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What Would YOU Do?

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by Shoeless, Jun 17, 2005.

  1. Shoeless

    Shoeless Gun Totin' Girl

    Nov 25, 2001
    Planet Earth
    I am considering buying a new computer. I have a desktop computer that is probably three years old at this point. Running Windows 98 and for backing up data, I only have a floppy A: drive. No CD writer, no DVD, no fire wire.

    Windows 98 is VERY stable, which I love but it's also pretty slow and doesn't release memory very well. After a few days of opening and closing programs, my system resoucres show about 43% and then it's all bogged down so I have to reboot.

    Because I think the computer is about three years old, I'm also concerned about my hard drive crashing and losing all my stuff. I'd rather bite the bullet, get a new machine and some good backup media and start fresh. (my monitor is relatively new so I won't be replacing that part)

    I have been told that if you go on the Dell web site you can configure exactly the machine you want, and it will price it all out for you so you can see just how much each component is.

    I'd like to upgrade to Windows XP but am not sure if XP or XPpro is better. Any thoughts?

    Also, I honestly don't know how fast a processor to look for, how much RAM to look for, how big a hard drive to buy, etc.

    I don't do a ton of graphic design or anything, but I do tend to store a good number of photos in my folders. I run Dreamweaver, Quickbooks, ACT, and an electronic filing system, on top of my Eudora and my browser. I don't do gaming or watch movies.

    What would YOU do if you were me?

    Thanks SO MUCH in advance!

  2. David_G17

    David_G17 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

    Oct 7, 2002

    if you don't intend to do much networking, XP Home is probably the better choice.

    This is like asking what caliber should I buy ;)

    If going the Dell route:

    I would look at for the Pentium 4's around 2.0 GHz, but at least 1.7 GHz.

    RAM: 512 MB

    Hard drive: 60 or 80 gigs.

    I would recommend at least getting a DVD-ROM since it seems like some media is now being distributed on DVD's rather than CD's.

    another source that would probably be cheaper (since you don't need a monitor) is tiger direct:

    ETA: what kind of budget are you working with?

  3. podwich


    Sep 7, 2000
    If you don't mind opening the case, I'd buy the DVD drive from newegg and install it yourself-it's better and cheaper.

    Do you need MS Office? If not, you can save money.

    Do you need a dial-up modem?

    And like David said, how much do you want to spend?
  4. fastvfr

    fastvfr Ancient Tech

    Mar 28, 2001
    SW Oregon
    Well, Shoeless, I can certainly tell you what to avoid.

    Anything that says "CELERON" or "SEMPRON" is essentially a crippled chip, with half of the internal bandwidth and half the on-die cache...those CPU's will be about half as fast as rated when compared to procs that DID make the cut.

    A good rule of thumb, especially now that component prices are so darn low, is to buy for the future.

    Never get a plain CD-ROM or CD-RW. Ever. Either buy a DVD+/-RW or a CD-RW/DVD-ROM. You'll be glad you did. And a DVD-ROM disk will hold about 6 3/4 CD-R's worth of your pictures, too. Great for backups and archiving.

    Just so you know, OEM (Dell, HP, Compaq) computers are about the worst value going. Do you realize that the components used to build those machines all have far longer, better warranties than you get with the prebuilt tower? That's right...YOU pay THEM to withhold Intel's 3-year RMA warranty from you. Makes sense! NOT.

    Worse still, their cases are simply dreadful when it comes to ventilation and cause the parts to overheat, which of course causes CPU's, vid cards and hard drives to die prematurely.

    I strongly suggest that you either buy your system parts online and build the machine yourself, or buy the parts yourself and have a local tech shop build it up for you. I don't suggest you buy the parts from the shop that will do the assembly...too many of them will overcharge and/or sell you things you'll never use, just to pad the bill.

    Building a PC from scratch isn't hard at all...I have walked totally-non-PC people through the entire process over the telephone in an hour or less.

    If a shop does do the build for you, expect to spend around $100-$150 for their labor, but know this: the fact that your tech support is just down the street rather than in India is priceless!

    For a non-gaming PC, the best bet (for an Intel rig) would probably be a 2.4C Pentium SKT 478 processor in an Asus P4P800 motherboard, with two 512MB sticks of Corsair ValueRAM PC3200. This will let you run the RAM in dual channel mode, making the rig blazing fast.

    For an AMD Athlon rig, go with the Socket 939 Athlon 64 3500+ and an Asus board. The same Corsair PC3200 ValueRAM will work in this rig, too. Get a full gig of it in two sticks.

    Then, if you won't be doing much 3D gaming, the vid card can be of the bargain variety, as can the sound card.

