I have this old computer . . .

I have this old computer . . .

By Richard Heller

I have this old computer . . .

And so it begins. I am asked many times by people that have just bought a new computer what they should do with the one that they’re replacing. This is not an easy question to answer, as most people do not understand why the computer that they spent $1800 on four years ago is now essentially worth nothing. Let’s take a look why.

The first thing that has changed is the speed and type of CPU, or the main chip that is in the computer. Four years ago, the Pentium was the chip in the standard home computer and most ran at about 200MHz. The Pentium II was available, but computers with these chips were much more expensive, as their speed ran from 300 to 450MHZ. In addition to the higher operating speed because of the faster circuits inside the computer, the chip itself handled the data differently, letting it process data even faster. There are replacement CPUs available, but they can cost up to $200.

Another thing that changed was both the amount and the configuration of the memory, or RAM. Until recently, memory has always been expensive. Ten years ago, memory was $50 per Megabyte (MB), 16 MB would add $800 to the price of the computer, but except for large spreadsheets, was seldom necessary. The price dropped, and most Pentiums came with 8 or 16 MB of memory. The Pentium II required a different memory chip, so the Pentium memory will not work in a new computer. While you can buy 128 MB of memory for your new PC for $50, it will cost at least $100 to add 16 MB to your old computer.

Hard drives have also changed over the years. The Pentium system probably came with a one or two Gigabyte (GB) drive that accounted for $200-300 of the purchase price. Nowadays you can buy a 40 GB drive for $100, and most new computers have a 20 GB drive installed.

The other things that have changed over the past four years include the modem and the video. While four years ago your modem ran at 28K, the standard today is 56K. The old modem added at least $50 to the price of the computer, while a 56K modem can be purchased for as little as $5.

The speed of the video and the amount of memory on the video card have both increased. In order to allow smoother animation in games, manufacturers have introduced video that allows you to view photo-realistic images and to do movie-quality animation and special effects. Without 3D acceleration, the new games will just not work on an older PC. A new video card will cost between $75 and $300.

The old PC is fine for the Internet or word processing, but spending additional money to upgrade it is not a wise investment. A new 667 MHz Celeron computer with 64 MB of memory, 10 GB hard drive, 56K modem, Windows ME and 3D-accelerated video can be purchased for less than $500.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail technorh@mindspring.com.

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