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Does upgrading my Gateway computer make sense?

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on September 20, 1999

Question

I would like to upgrade to a faster system. The options are to buy a new Gateway or simply to upgrade the motherboard, (to a Pentium III 600mhz) hard drive (from 4.3gb to 9 or more), CD rom (from 12X to 48X) and memory (from 64 to 128K). I'm leaning toward Gateway because the support they've provided over the past 2 years has been excellent and I'm afraid that if I upgrade with components (non-Gateway) to get a cheaper system, I'll be sorry! Does upgrading make sense -- and is it even possible to upgrade a system like mine? Or should I just start over (keeping my 17" monitor) with a new system?

-Anne-Marie

Answer

This question was answered on September 20, 1999. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.


To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question! Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of upgrading or to take arms against a sea of troubles and buy anew? That indeed is the question that has plagued most computer users since the beginning of time (or at least for the last 10 years!)

In the world of computers, upgrading generally means replacing an existing component with a newer, faster, bigger, stronger one To determine a reasonable upgrade let’s first break your computer down into key components The primary components of a computer are the processor/motherboard, the memory and the hard drive The majority of the cost of a computer is tied up in these components Upgrading any one of these components will generally make a noticeable significant difference Secondary components include CD-Rom, sound card, video card, floppy or Zip drives and modems Upgrading one of these components will enhance your computing experience but generally not to the extent of a primary component In most cases, upgrading components in the second group is cost effective, but upgrading multiple items from the primary group is not.

In past years, replacing a motherboard and processor was cost effective for a couple of reasons The 286, 386, 486, AMD, CYRIX and original Pentium motherboards used the same “footprint” and power supply connections on the inside of the computer This allowed for simple inexpensive upgrades of the motherboard and processor To add to the equation, a new computer back then would have cost $1500 to $2000 Today’s Pentium III based systems use a completely different “footprint” as well as the power supply connectors inside the “box” and start under $1000 This means if you have an older Pentium, Pentium MMX, Pentium Pro, Cyrix or AMD based system you will most likely have to change the case, power supply, motherboard, processor and in many cases even the RAM (memory chips) which adds to the overall cost and time to upgrade

Upgrading just the memory chips has always been one of the best “bang for the buck” upgrades because of its low cost and noticeable increase in performance Installing a larger hard drive is a good cost effective upgrade to help extend the life of an older computer, but it generally does not increase the performance of the computer

Since you have identified all three of the primary components are to be upgraded, I would definitely recommend that you look at purchasing a new computer Instead of “cannibalizing” your old system, you may want to use it as a second computer for simple tasks, such as e-mail, checkbook register or word processing Home networking (connecting several computers in the home) which allows you to share printers, data and Internet connections has been recognized as one of the fastest growing segments of the industry Anyone with more than one computer user in the house can relate to how having that second machine would be beneficial Another possibility is that you can sell your old computer, if it is still in tact, to help pay for the new one Or if you are feeling benevolent, you could donate your old (still very usable) system to your favorite charity, church or local school.

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on September 20, 1999

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