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If you are about to buy your first computer, and you don’t want to spend too much money, what extras should you buy? There are a few basics that will make it much easier to use the computer and to get the most out of the Internet. Luckily, most of these extras are either free or won’t cost you too much money.
- Printer: You need this to make copies of documents from your computer files or from the Internet. Printers start at around $30.
- Mouse: If you bought a desktop computer, it should come with a mouse. If you bought a laptop, it comes with a built-in mouse, but an external mouse makes it much easier to use most programs and web sites. You can get one for less than $10.
- Writable CD or DVD drive: Having this capacity makes it easy to store data or to create music CDs. Make sure your computer comes with one.
- Speakers: Most laptops and even some desktops have built-in speakers, but a pair of external speakers will give you a better sound. If your new desktop or laptop does not come with a pair, get a cheap pair for less than $20.
- Flash drives: You can use these either as a way to back up your files or to transfer files between computers. They can start at less than $10.
- Firefox browser: This alternative to Internet Explorer allows you to have more control over your online experience, especially when it comes to blocking advertising. It is free and you can download it from the Internet.
- OpenOffice.org: This office application suite has all the software you need for doing word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations for either work or school. This is also free and available online.
- Adobe Reader: This free software can be used to view, print, and search PDF files, which is the preferred file format for many online documents. It often comes with new computers, and if not you can get it easily online.
- Google Desktop: This free program allows you to search for content on your computer’s hard drive the same way you do online searches.
- iTunes media player: You can use this free program from Apple to easily manage most of the audio and music files on your computer, and you do not have to buy an iPod to use the software
Just remember, going online does not have to be expensive. Many of the things you want to do with your computer should not cost you a lot of extra money or extra hassle.
Dr. Todd Curtis is the director of the AirSafe.com Foundation and an expert on the role using the Internet to educate the public about risk. This article was taken from his new book, Parenting and the Internet (Speedbrake Publishing, 2007).