In most cases, the choice between a desktop and a laptop computer depends on the way you expect to use this particular machine. If you're planning to carry the computer with you when you travel for business, or if you want to take the computer on vacation with you to surf the Internet while your family surfs the waves on a beach, the choice is obvious: You need a laptop portable. On the other hand, if you are looking for an office machine that never moves away from your workspace, a desktop computer is the better choice.
To make a decision, think about the way you expect to work with your computer:
Will you always use it in the same location, or will you carry it from one place to another?
Do you expect to use your computer away from your own home or office?
If you're in business, do you expect to use the computer in your clients' or customers' offices or on a job site?
If you're a student, will you take the computer to class and use the same computer at home or in your dorm room? How about taking notes in the library or laboratory? Will you want to take this computer home during vacations?
If you plan to use the computer at home, do you want to carry it from one room to another? If it's portable, will your children take it to their bedrooms and bury it under their toys or laundry?
Are you buying this computer to share among two or more users who don't always work at the same location?
Do you want to use this computer in places where AC power is not easily accessible?
Will you have limited space in the location where you expect to use your computer?
Is security important? Do you want to make sure that nobody else can use the computer when you're not there? Do you want to protect the computer (and the data stored on its drives) from theft and damage?
In general, you need a laptop if you expect to move the computer around. That might mean carrying it from one room to the next, or from one continent to another, or anything in between. If you plan to keep the computer in the same place all the time, a desktop computer is usually the way to go.
It's not always that easy. Sometimes, one type or the other might appear to be more convenient, but one or more specific features could drive your choice in the other direction. The rest of this chapter describes specific characteristics of each type that might contribute to your choice.