( at the risk of being pedantic )
Disclaimer - The Hardware and Software I recommend is just my personal preference. In most cases they are Mac focused and in most cases I have used the product. For complete reviews, I suggest online searches. In many cases by searching for a product and adding "alternatives", you can find competing products that vary in price and features to suit your needs.
When you are looking for help, the first question is always "What kind of computer do you have?" It really does not matter if you have a Dell, ASUS, HP or Apple brand. The real question is what Operating System does your machine use? The most widespread system is Windows, and there are many versions in use. The most recent is Windows-11, and the ones that are going to cause you issues eventually, are Windows 7, and Windows 98. On non-Apple tablets and smart phones, the operating system is likely Android.
My personal preference is the Apple system, where Mac laptops and desktops use MacOS, and iPads and iPhones use IOS. If you have hardware older than about 10 years, you may not be able to upgrade to the latest OS. Most Mac users keep up with new software releases fairly regularly. Windows users tend to be slower at upgrades. Before you leap into action, please read the section on [[Backups]] . Just because your hardware or software may be getting on, it does not mean that their utility has ended. It does, however, mean that mechanical failure is more likely, or that software patches are not available. Newer is usually better.
The next big question is "What tasks are going to be performed by your machine?" Pen-and-paper works really well for lots of jobs, but computers excel at tasks like Email, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and Databases, and of course, creating Websites. Being a Photographer and a Website builder, my particular tools of choice are outlined on my Blog at www.billbooth.com.
If you have questions about any of this, please do not hesitate to reach me by phone or email. A quick conversation may be all the info you need to move ahead.
When we used to meet for Computer Group, the first and last thing I asked was "Have you done your backups lately". ... well?
It was then, and remains now, critical that you have a copy of your important stuff. With to-day's laptops, the hard drive can not be removed, i.e. swapped out for a newer, bigger, faster version. If you spill water into your computer, you are likely to fry the electronics, including your hard drive. Your data could be totally irretrievable, or at best, retrieved at a substantial cost. BACKUP!
The good news is that there is lots of cloud space available at a reasonable price, and the price of external hard drives is very attractive. A major consideration with cloud backup is the time required to upload your data. The best upload speed you are going to get is about 10 Mbps (compared to your download speed which may well over 150 Mbps). Consider using an external hard drive. Transfer speeds are fast enough to do a complete backup in less than 30 minutes. On my 1TB MacBook Pro, Carbon Copy Cloner can create a complete copy of the hard drive. In fact, I had to use a Backup file just last week to recover a data file that I had over-written in error.
You do not really need to backup program files, but make sure you have separate records of your registrations in case they have to be reloaded.
Back in the day, an internet browser, like Netscape, cost in excess of $100. Then Microsoft started to bundle the browser with the Windows operating system. To-day we have a wide choice of which browser to use.
Microsoft has finally retired Internt Explorer from further updates and security updates, offering Edge as its default browser. When a program gets "end-of-lifed" it will still work, but it will eventually become problematical and vulnerable to attacks from the bad guys. A very popular alternative is Chrome, by Google. It integrates with many of the other services offed by Google. (Just keep in mind that Google loves to keep track of you and what you do online.) Firefox is another popular browser and is created by the open source crowd. For Mac users, the default is Safari (also available to Windows users).
One of the options you will be able to set in your browser is the Search Engine. When we say "I'll Google that", we mean that our Browser will use the Google Search Engine to find what we are looking for on the internet. Google tends to keep track of your queries so that it can sell targeted advertisements to you. This can be very helpful, and/or very invasive. An alternative I prefer is Duck Duck Go which can be chosen in your browser setup. Duck Duck Go promises not to track you, but it is not 100 percent.
Most internet users have a number of websites they visit regularly. Rather than typing the addresses in every time, you can use the Favourites feature. Sites can be grouped and placed in Tabs for ease of access. You can have many windows (i.e. Sites) open at the same time, so you do not have to close one site before opening the next.
Keep in mind, that the internet can be a great source for malware! Tread carefully. Paying for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection offers another layer of protection. Do your research before subscribing.
Everyone has an Email address, and most services are free. Gmail, Yahoo(Rogers), Bell, Apple, all provide free email services. There are also "upgrades", such as personalized addresses, available for a fee. Most have no limits to how many messages you can store, though you really should do some house cleaning to get rid of clutter. Organizing messages into separate folders, just like filing cabinets at home, is a great practice to help keep emails under control. You can also set up filters to block spam mail.
Sending multiple Emails
If you are into sending messages to mailing lists, you may run into some limitations, depending on the size of your list. On blocks of say 100 addresses, you may get tagged as a "spammer" ... that means you may be "gray listed" by your provider ... not good! Then you will have to consider using a service like MailChimp.
In communicating with Email, keep the thread to one subject. If you want to talk about another issue, start a new thread. The search feature is very useful for finding a stored email. Filter by Sender, Subject, or a Word that occurs in the body of the message.
Security is a big problem with email. Spammers are very clever sending out messages that look like a legitimate organization, but are in fact trying to get personal info from you. If you suspect that an email is spam, don't open it! Technically, you can view the headers of a message to reveal the real sender. Your Bank and the CRA will not be sending you emails. A good choice on Macs for detecting bad emails is SpamSieve - one time licence about $30.00
Applications to view your messages are plentiful. I am personally satisfied with the email app that comes with the Apple Operating System. Although I have several email addresses, I have them all forwarded into my .mac account so that I only have to keep track of one mailbox. Using filters and rules, emails can be directed to separate folders. Whatever email provider you use, you can generally forward them into macMail or Outlook, or you can access your mail with your Browser, as with Gmail. If you need to change your provider, you will likely lose your old address, so plan ahead.