GWKB1097 : Buying a New Computer That Works with Window-Eyes

Product: Window-Eyes
Author: Jeremy Curry
Date Added: 10/24/2008
Last Modified: 01/29/2013

So, you are ready to take the plunge and buy a new computer. This is usually a purchase that is well thought out, and typically happens every several years. Or, maybe it is your first time purchasing a computer for Window-Eyes. Since technology changes daily, you are probably wondering what type of computer you should get, and certainly you wonder if that computer will work with Window-Eyes.

The good news is that gone are the days of having to get special hardware just to make sure Window-Eyes would work with your computer. You don't need a separate hardware synthesizer, you don't have to worry about setting IRQs or other advanced techie stuff that had to be done in order to make assistive technology work as you did in the days of yesteryear.

Things are much simpler now, as computers have become more standardized. Things you used to have to worry about, such as having the right video card or the right sound card are no longer concerns. Of course, there are some that are more expensive than others, but whether you purchase a Cadillac of a sound card or video card compared to a Pinto of a sound or video card; it's going to work with Window-Eyes.

Now that you have been put at ease as to the types of things you had to worry about in the past, let's talk about your goals for your computer before we talk about specifications of the computer you are going to buy. The very first thing you should ask yourself when buying a computer is not what processor it has, the amount of RAM, or how much space is on the hard drive. The first question should not even be how much computer you can afford. Instead, the first thing you should ask yourself is "What do I intend to do with this computer?" This will determine what you really need in a computer system. If you want to use complex databases that require fast calculation then you are going to need more than just a computer that you only want to use for word processing and browsing the Internet. Or, perhaps you travel a lot, and you need a computer to take with you, then you should be looking at a portable solution, such as a laptop, rather than the traditional desktop. If you just want a laptop to take around the house, be aware that laptops typically cost more. If you look at a laptop or desktop with the same specifications, then you will typically pay more for the laptop, and sometimes up to twice as much. So, you want to be really sure that you need a laptop, unless you have an unlimited budget.

Once you have determined exactly what you want to do with your computer, then you should look at the specifications. The first question we often get when people are buying Window-Eyes is, "What should my computer have to run Window-Eyes?" And, after you have determined your goals for your computer, Window-Eyes was probably at the top of the list of things you wanted your computer to do. Unfortunately, this is a rather loaded question. If you were to call GW Micro technical support and ask this exact question, the first thing you will hear is, "Window-Eyes only requires the minimum specifications that the operating system requires." Well, what does that mean? The literal meaning is that each version of Windows, such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 requires a computer to have certain minimum specifications to allow the computer to be able to run that version. So, that means that if your computer has the minimum specifications to run Windows, it can also run Window-Eyes. Although that means you can run Window-Eyes, that doesn't mean it will run fast. Think of it this way: You can get a car that will take you to work, and almost all cars have an engine. Do you need a car with a 4-cylinder engine or do you need a car with an 8-cylinder engine? Either one will get you there, but you certainly have more passing power with an 8-cylinder engine. The same is true for computers. Do you need something that just gets the job done with some basic word processing, or do you need the high-end computer with all sorts of bells and whistles? Again, these types of questions will be defined by your goals for your computer.

To get some hard numbers, let's look at some minimum specs for various versions of Windows.

First, let's look at what operating systems Window-Eyes will work with. Window-Eyes will not work on anything but Windows. So, if you are thinking of buying an Apple Macintosh, forget it, unless you are technical enough to install Windows on a Mac. Window-Eyes will work on the following versions of Windows:

32-bit

*Windows XP Home Service Pack 3
*Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3
*Windows XP Media Center Service Pack 3
*Windows Server 2003
*Windows Vista Home Basic
*Windows Vista Home Premium
*Windows Vista Business
*Windows Vista Enterprise
*Windows Vista Ultimate
*Windows 7 Home Basic
*Windows 7 Home Premium
*Windows 7 Professional
*Windows 7 Enterprise
*Windows 7 Ultimate
*Windows 8 Standard
*Windows 8 Professional
*Windows 8 Enterprise


64-bit

*Windows Vista Home Basic
*Windows Vista Home Premium
*Windows Vista Business
*Windows Vista Enterprise
*Windows Vista Ultimate
*Windows Server 2008
*Windows Server 2008 R2
*Windows Server 2012
*Windows 7 Home Basic
*Windows 7 Home Premium
*Windows 7 Professional
*Windows 7 Enterprise
*Windows 7 Ultimate
*Windows 8 Standard
*Windows 8 Professional
*Windows 8 Enterprise

Note that Window-Eyes will not cost extra to run on any of these operating systems. The version of Window-Eyes you get will work on any of the above. Notice that Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium, Windows NT, and Windows 2000 are not supported. This is because these operating systems are so old that even Microsoft does not support them anymore.

