Rather than attempting to upgrade the oldest
computers to todays standards, the following case studies focus on more realistic
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 dont 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
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
Upgraders can buy a 100MHz 486DX4 Intel CPU for about £35.00 Powerleaps PL/586-133
and CCTs 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 arent very expensive.
Case Study 2: Low-end Pentium
Typical machine: 90MHz Pentium, 16MB RAM, 800MB hard drive, 4X CD-ROM, 28.8Kbps
Possible goal: Your computer doesnt seem that old, and you think there must
be some way to bring this investment up to todays standards.
Upgrade solutions: Depending upon how much you want to spend, this machine can be
upgraded to within sight of todays 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
Evergreens 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
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
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
isnt 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 youre 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, its best to choose one or two areas to improve, and bank the rest of
your disposable income for future systems.