    Buy a bigger hard drive than you think you'll need. By the way, the old Win98 drive can be Slaved into a new PC and the files on it can then be copied onto the new drive. That always brings some peace of mind!

    Lastly, make SURE you don't skimp on the power supply unit.

    Why spend $30 for endless headaches when you can spend twice that and get a rock-solid system? I use Antec Truepower units in all of my builds. You'll want at least a 400w model.

    One other thing: order your OEM copy of XP Home with some of these parts...very cheap if done that way. $50 to $70 is all it'll cost you, but the online retailers aren't supposed to sell the operating system this way unless it goes with a new PC or the parts to build one.

    Truth be told, though, just buying a HDD or a power cord is usually enough to net those savings.

    If you follow this plan, as over 1100 people locally have (I build PC's for a living, you know), you might save $100 or so over the 'deals' Dell or whomever offer--or you might wind up paying $50 more.

    Either way, though, you can believe me when I say that the increase in component quality and the far-superior tech support will make your future computing experiences one heck of a lot more enjoyable.

    Good luck to you!

    Best regards,


    PS. If you need a 'shopping list' for the needed parts, let me know!
  5. BLiTzNicK

    BLiTzNicK Silent Member

    Jan 4, 2001
    Do not buy a Celeron!! Windows XP Home should be fine for anyone who doesn't need to join a Domain.

    We run XP on a variety of machines at work, and have little to no trouble with 500mhz Compaqs, to 2.6ghz Dells. Just be sure to get at least 512mb of ram, and a "REAL" processor, not a Celeron.

    Everything else is really just personal preference.
  6. For the time being,download and install Ccleaner

    It cleans up Windows and takes care of the bug in Windows 98 that doesn't allow automatic emptying of temp files in Windows 98.It doesn't fix the bug directly but allows clearing them quickly.It's very fast.Run it everyday or more if you like.
  7. Guest

    I am with fastvfr on this one.

    My preference would be P4 3Ghz or faster with a gig of good RAM. Get a new Serial HDD 60+ gigs and if you have the know how or a good friend with the know how then built the thing from scratch.

    I am not a big Dell fan or Celeron fan, i would never buy another celeron! I would never buy a Dell either, i have had to fix too many of them.

    I am also getting ready to build a new computer for myself and a friend. In the next two months i am sure i will get it done, i look forward upgrading my relatively fast computer. I need HDD space and i also want the serial HDD, hence the upgrade. This P4 2.8Ghz i am moving to the office to upgrade my crappy P2 300.

  8. jack19512


    Aug 14, 2003
    Hazard Ky
    I am no computer expert so I hope I am not giving bad advice, and if I am I hope someone corrects me. You say your computer is 3 yrs. old? I have a Gateway 450, I have forgotten how old this thing is but the only changes I have made to this thing is Windows XP, cd burner, and more ram(128mb). I have the usual stuff hooked to my computer, scanner, printer, card reader, and zip drive. This thing never skips a beat!

    I know your computer has to be more up to date than mine. Isn't it possible for you to make a few changes to your computer instead of buying a new one so it will do what you want it to do? If I remember right my Gateway came with Windows 98 originally, ever since I put XP on this computer it has been like a whole different machine.

    I have 6 computers in my immediate family. Out of the 6 I have built 3 of them. So if you think you might want to build one if a computer idiot like myself can do it anyone can. Good Luck
  9. Shoeless

    Shoeless Gun Totin' Girl

    Nov 25, 2001
    Planet Earth
    I suppose I could make some changes to my existing machine. However, that would entail changing out the hard drive, changing the operating system, adding a CR rom drive, and upping the RAM. So that's pretty much like building a new one from scratch.

    I do need MSOffice Professional (I use PowerPoint) as well as Microsoft XP (I am using Wiun98 presently).

    The thought of a laptop has crossed my mind as well, since I could take it with me on business trips and whatnot. Would be AWESOME to be able to work on the road if I can figure out how to configure it for wireless access from hot spots.

  10. With the price of new PC's these days it makes more sense to buy a new one rather than upgrade.I've tried it both ways and with that much upgrade required a new PC is the way to go.
  11. mitchshrader

    mitchshrader Deceased

    Jun 14, 2005
    Ok, first thing to decide is, how much you want to spend.

    Second thing is, how much hassle you can put up with.

    THEN get advice far as planning your system.

    I build comps for small business & home networking use.

    I'll agree wholeheartedly that Big Name Brand support is terrible. Hideous. Avoid it.

    Have your computer built, or do it yourself. (see 2nd thing)..

    As far as your operating system, I'm a Windows 2000 guy, never saw a reason to go to XP except fancy graphics that slow performance.

    Of the two versions of XP, I recommend the 135$ OEM version of XP Pro, just BECAUSE you gain the networking ability (which if you ever need, or need to sell the machine, you'll appreciate).

    XP Home is neutered in some inconvenient ways, pros don't like it, and friendly tech support is easier gotten for free with XP Pro. It's a judgment call, and if budget is critical, XP Home works. Grudgingly admitted.. but it works.

    DO pick and choose among your programs carefully. DO install a proper Anti-Virus (not Norton, or McAffee) and a full suite of security programs. This is a critical area. See the 'Anti Spyware' Sticky thread.. it can take most of a day to do a proper lock-down, but it's TOTALLY worth the time invested, and often isn't any (or not much) money.

    I use Kaspersky's Anti-Virus, and Sygate Firewall, and the usual suspects (free) for anti-spyware and blocking purposes. IE-Spyads & Spywareblaster are too good to pass up.

    Far as hardware, yes, get a DVD-R/W. My belt and suspenders attitude says, GET A FLOPPY DRIVE.. it's rarely used, nearly obsolete, but when ya need it, (2 or 3 times a year) ya need it. And it IS convenient for sharing small files, text & pics, with older machines.
    Get a new printer if you're so inclined, a decent one that's cheap to run is the Canon PIXMA IP3000, a low end photo quality printer (65-70$) with CHEAP INK(10$). Hard to find color, reliable, and cheap ink in the same package. Lexmark is cursed with 35$ ink refills and they don't work that well either.

    You can buy HUGE hard drives now for cheap. You can find 5 year warranties on large ones. A 40 gig hard drive is about 50$, 1 yr warranty. A 250 gig hard drive is about 150$, 5 year warranty. Figure what you want to spend, but it's a place to splurge and feel smart later.

    A good power supply is critical. Very Few cases sold with power supplies have GOOD ones. Antec is an exception. If you like their looks, it's not wrong. Or, you can get a cheap generic case, and a quality power supply, 400-450 watts, and wind up spending about the same.

    MOTHERBOARD!.. Ok, here's a point that the argument is neverending.

    IF you do Intel CPU, there are tons of Options. You have gold plated bells and whistles, you can get it left handed, warranties are good, everybody has one, they are generally quite reliable. Downside is, they're not the best value per dollar.

    IF you do AMD CPU, you can get good bargains, excellent performance, equal reliability, equal warranty, and you'll look a bit harder for the 'ideal' combination of features but you'll save money.

    Can you tell I have AMD machines? I recommend Asus Motherboards, they build Intel & AMD versions, and STAY AWAY FROM CUTTING EDGE. Sexy (new) tech is less well developed, more prone to bugs, and costs extra. Shop somewhere at the '6 month to 1 year old' tech, and you'll be able to find very well rated, (user tested) stuff at a discount.

    Cutting edge = 'bleeding' edge. Don't get cut.

    Suppose I was building your machine, I'd use anybody's floppy drive, Sony as a first choice.

    I'd get you an Antec Sonata Case w. 380w power supply (it's better than its' rating). (about 90$)

    I'd get a Lite-On brand DVD-RW.

    I'd get an Asus A7n8x-E Deluxe motherboard, an AMD BARTON processor between 2500 and 3000 (rated) and 512 OR 1024 megs 3200 ram, probably Kingston. There are other brands of ram that'll work, but don't buy generic and don't buy expensive gaming ram. One's risky and the other's hideously overpriced. A good (cheap) graphics card is a gforce 4 4200 128 meg card. They are plenty for photos, and run maybe 50-70$ online.

    The total cost of a good machine, built out of quality and well-warranted components should run you between 500-1000$, depending how bargain you go and whether you count the Operating System.

    DO check to see if you can use your older copy of Office on the new machine. you might can. you PROBABLY can, in fact.. depending on how old it is.

    Now, when you install your OS on the machine, Update Everything. Motherboard drivers, Service Packs, any critical bug-fixes or security updates, EVERY thing.

    But: no matter Intel or AMD, no matter what case, not MUCH of a diff on 512-1024 megs ram (50$, a bit of speed on graphic work) DO GET a good power supply. It's critical to longevity. DO get better than stock fans. They get dirty, you want a cool machine even dirty. That keeps it alive .. Cool is .. well, cool.

    My rule of thumb is, if you are over 50C at the processor, upgrade cooling. You'll be glad eventually. A lot of people don't realize, faster = hotter, and hotter means you need more/better fans. Expect a new machine to be a bit louder than the old one.

