(255 [G6JPG] home)
(my current PCs)


This started as a guide to the prices of the component parts of a PC, as noted at (mainly) computer fairs, but as prices change (usually drop!) so fast, it's better to see it as notes on PC parts, with rough (and out-of-date) price guidance. The list of parts is a useful checklist to make sure you've not forgotten anything when specifying a system.

Prices shown are mainly from computer fairs, i. e. "stall" prices - what you actually pay, i. e. no v. a. t. to be added; note that some stalls do not accept credit cards (some do, sometimes with a few percent surcharge).

This document contains no images:- it's intended to be saved for examination offline (though can certainly be read online). {Note: TV and Radio cards, operating systems, and some comments on processors and motherboards, are in separate files.}

Blanks in tables in this document mean I don't know, not that something doesn't have the feature; if I do know, I put "no" or "0" or whatever.

I've also included my own thoughts on PCs in general.

This was last revised 2004-1-4, based on information mostly 2003-11-8 (and some earlier); be aware it's out of date even before I am doing this editing, and probably in some respects now actually incorrect!
Figures thus were noted2003-11-8 inLondon - and were the lowest I found - allow at least ~ 10-15% margin;
thus 2003-8-16
thus 2003-3-8
otherwise(mostly) earlier (various places) and've probably dropped more.

Some points:

Second-hand machines

Developments in hardware have caused older systems to plummet to the point where often it isn't worth the administrative costs to sell old kit, so it ends up selling for peanuts. If you don't want to play the latest games, then a second-hand system will suit.

Some example systems [monitor not included]:
make (model)processor (megahertz) memory
hard disc
CDsound price (£) and other details
Dell233MMX64yes 50 with USB
PII 2333.2no 35 with USB
PII 2664.3noyes 45 with USB and net
DELL (OPTIPLEX GX1)PII 400 1286.4yesyes 75 with graphics & network
PII 450yesyes 85 with graphics & network
Dell (Optiplex)10yes yes 85 with USB, 10/100 net, Windows 2000; 3 months
DELL (OPTIPLEX GX110)PII 667256 yes 129
P3 4501286.4 yes 150 with PCI graphics, 2 × USB, and 17" monitor
ViglenP3 5006yesyes 135 (2003-10-26, Chelmsford); desktop; with floppy, MoDem, USB,
Windows XP, 30 days RTB warranty
DELL (OPTIPLEX GX110)P3 733 25610yes 139
COMPAQ (EVO)P4 170020yes 300 with network, 4×USB, 16M Nvidia graphics; black, like a small VCR
I wouldn't get anything earlier than a Pentium 233MMX; not that they aren't good machines (including back to 486 systems), but it's not worth it (as you can see).

Some typical applications, and what they need

Note that I've tended to mention amount of memory before processor type and speed; in many cases, the amount of memory is considerably more important.

The parts of a PC

A PC comprises the following. (Most have a [linked] section later in this document [or another in the case of TV/radio cards, operating systems, and - partially - processors and motherboards].) The column headed "basic system" is what I - as of now - think is the minimum it's economic to buy new (i. e. you might be able to save a bit, but I think it would compromise your PC for negligible saving).

