Technology Explained

What Does Your Computer Say About You?

Erez Zukerman 13-12-2012

what does your computer say about you


A personal computer is, well, personal. Assuming like most people, you bought your own computer (or had some say about what it’s going to be), your choice of hardware likely reflects quite a bit about you. So, what sort of person are you — just an occasional user? A nerdy coder? A hard-core gamer?

Tell me what your hardware is, and I’ll tell you who you are.


what does your computer say about you

And by “age” I mean the age of the system, not of the user (I don’t think there’s any correlation). Of course, maybe you had the same computer for 15 years and just happened to trade up for a newer model this year, so this is one of the least accurate metrics in this highly scientific post.

  • Less than a year old: Cutting edge! You’re hip, trendy, and up-to-date with the latest in the world of computer hardware.
  • 1-3 years old: I would say you’re just about average. Nothing to get excited about here — maybe other categories would prove you more unique?
  • Older than 3 years: You’re not a demanding user. You need your computer to be there for you, but it doesn’t have to perform extraordinary feats of number-crunching and graphics.
  • “No simple answer”: If you can’t exactly say how old your whole computer is, because it contains a mix of parts you’ve been carrying over from previous builds and adding to over time, well, that certainly says something, you huge nerd, you.

Desktop or Laptop

Laptops have outstripped desktop sales a while back, so sticking with a desktop as your primary computer definitely means something. Again, I’m talking about your own computer, not the one you have in the office.

  • Run-of-the-mill Laptop: I mean just a regular 15″ machine, a cute little laptop you got for a good price. This is the bland option: You wouldn’t terribly mind had it been a desktop; it was cheap, and it gets the job done.
  • Ultrabook, MacBook, etc.: This is what I would call a “laptop on purpose”. You actually wanta laptop. You like your technology slick, tightly packaged, and portable. You’d never crack the computer open, and you like having the freedom to work outside.
  • Desktop: You like being able to pop open your trusty ATX box and reach inside to stick in a fourth hard-drive; you don’t mind being tethered to your desk because you never go outside, anyway.

Screen Size (And Count)

what does your computer desktop say about you

The screen is pretty much the primary mode of communication from the computer to us, so there’s a lot to consider here:

  • 10″: Wait, is that a netbook you’re toting? Aww, how quaint! I remember those devices.
  • 11″: Yes, a single inch makes a difference… With an 11″ screen, you may well be a MacBook Air user, in which case I just wanted to say your computer isn’t a netbook, so don’t be mad. Hey, and do you have an envelope I could use?
  • 13″: Being mobile is important to you. You actually tote your computer around, and maybe use it in coffeeshops and so on.
  • 15″: We’re still in laptop territory, but this is definitely your primary computer. You don’t have to carry it around too often, though.
  • 17″:  This is as big as a laptop’s going to get. You should have gone with a desktop, and you know it. Maybe it’s one of those enormous gaming laptops, which are really just desktops in disguise.

On to desktop territory:

  • 19″: You’re using an ancient monitor which you’ve been wanting to upgrade forever now.
  • 21″-24″: Still a single monitor, but we’re definitely getting somewhere now. You like your desktop computer, and if you’re a Linux user, you may even have a tiling window manager.
  • 27″-30″: You’re enough of a nerd to know what IPS means, and you love your enormous Cinema (or equivalent) display. You secretly think people with dual-monitor setups aren’t as chic as you are.

And now, multiple-monitor time:

  • Laptop + display: You’re savvy enough to plug an external monitor into your laptop and enjoy the benefits of dual-monitor productivity. You’re not addicted, though, and could quit at any time (or so you like to think).
  • 24″+24″: You’re a desktop user with a penchant for ergonomics, who likes dragging windows around a vast landscape, but you didn’t want to go crazy.
  • 3 monitors: I don’t even care what size your monitors are; you’re in love with pixels. Each monitor has a specific role, and one of them is probably a “Facebook monitor”. You like to turn off the lights and sit basking in the glow of the LCDs.
  • More than 3 monitors: And we’re back in gamer territory; you’re obsessed with flight simulators or racing games. The only other option would be that you’re a day trader. You may rarely turn on the lights in the room — the screens provide more than enough illumination for all of your needs.

