To get online you will first need a device like a computer or a tablet or a smartphone. This section gives ideas on what to consider and how to avoid spending more than you need to.
How much will it cost?
You can get started for under £50
Basic tablet, Smartphone or Android TV stick (If you have a newer TV with HDMI)
- Good for browsing websites, shopping online, streaming films and music, keeping photos, keeping in touch with family and friends
- Can be a bit harder for completing forms and paying bills
- May not last very long
Slightly bigger tablet or smartphone or a refurbished laptop or computer
- Good for browsing, shopping, photos, keeping in touch
- Easier for filling in forms – especially if you get a keyboard attachment to the tablet
Bigger tablet, Netbooks (a small lightweight laptop) and from about £150+ you can think about a new laptop or computer
- Laptops, netbook, computers are useful options if you are using every day and want something more durable
- Better for writing letters, forms etc
Only buy what you need
If you are buying new the shop may offer you lots of extras and if you are not careful these are very expensive. Watch out for:
- Anti-virus – you can download free – type in “free anti-virus” or “best free anti-virus” for suggestions. There are plenty to choose from – see our section on staying safe online for more help with this
- Mobile broadband – only buy if you don’t have landline broadband at home. If you are out and about there is plenty of free ‘Wi-Fi’ that you can use, e.g. in libraries, cafes, supermarkets
- Cloud storage – this is a way of storing files online (photos, home videos, CVs, letters etc.), to save space on your device and/or a way to keep copies for safety. You’ll have some free cloud storage already included with webmail services like Hotmail/Outlook and Gmail, so use this first as it may be enough. If and when you need more, shop around online – google “best cloud storage” or similar for ideas
- Microsoft Office – you only need this if you plan to use your computer for more complicated written documents than letters. There are free alternatives available to download online that are good enough for most people
- Insurance – check your home contents insurance first
- Set up fee – computers set themselves up the first time you turn them on (you will be asked to create an email account normally as part of this if you don’t have one) and if you have any difficulty just go back to the shop or pop into a library or community centre where they provide support to get online
- Recovery – Windows 10 has a built in recovery tool and a recovery USB stick creator – use Cortana (the search bar at the bottom) and “Create a recovery drive”. You will need a USB stick, probably 16GB which can cost less than £10 – a lot less than the amount the shop will charge you for doing!
- Software – try a site like AlternativeTo to find alternatives to software tools you need – very often there is a free alternative to paid software that will fit the bill
Will buying second hand save me money?
Possibly, but not always. If you only want to use the internet for browsing pages, email, keeping up with friends then a cheap tablet starting from as little as £30 may be better.
- Always check for a warranty of at least 6 months and shop around. You can use the computers in a library to look at some of the online suppliers we suggest
- Second hand laptops tend to be less reliable and more expensive to repair and may not come with a working battery so a desktop computer may be a better option
- If buying from a computer specialist shop, check it’s a full working system and not a “bare bones” PC or hardware only. Unless you really know what you are doing it can be tricky to install additional parts
The following websites have good value refurbished equipment (some with reductions for people on benefits and are worth looking up)
Get Online At home
Local businesses selling refurbished equipment
You can find these in every town. Don’t forget to always compare the prices of new equipment– these are coming down all the time and with special offers may be better than buying second hand. Use google or a deals site like hotukdeals – or this link for mobile phones – to find deals on equipment
How to connect
The next section explains more about how to connect to the internet – landline or a mobile connection