Should You Upgrade Your Old Computer?


Old Computers Don’t Die, They Just Fade Away…

old computerThere comes a time in the life of old computers that a decision needs to be made. “When do I stop spending money on this thing and get a new one instead?”

It can be a confusing choice and, like pets, we tend to get attached to them and their many quirks that we have come to understand so well.

How about a brand spanking new Solid State Drive (SSD)? People say that’s a great bang for the buck. Or what about a memory upgrade? More RAM is a better thing, right?

Random Access Memory (RAM) and an SSD are both cost-effective choices where system upgrades are concerned, but there are also other considerations that may negate those purchase-options. A new computer might be the better choice when you look at the whole picture.

If you don’t mind anthropomorphizing your computer for a minute, then the motherboard could possibly be called the skeleton. It can only carry so much weight, as it were, and therefore limits your decisions.

Let’s Start With RAM

Point 1 – The Motherboard

You must first consider how much RAM your motherboard allows you to install. If you already have the maximum installed, then the thought of installing more becomes a moot point. It won’t work.


Installing faster RAM may be an option but the motherboard and its various components will impose limits once again.

The first thing you have to do is find out the maximum amount, and the fastest speed of RAM your motherboard will allow. This can surely be done by visiting your motherboard manufacturer’s home page and reading the specifications.

Point 2 – Page File Usage

If there is any memory bottleneck in a computer, then the biggest culprit will be the Page File. The Page File concept depends on the slowest device installed in your system– the hard drive.

pagefile-usage-monitor-image

Don’t clap too hard, it’s a very old program

 

The Page File was devised as a way of swapping out unused parts of RAM to the hard drive in order to make room for program “parts” that were needed immediately by Windows (or any operating system, for that matter). Its a great idea, but it surely slows things down if its implementation is ever needed.

A basic way of looking at it is this– If your system is using the Page File a lot, then you don’t have enough RAM installed.


There is a little free, portable utility you can download that will monitor the Page File usage on your computer. Strangely, it is called Pagefile Usage Monitor, and you can get it here: http://www.standards.com/ThisAndThat/PageFileUsageMonitor.html

UnZIP it and run it– no installation is necessary.

By running all the high-end programs you usually do during the course of a normal day, and monitoring the Page File usage, you should begin to get an idea if a shortage of RAM is indeed your problem. If not, then you just saved yourself a few bucks. If so, then see Point 1, above.

Note: This is an old utility (~2009). It seems to work on Windows 8.x, but with a couple foibles. I’ve used this with older operating systems and it has never caused me a bit of trouble.

How About an SSD Upgrade? Will That Do The Trick?

solid state drive-4I can only presume that anyone contemplating a computer hardware upgrade is interested in more speed. Like, when you click on something, you don’t have time to make a pot of coffee before you actually notice a reaction. Reminds me of the high-paid construction workers holding stop and go signs– if you watch closely, it may be possible to detect motion.

If the rest of your out-dated computer is reasonably up to par, an SSD should definitely give you a boost when it comes to loading your operating system and loading your various programs. It will not, however, help one jot when it comes to actual program performance. The exception would be if said program utilizes a lot of disk access.

The question you have to ask yourself is if a few seconds loading time is worth the expense. Spending cash to load a program quickly when it will still run slowly is not what I would call a good decision. I’d let the slow program load slowly and keep my hard-earned cash.

“Ma! Look how fast this program loaded!!”

“That’s great! What are you waiting for?”

“Oh, I’m just waiting for it to bubble-sort this list of 100 items…”

Get my drift?

Some Final Words

Trying to save an old PC can be a distressing choice. After all, it’s been your faithful servant for as long as you can remember. However, loyalty to a machine strikes me as a disconcerting concept. This may sound cold-hearted, but if it can no longer keep up with you, and you can’t give it new legs, it’s time to leave it by the wayside.

Note: I haven’t mentioned the CPU or GPU. These are certainly areas to consider, but in my estimation, if you have reached this point then it is probably better to consider a new computer anyway.

All is not lost, though. There are many recycling centers and probably one in your neck of the woods. Recycling is not necessarily synonymous with death. Many facilities will refurbish old electronics for use in schools and some are even given away to people who would not otherwise have access to these tools. A nice thought, isn’t it?

You could skip the formal facilities altogether if you happen to know someone that might benefit. One person’s rags are another’s riches, and all that. One of the main reasons I know anything at all about computers is because, during ancient times, a dear friend gave me his out-dated Blue Chip XT. It changed my life.

If your old electronic friend is beyond redemption, don’t despair. You, too,  may be able to change someone’s life.

Perhaps the time is nigh,

Richard

About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

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