Online Learning Resources
This discussion does not apply to you if you need a MAC.
Trying to recommend what type of PC a person ought to purchase is difficult at best given how fast the technology changes. One could probably recommend a new set of standards on a weekly basis. That said, if you're going out to buy a PC here are some guidelines you should follow.
First and perhaps most importantly, before purchasing, speak to an instructor in the program you're in. There may be special options that you can use that are specific to that department.
The four most important components are the processor, the memory (RAM), the hard disk drive and the monitor. Generally speaking, adjusting these four components will make the most impact on price.
- Processor should be a Pentium 3.0 GHz or faster.
- Your PC should have at least 3 gigabyte of memory (RAM), preferably 4. If you're trying to make a decision as to whether you need to get a faster processor or purchase more RAM, you'll get more performance for the money by purchasing more RAM.
- When purchasing a hard disk drive, get the biggest one that you can afford. Normally a drive size of 350 gigabytes is fairly common. You may find a hard drive of that size limiting after a short period of owning your new computer. Many times for less than $100 you can double the hard drive space and for less than $150, you can triple the hard drive space. The bottom line here is to balance what makes sense against what you want to spend. If you don't mind adding $50 or $100 to the price of your computer, do it and get a bigger disk. One other consideration here is that adding a hard drive six months after you buy your computer can be a headache, it's much easier to do it at the point of purchase.
- Flat panel monitors are the standard. The bigger the monitor, the more it will cost. Buy what you can afford and what is appealing to you.
- Processor - 1.5 GHz or faster
- RAM – 1 gigabyte
- Hard Disk Drive - at least 80 gigabytes, but buy as big as you can afford
- Monitor – Flat panel is the standard
- Windows XP as an operating system, this generally comes with the computer. Either the Home or Professional version is acceptable. Operating systems older than this may not be supported by all of our software.
Your computer should also have the following components, spend as much or as little as you want on these, most of the time, they are standard:
- DVD Drive
- Sound Card
- Key/USB Drive for storing your work
- Internet Explorer (the most recent version, currently 7) is the preferred browser
- You may also need various browser plug-ins
- If you're taking an online class, you need a connection to the internet
- Windows XP - either the Home or Professional version is acceptable but generally speaking the professional version is more powerful
Thanks to the implementation of a software licensing agreement with Microsoft, you now have the ability to get significant Microsoft software like Office 2007 (MS Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint). This is literally hundreds of dollars of software at radically reduced prices. For more information, pricing and to order, go to http://wiscsoftware.wisc.edu/wisc.
You can use any browser you choose (such as Explorer, Mozilla Fire Fox, Netscape, etc), but be aware that Internet Explorer is the preferred browser at Western (version 7 or later) and instructors are most likely to make sure that their sites work with this browser to support student learning.
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Adobe Acrobat Reader allows you to read special files commonly called PDF files. A PDF file is basically a very nicely formatted document that is part of a web site. You can view a document like this over the internet, search it and all of the embedded graphics and charts remain with the document.
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