Here are the important differences that may help you decide.
Posted January 4, 2010
The fact is that when it comes to performing computing tasks, a desktop and laptop are pretty much identical. They both have an operating system such as Windows 7 or Mac OS X. They both contain a hard drive where you store data and computer chips that process data, and they both run software and access the Internet.
Where a desktop and laptop differ is their physical appearance, size, and weight. Here’s a rundown of the key differences:
Appearance: A desktop computer is typically encased in a tower into which you plug a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. (Though some newer models have the brains of the computer incorporated into a monitor base.) A laptop has all its parts in one unit. The central processing unit (CPU), chips, monitor, keyboard, and touchpad (a laptop version of a mouse) all fit in one compact package including ports for plugging in peripherals such as a transmitter for a wireless mouse or printer.
Power source: A desktop computer is powered by plugging it into a wall outlet. A laptop contains a battery; you can run the laptop off of a charged battery, or plug the laptop into a wall outlet.
Portability: Having a battery and coming in a more compact package makes a laptop more portable (though some larger models are a bit hefty to tote around); a desktop stays put on a desktop as a rule.
Extras: Very small laptops might not include a CD/DVD drive and therefore require an external drive to be attached.
Price: Laptops have come down in price, but they are still typically more expensive than a desktop model with a comparable feature set.
Deciding whether a laptop is right for you may come down to price and the need for portability or lack of space. Personally, I may probably never buy a desktop model computer again, but then I have three computers sitting on my desk, so how could I have room for anything else?
Excerpted from Nancy's soon to be released book, Laptops for Seniors For Dummies from Wiley Publishing.
Nancy Muir is the VP of Content and Curriculum for Look Both Ways, an Internet safety company (ilookbothways.com) and the author of over 50 books on computers and the Internet. Nancy has taught technical writing and Internet safety at the university level, holds a certificate in Distance Learning Design, and has been a senior manager in both the software and computer publishing industries.