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Don’t Speculate on Computer Specs

When one of our clients merged with another company, they adopted the other company’s desktop computer specifications. They differ from ours, but the conversation sparked a good discussion about guessing how much computing power you need. There are some rules of thumb, but it’s easy to avoid problems down the line when you understand what you’re buying with a computer.

We consider these to be the three key specifications: 1.) RAM (random access memory), 2.) the processor chipset, and 3.) hard drive capacity. Some people use the term memory for RAM and hard drive capacity interchangeably. Those of us in the computer business know they are separate, and you can order the right computer more effectively if you keep them separate, too.

RAM is – in a sense – temporary memory capacity. It’s the memory that’s used to perform functions, i.e., spreadsheet calculations, word processing, internet searches, etc. Once you save whatever you were working on, it goes to “permanent” storage, i.e., your hard drive or the cloud. The more RAM you have, the faster you can work because it can hold more data.

In our discussions during the merger, the other company specified 32 MB (megabytes) of RAM for desktop computers. We thought that was on the high side. But on the other hand, too many companies try to save money by requiring only 8 MB or 16 MB RAM. If you don’t have a lot of RAM, you’ll generally need more patience. The more complex your computing needs, the faster you’ll be able to work.

Yes, you can upgrade RAM in a desktop, but it’s not always possible in a laptop – or it’s limited. You may be caught short if you blindly speculate that less RAM will be sufficient. From our experience, 16 MB has worked well in almost all cases. Typically, extra RAM can cost $100 or $200 more in a new computer. That’s much less money than replacing a computer just to get more RAM.

The latest processing chips in our commercial-grade computers are Intel Core i7 chipsets. The latest generation is the 13th. Without going geek on anyone, the latest and greatest chipsets give you faster processing power. You can have a lot of RAM, but you won’t be able to take full advantage of it with old, slow chipsets.

Finally, there’s hard drive capacity. The merged organization’s specification is 512 GB (gigabytes). As SSD (solid state drive) hard drives have become commonplace, the industry has gone to smaller drives, typically 256 GB capacity, because the drives need less room to manipulate data as you work on files – and because more files and apps are stored in the cloud. You have more margin for error with a larger hard drive – 512 GB or even a terabyte or two – but you can easily work around the 256 GB spec with good hard drive management. Microsoft OneDrive, for example, allows you to free up space with a few keystrokes. Simply open File Explorer and your directory of top-level file folders, such as Documents. Right-click within your (Documents) directory and click “Free up space.” This will transfer files physically from your hard drive to the cloud.

We can help you develop specifications for the computers you need based on the work each computer will do. Some definitely need higher performance levels, but others can operate more cost-effectively when matched to their tasks. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs.