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Choosing the right computer solution

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As a freelance translator you are likely to want to use the latest CAT tools to embrace the following:

  • New filters - enabling more work to be taken on
  • Improved translation memories - translation quality improves
  • Improved translation memory connectivity (local or remote)
  • Improved interoperability between CAT tools

All this helps towards building a successful business with high quality fast turnover work and happy clients.

One area that does tend to get overlooked however is the hardware on which these tools are installed and used.  Purchasing the right computer system is a mine field full of 'special' deals and an attractive high spec component glossing over the full system specification.  Before rushing into a decision it is important to look at the following issues which will help make a more informative decision in what is a potentially large investment.

System Requirements

Every software installation has a recommended minimum system requirement. Take this with a pinch of salt. All this means is the bare minimum it takes to get the product installed stably. Consider the following installation scenario:

  • Trados 7
    • .NET framework
    • Java Runtime Environment
  • Microsoft Office 2003
  • Adobe FrameMaker
  • SDLX 2005

These may not be the only applications you have installed, and when working more than one is likely to be loaded into memory taking up resources. For performance and stability no more than 60% of the hard drive should be used (which includes ALL data). Take time to note all possible applications and how many you are realistically going to need running at the same time (lookups, previewing, updating, processing).


A huge hard drive and fast CPU (processor) are not effective if supplied with a poor motherboard. In fact the motherboard is the backbone of the whole system. It has its own data transfer maximum speeds, so a low grade motherboard will inhibit the performance of the 'headline grabbing' CPU and hard drive/s. 

When it comes to a hard drive then size isn't everything, as there is the rotation speed and cache size to consider.  For example, a 74Gb 10,000rpm 8Mb cache drive will read/write much faster than a 250Gb 7200rpm 8Mb cache drive, but the 250Gb will draw the attention.


Does the supplier, dealer, system builder have a level of understanding of the workflows and use peaks the system has to support within the translation/localization industry, without overloading the system with unnecessary specifications?

As a rule it's always good to ask how much a replacement motherboard or CPU would cost (out of warranty) and filter out suppliers depending on their response. It's not unheard of to be charged much more than £100 just for the replacement motherboard, as it is a proprietary model, when similar specification motherboards cost around £30, but unfortunately will not fit.

What backup is there when things go wrong, in terms of support, returns and repairs without 'extra' warranty purchases? There is nothing wrong with purchasing extended warranties (with caution!) but it is vital to know the company attitude and policies without this, as these warranties can just be profit tools.

Are you needlessly buying unwanted software bundles and peripherals such as webcams? If you strip all this away are you getting true value for money. Graphics cards are a good example of unnecessary expenditure.  Unless the use is gaming or design, for example, the onboard graphics shipped with the motherboard is more than adequate.


Although technology moves so fast that the latest high spec system is old news in a few months, there should still be room for upgradeability within the system you purchase.

Never purchase a solution that offers no or little memory expansion, or an old model CPU that can't be upgraded.  For a little more investment the life span of the system can be greatly increased.

In Conclusion

These issues are just covering a small portion of the overall considerations needed when purchasing a suitable system solution to help drive forward any freelance translators business. Any reputable supplier will assist in all this along with backup strategies, storage/removable storage etc.

There seems little point spending potentially thousands on software, software upgrades and then not being very thoughtful with the computer solution they will run on. But a step back and analysis of the real requirements will result in a system that with no doubt will enhance any business, and last a reasonable time.

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