componentbasic system costing (£) might remain
current (years)
necessary to work at all:
case (with power supply) midi ATX, >=350 watt power supply, 3 bay 18 (2002-11-3)~4?
motherboard SEE BELOW 35 upwards ~3?
processor Pentium iii 866 megahertz 35
memory 256 megabytes PC133 21
hard drive 40/60/80 gigabytes 40/50/57
monitor 17" second-hand, or non-CRT 35 or 180 5+
graphics hardware 8M AGP with TV out20 (2002-2-16) 2½?
operating system Windows 98 SE 35 (2002-10-19)already
keyboard (as required) 34+
cablesas needed (included)(indefinite)
you'd almost certainly want these:
floppy drive 3.5" 1.44 megabyte 5.506+
CD facility CD-RW drive with BURnproof
(optionally combined with DVD)
28 (55) 3-
mousePS/2 35?
sound hardware (on motherboard)0~4 or more
speakers mains powered (ideally with T connector) 5>5
printerHP640C 59 (2001-8-18)4+
MoDem V92 internal (hardware/software) 9/8.504-
further additions:
other software 3+?
portable USB "drive" 10 to 59 2+?
DVD-R/W or DVD-ROM drive (if not combined with CD-RW [above]) 89 (2003-10-26) or 23 4-
(1 for R/W)
scanner 11.74 (2003-10)3+
digital still camera (most can also be used as "webcam"): 20 [Gadget, Lakeside: 2003-9-27] (352 × 288 pixels);
39.90 [Jessops, Lakeside: 2003-9-27] (640 × 480);
46.99 [Morgan] (640 × 480, 3× optical zoom);
to 1000.
TV and radio cards (receive radio and/or television via your PC; most can also grab video). Can have multiple-channel monitoring, NICAM stereo sound, remote control ... 29.99 (2003-3-1) upwards4+?
FireWire card: for interfacing to digital camcorders (and other FireWire devices) 183+
receiver for digital radio If you can find one, 39.44 (2002-4) 4+
network card (for connecting PCs together in a network) 6 (10/100) per PC [if just 2 PCs, in Windows 9x, just a laplink cable - 3.50 (2m parallel) 5 (5m serial, to be avoided!) - works fine]
USB card (if your PC hasn't got USB on the motherboard; all new ones do) 9 (2 port) 15 (4 port)


Power supply and case

(Mostly sold as one.) I've seen units from £18 (2002-11-3) to £170 (2002-10-19). The style is to some extent a matter of preference. In several shapes: I would ignore the older "AT" type of case/PSU (most modern motherboards only have an ATX power connector).

The slimline (thin desktop) case has more or less disappeared, due to awkward mounting arrangements and ventilation concerns.
The desktop lies horizontally, usually under the monitor (otherwise tending to occupy too much desk, with the monitor as well) - but raises the monitor rather above the comfortable eyeline, and makes the drives awkward to get at (hitting, or at least interfering with, the keyboard, or being round at the side); it also requires the monitor to be moved if access to the inside of the PC is required for any reason.
The mini-tower is basically a desktop stood on end, though set up so the drives are still horizontal. The midi-tower, as you might expect, is higher than a mini- (at least three 5¼" drive bays), without being as overpowering as the full; probably the most popular.
The full tower is becoming commoner; though maybe overkill for most home uses, and certainly less discreet, it can be very convenient if later system expansion needs the space (usually a lot easier to work on too). In general it costs a little more, but not as much so as you'd expect.

Sample prices:
shape ATX (£) [AT no longer available]
minitower 20 3 + 2 bays; 350W
midi18 (2002-11-3) 3 bay 350W
24 4 5¼"and 2 3½" drive bays; 350W; front sockets
3 + 2
4 grey    300, P4+AMD app.s
34 (2002-10-19) 4 5¼, blue metallic, 300W
full44 (2002-5-25, Chelmsford) 300W
64/69 (2002-5-25, Chelmsford) 300/350W, AMDa
170 (2002-10-19) "Lian Li"; 6 + 3 bays (+ 6 internal), 4 fans, 4 USB ports at front; NO PSU
desktop 39 (2001-10-27)

All are more than adequate for the purpose (unless the number of drives etc. requires larger, or you have a certain processor so require a certain power supply rating); what you get for more money varies from smarter appearance (lights, switches, flaps) to easier internal access (hinged panels, swing-out drive bays, sliding sides). You may also find ones where the USB connectors are on the front of the case, rather than the back. It's important to check, if buying separately, that the motherboard is compatible with the case, though most fit most.


Large board into which everything else plugs. Many types; among the differences are the processor type they are designed to work with, and the top speed.

Unfortunately, there are currently two or more main shapes for the processor device, and it is far from clear which will prevail (the processor shape affects the motherboard choice, as obviously the motherboard must have the correct socket).

There are some observations on the various types here (only about 3 sides of A4).

