Choosing the right computers for your organisation

Whether you’re replacing one computer or a whole office-full, it’s important to match the new device to your staff and operational needs. This guide looks at how to choose the right PC, and focuses on machines which run Windows. It does not cover Macs or other operating systems.

Some computer specification terms

You’ll need to understand a few terms when choosing the right computer.

Processor: The central processing unit (CPU) interprets and executes most of the commands from the computer’s hardware and software. The CPU is considered the “brains” of the computer.

32-bit/ 64-bit: 32-bit systems use data in 32-bit pieces whereas 64-bit systems use data in 64-bit pieces. In general, the more data that can be processed at once, the faster the system can operate. A further advantage of a 64-bit system is that it can use greater amounts of RAM (see below), while a 32-bit system can only take advantage of up to 4GB of RAM. All newer editions of Windows can be installed in 64-bit format. 

RAM: Random access memory (RAM) is where a computer stores programs, applications or data that are being used. Essentially the more RAM a computer has the more programs the computer can run. 

Hard drive: The hard disk drive is the main data storage device for a computer. It stores the operating system, software and files and is commonly labelled the “C drive”.

You don't have to understand the insides of a computer to choose a new one (image by Jose Castillo/Flickr)

Some minimum specifications

Below are some simple specifications that should work for staff in most organisations. They cover a simple, economy model, and a mid-range computer which can handle a few more complex programs. Each assumes the computer is being used by one or more users running Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). If you need something more powerful, choose an i7 processor with 8GB and a solid state drive.

In general Infoxchange recommends that you buy new rather than refurbished computers. The exceptions may be if you are in a terminal server environment or if the computers are only very rarely used or solely for public access. You should plan to replace desktops every three to five years and laptops every three to four years. Include software (e.g. Microsoft Office and antivirus) and the labour to install in the overall cost.

Specifications for an economy desktop

Intel i5

4Gb DDR

500Gb

DVD RW

Integrated graphics and audio

20” LCD or LED

Standard keyboard and mouse

Win 10 Pro 64bit or Win 8 Pro 64bit

Specifications for an economy laptop

Intel i5

4Gb DDR

500Gb

DVD RW

Integrated graphics and audio

Separate 20” LCD or LED for office.  Laptop screen size dependent on user preference.  If available select a matte or anti-reflective screen, not the high-gloss screens provided with most home laptops.

Standard keyboard and mouse plus laptop stand to raise screen in office.

Win 10 Pro 64bit or Win 8 Pro 64bit

Specifications for a mid-range desktop

Intel i7

4Gb DDR

500Gb +

DVD RW

HD graphics

Integrated audio

21.5” or above LED

Standard keyboard and mouse 

Win 10 Pro 64bit or Win 8 Pro 64bit

Specifications for a mid-range laptop

Intel i7

4Gb DDR

500Gb +

DVD RW

HD graphics

Integrated audio

Separate 21.5” or above LED for office.  Laptop screen size dependent on user preference.  If available select a matte or anti-reflective screen, not the high-gloss screens provided with most home laptops.

Standard keyboard and mouse plus laptop stand to raise screen in office.

Win 10 Pro 64bit or Win 8 Pro 64bit