So after saving long and hard you have now bought your shiny new supercomputer with zillions of gigabytes of RAM and a processor with enough power to run Jupiter, packed with all the latest software, so you can now get on and start being fully productive can't you? Sorry, wrong, you forgot about the most important bits -- the accessories.
There are a whole mass of accessories available for computers ranging from the humble printer, scanner, set of speakers, an external hard drive etc etc right up to multi-function devices which will fax, scan, answer your telephone, make your early morning cup of coffee (only joking honestly); the only problem is that there are also masses of different computer systems, not only from different manufacturers but having completely different hardware specifications. There is no one single standard governing the manufacture of personal computers which means that getting all the different parts to run together satisfactorily is bad enough in itself without adding all sorts of different types of software into the ingredients. Add peripherals which are made by different manufacturers and which may conform to entirely different standards can only make a bad situation much worse.
Those of us who have been working with computers for any length of time are only too well aware that different pieces of hardware can refuse to work together without any obvious cause, and although things have improved greatly over the last few years it is still not unheard of for some new driver software to cause untold chaos. Unfortunately many stockists are completely unsympathetic to this problem and if you buy, say, a printer which flatly refuses to work with your computer system many of them will just leave you to it and refuse to change the product, let alone give you a refund. On the other hand there are many well established ethical companies who will quite happily exchange the parts for you without question or even refund the price you paid (less postage of course) if you cannot get the part to work. In order to do this however you need to give them the product back in a saleable condition so here is the first rule of buying computer accessories:
Always keep the packing, in excellent condition, so that you can repack the goods to the same standard as when they arrived!
As we're all aware however this is very often completely impossible, indeed I have often wondered whether or not I should buy a blowtorch in order to get inside some of the hard plastic packs that certain accessories are encased in! Nevertheless, with a little care it is often possible to remove the products without damage to the armour plated plastic; but sadly not always.
One of the main problems with incompatibilities between computers and peripherals is the way in which they connect to each other. Currently the USB standard is flavour of the month but, particularly if you buy accessories from discount sellers, you may still find a lot of the older PS2 or even serial connectors and it can be very difficult to get these to connect into a modern computer although not impossible in most cases provided that you have an empty card slot, but the extra cost and inconvenience of fitting an adapter card can greatly outweigh the cost benefit of buying a cheaper peripheral anyway. In addition, if you buy older products you may well find that the drivers do not work in your system and although most manufacturers put new drivers or software patches online there comes a time in the life of every product when the maker decides to forget about it and concentrate on new ones, so although you could on the face of it have a perfectly good device you possibly could not get it to work with your computer because the software was simply incompatible.
There are morals to this tale. Firstly, only by computer accessories from specialist computer accessory stores either on the high street or online, run by companies with a good reputation and who you are confident will help you if you run into difficulties. Secondly, if you have a new computer only buy reasonably new accessories, to make it more likely that they will work without too much trouble straight out of the box. Thirdly, if you have an old computer (and nowadays a computer can be old only after a year or so!) Be very careful when buying accessories to ensure that they have the same interface systems as your computer, and that drivers are available for them which will run on the operating system which is installed on your computer.