The motherboard includes the serial (external MoDem, sometimes mouse/trackerball, though ATX motherboards usually have a dedicated socket for this which is of the PS/2 type), parallel (printer [etc.]), and USB (universal serial bus) ports.
ATX motherboards need a (usually ATX) case with holes in the right places.
Motherboards have slots for plug-in cards. There are sometimes one or two ISA ones, for older ISA cards - rare now, though IMO it's worth having at least one ISA slot still. There should be several PCI slots; most cards are of this type. Finally, there is often an AGP position: this is for a modern graphics card. (PCI graphics cards are still available, though quite hard to find.)
[The names mean Industry Standard Architecture, Peripheral Connect Interface, and Advanced Graphic(s) Processor.]
The motherboard sometimes contains on-board sound and/or video - sometimes even a MoDem and/or LAN. This can be a good idea, as it is fewer thing(s) to have to buy and to go wrong, and fewer slots used; conversely, the incorporated sound and/or video may not be quite what is desired, and in the case of the video, may use some main RAM. In many cases, the on-board option can be disabled, by moving a link or changing a setting, so that a different (usually better) separate card can be used instead (or, sometimes, as well). On-board video circuitry, if it shares some of the main memory, can have an effect on performance, so is best avoided in many cases (though on-board video circuitry that has it's own, separate, memory is OK - but rare). There is little if any disadvantage to on-board sound circuitry.

Sample boards (single processor; very limited and unrepresentative selection):
processorsound videoslots system bus speed price (£)
socketspeed (MHz)AGPPCIISA
PC ChipsAyes 45 with LAN and MoDem (and 1.2G Duron for 82) [both prices 2002-10-19]
Elite (?)P455A478 yesno (?)yes 50 79.99 (Maplin 2003-4-26); DDR + DIMM
Intel7to 1.2G 35 w. USB
ASROCKM810MLRA 32M shared2 200/266 40 Modem, Lan
ASROCK (ASUS)K7VT2 50 99.99, or 124.97 with XP2700+ & fan (both Maplin, 2003-4-26); USB2, LAN, PCI/DDR to 2G
L7VTA4DDR 400/333 (Maplin, 2003-4-26) USB2, LAN


Few new processors of speed less than about 2 GHz (2000 MHz) are obtainable; the current maximum speed is around 3 GHz (3000 MHz) (probably more by the time you read this). See also comments under motherboard.

Pentium IIIs, or PIIIs as they are usually called, as well as earlier Celerons, fit the "socket 370". The socket 370 is often referred to as PGA or flip-chip (though there are some differences between these various forms).

The latest developments I know of as I type are the Pentium 4 from Intel (socket 478 - or 423 for some of the early ones), and the Athlon and Duron (a cut-down Athlon as the Celeron is a cut-down Pentium) from AMD (both socket A).

New processors only:
maketype form speed (megahertz) price (£)
processorfront side bus
Cyrix333 15
AMDDuron socket A1300 28
Athlon XP1800+ 45
2400+ 65 Retail Box
2600333 68, 125 box
2700 105 box
2800 110
Barton2500+ 69 Retail Box
2600+ 77 Retail Box
2800+ 115 Retail Box
maketype form speed (megahertz) price (£)
processorfront side bus
IntelPiiisocket 370 866 35
Pentium 4.1700 99
2400533 115
800 130 Retail Box
2600145 Retail Box
2800533 185 box
159 Retail Box
3000205 Retail Box
Pentium 4 Celeron2000 52 Retail Box

The processor should be fanned (£1.08 to 12 {2002-2-16} [socket 7 & 370], £5 {2001-3-31} [Pentium III], £7 {2002-2-16} [P4], £9.50 {2002-5-25 Chelmsford} [socket A, up to 2GHz]) - if not, reliability will be reduced (in some cases lifetime reduced to a few seconds!).


Also known as RAM (originally Random Access Memory). 16 megabytes is an absolute minimum for Windows 95; the amount makes more difference to a system's speed than almost anything, to a first approximation.
Don't accept less than 256 in a new system, or 48 in a second-hand.
Two types are currently widely available: They also come in various capacities.
The older type is the 168 pin SDRAM (also known as DIMM[Dual In-line Memory Module]). The common ones allow a "front side bus" speed of 133 megahertz - "PC133". (This is the speed at which the memory - which runs slower than the actual processor - can run.)

In short - get memory that suits the motherboard, and won't compromise the performance of the rest of the system.

Although a combination of capacities is usually allowed by the motherboard (do check), don't, e. g., buy two 128 modules rather than one 256, as it uses up the slots faster, reducing future options. If the motherboard uses DDR memory, it may well not have any PC1xx slots at all.

