Whether you're watching t.v. or reading the paper, you're bombarded with ads claiming to have the best deal on the ultimate computer. But just how much computer do you really need and would you be better off just upgrading the one you have?
New computers cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars but if you can get past the hype of the commercials and curb your fear of cracking open your case you could get by for pennies on the dollar. Chances are the most you do with your home computer is surf the net, write up letters and maybe play a few games. Hopson Arceneaux of Nerdworks Computing said, "In that situation, you don't need to spend top dollar to get the fastest components on the market."
But that cheap deal from Dell or Gateway may not be the best option, either. Arceneaux explained, "They are not as upgradeable as your custom pcs." Arceneaux says upgrading is a good idea if your computer is fast enough. Processor speed is measured in hertz.. It's best if you have at least a one gigahertz processor. The main part of your computer where all components attatch: the processor, graphics and sound cards and random access memory is better known as RAM. Arceneaux says RAM is a good place to start with your upgrades, "It's a very cheap upgrade for your system, it's the cheapest way to get increased performance for any system."
Arceneaux says 128 megs of RAM costs about $35.00. And that's exactly what you need if you're running Windows 98 or ME, but if you're running windows XP-- double that to at least 256 megs. Luckily, RAM is also easy to upgrade. Arceneaux described the process, "We pop the two catches out and just pull the RAM out then you just pop in the new chipset, making sure that your notches align with the notches in the slots. Put the RAM in place, push down 'til it clicks. Make sure your two catches are in the up position and that's a ram upgrade." For faster games, you need more than ram... You'll need to upgrade the video card. We just remove the one screw that holds the video card in place. Usually video cards have a little release button down on the bottom. Press down the release, firmly, but gently lift up on the card and remove it from the box."
A 64 meg video card is Arceneaux's recomended replacement, "Line your video card up with the slot, press down firmly, making sure your catch is in place, replace the one screw that holds the card in and you're done with the hardware portion of the video card swap out." But even then, you're still not done, "Anytime you install a new piece of hardware in a system, there's usuall a software driver tht needs to be installed to make that piece of hardware work properly."
Arceneaux says before you do any work on your computer, touch the case. Static electricity built up in your body can damage the components in your computer. Now, while you can upgrade cards and RAM easily, CD-ROM drives and hard drives can be a little tougher. Arceneaux suggests you read manuals on how to do that before making those upgrades.
And as for processor upgrades, Arceneaux says that should be left to professionals only. Sometimes you have to go into system BIOS and make changes there or you have to change the jumpers. If i'm sounding a bit technical right now and you have little idea what i'm talking about, you now understand why this should be left to the professionals.