Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

More on the upgrade

As promised, here is more about the upgrade I did to my parents’ computer last weekend.
The computer will be 4 years old in October and I wanted to sort out its current shortcomings while also making it capable of running for at least another 2-3 years. The agreed budget was £100, about 6 times less than the original cost of the computer.
In the end, we went for the following internal components:

  • 2 GB of Corsair Value Select PC3200 RAM
  • 256MB XFX nVidia GeForce 6200A AGP 4x/8x graphics card
  • A no-brand USB and FireWire PCI card

The memory was the most important part of the upgrade. Originally, the machine only had 512 MB of RAM, and as such was struggling. As a matter of principle I only buy Corsair or Crucial RAM as I know it’s good quality, and on this instance I went for Corsair as it was slightly cheaper and could be shipped as part of the same order from Scan. It was still the most costly aspect of the upgrade at £39.32 (ex VAT), taking the majority of the £100 budget.
Next was the graphics card. Right now the machine has onboard VIA graphics, which can do some basic 3D but not much more (it will just about handle the original World of Warcraft with all of the effects turned off, but it’s not pretty), and it leeches system RAM rather than having its own. Furthermore, the manufacturer has not produced any new drivers for Windows Vista, so as part of my plan to keep the machine running for a few years allowing for a Vista upgrade is important. I doubt nVidia are due to disappear any time soon so hopefully this new card will be a safe bet. It also adds DVI and S-Video output, allowing connection to a TV or a more modern TFT screen.
Finally I added a USB and FireWire PCI card. The machine had 2 USB ports at the front and 2 at the back, but both of those at the back were full and my parents were already having to use a hub. The machine is due to be moved to a room where there is no wired socket for ethernet, so we’ve opted to go for a USB wireless dongle (the Netgear WG111 previously mentioned), so that would be another USB port used up. As an extra PCI card was only around £5, it made sense to add 4 more ports. It also adds 2 FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394a) ports, which the computer previously lacked; whether my parents will ever use them is perhaps questionable but at least they are there, and it may add resale value to the machine.
These 3 items, plus the Netgear dongle, packing and VAT, came to £100.19, so only a bit over budget 🙂 . The difference is very noticable – startup times are improved and general performance is much better. The machine is now almost ready for Windows Vista – the only device lacking a Vista-compatible driver is the internal modem, which isn’t in use anyway and could be removed if necessary (it’s made by SmartLink who sold their assets to Connexant in 2006, and then disappeared off the face of the earth. Their latest drivers don’t even work correctly with Windows XP SP2).


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  2. Upgrading your parents’ PC to Vista seems rather cruel.
    Having just upgraded a Duron 1100 to a reasonably singing-and-dancing Athlon 4450e X2, I find that sticking with the older OS works just fine (Win2K flies on new hardware).

  3. Well I didn’t upgrade it to Vista, but if for some reason they had to upgrade then I’d like to think it would be able to run okay.