Need Advice

Could you advise me? A friend of mine has a computer in his study that he uses for invoicing for his plumbing business. He uses a simple account-keeping package that prints out invoices on 2 part carbonless paper on an Epson LQ 500 dot matrix printer. He has asked of my help for advice about improving the performance of his computer. He feels he may need to upgrade so that he can run some of the new software that he hears people talking about. He wants to keep his existing system intact and improve by the addition of parts only if possible thereby reducing the financial outlay.

This is what I found:

Eternally it has a slimline desktop case with a 14” SVGA monitor, standard 5 pin 104 key keyboard, 2 button serial mouse and non-amplified speakers. There is a single 3.5” floppy disk and a CD ROM of unknown specifications.

Upon opening the case I identified the components as:

· Computer case.
The case has caused me some concern, as it was not a simple matter to open the lid. Once inside I found that there are 2 * 3.5” bays. Installed in these are 1 hard disk, 1 floppy disk and 1 CD ROM. The power supply has 2 spare connectors and is a 250watt supply.

· Main board
The motherboard is quite old (4+ years) and has a Pentium 120cpu installed. There are 4* 72 pin RAM slots, 2 holding 8Mb sticks of ram and 2 more holding 4Mb ram each. There is one 168-pin ram slot, which is unused. There are 3 * 16 bit ISA slots housing a Banksia modem that I suspect to be a 28.8 kbs modem and a 16 bit genuine sound blaster sound card with a cable attached to the 40 pin proprietary connector leading to the CD ROM. There are also 4 * PCI slots one of which has a 2Mb Trident video card and another in use by a small card (SCSI) that allows connection from a digital camera. On close examination I found that the BIOS is not flash upgradeable.

· Hard drive & floppy drive
Whilst investigating the system from the CMOS I found that the hard disk is a Western Digital 1.6Gb hard disk installed using LBA mode and the floppy drive is a 1.44Mb. I also noticed a 100Mb Zip drive sitting on the shelf but not connected to the system.

· Sound card & CD ROM
The CD ROM is a creative 2-speed model CR-563-B that will only work if it is connected to the creative sound card. The sound card is a genuine creative labs but was designed for DOS application. There are many lines in the config.sys and autoexec.bat referring to the sound and CD ROM.

Could you please give me some advice on what I should do I really need a second opinion, it would be most appreciated

Thanks Gala email:
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  1. Hey Gala,
    Either your friend needs a new system(everything!) or he doesn't want to spend any money. First off, how much money can he cough up? Secondly, I am making a ass of you & I mean assuming you & your friend know next to nothing about hardware(or you wouldn't be asking for opinions)? Third, does everything in his old desktop still work?
    If I were in your shoes, I would back way slowly out the door, and once out the door I would bolt into a full on run! Is this a option? No, I didn't think so..... The next best thing would be to replace the whole system, keeping in mind someone will have to show your friend how to use some of the modern software. There is nothing in this system I would try to save, even the floppy drive, still unchanged today, is very old and I would get a new one(only $10-20). There is a good chance his old power supply and HDD will fail very soon. Has he ever reformatted the HDD and reinstalled the OS? Buy or build a totally new system and keep the old one as a back-up(it's not worth anything anyway). This will save you the 2+ years of replacing everything in this desktop, piece by piece as it dies. The way I see it is at this point, either he needs a new system or it works fine for him.........Which is it? No making this machine faster and better isn't a option, the reason being is why waste money on something that is not worth anything and is dying- to replace/upgrade anything in this desktop is to buy something that you will never use again in a modern system after this machine goes.
    Get him to buy a Dell or Gateway, so you can save some headaches by telling him- "I don't know, you need to call Tech Support for a problem like that". All PC's have problems(most are software related), if you build him a system, you stand a fair chance of holding his hand for the rest of this new PC's life or Detroying your friendship, because he will think you did a SH*TLY job of building it with bad parts(what kind of parts were you planning to get for a cheap system, from a guy who was too cheap to buy a system himself?). Just remember everything will be your fault, so distance yourself from it, don't built it. My rule is only build systems for people who know computers or family. Yes, I have built a system for a person who knows jack about PC's. He challedged me to build a system for him with the close to cheapest parts(yes, I told him these parts were not be a good idea), I did it, it ran poorly for one year until the power supply went commando and took just about everything on the mobo with it, the HDD lived but all data was corrupted(I have never seen as many bad clusters on a year old HDD) and had to be reformatted..........we are not friends anymore. I had to learn the hard way, you don't! This is my advice, Good Luck.
    Peace Out.........tile

    What do you mean, SEE THE BIG PICTURE, you mean I need a New Monitor too???
  2. I would advise your friend to buy a generic system from pricewatch, and copy his old files to the new system. Maxtor has a program that will enable you to make an exact copy of the hardrive. It is available to download from their website. You connect both drives to the same cable and make the new drive a secondary by changing the jumpers on the hardrive. It will read the old drive as c and the new one as the D drive in windows. Then load the floppy with the maxtor program and follow the directions. Your friend can get a duron generic system on pricewatch for about $300 which includes shipping and either windows 95 or 98. For a few dollars more, I would advise you get an athlon system; it is about 30% faster. If your friend won't listen to reason (it will cost more to upgrade the old system then buying a new one) run don't walk away from this project. Too many headaches. To check out generic systems, go to pricewatch and select pc windows category. Then select your processor speed, and you can go down the page until you find the features you like. Your friend can sell the old system in the paper for about $100-125, and keep the monitor for the new system. The maxtor program is called MAXBLAST. My athlon 1.33 system is at least 100 times faster than your friends system. You can't get that kind of performance increase simply by changing the cpu or motherboard. You have to start over with faster hardrive, memory, etc. Tell your friend not to be afraid of buying generic. Put it on a credit card, so you can stop payment if there are any problems.
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