Computing & Technology

The Golden Path to Computing

How to Organise Your Computing - Today there are many options and each of us has different needs. Here I provide a simple overview of different devices and where they may be best utilised.


Tablets & Larger Smart Phones - These devices work well for internet browsing, simple emails & messaging apps. They are good for running personal applications such as WhatsApp, Zoom, google maps, camera, photos and some games. They are not good at office type jobs where typing, spreadsheet work or printing are required. For rigorous internet research a laptop or desktop is also better.

Chromebooks - These sit in-between Tablets and Laptops. Unless you have a specific reason to use one, I suggest at the moment sticking to either a Tablet or a Laptop. In future these may become more standard devices

Laptops & Desktops - These will do a similar job of work. Clearly laptops are portable, while desktops need more space. Desktops are preferred for office work as they provide a better screen and are more ergonomic, especially for typing. Be careful when buying new laptops as many do not have easy to remove hard drives or even removable batteries. Some makes have issues, stick to the brands such as HP, Toshiba, Dell, Acer.

Where to Purchase?- Unless you know a reliable source, I would strongly suggest you purchase from a reliable resource such as John Lewis and not from the large retail chains, as these do not always provide good advice or sell you what you need, but concentrate mainly on low price.

Setting up all new devices - This is paramount to your success! The manufacturers set up your new device for their marketing needs, most settings will need adjustment to make the new system work properly for you, so expect to spend some time doing this. Note that Window systems all have free antivirus built in by Microsoft - you do not need to purchase any antivirus and if you do and install it, your new system will slow down!

Back-up your files - This is the single most important aspect of your computing. Unfortunately, I see many people who have lost their information, pictures, documents and records that are irreplaceable.

Think about the files and pictures you have, put them into 3 categories:


a) Documents and pictures you must NEVER lose. This includes business docs and accounts, and things like old irreplaceable pictures, wills, special documents like a thesis or ancestry you are working on. Put these in a separate working folder for easy back-up.

b) Documents you really don’t want to lose – such as old copies of letters, work files, spreadsheet data, address books, old emails

c) Files such as music and pictures that are not particularly important or you can replace.


Make sure you back-up the (a) category in a number of different places regularly, and if at all possible, to a DVD and give it to a family member for safekeeping. Back-up category (b) now and again in at least two places. Category (c) is often large and if you cannot easily back it up it is not so important.


There are several main ways to arrange a back-up:

  • Copy to a DVD (most secure)
  • Copy to an external hard drive
  • Copy to a ‘pen’ drive (USB memory stick)
  • Copy to an online storage system (eg Google’s Drive)


Email Strategies & Systems Email is now an almost essential for day to day communication. Without one, simple tasks such as booking a holiday, online shopping and liaising with family and friends becomes difficult or impossible. So, let’s consider 'best practice' for emails.

Strategies - So, the way we set up email is important and it should be considered carefully. Many people are given an email address by their Broadband provider. Unfortunately this is supplied as a marketing ploy and it is not the best option. There are two main ways either register you own domain (best for businesses or organisations), or use a standard online email such as gmail. This provide good functionality and you shall not lose your address when you move away to another Broadband supplier. As part of any strategy it is very useful to have two independent addresses - a main address for friends and a secondary address for everything else. Spam will then be kept to a minimum and anything important such as an order you can forward to your main address. If you use gmail, you can keep each email address (main & secondary) logged in accessing two different browsers, (eg Chrome & Firefox).

Choose your Interface - Surprisingly, these are usually independent from your email provider. The gmail interface may be used to handle your email from almost any email system. Some people do not wish to move to a different interface and learn another. This is fine provided issues such as backing up email files are understood. Also some interfaces do not allow access from multiple devices, (eg tablet, phone and laptop). Gmail is the preferred standard option. It is free, has great functionality, it is enabled across all devices and it provides a host of other functions such as a free easy to use drag and drop backup for your files and pictures along with a useful calendar.


By John Phillips - Performance Computing -