02/13/2001

Here’s a shocker. Tom’s Hardware talking about upgrading Socket 5 systems.  As you can quickly see from the guide, you won’t turn a 1995 PC into a Quake monster rig. What such a machine is useful for is office apps, and he missed the big upgrade for that: a new hard drive. (As well as #2 and #3, my book and my Computer Shopper UK articles, but we won’t get into that.)

Also, I’d like to know where he’s getting SIMMs for $1/meg. Crucial is listing 72-pin 16-meg SIMMs at $41 a pop. I don’t trust commodity SIMMs, and used SIMMs make me nervous unless they’re name-brand and I know they were used in a setting where the case wasn’t constantly being opened and the SIMMs exposed to static shocks and other hazards.

This brings us to the classic upgrade problem. At $35 for a CPU, $50 for a voltage adapter, and $82 for an additional 32 MB RAM, you’re looking at dumping $165 into a six-year-old motherboard. Crucial’s selling 64-meg PC100 DIMMs for $28. And you can get a Duron-700 on a Gigabyte 7IXE4 motherboard for $150 or so. Obviously you’ll need a new case, since ATX didn’t exist in 1995, but you can spend $225 on a new board, CPU, memory, and case and transplant the rest of the peripherals from the old machine and come out far, far ahead of where you would be if you spent $165 on a CPU and memory upgrade.

Arguably, for office apps, given a $225 budget, you’d be well-served by getting a CPU upgrade, memory, and a $75 hard drive (which will blow the doors off anything of 1995 vintage) than by bogging down a modern system with an ancient drive. But frankly, I’d prefer to get the newer components and buy a newer drive later, or find a way to afford it. The upgrade path described at Tom’s buys that old system another year or so of useful life. This upgrade path buys two or three years and has a whole lot more upgrade options down the line–video card, hard drive, memory, the works.

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