Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Stop… upgrade time!

My parents’ computer is in need of a mid-life upgrade. It was bought in October 2004 and at the time gave acceptable performance, but it’s flagging a bit now in comparison to the latest and greatest. To save you reading the old entry, here’s the specs:

  • AMD Athlon XP 3000+
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 80 GB HD
  • DVD rewriter
  • 64MB onboard graphics
  • Plus all of the usual stuff

Three-and-a-half years on, and it looks like the main weak points are the memory and graphics. The processor is reasonably good, and I’m not inclined to replace it as the prospect quite frankly scares me, and they still have ample space on the hard drive.
512 MB RAM is low by today’s standards, and so I’m proposing an upgrade to 2 GB – the maximum the machine will hold. Upgrading the RAM on Hari’s machine, which is of a similar specification and age, made a big difference and so this would be my first choice.
The graphics are the other aspect I want to upgrade. Right now it’s a VIA onboard job, which as well as being underpowered also lacks Windows Vista drivers, so if my parents do ever upgrade (unlikely but I wouldn’t rule it out) they would potentially run into problems. The machine does have an unused AGP port, and so a cheap graphics card would be an instant upgrade. It would also return those 64 MB of RAM that it used to the computer, although 64 MB is a drop in the ocean when you have 2 GB.
We still have Hari’s old graphics card lying around (in a static-proof sleeve), which is based on the nVidia GeForce 5200 FX chipset. This was okay for normal use on her computer but seriously impacted her WoW gaming – now, my parents are hardly likely to be fragging noobs or levelling shadow priests any time soon but a better card can be bought for very little money. In fact, £25 would buy you something based around the full nVidia GeForce 6200 chipset (as opposed to the budget FX range). So it’s a question of saving £25 and recycling the old card, or getting something better for a little more money.
The computer also needs equipping for Wifi, probably by virtue of a USB dongle, but at less than £10 a piece that’s not a major issue. The total budget for all of this is £100, with the RAM costing about £50 (looking at Crucial and Corsair prices). There’s ample room for a reasonable graphics card, but I’m wondering whether to bother or not.
What do you think?

4 Comments

  1. Don’t bother with the graphics card. It’s not going to be noticed by your parents.
    You’d be better off getting them a second hard drive and some automatic backup software.
    Regards,
    Rob…

  2. 2004. It’s definitely time for an upgrade!

  3. You might want to take a good look at the internal power source for their computer before installing a more powerful graphics card. Even if they are not playing games, a number of the big name vender computers have an adequate power source until you start upgrading. and some of the better graphics card have minimum requirements for power supply.
    What this means is that you may also have to upgrade the power source too, adding to the total cost and technical complexity of the upgrade you are entertaining.
    Might be easier & cheaper just to buy a new PC instead, especially if you start thinking about getting them a bigger monitor to go with their “new improved” updated computer .

  4. Thanks for your concerns, Lance, but the new video card didn’t have any extra power requirements and works fine (here is a report on the upgrade). And there is no need for a new screen as they’re happy with their current one.
    The whole point of this was that it would be cheap, mid-life upgrade that would keep the system running for 2-3 more years, after which a new machine could be bought.