Computer systems, as you have learned, are composed of both hardware and software. The hardware components are the devices that make up the system: the CPU, main memory, peripherals such as the video monitor, keyboard, mouse, storage devices such as a hard drive, CD/DVD drive, and the like. Software is just as important. Without programs to direct its processing, the computer is about as interesting as spare parts. Software are sets of instructions that define what the computer hardware does. A computer requires both system software (i.e., an operating system) as well as applications software to be fully functional. Applications software are the programs that we use to perform specific tasks: word processing, browsing the Web, sending and receiving e-mail, doing numerical computations, etc. The point, then, is that computer purchase decisions should be based on a careful consideration of how both the hardware and software will be used to meet your needs.
A good starting point for planning your next computer purchase is to decide: how do you plan to use your computer? Make a list or inventory of the normal tasks that you plan for your computer. For example, a typical list might include