Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How to Upgrade Old Computer Clunkers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How to Upgrade Old Computer Clunkers

Article excerpt

CALL it arrogance. Or maybe PC2 (Politically Correct Personal Computing). When you ask about upgrading an old computer, the PC community answers with a sneer.

Turn it into a planter, these self-appointed gurus say, or maybe a door stop.

The message is clear. Get a real computer. What could you possibly do with a machine as old as that?

The answer, of course, is that you're doing quite a lot. Plugging away at an old Apple or 286-class or, good heavens, an IBM XT may not put you in with the "computerati." But it does the job.

Peter, a colleague, always needles me about my computer-using ways. Why, he asks, should he buy a more powerful machine to write stories? Obviously, he shouldn't. If that's all he plans on doing with it, his old computer should last for years. Don't buy computer power you'll never use.

Now, suppose you've been pecking away at Old Faithful for a few years and there's something you want to improve. The monitor's not as sharp as it used to be. Or you need more disk space. Perhaps you have moved to the graphical user interface known as Windows, and your system has slowed to a crawl.

Then it's time to consider upgrading. Upgrading computers is like laying out a strategy. Think carefully and relate each move to a long-term plan. Sometimes the computerati are right. It does make more sense to buy a new computer than upgrade the existing one. "Most people throw far too much money into a `junk' system," writes Scott Mueller in his book "Upgrading and Repairing PCs."

When people think of upgrading a computer, they usually focus on the obvious piece of hardware: the microprocessor. They want to turbo charge, say, an Intel 286-class chip into a 486-class screamer. Several companies sell up-gradable computers they say will accept the next-generation chip. Other companies sell processor upgrade boards to turn clunkers into speedsters.

These products can be quite useful to a large corporation that wants to speed up its brand-name computers but hasn't finished depreciating them. …

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