Prices fell below 6p a megabyte (£15 for a 256M PC133 module) around October/November 2001; they then went back up again, though have dropped a bit again (countered by the newer DDR originally costing more, and PC1xx now beginning to show a rarity premium). In pounds:

B = "branded"
168 "pin" SDRAM DDR
64 12 (2002-3-9),
6 s/h (2002-2-16)
6 (2001-10-27), 12
1289 (2001-10-27),
15B/13 (2002-11-3)
8 (2001-10-27), 11B (2002-10-19), 10 (2002-11-3), 15B 16 (2001-10-27),
333: 27 (2002-10-19)
25622B 15 (2001-10-27),18B/16 (2002-10-19), 24B, 21OEM 2100/266: 22/24B
2700/333: 25B 3200/400: 33B
51232B 34B (2002-10-19), 30 (2002-11-3)
59B, 37
266/2100: 43B
333/2700: 45B 400/3200: 69B

Hard drive

You can never have too much; however, unlike RAM, adding more later is slightly inconvenient, as you end up with two drives (or have to discard one). It's hard to find new drives below about 20 gigabytes, other than the (faster, but considerably more expensive [£25 for a 1.2 gigabyte drive, £35 for a 2.1 {both 2000-9-30}], and the extra speed isn't needed for many applications) SCSI type (which also need a SCSI controller). Some older motherboards may have some problems with hard drives over about 32 gigabytes.

Sample prices - 5400 RPM unless shown (# = 2000-4-15):
gigabytes1.61.72.12030 40
EIDE (£) 27 (2001-10-27)33#38# 39 (2002-11-3) 42 (2002-10-19)
47 5400
49 (2002-10-19)
7200 RPM (£) 37 40
gigabytes6080120180 200
7200 RPM (£) 50 59 72 185
7200 RPM with 8M cache (£) 57 75 123 130
serial 79
3G is adequate to start with; it's just not economic if buying new to buy anything below about 60G.


Size: subject to much dispute! 15" (some people will have one from an older system) is IMO adequate, especially if you're slightly short-sighted; others disagree. (For resolutions such as 1024 × 768 or more, 14" is probably not enough - I use 800 × 600 even on my 17".) Obviously, the larger the better, until space occupied starts to matter - which can be important, especially at home.
Note higher resolutions make things smaller on screen for a given monitor size, but more (of a page for example) is visible.
So what does paying more get? Some things are a matter of personal feeling - a known name, and/or longer or better guarantee (on-site rather than return to base, or 3 year, for example); others are more specific, such as flatter screens, shorter length (shorter tubes [higher deflection angles] make circuitry work a little harder and geometry control more critical, but do allow a larger size monitor in the same desk depth, which might be important to you [remember when measuring: keyboard has to fit in front too!]), or higher scan-rate/resolution combinations. The higher the refresh rate (how often the monitor redraws the screen), the lower the flicker; different people have different sensitivities (I can't tell the difference between 50 and 60 hertz, but most people I know can; in general a monitor should be capable of at least about 72 hertz at all resolutions you plan to use much). Even if you can't directly sense it, there's some evidence that higher flicker rates delay the onset of headaches with prolonged use, especially if the monitor is where it might be seen out of the corner of the eye, where we're more sensitive to movement (and thus flicker).

Monitors not based on the conventional cathode ray tube are becoming available. Advantages are perfect flatness (though flat c. r. t.s are available) and zero distortion, very high clarity, and, mainly, much greater thinness (and less power consumption). Against these are slightly worse colour rendering (especially off-axis), lower viewing angle, and some hesitancy with moving images; however, improvements have reached the point where these are unlikely to be a problem. The main thing about these so-called flat panel displays is their considerably greater cost - two to three times as much as ones based on c. r. t.s. (They are also more fragile.) Note that refresh rate in such displays is not related to flicker, zz only smearing of moving images.

The number of colours is not a function of a CRT monitor; walk away from anyone who tries to use this as a selling point J!

Some sample prices - all SVGA or better, colour:
sizeresolution make/other claimsstatus warrantyprice (£)
14"(second-hand?) 3 month 22 (maybe not SVGA)
15"Samtron second hand 25
1024×768RELISYS new84.99 (Maplin 2003-4-27)
17"1200×1024 99.99 (Maplin 2003-4-27)
DELLsecond-hand 35
HiPointnew3 years on-site 85
19"1600×1400 Sony .24 Trinitron 160 hertz 179
21"1920×1440 SONY .24499 (2002-3-9)
SONYsecond-hand 159
non-CRT (TFT etc.)
15" ECS TFT with speakers new 180.00
TV/PC/S-video monitor SAMSUNG 600
15.1"1024×768 HYUNDAI TFT with TV tuner etc. 499 (2002-3-9)
17" Relisys TFT no speakers 3 years 259
LITEON TFT with speakers 3 years on-site 289.00
18.1"TFT3450 (2002-10-19)
19"1280×1024 Samsung DVI and SVGAnew 549
24"Samsung 1400
(".24" etc. are "dot pitches".)