Choice of Keyboard and Pointing Device

what does your computer desktop say about you

If the screen is the main way the computer talks to us, then the keyboard and pointing device are how we talk back.

First, keyboards:

  • Whatever came with your machine: If it’s a laptop, you use the built-in keyboard and trackpad; if it’s a desktop, you use the keyboard that came with it. This probably means you don’t type very much. You might be a coder, but I can already tell you’re not really into input devices.
  • ThinkPad keyboard and pointing nub: These are the exception to the laptop rule. If you use a ThinkPad, chances are the keyboard was a major part of your buying decision, and that you just love those smiley keys.
  • MS Natural 4000: You care about keyboard ergonomics, but you’re not about to go crazy about it.
  • Happy Hacking, Filco, IBM Model M, and friends: Your keyboard looks like it was made in 1985, and that’s how you like it. The loud clickety-clack of the Cherry MX keys drives anyone near the computer crazy, and that’s how you like it, too.
  • Kinesis Advantage or Maltron: You care about keyboard ergonomics, and you did go crazy about it. You spend much of your free time over at Desktority and Geekhack debating Cherry MX Red vs. MX Brown, have strong opinions about grid layouts vs. staggered ones, and are seriously considering taking a Dremel to your board to add a few extra keys.

Now, pointing devices:

  • Whatever came with your machine: See above.
  • Razer Boomslang, Logitech G9x, and friends: You’re a gamer! Shocking, I know.
  • Logitech Trackman: You have limited desk space and/or just don’t like moving your arm around so much just to push a tiny cursor across the screen.
  • Kensington Expert Mouse: You have a thing with trackballs, the larger, the better. You also don’t care much about aesthetics, and may win this year’s ugly Christmas sweater contest.
  • Wacom: Ah, an artist! You get funny looks from people when you play Minesweeper with your pen, but hey, it’s fun. Let the good times roll!

Hard Drive

If your drive is hard, that means… okay, let’s not go there. Seriously though, if you’re running out of space, chances are you’re an obsessive downloader, or maybe an amateur photographer with enough budget for a DSLR but not for an extra hard drive.

Graphics Hardware


what does your computer say about you

Okay, this one’s easy: Either you have discrete graphics (and know your card’s make and model), or you don’t. I don’t even need to know what card and make it is to tell you the rest:

  • You have discrete graphics and can tell me the model: You’re a gamer. Maybe not an extreme gamer, but you care enough about graphics to actually think about it when getting a computer. There’s also a slim chance you do some Bitcoin mining on your GPU, so I’ll put that in as an option (Bitcoin miners, tell me about your GPUs in the comments!).
  • You just plug in a video cable: In other words, you don’t know what discrete graphics are, or maybe you do know but you just don’t care. You’re definitely not a gamer, and you probably don’t do anything that has to do with 3D graphics or Bitcoin mining.

What, No Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux?

Guess what: no. I’m not even going to go there. And you shouldn’t go there in the comments either. Just tell me: What’s your computer like? Did I get my prediction right?

Image Credits: geek biting keyboard via ShutterStock, old computer via ShutterStock, office with many monitors via ShutterStock, workstation via Amir Mohammad Saied, graphics card via ShutterStock

Related topics: Computer Monitor, Computer Mouse Tips, Hard Drive, Keyboard.

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  1. Isaac
    February 25, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Brand new desktop, custom built know everything in it my main computer now (windows 8). Also have that 13" macbook pro so i sport the best of gaming, savyness, and portability. I just wish I had the money for the mechanical keyboard I wanted.....sigh....

  2. BenN
    December 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I guess I am a cheap, hermit, huge nerd, maybe coder with no game. I might be offended but you were incredibly accurate.

    Cheap - 19" monitor, Hanns G for $150 back when that was a great price. But I do keep adding them to my Amazon wishlist so I am getting close.

    Hermit - Desktop, if I am going to do computering then I am going to sit and focus on computering.

    Huge Nerd - Pieced together PC with some parts dating back farther than my memory can recall. My wireless b works awesome! Huge - true, but this is a family website so I won't go into details.

    Maybe Coder - $20 wireless keyboard and mouse combo. I can code in 8 different languages, but I code equaly poorly in all of them.

    No Game - oh wait, does playing Gem Craft online count?

    I think you should take your Mentalist like abilities into software too. What do my browser(s), graphics program, email, etc choices say about me. Although considering what I learned about myself today maybe I don't want to know anymore.

    • Erez Zukerman
      December 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Just wanted to say this is the best comment I got for this post yet! :)

      Re writing one on software: A tempting idea (I have strong opinions about software), but I fear it would just end up being needlessly divisive, you know, a Mac vs. PC sort of affair...

  3. Deimarr Callender
    December 16, 2012 at 2:47 am

    hmmm.... just about average

  4. Swaroop Hegde
    December 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I've got a configured desktop. Its five yeas old. It has a 17" Acer monitor, Logitech mouse and keyboard(to which I gave a hot coffee bath last week. ;) so the keys are hard to press), 1GB RAM, 250 GB Hard Disk, and no graphics card. Yet it serves most of my purposes(mainly studies; i rarely play games). Its loaded with many softwares. Sometimes I feel like I've entered a really slow motion world, when my computer slows down, but after a while it speeds.
    I love my computer :)

  5. Dmitriy Tverdov
    December 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Disclaimer - full-time office worker here, and secuity forbids usage of computers other than issued, configured and tested by company's IT, so i talk 'bout personal suff only.

    As desktop concerned, author right on the money - both it's more than 3 y.o. and mix of hardware from previous builds or minor upgrades - as it's home PC, i do not need power beyond my Core2 Duos to convert video/ebooks, do small-time CAD drawings or occasionally print some text. Only reminder of my gaming past is Saitek ProGamer Command Unit (as none of my still gaming friends asked for it :( )

    BUT - in multimonitor section he definitely missed common enough set-up - older, "SysOp only mode" (17") display + (in my case 42 inch) LCD|Plasma panel (which also adds secondary wireless 2-in-1 keyboard w/ pointer device to input devices) - my XBox360 just can't compete to PC in multimedia capabilities and ease of use.

    Also - while i sill tend to think of my desktop as "base of operations" , really my "main" PC is 10" ASUS EEE PC 1025c netbook, which lacks additional keyboard/mice - exactly by reason many people adopted tablets, i.e. portability and ease of use "on the couch". Keyboard is large enough for taking notes, though sadly inferior to previous MSI Wind's, it's fast enough for fully functional surfing, occasional videowatching and as central node for various organization tools (first i replaced my older netbook w. 8" archos tablet, but it was just... unusable imo, thanks for horrible evernote and office experience, and it was replaced woth 4.2" android smartphone for things it could do really good). Maybe netbook will be replaced by Surface Pro descendant some time ahead - see no reason to spend money now.

  6. Salman Johnson
    December 15, 2012 at 5:24 am

    Computers are my LIFE!!

  7. Josh Barrett
    December 14, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    mouse + keyboard assesment was wrong. I AM a minor gamer (running linux, that's why) but I'm DON'T really care about input

  8. xangria
    December 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Spot on. I've got a Macbook Pro and love working at coffee shops, but I also enjoy coming home and plugging into my 22" monitor to game.

  9. Adrian Rea
    December 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    What kind am I, I have a desktop, core 2 duo given to me that is actually on top of my desk in open heart surgery, sometimes being used as a surface for other bits and bobs (flat and not impeding the open fan!) I often swap drives for whichever OS used or whatever I am playing with. I have a laptop which you have to put the power supply lead in a certain way as the socket is half attached to the motherboard. I work in tech recycling with far better stuff I put through to sell on but will probably not upgrade until it all dies. Sounds like I am a lazy, dangerous geeky nerd with no serious computer care or use other than an ability to connect to the net or print.

  10. Julian Altshul
    December 14, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Quick question - what about solid state drives?

    • Adrian Rea
      December 14, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Oh I see what you mean, geek or nerd I would think

    • Erez Zukerman
      December 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      That's a good question. I'd say it really depends on what the SSD is in: If it's a laptop, then we're talking about an Ultrabook, in which case you may be a fashion-conscious user who just wants the latest in shiny, thin computers but doesn't want to go the Mac route.

      If it's in a desktop, I'd say this means you're using a recently built computer, or you're nerdy enough to upgrade your old computer with an SSD (a great upgrade, really).

      • Julian Altshul
        December 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm

        It's a desktop, I bought it last year and it has 2 drives: the SSD for Windows and all other software, and a regular hard disk for all data files. For anyone not using an SSD yet, I'd really recommend it - Windows boots really quickly and programmes load really quickly too, makes for an all-round fast experience and saves a lot of time!

  11. Carl Snyder
    December 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    You forgot to consider or mention the number of gadgets with computing screens, eg. phone, tablet(s), portable(s) (nebook, notebook, ultrabook), desktop(s) for your personal use. Or does it make me a geek that I have 5?

  12. dragonmouth
    December 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Nothing like pop psychology to pigeon-hole your readers. Maybe you should try tea leaf or entrail reading for more insight.

  13. Mac Witty
    December 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    I'm not sure I'm as hip, trendy and artistic but it was nice to read ;)

  14. Chris
    December 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I have a custom build that's about 2 years old. I use the first dell keyboard I ever got. They make sweet basic keyboards that get the job done. I have a microsoft intellipoint Explorer which is an amazing mouse. I got a nice graphics card because I thought I would start playing games again. So far that machine has only played Portal 2. I'm never going to start gaming again haha.

  15. susendeep dutta
    December 14, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    You are right in your predictions.

  16. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I'm dying to get a new computer...

  17. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    December 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    It's a fun read, though I can't gauge myself. My first computer was bought by my parents, assembled from random parts from the dealer so even I don't know which part is what brand. My mother accidentally chose the wrong model when I told her which laptop to buy. So yeah...

  18. Joe De Palo
    December 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Since I've got 5 OS's on one computer (Win 7 host with 4 VM guests-- 98, XP, Ubuntu 12.04 & a "Hackintosh" Snow Leopard 10.6.8) & dual boot an old Dell 2200 lappy (XP & Ubuntu 12.04) does that mean I have multiple personality disorder?


  19. Abba Jee
    December 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I do have a DELL inspiron N5110 Laptop 15 inches screen, i7 processor, 8 gb ram , 750 GB HDD, dedicated 1 GB NVidia GC, i guess i will use it for almost next 2 years then maybe i will move on "New Technology" :)
    Wonderful article , well written :) thanks

  20. Luke
    December 14, 2012 at 11:11 am

    You were spot on about my 19" monitor.

    • Erez Zukerman
      December 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      LOL, time for an upgrade, I'd say! :)

    December 14, 2012 at 9:48 am

    ThinkPad is awesome and great for me and it's 1 year old

  22. Humza Aamir
    December 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I'd say i'm moderate in everything you've mentioned above. I have a laptop thats half an year old, I know what its capable of (somewhat), I'm aware of the graphics card welded in there as it greatly influenced my buying decision. My hdd gets full every now and then, thanks to the huge gaming titles being released lately.
    I quite liked reading that article :).

  23. Brenden Barlow
    December 14, 2012 at 8:20 am

    i got a fairly acceptable keyboard with my the mouse, on the other hand, hit the garbage as soon as i pulled it from the computer box.

  24. Douglas Mutay
    December 14, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I do have a 17? Dell laptop but I will never replace it with a desktop :p

  25. likefunbutnot
    December 14, 2012 at 8:01 am

    My notebooks are both Thinkpads (T420 and X220) under 1 year old, chosen for the quality of support and the durability of the products rather than the keyboard and pointer. I also own a 17" MBP. I haven't turned it on since August. My cat sleeps on it.

    I build my own desktops.

    My desktops use Logitech Trackballs. I like the fact that they don't take up as much space as a mousing surface. Gives me more room for monitors. I'm less picky about keyboards. I have a Northgate Omnikey on the machine where I do the most real work.

    I like a 3 display configuration centered on a 24" or 27" IPS display and a couple flanking screens in "tall screen" 9x16 mode. I've never even visited Ever. I most often use ATI-chipset video cards (ATI has driver issues, yes, but nvidia-based cards tend to overheat and die and that's a lot more annoying to me) and yes I know the model numbers on all of them. I barely qualify as a gamer.

    Hard drives: Every machine I use has an SSD and a traditional spinning drive (the Thinkpads both have mSATA slots) . The back-end file server in my apartment is hovering around the 100TB mark, though around a quarter of that is given up to redundancy.

    I use whatever OS is put in front of me. My job involves a lot of connections to remote servers and virtual machines anyway, so I'm probably using Linux and Windows systems regardless.

  26. Alexander
    December 14, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I own a Acer Aspire X3990 and i love it ! I can run almost any new video game maxed out and it performs well :) I also own a razer keyboard and mouse since i play a lot of games ! And the hardware is in the upper class, so i am sure it will last for a few years without it getting "old"

  27. wrong
    December 14, 2012 at 6:03 am

    I have a ~$450 laptop, 2nd gen Core i3 (512 mb nvidia gfx) and I play GTA III/IV and everything. I wish there was something 'in between' desktops and laptops, like a portable machine with a battery and built in display, but modular. even 3 inches thick wouldn't matter to me.

  28. Junil Maharjan
    December 14, 2012 at 4:47 am

    I still use my 8 year old acer laptop. have upgraded to windows 8 and runs great. hasn't given a problem yet.

  29. Dane Morgan
    December 14, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Mine is older than three years, but I'm not a gamer (that's what my XBOX is for) or a graphic designer. I'm a Web Developer, so no real crazy graphics needs.

    • Jared
      January 6, 2013 at 4:45 am

      You're right about not being a gamer if you primarily use an Xbox to play games. Only PC users can obtain a "gamer" label.

  30. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 at 1:58 am

    I dont agree with Age. Mine is 3 yrs old, and its fine for gaming, but i do care and am a demanding user, just i dont have money for new since im still student :) You forgot about money :) Anyway, interesting article.

  31. Yang Yang Li
    December 14, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Something else that's worth evaluating: how much one paid for a computer and what specs did it come with?

  32. Brandon Lockaby
    December 14, 2012 at 1:36 am

    Mainboard : Asus P5G41T-M LX
    Chipset : Intel G41
    Processor : Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 @ 2333 MHz
    Physical Memory : 16384 MB (4 x 4096 DDR3-SDRAM )
    PSU: OCZ ZS 550W
    Video Card : NVIDIA GeForce 8400GS
    Hard Disk : Seagate FreeAgent Go (320GB)
    Hard Disk : Western Digital WD2500JD-22GBB0 ATA Device (250GB)
    Hard Disk : M4-CT064M4SSD2 ATA Device (64GB)
    DVD-Rom Drive : HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GH24NS90
    Case: Rosewill Redbone
    Monitor Type : Hewlett Packard hp f1903 - 19 inches
    Network Card : Attansic (Now owned by Atheros) AR8131 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet Controller
    Operating System : Windows 8 Pro with Media Center Professional Media Center 6.02.9200 (64-bit)
    DirectX : Version 11.00

  33. Francisco de Gusmão
    December 14, 2012 at 1:19 am

    I have a 14" laptop! you missed that size. I know it's unusual, but it's perfect!! better than 13 and more portable than 15, just the perfect size

  34. Sean McShane
    December 14, 2012 at 1:05 am

    I use a mac both wireless but always changing my battries UGH

  35. LeDex JustDex
    December 14, 2012 at 12:53 am

    I am currently using a compaq computer. haha, had to buy something cheap since I needed a computer but couldn't afford something I liked better :( Oh, well, next time.

  36. Nez
    December 14, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I've built all mine for years now. I don't have the latest and greatest but I do keep it updated enough for gaming(whatever games I may be into at the time), work and other productivity. I actually use a small form factor keyboard as I love having plenty of space and don't like to be too cramped up. I use the Logitech G9x mouse, love it.

    I do have backup full size keyboards, and a backup mouse too, both are gaming types.
    I also have a laptop, tablet and smartphone to use when I am either lazy or just don't feel like going to my office.

    And yes, everyone comes to me when they need tech advice or similar lol.

  37. ryandigweed
    December 13, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    I got a good mouse and keyboard with my machine, thats why im using it. otherwise i use a wirless one :P