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Help deciding if I should put any money in to upgrading a Dell P4

Not sure if this is the right place... I am just about to order parts for my new build and will be passing on my old PC a Dell Dimension 4600 P4 2.6 GHZ machine with 512MB of ram to my kids. I was initially going to give them my laptop, but decided they would be better off with the desktop.

What can I do to improve performance for the least amount of money? It will only be used for Internet surfing and MS Word. I was thinking the best bet would be RAM, but perhaps a new HD as well as the whole system seems to drag and the HD is loud and seems to take for ever to load anything off of it.
How can I tell if the drive is bad? Even with a fresh OS install, its running faster, but still not what it used to run at.

Current specs

Pentium 4 2.6 GHZ
512MB Ram of DDR PC3200
120GB SATA HD
10 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about help deciding money upgrading dell
  1. You could add another 512MB of memory and a faster hard disk. A very fast system probably would feel sluggish with that old hard disk. Other than that, nothing will make a P4 2.6 feel snappy. A fast hard disk will provide a better improvement than additional memory.
  2. Get two sticks of Kingston ValueRAM 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Desktop Memory Model KVR400X64C3A/512 - Retail
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/NewProduct.aspx?Item=N82E16820141424

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  3. The 4600, I think, is new enough to mount a normal ATX or mATx motherboard in it. It's possible, esp if you have a Fry's nearby, to get a dual core processor and a motherboard for about the price of 2GB of DDR400. Add 2GB of DDR2-800 and you can probably get essentially a new machine for less than $100. hard drives are still pennies per gigabyte so $20-25 can net 250-320GB.
  4. bliq said:
    The 4600, I think, is new enough to mount a normal ATX or mATx motherboard in it. It's possible, esp if you have a Fry's nearby, to get a dual core processor and a motherboard for about the price of 2GB of DDR400. Add 2GB of DDR2-800 and you can probably get essentially a new machine for less than $100. hard drives are still pennies per gigabyte so $20-25 can net 250-320GB.


    Can you put together a parts and price list (with links) so I can see what this new $125 computer looks like? Thanks
  5. Best answer
    I agree; bumping the RAM up to 1GB and replacing the hard drive are about all you can do ... the computer is way too old to make into a "modern" machine, but if all you're using it for is word processing and the Internet, it doesn't really need ot be any better than that.
  6. My first thought would be to get 2G of RAM and let Windows cache the hard drive requests. It will cache a lot and then this system will be as fast as its going to be. It will also allow a couple of programs to run at the same time (or multiple users) without big slowdowns.

    The second improvement might be a new hard drive, but Im mixed about that. ITs a toss up between putting in 4G (and using whatever this system will allocate) and a new drive. Again the thinking is get as much data into RAM as possible. But that depends on how many users will use this and what they are doing....
  7. vvhocare5 said:
    My first thought would be to get 2G of RAM and let Windows cache the hard drive requests. It will cache a lot and then this system will be as fast as its going to be. It will also allow a couple of programs to run at the same time (or multiple users) without big slowdowns.

    The second improvement might be a new hard drive, but Im mixed about that. ITs a toss up between putting in 4G (and using whatever this system will allocate) and a new drive. Again the thinking is get as much data into RAM as possible. But that depends on how many users will use this and what they are doing....
    I know by experience with a similar system that increasing memory over 1GB doesn't help that much (a P4 2.8 with HT). A faster hard disk often is a better investment. To the OP, what is the peak memory utilization according to Task Manager? Is it close to physical memory size?
  8. The peak is pretty close to the physical memory... I think I am going to pick up some more ram... maybe pick up a 1GB to give it 1.5GB total.... just put some new drivers in with the reload of the OS and the disk access seems better... not great ... but I think with th RAM it should be good enough for what they want to use it for
  9. Best answer selected by cmg27.
  10. This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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