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Best Upgrades

A lot of what you decide to do will depend upon your budget. You can turn that old computer into a real work horse for a few less than a few hundred pounds, or replace it for up to a thousand. Naturally there are computers to fit everybody's budget, from the low end Pentiums to the race horse 866MHz Pentium III’s with dual processors.

You can upgrade your equipment by replacing or adding new items. In this article we will attempt to address many of the common issues to be considered when making these decisions.

If you have a 386 or older 486 computer, with small hard drives, you will probably be wasting your time upgrading the system. You might end up replacing everything except the Monitor, keyboard, mouse and the power supply in the mini-tower. To find out what improvements can be made (click here)

A tune-up

Adding more RAM memory to an upper end 486 (80mhz or faster) or Pentium system is a very inexpensive way to improve your system. Windows 95 works best on 32MB of Ram, and Win98 needs 64MB of Ram to really purr. You can buy and install memory yourself with little trouble The trickiest thing about memory upgrade is figuring out which memory technology and what size modules to buy. (click here) to find out the types of memory

If your machine has ample RAM, the next option to consider is a Processor (CPU) upgrade. You will usually get the best upgrade results for a CPU that isn't in the same class as your current processor. Compatibility is another issue. CPU's are designed for specific socket types, heat dispersal mechanisms and, power supply voltages. Here's a useful guide to specifications (click here) To know the available types of CPU's (click here

Feeling the pinch in disk space? Tried to install Windows 98 only to find out you needed at least 200MB of free disk space? Try adding a new Hard drive to your system. You can replace it using Drive Copy from Power Quest to transfer the data from the older drive to a new larger drive, or simply add it on as a secondary / slave drive if you have room to mount it inside your computer. Drive Copy software costs $45.00 and allows the experienced user to easily transfer data, but it does reformat the destination drive during the process. Read the Drive Copy manual before using this and ask for help if you feel uncomfortable in performing this task yourself.

Make sure your motherboard can handle the larger drives, and if you are not running Windows 95 version B or Windows 98, you will be subdividing your drives into 2GB partitions due to limitations with the operating systems. (To tell what system you are running in Win95, hold down the "ALT" key and double click on "My Computer". A screen will pop up and you can read on the front screen what system is on the computer. If there is a "B" after the Windows 95 version, you are already capable of using the larger drives and partitions.)

Video cards are another quick fix for many systems. If your video flickers and looks like infrared backgrounds while your applications are loading, consider upgrading to a 16MB Video card for under $40.00. Naturally this option varies depending upon what system you are running now, and a few systems cannot be upgraded in this manner. You should also be aware that older motherboards may not support the different types of AGP (advanced graphics port)  check you have the correct slot (PCI or AGP) before buying.

How fast is your D-Rom Drive? You can replace that older 4x or 8x drive with a newer 32x or faster drive for less than $40.00 . If you play games or music CD's on your computer, consider this upgrade. If you're drive is 10-speed or more, simply upgrading maybe be a wasted opportunity. There are many alternatives, Consider a CD- Recorder (a once write medium) or a CD- ReWriter, which can can store data permanently or temporarily. 

The hottest thing to hit the market this year is the DVD Drive. This is a sort of a super CD- Rom, but uses a different format. In fact, there are a couple of DVD formats and no standard agreed upon. So be careful what you buy and make sure you can get the recorded DVD disks for your drive. Many movies are being cut on DVD disks now, turning your computer into an expensive TV Set to entertain you.

Tape drives are still a good alternative for backing your system. Where you would use several one time CDR's, tapes can hold from 3.2GB to 20GB of storage on one tape. As hard drive capacity grows larger, Tape drives may be your most cost effective way to keep backup copies of your data. The downside to tape drives is speed of access. You have to sequentially read the tape from beginning to end to restore a single file. If it takes you several hours to back it up, it will take just as long to restore it. Tape drives are not intended to serve as alternate hard drives. The cost to buy a tape drive runs from under $100.00 up to $250-350, depending upon size and speed. To find out more (click here)

Only backing up 100MB? How about installed an internal or external ZIP drive from Iomega? Internal Zips are running about $45.00 and connect to your system like a hard drive on the same cable. External Zip's connect to your printer port and are slower to use than Internal Zips. An alternative is the LS-120 drive, the super floppy drive. This drive can read both standard 3.5" floppies and their own 120MB disks. A competitor to Zip drives, many new systems come with these installed. Both drives cost less than $80.00 for the internal versions and under $120.00 for the external. Disk cartridges are running $5.00/10.00 retail when purchased in 10 packs.