtual machine” to hold your old computer on your new one. This may not be for everyone, but it is an interesting way to keep all the details of your computer’s setup handy for future use.
To switch from a Windows PC to a Mac …
organized all of its guides for PC-to-Mac switchers here to simplify the daunting task and turn it into a step-by-step process.
My First Mac
covers everything you need to know to switch to a Mac from a PC, including how to move files.
The Tao of Mac
presents a post on “How to Switch to the Mac.” Find detailed tips that are written by a user for a user.
There are a number of computer recycling and donating options available if you want to get rid of your old computer in an environmentally, socially or fiscally responsible way.
- Computers are chock-full of materials that are either valuable or toxic. For more information on the dangers of e-waste, read this article from Greenpeace.
- For more information on recycling your computer responsibly and tips on choosing a recycler, read this informative article from Salon.com.
- If you choose to sell your computer, follow the advice in the sites below to make sure your data is protected. Then check out the findingDulcinea Web Guide to Selling.
For a look at your computer recycling and donating options …
has a blog, Free Geekery, that lists 10 ways to recycle/reuse your computer.
To recycle your computer …
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
works to mitigate the damage done to the environment by the electronics industry. Browse the site to find a list of responsible recyclers and to learn more about electronics companies that have take-back policies.
is a good service for businesses that generate a lot of e-waste. For a fee, the company can process and recycle bulk amounts of "technotrash."
To donate your computer …
has 10 tips for donating your old computer. Learn how to keep your personal data safe, make the most out of your donation and receive a tax break.
has a creative way to reuse your old desktop computer in this step-by-step guide for the hungry and innovative individual.
Most Recent Guides