Upgrading an IBM Netvista 3803A

This one is more an intellectual challenge.

I have a friend who tries to be very independent and muddles through life from one financial crisis to the next. A year or two ago she decided she needed a computer for one of her part time jobs so based on how much cash she had we purchased a "refurbished" IBM Netvista 8303A and until recently its done enough to get the job done.

It came with an XP license so was cheaper than me building something and putting a legal license on it. It's now getting a bit long in the tooth so if possible I want to upgrade it.

I have more than 40 years experience with computers including specifying desktops for Canadian federal government and during that time I've built a number of systems.

If I can upgrade it then I can "find" the bits in my bit box and cash doesn't become an issue.

The original machine had 512 mb of memory and onboard video. I can push the memory up to 2 gigs since I can still get suitable memory but the power supply is only 185 watts.

I'd like to drop in another video card, the lowest power one would seem to be an ATI 4350 512MB 64-bit DDR3 AGP, has anyone ever done this with 2 gigs of memory? Can any one think of a card that sips less power?

Does any one make a more powerful replacement power supply? Remember this is not a standard one so I can't do my usual trick of dropping in an ANTEC but a propitiatory low profile one.

Has any one managed to transplant the motherboard into a different case that will take a decent power supply and video card?

I'd thought about dropping in a faster IDE hard drive but I'm not convinced for web and emails this would make much difference unless I could get an SSD with an IDE interface. That would probably save me enough power to allow a separate video card. Does such a beast as an IDE interface SSD exist?

Any other suggestions? I'm not after the cheapest solution here but one that appears to be the cheapest.

Thanks John
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  1. As far as I know, IDE cables can only do 133mb/s... you'd be bottlenecking an SSD if you did a SATA - IDE converter thing. Don't put in an SSD!

    Honestly, I think you're better off buying a used one off of craigslist if you're thinking about spending that kind of money.

    I often sell faster motherboard + CPU combos for like $10 locally...
  2. This isn't about the cheapest way to do it

    >If I can upgrade it then I can "find" the bits in my bit box and cash doesn't become an issue.

    It's about upgrading it without appearing to spend any cash.

    Dropping in an SSD would preserve the XP license, the case etc, allow a bit of extra head room for low power consumption video card, plus it wouldn't be apparent to a non techie that money had been spent. An SSD should also be faster than the current IDE drive since there is no rotation delays etc.

    Many thanks for the input. Now can you think of a way to spend say $400 inside the box so it looks the same on the outside and improve the performance? Remembering its a very difficult box to work in.

    Cheerio John
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