    Build it, OR have it built, don't buy mainstream. I tell folks, expect to spend 1$ a day for your comp. You'll get more life on a good one, a cheap box is very likely to die inside of 2 years, and a good one you can expect 3-5 years out of.

  12. David_G17

    David_G17 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

    Oct 7, 2002
    it may seem daunting to think about, but actually wireless has become pretty user friendly. If you plan on using the wireless features of hotels/motels, it's usually as easy as just sticking the card in your computer and booting it up (edited to add that most laptops now have wireless capability built internally into the computer). Some places may have security measures requiring a little configuration, but they usually don't when they offer free access (in my experience).

    I wouldn't buy a laptop b/c they are expensive to upgrade, very often stolen, and a little delicate. However, it may be what meets your needs - i.e. mobility, traveling, etc.

    also note that laptop batteries usually only last a few years, which isn't bad until you look at the price of getting another battery.
  13. Shoeless

    Shoeless Gun Totin' Girl

    Nov 25, 2001
    Planet Earth
    THANKS you guys!

    And in the same breath... ARRRGGGGHHHHH!

    Now I'm even more confused than before! Mercy, I wish I understood more of this techno stuff so I could relate to what you're saying and really understand it.

    I know about hard drive size and I doubt I'll need a gigantic one. Hell, the one I have now is about 9 gigs and it holds everything fine.

  14. mitchshrader

    mitchshrader Deceased

    Jun 14, 2005
    The only reason for a huge hard drive is media. Video takes up a Lot of room. Music can be nearly as bad, for an addict. (don't look at ME, I only have 15 hard drives! I'm not an addict, honest!)

    DVDs are 4+ Gigs, and movies 'ripped' to SVCD run 700megs to 2 gigs or so each.

    Albums 'ripped' to good quality mp3s are about 8 or 10 to the gigabyte.

    Do you want a music collection you can listen to, one click away?

    Do you want a video library?

    Those are the reasons for big hard drives. If NOT (and you're SURE) then stay small.

    Buy a 40 gig hard drive and pay for a years extended warranty (5$) and call it even.

    If you think MAYBE yes, and your budget permits, go to a 250 gig and get the extra warranty and storage for about a hundred bucks extra.

    I can promise you that what you do with a computer will evolve to use the performance limits of your machine. Gaming means nothing to me, but after I built a machine that COULD, I gave it a whirl. (boring)

    Broadband inspires collections. (entirely and strickly in accordance with the wishes of the RIAA, of course!)

    Now, IF you're going to JUST do email, chat, and do some minor graphics & html work.. half a gig ram & 40 gig hard drive, AMD 2500 Barton processor is plenty. You'll never think you need more, and won't miss it.

    IF you think that it might be nice to have all your entertainment in one pile, that you MIGHT want to clip and compile some video, consider building a machine AT ONE TIME, (rather than later upgrades)
    for those purposes. More storage, ram & a faster processor... it's cheaper to do it all at once than upgrade later. The difference is a couple hundred bucks.

    Yer call, yer money. Just make the plan you can be happy with. ;)
  15. Texas T

    Texas T TX expatriate CLM

    Jan 25, 2000
    Shoeless, I just bought my second laptop and this is the route I would recommend.
    1. Portability - you can take it with you and work on the road
    2. Hot Spots - as others have mentioned, it's usually a piece of cake and the laptop will normally sniff out the open network for you and all you have to do is click on the Connect button
    3. If you still do a lot of work at home / office just plug the laptop into a keyboard/mouse/monitor and you're good to go
    4. If you're going to do a lot of traveling, buy a second battery or buy one of the universal batteries at some place like Best Buy - your battery WILL die at the most inopportune time and you WILL need a replacement at some point
    5. Don't lose your power adapter
    6. Consider other brands besides Dell - I just bought a Gateway; something I would not have done a couple of years ago but with the new e-machine management running the company they are putting out some nice machines these days - my other choice would have been a Toshiba - IBMs are really great if you want to spend the bucks
  16. mitchshrader

    mitchshrader Deceased

    Jun 14, 2005
    Acer is a fairly unknown brand, trying to build reputation and market share in the US..

    For that reason, they have a low profit margin on some decent equipment right now. If you're going for a budget notebook machine, look hard at some of their deals, in the 900-1200$ range. Check around for rebates, weekend sales, etc. Might hit a real good bargain.

    Remember, it's not last years reputation, it's next years warranty you're most concerned with. Computer companies climb to the top and coast on their rep a while, then sell out for profit.

    E-machines was a JOKE 3 years ago, and now build some decent comps. Looks to me like Acer might be on that program, see what you think. ;P