What Kind of Computer Do You Need?

A personal computer (PC) is a microcomputer designed for use by one person at a time.

Prior to the PC, computers were designed for — and only affordable for — companies that attached terminals for multiple users to a single large mainframe computer whose resources were shared among all users. By the 1980s, technological advances made it feasible to build a small computer that an individual could own and use as a word processor and for other computing functions.getintopc

The advent of the era of the personal computer was acknowledged by Time magazine in 1982, when it broke with tradition by choosing the PC as its Man of the Year.

What are personal computers used for?

Whether they are home computers or business ones, PCs can be used to store, retrieve and process data of all kinds. A PC runs firmware that supports an operating system (OS), which supports a spectrum of other software. This software lets consumers and business users perform a range of general-purpose tasks, such as the following:

word processing
instant messaging
database management
internet access
listening to music
network-attached storage
graphic design
music composition
video gaming
software development
network reconnaissance
multimedia servers
wireless network access hotspots
video conferencing
Users can repurpose older PCs for tasks outside of standard computing, such as contributing processing power to distributed computing projects. The Folding@home project is an example where idle processing power is used to run simulations of cell protein dynamics to help scientists find cures for chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Types of personal computers

Personal computers fall into various categories, such as the following:

Desktop computers usually have a tower, monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Tablets are mobile devices with a touchscreen display.
Smartphones are phones with computing capabilities.
Wearables are devices users wear, such as smartwatches and various types of smart clothing.
Laptop computers are portable personal computers that usually come with an attached keyboard and trackpad.
Notebook computers are lightweight laptops.
Handheld computers include advanced calculators and various gaming devices.
Other ways of categorizing PCs include the following:

processing speed
processing power
power consumption
memory capacity
Personal computing devices differ in other ways as well. For example, laptops and notebooks generally use less power than desktops, but often don’t have as much storage. Tablets and smartphones typically have less input/output (I/O) capability than laptops and desktops.

PC components can be switched out to modify the devices. For example, people who play video games often construct gaming PCs that maximize processing power and speed using high-quality processors.


The term “PC” is an initialism for “personal computer”. While the IBM Personal Computer incorporated the designation into its model name, the term originally described personal computers of any brand. In some contexts, “PC” is used to contrast with “Mac”, an Apple Macintosh computer.[6][7][8][9]

Since none of these Apple products were mainframes or time-sharing systems, they were all “personal computers” and not “PC” (brand) computers. In 1995, a CBS segment on the growing popularity of PC reported: “For many newcomers PC stands for Pain and Confusion.”[10]


Over on camp Intel, things aren’t much simpler: On the low-end side you have Intel Atom processors for tablets or super cheap laptops and then the slightly faster Intel Celeron. The middle class is being occupied by the Intel Pentium (this used to be Intels name for their top end processors), which is adequate for most general purposes like browsing, working, and even some more demanding games.

On the “high-end” spectrum, we’ve got the Core i-series (i3, i5, i7, i9) and the advice we gave above applies here: The lower-end “i3” is still part of a family of fast processors while being affordable. It offers great performance for everyday use. Starting with the i5, i7 and especially the i9 series, we’re looking at hardcore gaming and extreme workstation scenarios — but more on that below. Always make sure to get the latest generation because a Core i7 8700k (8th gen) from 2017 offers almost double the performance than its Core i7 2700k (2nd gen) from 2011.

How much RAM do you need?

In the early days of computing, more Random Access Memory (RAM) meant more performance. Today this holds true still, although memory has lost its significance a bit. Today, the bare minimum should be 4 GB as it’ll be filled up by your Windows version and just a handful of apps.

What kind of a Hard Disk do you need? SSD or HDD?

Get an SSD (Solid State Drive). There’s no reason not to, unless your budget is extremely limited. There are other ways to boost your computer’s speed, of course, but an SSD is a good foundation to start with. An SSD is faster, and just gives you a far superior experience than old-school HDDs (Hard Disk Drive).

You’ll often find PC models that sport both. This lets you use the faster, more expensive SSD to store your core Windows OS and programs (where speed matters) and a larger, cheaper HDD to store all your data files (where speed matters less).