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Improvements  For Your PC

Rather than attempting to upgrade the oldest computers to today’s standards, the following case studies focus on more realistic upgrades.

Case Study 1: The 486.

This central processing unit (CPU), along with enough RAM, can still run fast enough for basic office and Internet applications.

Typical machine: 66 megahertz (MHz) 486DX2, 8 megabytes (MB) of random-access memory (RAM), 400MB hard drive, two-speed (2X) CD-ROM drive, 14.4 kilobits per second (Kbps) modem.
Possible goal.: You don’t need to play the latest resource-intensive games, but would love to run Windows 95 (Win95), up-to-date software, and the latest Web browser.
Upgrade solutions.: While a decent 486 system can be optimized to run many modern applications, buying too many upgrades can cost more than a budget-priced Celeron- or AMD-based machine.

First, buy some RAM. Running Win95 on just 8MB will require the patience of a saint. You might have two or four single inline memory module (SIMM) sockets on your motherboard. They will have either 30 or 72 pins (connections), and 8 (non-parity) or 9 (parity) chips per SIMM. Replace these with two generic 32MB Fast Page Mode (FPM) SIMMs, which can be found for less than $70.

For faster Internet connections, see whether a V.90-compatible 56Kbps modem will work in your area. In most cases, local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can handle the extra speed. If not, a 33.6Kbps or 28.8Kbps modem will have to tide you over. A 56Kbps modem can be had for 24.00 to 60.00. To see the range in modems (click here)

Upgraders can buy a 100MHz 486DX4 Intel CPU for about 35.00 Powerleap’s PL/586-133 and CCT’s 586-100/133MHz are Pentium-like chip upgrade kits. A faster CPU speeds up your whole system and can be relatively easy to install. To see how to install a CPU (click here)

Finally, a bigger hard drive (or removable media drive such as a Zip drive) can add storage space, and significantly speedier CD-ROM drives aren’t very expensive. 

Case Study 2: Low-end Pentium

Typical machine: 90MHz Pentium, 16MB RAM, 800MB hard drive, 4X CD-ROM, 28.8Kbps modem
Possible goal: Your computer doesn’t seem that old, and you think there must be some way to bring this investment up to today’s standards.
Upgrade solutions: Depending upon how much you want to spend, this machine can be upgraded to within sight of today’s standards.
Memory first. Add another 16MB to 32MB, or replace it all with 64MB of Extended Data Output (EDO) SIMMs if your memory controller can handle it. Big RAM is like investing for the future.

Next, investigate upgrading the CPU. Depending upon your exact motherboard, you might find that a drop-in upgrade kit. Powerleap (PL-Pro MMX-233,) or Evergreen (MxPro 200) could advance your cause significantly. A pricier, but more intriguing option is Evergreen’s new Eclipse PCI system. This is a PCI-card based solution that the company claims can transform your system into a Pentium II-level machine.

Ditch that slow CD-ROM drive, and consider either a faster one or a DVD drive. Business and home users alike will probably need more drive space, so check out hard drives and removable media drives. A 56Kbps modem will be a near-necessity for using the Internet for more than checking E-mail.

If you play games or deal with graphics often, a new video card will give you more vibrant colors and higher resolutions. Inexpensive cards (some less than 40.00 ) with 8MB RAM or more can now be found.

Case Study 2a: Pentium 75MHz Upgrade Options:

1. Processor Upgrade: the best possible straight processor upgrade this type of system could manage is a Pentium 200MHz. These are no longer made by Intel so you could opt for a specific upgrade chip (Call our sales team on 0161 283 1310 to find out more) which would raise the processor speed to 240MHz.
Gains: going from P75 to a P240 would improve the basic system speed dramatically, but remember that the rest of the PC world still be chugging along at the same speed. Great for getting new life out of an old PC but not suitable if you want to be at the cutting edge of technology.

2. Processor and motherboard upgrade: fitting a BX board with a Pentium II 233MHz chip would really turn things but this would mean moving from an AT to an ATX form factor, so we would also have to upgrade the case and the power supply.
Gains: as well as the genetic speed you would also get added conductivity such as an AGP slot allowing you to plug in a high speed graphics accelerator. But adding further equipment would you very near the break even point of buying an entirely new system.

Again, choose your upgrades based on your particular needs, and balance the cost against that of a new system.

Case Study 3: Mid-level Pentium

Your computer seems to run most programs fine, but those Pentium II PCs on the computer store shelves make you wonder if you are missing anything.

Typical machine: 200MHz Pentium (without MMX), 16MB RAM, 1.2GB hard drive, 8X CD-ROM, 33.6Kbps modem
Possible goal: State-of-the-art, without so much coin-of-the-realm.
Upgrade solutions: A Pentium with a 200MHz CPU is still pretty decent, especially with some well-considered modifications.

Bump your RAM to 64MB or more. It will keep your PC in the game much longer. Look into whether your level 2 (L2) cache memory is upgradeable as well.

An upgrade kit with MMX multimedia technology can provide certain gains, but really isn’t worth the price compared to the ever-falling cost of a new motherboard capable of housing a Pentium II, K6-2, or Celeron(A) processor. If you’re the devil-may-care type, you can explore the seamy underworld of overclocking with a Web search.

Bring your games or graphics apps alive with a new graphics accelerator card. Be sure to get one that supports the Direct3D and OpenGL standards. Audiophiles will hear the difference a PCI wavetable sound card can make. DVD-ROM drive technology is just emerging from the standards wars, but its high-capacity benefits make it attractive. A 56Kbps V.90 modem is the way to go if it is supported by your ISP.

At this level, it’s best to choose one or two areas to improve, and bank the rest of your disposable income for future systems.