Video (graphics) hardware

What the monitor plugs into. There are various special technologies to accelerate changes to the video output. One parameter is the amount of video memory: 2 megabytes is IMO a minimum. 1M allows a display of up to 1024 × 768 pixels (picture elements) (actually 1024 × 1024, but that's not a standard resolution - monitors aren't square) at 256 colours - more than adequate for many applications, though some patterning can be seen on a few images. [Do the sums yourself: 16 colours need half a byte per pixel, 256 need one, "High Colour" needs two, and "True Colour" needs 3 or 4.] Most modern cards also use multiple frame buffers to speed switching, and have many other acceleration functions - such as texture rendering - that mean they need more memory.
make and/or modelmemory (M) slot3DTV outprice (£)
Mentor2D/3D no18 (2002-2-16)
yes20 (2002-2-16)
PCI22 (2002-2-16)
NVIDIA GEFORCE16AGP 17 (2002-2-16)
32AGP 20
ASUS64AGP 8× 35
Geforce 4MX420AGP 1/2/4/8 yes 40
PCI49 (2002-10-19)
Radeon [DDR, DVI and SVGA] 128 49

These days the video circuitry is often on the motherboard; this saves a lot of bother, though it's useful if it can be disabled in case you want to change later without having to change the motherboard. Unless it uses separate memory, "on-board video" can also seriously affect the performance of the motherboard. (See also motherboards and TV cards.)

The operating system (software)

Basically, you need one! This is the software that runs under all other software. It will cost from £19.99 [2002-10-19] (Windows 95 OSR2.1 - CD with book and floppy) to £125 (Windows XP, professional edition).

See here for more details.

Keyboard and mouse (or trackerball)

IMO, there's little to choose between keyboards as regards feel; others disagree. (How quiet [or otherwise!] they are certainly does vary!) New standard ones cost from £3. Keyboards are now around (from £7, usually called multimedia keyboards) with keys for things like controlling sound and video file (and CD) playing, audio volume, and - usually - some user definable keys. Cordless ("wireless") keyboards [with multimedia keys] £15 (2003-10-26, Chelmsford), or with [optical] mouse from £25. A feature worth having on the mouse (from £3) is a wheel (often where the middle button [seems to have fallen from use] would be [usually the wheel also is a button]); this makes scrolling, e. g. in web pages, much easier. Personally, I prefer a trackerball (from £9.95 [2002-11-3] serial) to a mouse, for reasons of space and [not] running out of mat; however, small ones are hard to find, which defeats the object somewhat (though I have found one [£9.95 {2002-11-3}), and small ones with wheel don't seem to exist. Optical mice do not have the conventional ball that needs cleaning. Check keyboard connector matches motherboard one, or that you have an adaptor, if buying for an old system; also check that the motherboard has a PS/2 mouse socket if buying such a mouse/trackerball (most modern ones do).


Some should come with the motherboard. Ones worth checking: mains (PC, monitor, extras such as scanner); video cable if not part of monitor; (internal) power "Y-adaptors" if power supply doesn't have enough for all your peripherals; (analogue and/or digital) audio for from the CD; hard and floppy disc ribbon cables; and printer leads, especially if buying switchboxes.

Floppy drive(s)

The humble 1.44 mega- (actually 1440 kilo-)byte, 3½", floppy, while small for many modern applications, is still the only universal medium that almost any PC with which one is likely to want to exchange data will have, though CD (see below) has been in all new machines for some years; it would thus be a brave person who decided to save the £5.50 (£8 for a black-front one) a (new) floppy drive costs. (Floppy discs: £2.50 for 10 [2003-10-26 Chelmsford].)