According to www.microsoft.com, the minimum system requirements for Windows XP are:

*Pentium 233-megahertz (MHz) processor or faster (300 MHz is recommended)
*At least 64 megabytes (MB) of RAM (128 MB is recommended)
*At least 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available space on the hard disk
*CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
*Keyboard and a Microsoft Mouse or some other compatible pointing device
*Video adapter and monitor with Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher resolution
*Sound card
*Speakers or headphones

Remember that Windows XP was released in 2001, so in terms of technology, the minimum system requirements that were used are over a decade old. This means that a computer built with the minimum requirements in 2001 could still run Windows XP, but it would be impractical to run new software on it, because most software packages would not run on the specs listed above. Or, if they did, the operation of the computer would be extremely slow.

What does this mean to you? Although Window-Eyes will work on a system requiring minimum specifications, you should really add more to your system than just minimum requirements. If your budget allows, it is wise to add things that make the computer run faster, which are typically a faster processor and more Random Access Memory (RAM). Think of the processor as how fast the brain of the computer is, and RAM is how much memory is used to run active applications. In English, the faster the processor, the faster your computer, and the more RAM you have, the more programs you can run at the same time. These are the two items you should focus on getting the most out of; especially if you need a really fast machine. At the time this article was written, you should realistically have no less than 1 GB of RAM on your machine if you are running Windows XP, and no less than 2 GB of RAM if you are running a version of Windows newer than XP, such as Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8.

What about storage space? If part of your goal is to store lots of music, pictures, or other types of files, then you should increase the size of your hard drive. The hard drive is where all of your files and folders are stored. Often, RAM and the hard drive are confused by people purchasing a computer. Remember that RAM is used while using the computer to allow you to open lots of programs. The hard drive is where those programs are stored, so they have two separate functions. The more stuff you want to store, the larger your hard drive should be. Many technical support specialists recommend that you purchase a hard drive that you will only use 50% of the total space. If you use more than 50% of the total hard drive space, you may experience a slow down on your computer.

How about the video card? It used to be that Window-Eyes worked better with specific video cards. This is no longer the case. If you have a tower that has practically any standard video card, Window-Eyes should work with it. For detailed information about Window-Eyes, and various video cards, check out www.gwmicro.com/kb1076. Although you do not need to worry about the video card in the computer, you should make sure that all drivers are updated on the computer, even if it is new. Drivers are programs that allow your computer hardware to run correctly. As stated in the article referenced above, it's always a good idea to update drivers for all your components when you receive a new computer. Just because it's new, it does not always mean that the newest drivers are being used. This is a common misconception with purchasing new computers. When we tell people to get the newest drivers, the first thing we hear is how it's a new computer and why should someone bother when it already has the latest.  Remember just because it's new does not mean that all of the drivers are up-to-date.  The computer could have been sitting on the shelf for the last month or the manufacturer may not be installing the latest drivers even if the computer just arrived at the store the day before you purchased it.

What kind of sound card should I get? Years ago, you needed a separate hardware synthesizer to run Window-Eyes. Again, technology has improved, and this is no longer the case. A synthesizer is the thing you hear speaking the text from the screen while using Window-Eyes. Window-Eyes happens to ship with three synthesizers, and supports many others that can be purchased separately. Synthesizer technology no longer requires a separate hardware synthesizer. Instead, the synthesizers are now software, and are included with Window-Eyes. Almost every computer comes with a sound card, and those sound cards have multiple channels. This means that you can have one sound card that will play many sounds at the same time. For example, you can have music playing from your computer, Windows sounds, and Window-Eyes all playing at the same time. These types of sound cards are standard on almost every computer out there.

Should my new computer run Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8? Again, it depends on your goals. However, if you want to stay up-to-date with technology, then it would be a good idea to go with Windows 8, since it has replaced Windows 7. If you do not want to be on the bleeding edge of technology, then sticking with Windows 7 is the safest bet. At GW Micro, we still standardize on Windows 7 as we find it to be the best operating system for our purposes.

What should I get on my computer if I choose to run Windows 8? Again, if you were to call GW Micro technical support, and ask what you need to run Window-Eyes with Windows 8, the response will be the same as before, which is "Window-Eyes will work with the minimum specifications required by the operating system."  First, what are the minimum specifications for Windows 8? According to www.microsoft.com, the system requirements for these are:

*Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2 (more info)
*RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
*Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
*Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Additional Requirements to use certain features of Windows 8:

