Last week, I talked about my plans to upgrade a Presario 7360. I can now present you with the executive summary.
This isn’t a project for the faint of heart or the inexperienced. Upgrading is certainly possible, but this is one of the most difficult upgrade projects I’ve ever done, and this is coming from a guy who’s done a lot of upgrades. I can honestly say that for every soda I’ve drunk over the past seven years, I’ve probably serviced one computer.

With today being New Year’s Day and me having the day off (mostly), I decided to tackle the project. If you’re stuck with doing major upgrades to a 7360, make sure you’ve got a long block of time where you won’t be interrupted.

Caveat 1: The first question is how to get the old motherboard out in order to do anything. You’ll have to, unless your hands are about half the size of mine (and my hands are smaller than average). Remove the two screws from the underside of the motherboard, then find a couple of convenient spots to grab onto, and pull the assembly toward the front of the case. The board will then fold out, like a door.

Caveat 2: The factory power supply is woefully underpowered. It might very well fail if all you add to the system is a CD-RW drive. And there’s no way it’ll work with a modern Athlon or P4 motherboard. Fortunately, 200-watt SFX power supplies, while not necessarily something every streetcorner computer store carries, are much more common today than they were even two years ago. carries a suitable replacement for around $25. Look for an Allied AL-B200SFX. Not only is it 200 watts, it’s also certified for P4 and Athlon use.

Caveat 3: If you haven’t yet gotten the idea that this case is crowded, the position of the drive bays makes it difficult for a modern Socket 478/Socket A CPU fan to fit without moving the hard drive. After replacing the motherboard, I had to bust out the hard drive, open up the slot intended for a Zip drive, and slide the drive in from the front in order for it to fit, then bolt the drive into place and replace that slot’s front cover.

Caveat 4: The front panel. Like many brand-name PCs, this Presario puts the front power button and all the LED leads in one easy-to-plug-in block. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard pinout for that front panel. I happen to have two Compaq Socket A motherboards purchased from various closeout joints. Those two boards, and the Socket 7 board that originally came in this Presario, all have different pinouts. You’ll have to rewire that block, and it’ll involve some trial and error. Assume this part of the job will take an hour or two.

Caveat 5: Airflow. Add a second optical drive or hard drive or both to this thing, and there’s not going to be much room for airflow. Don’t upgrade with a high-end CPU.

Caveat 6: Clearance. The first HSF combo I tried was 2 inches tall. It didn’t fit, and there was no way to make it fit, unless I permanently removed the drive cage that holds the floppy and hard drives. I replaced it with a Speeze 5C12B3, which fit. The first memory stick I tried was 1.375 inches tall. It didn’t fit either–I had to locate a shorter one.

Overall recommendation: If you can upgrade this thing, you have my respect. I got one working, but mainly because I had a larger-than-usual selection of parts on hand. If this had been my first attempt at doing a motherboard swap, I would have sworn off the practice forever.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re much better off buying an inexpensive replacement computer and relegating your 7360 to Web browing/e-mail duty, or donating it to a charitable organization that gives computers to the needy if your community has one (St. Louis does–Web Innovations and Technology Services, at 4660 West Florissant Avenue). Unless you tear into computers for a living, I wouldn’t recommend attempting a motherboard swap in this computer.