CD (compact disc) drive(s)

For most purposes, 4× speed is enough - but you won't find below about 32×, in read-only drives. CD-R discs are write-once - the same capacity as a CD (about 650M), but can only be written to once (they can be added to, but not erased, so can't be re-used), but blanks are very cheap. (Such drives and blanks can also make audio CDs.) Next is the CD-RW, or CD-rewritable; these can be re-used, so can be used as a giant ([571 and 665 for "80'"]) floppy - the discs cost more, but of course aren't wasted.
capacities (M)
sizeaudio as CD-R packet ("giant floppy") mode
12 cm74'650531621
8 cm180
22'192 or 193
business card33
See also under DVD.
sample prices
typemake speedprice (£) BURn (Buffer Under-Run) proof comment
CD drive ACER52× (not applicable) 11.74 (Morgan, 2003-10) (not applicable) (read-only drives: i. e. the original)
MITSUMI54×17 (2002-11-3)
AOpen56× 22 (2002-5-25 Chelmsford)
CD-RW drive 32×15, 2 for 25
OptoRite52× 24× 28 yes
LITEON32× 29
ARTEC25 with software
blank discssize speedin cases uncased (£) 
CD-R discplant80'/
(not applicable) 10, 50, or 100 for 4, 19 or 37 (Write-ONCE discs.)
"silver"48× 100 for 12 (2002-11-3)
Imation40× 200 for 21 (2002-11-3)
32× 10/5, 25/10, 100/39 25 for 10
10/7 100/60 8 cm discs
Memorex210M24× 7.99 for 10 (2003-3-1 Chelmsford PCW)
250M 1.50, 10 for 13 (both 2002-10-19)
33M50p (2002-3-9) business card
37M 70p, 10 for 6.00 (both 2002-10-19)
43M90p, 10 for 7.50 (2002-3-9)
50M5 for 5 (2002-3-9)
CD-RW Infiniti80' 1, 10, or 50 for 75p, 7, or 34 (RE-writable discs.)


Cards are from £8 to hundreds. Even the most basic card can accurately play back recorded sound (mostly ".wav" and ".mp3") files, and audio CDs; the main difference with the more expensive cards is the quality of the synthesizer that's built in for playing MIDI files.
Many modern motherboards (of all processor shapes) include sound hardware; this can save money, though it's advisable to ensure it can be turned off so a better card can be fitted later if desired.
Wavetable circuitry actually has recordings of the various instruments, rather than having to generate them by synthesis; this is found on even some very cheap circuitry, though in those cases playing MIDI files may require quite a lot of main processor power, whereas dearer circuitry has its own (specialised) processor.
Some cards have an output of about two watts per channel, which is actually more than adequate in most cases; some only have a "line out" level, which thus needs amplified speakers (from £5).


Impact types (usually called dot matrix, but all print a matrix of dots) are more or less only used where multipart (e. g. carboned) stationery must be used. They are now rare.
Inkjets come in roughly two types: resistive and piezoelectric. Resistive types boil tiny bubbles in the ink, blowing it out of nozzles; piezo ones squeeze it out with tiny crystals. Piezo (EPSON) generally produces finer resolution; conversely, the print head is usually not part of the cartridge - in resistive types it usually is (though both cartridges cost about the same). This means you can safely experiment with refilling the resistive cartridges: if you clog the heads you haven't lost anything - you just need buy a new cartridge; for piezo ones, it may mean a printer repair. Some (e. g. Canon, Xerox) have a renewable head which itself has removable (so refillable) tanks. (All are colour.)
Laser printers: faster, better output; however, only monochrome (except very expensive), and more complicated innards (so perhaps more likely to go wrong). For some applications, such as where many drafts may be needed, it's still probably worth buying a cheap one, even considering it throwaway (service charges and/or guarantee schemes probably costing as much as the printer).
Sample prices
HP2500Lcolour laser 699.99 (2003-4-26 PCW)
EPSONC900599.99 (2003-4-26 PCW)
MinoltaPagePro 18L monochrome laser 152.74 Morgan 18 ppm
Samsungizzi Plus II 99.99 (2003-4-26 PCW)
Lexmarkprinter/copier/scanner 69 (black)
HP640C double-cartridge resistive inkjet £59 (2001-8-18)(I like HP)
LexmarkZ35 33 USB; black

USB "drives"

