Buying a Computer: 5 Tips for Writers

1. Get a laptop.

Desktop? You can’t carry it to the library or take it on a trip to Cuba. Tablets? You can’t type on a touch screen. I mean, you can, but only well enough to compose an email or tweet, not to write a novel. That still leaves Netbooks, but they’re passé and unless you have tiny hands they were never a good fit anyway. So get a laptop. They have decently sized keyboards and fit inside a knapsack.

2. Consider getting a used laptop.

Used laptops are cheaper than newer laptops and you can sometimes find a sturdy one, like an old ThinkPad, for a bargain. If you write every day—as you should—you’ll soon appreciate the value of a pair of metal hinges and an outer body that actually protects your machine when, inevitably, you drop it.

3. You don’t need a hard drive.

There are operating systems that boot off a USB drive and load into a computer’s RAM. You can save your files to Dropbox, an external hard drive or another USB drive. You can buy a USB drive for $5. Laptops without hard drives (or with broken hard drives) are not junk. Thankfully, many people treat them as such and price accordingly.

4. You need a keyboard.

You’re a writer. Your keyboard is both the tool of your trade and your most important input device. You will spend hundreds of hours using it. So make sure your laptop has a good one. If not, buy an external keyboard. A decent, standard-sized keyboard like the Logitech K120 won’t run you more than $15. Mechanical keyboards (ones that go click-click-click when you use them) start at about $100, but are worth it if you can afford one.

5. Ignore software.

Your laptop comes with Windows 8 already installed? Antivirus software? That’s great, as long as you don’t pay extra for it. Actually, it’s not great. It’s immaterial. Because the first thing you should do once you get your laptop is wipe it clean of everything you can and install the operating system and software that you want. You’re a writer. You shouldn’t be fazed starting from a blank page.

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