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xJoseph Auman

Thoughts on Upgrading

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With the speakers looking nice, off to the monitor. 17” is the standard now; any lower for a desktop should not be bought. If you are upgrading, go for a 19” or higher. You’ll also want to get a monitor with the flattest screen available. This will help in resolution. Check for the dot pitch. The lower, the better the quality you will have. The dot pitch is the measurement between each dot or pixel on the monitor. The closer they are, the better the picture quality will be. Of course, don’t forget about the budget. If you like your monitor, then you can keep it. But a larger monitor can also help you work. Larger resolutions make for easier Internet surfing, a larger desktop, and a larger overall work area.

Video Card:

The next thing is the video card. If you have onboard video, upgrade! You won’t believe the difference with a better and faster video card. I highly suggest you do, even if you just surf the Internet. The current best video chipset is the GeForce 2. GeForce 2 cards usually come with the DDR-SDRAM. This allows for the best framerates and pixel fill rate. The lower end range of video cards is cornered by the Voodoo series of cards from 3dfx. They are great for the money. If you have a AGP slot in you motherboard, then use it! It is extremely fast compared to the PCI slot. (Voodoo also has PCI cards if you do not have a AGP slot.) 16Mb of video RAM is about average for the upgrades, but 32Mb is suggested. Also, if you're a heavy gamer, then 64Mb is a must. Otherwise, go with your budget and try to find the best deal.
Keyboard and Mouse:

Now off to the keyboard and mouse. Maybe all the keyboard needs is a good cleaning. Use alcohol to clean it, and dust it off with canned air. This will help in the appearance and may help those sticky keys. You may want to get one of those “Internet” keyboards like Compaq always advertise. Logitech make some really good ones.

The mouse and mouse pad should also get a good cleaning. Remove the ball and use some alcohol on a Q-tip and scrape the “gunk” off the rollers inside. Do the same with the ball. Then wash down or replace the mouse pad. Keep it clean, because this is where most of your “gunk” on the mouse rollers will come from. You can get a new, non-ball mouse. Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer doesn’t use a ball, but you pay a hefty price for one. Or you can get a wheel mouse that will have that handy scroll wheel for browsing on the Internet. Microsoft and Logitech make some really good ones.


The printer may be a choice to upgrade. A older dot-matrix works great for a just text printing, but for pictures, it’s a horror. An inkjet printer is a must. What kind you get is up to you. HP and Epson seem to be dominating, but others are out there. The price is a major feature and what you are going to be doing with it. USB vs. Parallel port printers. USB is nice since you don’t have to keep it constantly connected. I do think they are also faster, but as usual, more expensive.


The internet has become an important factor in our lives. Older computers might have a 14.4K modem, but some will have a 28.8K. You can upgrade very easily to a 56K. Make sure to uninstall the older drivers before you do. Avoid winmodems. They are cheaper, but they are also more of a burden on you computer. 3com make some great ones, but Supra also do. Stay away from USB modems. They are very slow and can cause some problems in drivers.


Next comes the CPU. What you can get depends on what your motherboard can handle. The multiplier could be permanent (i.e. DIP switches or jumpers) or it could be in the BIOS. The BIOS can be flashed to accommodate a larger multiplier, which means a larger processor.

Older 486 computers do have the option from Intel to get a Overdrive processor. They usually will run at 66MHz, not much of an improvement from your 25MHz. But there are some companies that sell chips that go higher than that. I know for some Pentium computers, you can get up to a 400MHz chip, which is a outstanding improvement in the performance. But you’ll not get the bang for your buck. (see paragraph below).

Instead of buying a new processor, you could overclock the old. When a chip is rated (said how fast it is, such as 233MHz), they usually underrate it. The chip can go faster, but some do not exploit all of the chip. It’s really easy to overclock. Check your motherboard manuals on how to change the multiplier. Set it one level higher than what it is now. Turn on the computer to make sure it runs. If not, then you won’t be able to overclock at all. Repeat this step until it you go as high as the motherboard will allow. Then have it set one level lower. Overclocking can make the computer unstable, but it usually wont. If you experience tons of crashes, then it is best to return it to its original setting. Overclocking is also considered a last resort. It will generally wear down the processor and give it a shortened life span. Overclocking will also produce more heat, so be prepared with a extra fan to mount near the processor. I have even heard of some Celerons @ 550 MHz overclocked to 1Ghz! I have also heard the AMD chips are less “overlclocking friendly.” But give it a try. You might be like me and take my old Pentium @ 75MHz to 120MHz.

Motherboard and Case:

When we reach the point of upgrading the processor, we think of the motherboard (mobo for short). The mobo is the last limitation in upgrading. When you upgrade the processor, the chipset will not be fast enough for the processor. The result: a bottleneck that will not give you all the speed you paid for. You can upgrade the mobo to a more powerful one, but by the time you do this, you might as well consider buying a new computer. If you want a new mobo, I suggest Soyo, or any that will handle what you want to do. You may prefer to wait for the new AMD Thunderbird. This will be a great chip that will beat out the PIV hands down.

The final thing you can upgrade is the case. If you do this, the standard power supply is 300W. The minimum is 250W. If you plan on adding any more drives to your computer, you may end up with some errors due to the mobo not getting enough power.

If you get a new case, there are four basic types. The first is the desktop style that lies flat on the desk. These are very limited in mobo designs because some require a riser card. The next is the mini tower. It usually has one or two 5.25” bays and one 3.5” bay. These are the tower design, but they are also limited in upgrades. The next is the midi case. These are the most popular, comprised of three 5.25” bays and two 3.5” bays. These cases can be easily upgraded. The last is the full case. Usually comprised of around eight 5.25” bays and at least two 3.5” bays, these are the most upgradeable of the bunch, but also the largest and most expensive. Which case you choose is up to the room, money, and applications you have or will be using.

And finally:

Thanks for reading this little report about upgrading. I hope you enjoyed it!


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