These devices, often called "pen" drives (because they are often fashioned into a pen-like shape), are no-moving-parts devices that fit into the USB port. They usually require Windows 98 or later.
Capacity (M):1632128256
£ (USB1): 10 17 25 45
£ (USB2): 38 59


Digital versatile (originally video) disc: huge capacity (from 2.6G per side up to about 17G total). These high-capacity drives are also used to play DVD-video discs. However, the producers of video material have chosen to code their material by dividing the world into six zones or regions. In theory, a disc for one region will only play in a player coded for that region. Most players are region coded; some can have their region changed a limited number of times, some fix their region at that of the first disc they are used to play, and there are various other variations. See http://perso.libertysurf.fr/dvdutils/buyg_dvddrive.htm for a brief introduction, or (the same) /start_3dvdlist.htm for quite a long list of which models have what sort of coding (though some models aren't included). The coding can in many cases be overcome - see the same site for some hints!
typeplay CDsplay DVDsmake price (£)comments
read-only, usually called DVD-ROM 48×16×SONY/LG 23/24
Lite-on 26 inc. software
32×CYBERDRIVE 20 (2002-10-19)
48×16× SONY (OEM)29.50 (2002-11-3)
combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW 52×Samsung 47 52× CD-R, 24× CD-RW; with software
48×SONY 55 48× CD-R, 24× CD-RW, BURn-proof; with software
read/write ("DVD-R/RW") yesNEC 115 4× DVD±RW; can also do CD-R/RW, of course
Pioneer 189 4× writer; inc. 20 discs (DVD-R × 1!)
89 (2003-10-26, Chelmsford) DVR-A05; 4× DVD-R, 2× DVD-RW, 16× CD-R, 8× CD-RW
blank discs Bulkpaq 17 (2003-10-26, Chelmsford) for 25 (DVD-R, 4.7G, 4 ×)
. 16 for 10 24×, 4.7G, DVD+R
DVD-ROM drives cannot write CDs, though the combination types can.

Other software

nameversionedition£ word processorgraphics/
Windows3.1x i. e. included in OS (along with Notepad, a plain text editor) WritePaintCardfile -
WordPad is not unlike Write (it lacks both-margin justification, but Write can be copied from your W3.1x system).
Works Suite4.5 15Word DrawWorks 4.5
Word97 10 Word 97CD
OfficeProfessional 30 Word 97PowerPointAccess ExcelCD
200050 WordPowerpoint
Viewers (so you can view [and I think print] but not edit) for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, are available free from Microsoft.
It's probably best to use the same software as your co-workers. Fortunately, most word processors these days can read and write files in each other's formats (though you lose features not implemented in both); in particular, Word, Works, and WordPerfect are somewhat interchangeable. (Excel is also somewhat interchangeable with the Works spreadsheet.)
See also under word processing.

Software other than the above costs from zero to thousands!


A4 scanners can be obtained for
dots per inch ->
v interface v
600 × 1200
parallel 11.74 (Morgan, 2003-10)
USB Medion 23.49 Morgan;
Lexmark (black) print/copy/scan 69
. Most come with optical character recognition software (turns images - if of text of course! - into text files), and assorted image processing software.


For data communications (including, of course, the internet); most can also be a speakerphone (hands free telephone) (sometimes that requires a sound card). All include fax; the choice is internal or external, and hardware or software. External ones usually have lots of lights which makes it easier to see what's going on, are more easily moved between PCs, and don't take up a PC slot; conversely, they cost more than an equivalent internal, and do use up a serial port, and require desk space, and a power supply (usually supplied - a small block, needing a mains socket and somewhere to put it). Speed: should be V90 or V92 standard (avoid just "56k"). "Software MoDems" or "WinMoDems" (which includes most internal PCI ones available at present) use some of the main processor power, which is no problem in itself with a modern processor, but can cause problems, best avoided, with other software.
typeconnectiontypespeed £
externalserial portV90 23.49 Morgan
internalPCI softwareV92 8.50
"hardware" 9

Some motherboards include a MoDem (usually a software type).

What G6JPG bought

My current PCs (out of date now of course, in both specifications and price) are these. The desktop came to £603 on 1999-5-30 plus about £91 at then-current prices from my old system or stock - excluding monitor, remember and printer (£110 then) - and the laptop £359 (plus some extras) in 2003.

I bought a digital camera on 2000-1-12. DVD-ROM added to the desktop 2000-6.