Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need new hardware?

This newsletter will help you determine whether you need new computer hardware equipment.

First, what is “hardware”?
Literally, it is any computer equipment that you can trip over. Any piece of your computer that you can grab and toss across the room is hardware. Including the CD-ROM and/or floppy disks that your software comes on!

Now, here is my question to you:

Does your current hardware do what you want or need it to do?
No?  Then, of course you need new hardware.
Yes?  Then leave it alone!

Do your office workers need to share data, printers, faxing capability, etc.?
No?  Then you’re fine!
Yes?  Then you need a computer network.

A network is a system of two or more computers connected together via cables and other hardware that can give an office the ability to share data, file storage space, printers, faxing capability, Internet access, etc.

For more information about networks, see our Newsletter, What is a Network? Why Should I Network?.

Why do you need new hardware?
If you need to use any of the software being sold today, you need at a minimum hardware no older than four years old hardware — possibly with memory and/or hard drive upgrades — in order to keep it singing and dancing.

You can use older hardware, but this can get to the point where you find yourself waiting 20 minutes for your system to start so that you can wait another 10-20 minutes for your software to start so that you can then wait another 5-10 minutes to open your file so you can work… Time enough to brew a pot of coffee and practically drink the whole pot. Don’t laugh —we’ve replaced such systems!

For more information about software, see our Newsletter, Do I Need New Software?.

What is the difference between “clone” and “name brand” hardware?
“Clone” hardware — hardware that is IBM compatible — comes in two flavors:

(1)  Those produced for the general public by many retail outlets including mail-order, computer “super-stores” and small retail shops. These systems are sometimes put together with the cheapest parts that the builder can buy and last about as long as you’d expect for a low price.

(2)  Those produced by reputable systems service businesses that have an idea of what name brand pieces work together based on their years of experience in the field. An advantage that clone systems have is that you can get parts for them literally anywhere.

“Name brand” hardware is hardware made by a large corporation that numerous people know and have bought from for one reason or other. These can vary from “they had the lowest price” to “well, they make great printers!” These companies use most of the same parts that any good manufacturer would, sometimes along with hardware that they manufacture themselves. A disadvantage with name brand systems is that you can usually only get parts from the manufacturer, period.

Computer Tech Solutions builds clone systems from known good components and we have excellent results with them.  For instance other than hard drive failure (which has increased 600% in the last 3 years) we have a repair rate of less than 10% on our quality systems.

When do I need new hardware?
You may need new hardware under the following circumstances:

  • Usually when you upgrade your operating and/or network system. You may need more memory, bigger hard drives, faster video cards and/or whole new computer systems to run these items.
  • Sometimes when you add software. This can be as simple as needing a bigger hard drive to hold this software, or your computers might not be up to the job of running that software.
  • You hire new employees.
  • Your computers are wearing out or just too slow.

As you can see, the hardware you use does make a difference! Determine your needs and the hardware’s capabilities and recommendations well before buying, or you’ll be waiting a long time with your coffee…

How can Computer Tech Solutions. help my business?
We can help you find out what hardware you really need for your business. We can help you install it, set it up, and organize your data in a manner you would organize your paper data so you can find it easy to use.

If you need a network of computers, we can design a one to fit your office’s needs, help you organize it, provide you with good equipment at a fair price and support it.

Do I need new software?

This newsletter will help you determine whether you need new computer software.

First, what is software?
Software, also known as “applications,” is best recognized as computer programs used to do a variety of tasks, such as word processing, email, Internet browsing, and even games.

More technically, it is a mass of computer commands, usually in a ‘programming code,’ that allows you to input some type of data in a form the commands can manipulate, and it allows you to have that data come out in a form you want (assuming that you bought the right software).

Does your current software do what you want or need it to do? No?  Then, of course you need new software! Yes?  Then leave it alone!

Do your office workers need to share similar data?

No?  Then you’re fine!
Yes? Then you need networkable software.

What is networkable software?
That is software that can be run on more than one computer system simultaneously.  The same data file can be opened on computers connected with cable and hardware.  Notable types of networkable software are accounting programs and databases for such as client tracking, inventory, etc.

For more information on networks, see our newsletter entitled What is a Network?.

Why do you need the right software?
Have you ever tried to ski with a pair of flippers?  Without the right tools, you can’t work, or can’t work efficiently.  And if you can in some way “mickey-mouse” or “slow-poke” your way through, it probably took you three to four times longer than it should have or would have if you had the right gear.

If you give your employees the right tools for the job, you can get real production and efficiency, and in a business, how much you or your employees produce directly affects how much your company makes (as long as you are producing a product the public wants, of course).

What is the difference between “off the shelf” and “custom software”?” Off the shelf” software is software that is mass produced for the general public and you can buy these at any software retail outlet.

“Custom software” is software made for a specific purpose that most other people and/or businesses would have no use for, but that some can use to save innumerable hours of time if they had it.  It is usually made specially for a company or individual.

What is a software “bug”?
Remember the definition of software I gave at the top of this page? Well, a “bug” is one of those commands that the programmer (the fellow that writes software) wrote wrong.  A typo, a slip of the finger at3 a.m., a mis-understood word or unclear command, too much soda and pizza, many things can cause a programmer to write a bug, but there is always the same reaction when one is found by the user while in the midst of his/her 30-page document …  (And the poor folks nearby better cover and duck!)

As you can see, the software you use does make a difference! Check your needs and the software’s abilities and recommendations well before buying — or you’ll be on those slopes with a weird set of skis.

