Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My son wants to run sophisticated gaming software on the computer ...

Q My current shack PC is a 333-MHz Pentium II with 64 Mbytes of RAM and a 3-Gbyte hard drive. My son wants to run sophisticated gaming software on the computer when I’m not using it, and my wife would like to do a few things on the machine with PhotoShop. I’m considering the idea of pulling the motherboard and replacing it with a new 133-MHz bus board and 1 GHz CPU. Is this the most cost-effective approach?

A Motherboard and CPU prices have been plunging lately, but you’ll still shell out about $600 for a good-quality 1-GHz motherboard/CPU combo. You can probably save more than $100 by purchasing a 933-MHz package. Believe me, you won’t notice the performance differential between 933 MHz and 1 GHz. Clock speed isn’t everything!

motherboard chipset is “old” as far as the PC market is concerned, but I’ve measured it to be as fast, if not faster, than the newer 815E chipset. Go with a 440BX-chipset motherboard and you’ll save a little cash without sacrificing performance. 

You might consider expanding your memory to 256 Mbytes to accommodate future needs. Beware of cheap memory, however. You can find 256-Mbyte SDRAM for under $100, but there is memory and there is memory. Bargain-basement memory can drop data when you’re cycling it at 133 MHz on your new motherboard. Just one dropped bit is enough to corrupt data and possibly trigger the dreaded “blue screen of death.” This is the last thing you want to see, say, in the middle of a contest!

Definitely upgrade your hard drive. With drive prices falling through the floor these days, you have no excuse. You can find 30-Gbyte drives for less than $125. Stick with the highspeed (7200 RPM) drives and your programs will load at the speed of thought!

 From QST April 2001