Plenty of people buy a PC to crunch numbers, scan photos, or cultivate their kids’ hand-eye coordination. But for millions of people, Reason One for using a PC is to get on the Internet. Few computer features have the potential to change your life as profoundly as the World Wide Web and email.

If you upgraded to Windows Vista from an earlier version of Windows, then you can already get online, as the Vista installer is thoughtful enough to preserve your old Internet settings. (So is Windows Easy Transfer, described in Appendix A.)

Broadband Connections (Cable Modems and DSL)

A growing fraction of the world’s Internet citizens get online over broadband connections—that is, high-speed connections like cable modems and DSL boxes. These contraptions offer gigantic advantages over dial-up modems. For example:

  • Speed. These modems operate at 5 to 50 times the speed of a traditional dial-up modem. For example, you might wait 5 minutes to download a 2 MB file with a standard modem—a job that would take about 10 seconds with a cable modem.

  • No dialing. You’re hooked up permanently, full time, so you don’t waste time connecting or disconnecting—ever. You’re always online.

  • No weekends lost to setup. A representative from the phone company (DSL) or cable TV company (cable modems) generally comes to your home or office to install the cable modem or DSL box and configure Windows to use it.

  • Possible savings. At this writing, cable modems and DSL services cost ...

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