As you can see, the software you use does make a difference!  Determine your needs and your software’s capabilities and recommendations well before buying, or you may end up with the wrong software.

How can Computer Tech Solutions. help my business?
We can help you find out what hardware you really need for your business.  We can help you install it, set it up, and organize your data the same manner that you would organize your paper data, so you find it easy to use.

What is a computer network?
Why should I network my computers?

Computer Networking DiagramA computer network is simply computers wired together in a way that lets them share data and/or devices such as hard drives, CD-ROMs, faxmodems, printers, etc.

Since you can share hard drives on a computer network, a smaller drive can reside on each computer with a single large drive on the system that shares the data area with all users.

With shared data, if one user is out, your temporary replacement can fit right in from any computer in the network and get to work immediately.

Ease of Use and Productivity
Another advantage of computer networks is that all your files can be in one place. No need to copy a file to a floppy, run over to the computer that is connected to a printer, insert the floppy, locate the file, and then print it. (This procedure is known as the “sneaker net”.) And you can easily back up all of your valuable data on one system’s tape backup.

With a computer network, we can easily give groups of users’ rights to view and edit data pertaining to their jobs, and limit or deny access to areas of data for those who should not have it —for instance, accounting data.

If a shared file of client data is needed, a computer network is the only way to allow multiple users to access the same data file …as long as you are using a networkable database program. We can install and customize such programs for you.

How much does a computer network cost?
Computer networks come in all sizes. You can also network your existing computers and add individual terminals to the computer network as needed.

Call us at (336) 245-2728— or use our CTS Contact/Request form to get an estimate of what it will cost.

Computers use resources too!
Addressing computer systems using Microsoft Windows

Many of you have heard the term “resource” in a conversation regarding computers.

What are your computer’s resources, you might ask — and I’m glad you did because I needed an excuse to write this article…

A resource is something that your computer can use to do the work you want it to do. The most important two on the list are memory (otherwise known as RAM and NOT your hard disk) where most of the work you are doing (including what you see at the current moment) is being done and are small pieces on the main board in your computer. Secondly you have your hard disk (which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as memory) and is a piece inside of your computer that you store all your data on (and backup regularly if you are wise).

First off, let me explain some terms for the newcomers:

  • Click indicates pressing the left mouse button once.
  • Double-click indicates pressing the left mouse button twice.
  • Right-click indicates pressing the right mouse button once.
  • MB is short for “Mega-byte” which means roughly, 1 million bytes of data, with each byte being the equivalent of one letter, number, symbol, etc.

You computer has whatever memory that either you or your vendor put in it. This can be checked by right-clicking on the “My Computer” icon which is usually on the upper-left of your screen and clicking the “Properties” menu item. Towards the bottom-right of the “General” tab, you will see a number in front of “MB RAM”. If you look at the number, that is how much memory (or RAM) your system has.

Your computer uses memory as a workspace. When you start the computer, parts of the operating system are copied to memory for fast access. When you load a program to do some work with, you also copy that, or parts of that program to memory to be able to do your work. Likewise, when you open an existing data file with that program. And when you create a new file with any program, you are creating it in memory to be later copied to the hard drive.

So, you should see that a) memory is an important resource and b) the more you have, the more work (or larger files) your computer can do comfortably at any one time.

My minimum memory recommendations for any speed of system running Microsoft’s products are as follows:

Operating system………Memory (RAM)

The storage requirements for Windows operating system are as follows:


What about your hard drive?
Well, because of increasingly complex (read LARGE) operating systems, programs, etc.; the storage space demands for small computers has skyrocketed in the last three years. For example: Microsoft’s Windows v3.1, circa 1991, used 12MB of hard drive space to install fully, whereas Microsoft’s Windows 98 uses 350MB for a full install — around a 2,916% increase! Luckily, the cost of that storage space has dropped relatively. (By the way, the quality of that storage space has dropped as well, so again, smart users backup their data! To avoid extra unnecessary work, be smart!)

To find how much hard drive space you have, and have left, double-click on the “My Computer” icon, right-click on the drive C: icon, click on the “Properties” menu item.

You will see a pie-chart indicating your hard drive’s capacity condition. Below the pie-chart and to the right is a number with a “MB” after it. This indicates your total hard drive capacity. Just above the pie-chart and to the right is another number with a “MB” after it, this is the available, or free space on your hard drive. If this number is below 100, and you are using any of the above operating systems, you need a larger hard drive! Even if you are “only doing word-processing”!!


Because all versions of Microsoft’s Windows use what is called a “swap-file” or a “page-file”. These (as they indicate) are first off, files. Files are stored on your hard drive. These files are necessary to all versions of Microsoft’s Windows, and used as temporary storage spaces while your computer is running. If your hard disk space is low, so will the space for this file be low, and your system’s performance will suffer. To be specific, if you are running Windows, you should have at least 100MB free for your swap file, and if this is all you have free, it’s time for a new drive!

As your memory is your workspace, your hard drive is similar to your filing cabinet, in other words, it is a storage space. The larger drive you have, the more space for files, programs, etc.

Any final words of wisdom?
Sure! Any amount of memory (RAM) below the minimum recommendations I made above will slow you down and over-work your hard drive (remember the swap/page-file?)to the extent that you have less than these numbers.

Ok, now you have an idea of what your computer has and uses as its two main system resources. Other devices will affect the speed of your system, and some dramatically, but that’s a title for another newsletter.

How can Computer Tech Solutions. help my business?

We can help you find out what hardware you really need for your business. We can help you install it, set it up, and organize your data the same manner that you would organize your paper data so you find it easy to use.