Upgrade Or New System?
Charles M. is sitting there, glaring at his PC system. He has been waiting several minutes for his computer to do something, anything. Instead, the hard drive is just emitting loud grinding sounds and his mouse isn't reacting to any movements he makes with it. "I don't believe it!" he thinks to himself, still glaring at the monitor. He would love to vent his fury by just slinging the whole computer out the window. And to think that this swank computer is a mere 36 months old and has been totally deducted from his taxes! He can remember proudly ordering the system at the computer dealer's around the corner. In those days, Charles was the king of his group of friends - no one had a PC tower with a fast Pentium II and a hefty 64 MB RAM. But today's a different story - the computer dealer has been gone for quite a while now and his friends all have faster computers with GHz processors. I've got to do something, he thinks. Charles isn't a total incompetent, so he opens up his PC system and resolves to bring his PC up to scratch again by selectively upgrading components.
Numerous users are stuck in this situation. Untold emails sent to Tom's Hardware portray vividly how many readers are torn between upgrading and buying a new computer. This decision, however, is dependent on two factors - first of all, how old is the hardware that has to be upgraded and how does that limit my upgrading possibilities? Second, what applications will I be using in the future?
We have taken a 3-year old system that was on the cutting edge in 1998 as an example of how to upgrade it step-by-step, thereby increasing performance by a factor of 5. We've included lots of pictures to make it clear how you transform an old PC with a Pentium II/233 into a system with a Pentium III/800 or a Pentium 4/1500. In a future article, we'll also be looking at a system based on an AMD processor and upgrading it.
A glance at all the components of our base PC. We've disassembled the computer entirely here.