*To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch
*To access the Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768
*To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768
*Internet access (ISP fees might apply)
*Secure boot requires firmware that supports UEFI v2.3.1 Errata B and has the Microsoft Windows Certification Authority in the UEFI signature database
*Some games and programs might require a graphics card compatible with DirectX 10 or higher for optimal performance
*Microsoft account required for some features
*Watching DVDs requires separate playback software
*Windows Media Center license sold separately
*BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive (Windows 8 Pro only)
*BitLocker requires either Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 or a USB flash drive (Windows 8 Pro only)
*Client Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system with second level address translation (SLAT) capabilities and additional 2 GB of RAM (Windows 8 Pro only)
*A TV tuner is required to play and record live TV in Windows Media Center (Windows 8 Pro Pack and Windows 8 Media Center Pack only)
*Free Internet TV content varies by geography, some content might require additional fees (Windows 8 Pro Pack and Windows 8 Media Center Pack only)

Again, these are the minimum requirements, and newer software will run slower. For a better experience with any application under Windows, it is wise to get as much RAM as possible, as well as a fast processor. At the time this article was written, the current Window-Eyes manual for Window-Eyes 8.0 recommended the following minimum specifications for Window-Eyes:

*For Windows XP: 1.5Ghz processor or greater, 1GB RAM or greater
*For Windows Vista: 2Ghz processor or greater, 2GB RAM or greater
*For Windows 7: 2Ghz processor or greater, 2GB RAM or greater
*For Windows 8: 2Ghz processor or greater, 2GB RAM or greater

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you plan to purchase Windows 8, DO NOT PURCHASE WINDOWS 8 RT. IT WILL NOT WORK WITH WINDOW-EYES.  There are several versions of Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT is NOT COMPATIBLE with Window-Eyes. Windows 8 RT is available on some Microsoft products, such as the Microsoft Surface RT.

Many computers now come with two (or more) processors, which can really speed up your system.  It is always best to exceed the minimum specs whenever you want applications to run faster.

You have probably heard about 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.  What are all these bits about? Let's break this down. I noted different versions of Windows 8 above. Almost all of the versions come in both a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version. If you are getting a computer with Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8, Window-Eyes will work with a computer with either a 32-bit version or 64-bit version. If the operating system can be a 32-bit or 64-bit, what does the processor have to be? While there are 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista and Windows, there are also 32-bit and 64-bit versions of processors. These are two different concepts, but they do matter. If you were to run a 64-bit version of Windows, then the processor must be a 64-bit processor. If you are running a 32-bit version of Windows, then it does not matter if you have a 32-bit or 64-bit processor. Most computers in stores come with 64-bit processors running a 64-bit version of Windows.

Now that you know what specifications you need for your computer, what should you install on it? The first answer is obviously Window-Eyes. However, most people want to include some type of productivity software on their computer, such as Microsoft Office. Office can include applications, such as Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and more. Window-Eyes will work great with all of these. At the time this article was written, only Microsoft Office 2010 was available for purchase. Have no fear since Window-Eyes worked with Office 2010 before it even shipped to the public. Perhaps there are other things you want to accomplish with your computer. Technical support at GW Micro often gets asked questions about if Window-Eyes works with certain applications. Since there are literally millions of pieces of software, the best answer technical support usually has is to try it and see if it works. You might also try subscribing to the GW-Info list, which is an email list where people talk about all sorts of topics related to GW Micro, including what software works with Window-Eyes. You can sign up for the list at http://www.gwmicro.com/Support/Email_Lists/.

The final (and probably most important) part of buying a computer is where to buy it from. Should you buy it from a massive box store company, or should you buy from a local computer store? The first question to ask yourself is, "Will I need good technical support and good service?" The answer is almost certainly "yes and yes." It is not always the case, but in general, if you buy from a big box store, you are likely not going to receive the necessary technical support and service that you require. Attempting to connect all those wires and connectors for the first time can be overwhelming. Is it likely that you can pay a large box store to come and connect your system, as well as get it up and running? Perhaps it is possible, but highly unlikely. The best option is to find a local "mom and pop" computer shop that has been in the community for a long time with good standing. It won't do you any good to go to a local store that has only been in business three months, and may be out of business in another three months. You need someone with a good reputation for support and service. Local computer stores are typically the best place to find this. If you are less technical than the average person, they will also usually update all of your drivers (as mentioned earlier) and probably install all of your software if you ask them to. And, they are usually good to help consult you on what you need in your computer. They can help you determine your initial goals, which will begin leading you down the path to purchase a computer. In a big box store, computers are usually already setup, and then they try to match a computer that is already built to what you want it to do, which may be the opposite way you want to approach shopping for a computer.

With all of this information in mind, you are now armed with the information you need to make an informed decision on what computer you get. If you have specific questions that you did not find answered here, you may always contact the GW Micro Technical Support Department at support@gwmicro.com or by calling (260) 489-3671.

GW Micro does not endorse any computer manufacturer or computer stores. Any opinions expressed or implied in this article are only opinions, and we do not take responsibility for the computer system or other computer items you may purchase based on information from this article.