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Need Computer Help -- Trying to Decide if I Want to Upgrade CPU

Posted on 12/18/2002 8:05:36 PM PST by NYC GOP Chick

OK, I have a computer that's about 3 years old and I'm very attached to it. I've done lots of upgrades and improvements over the past year or so and instead of getting a new one, I'd like to do one more upgrade.

Having put in a Network Interface Card, doubled the RAM to 256K, installed a CD-RW drive and replaced the hard drive in my IBM Aptiva, I'm giving serious thought to updating the processor from a Pentium III 600 MHz to something like a P4 2G or something, and I have a few questions:

1) Do I need a new motherboard to do this?

2) How difficult is this to do? Will it become one of those "more trouble than its worth" things?

3) What issues and potential problems should I consider?

Here are some of the specs:

Pentium III 600
system board: V66M
system board chipset: Intel 82443ZX
system board form factor: micro-ATX
front-side bus speed: 100 MHz

TOPICS: Technical; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: cpu; imbpc; intel; motherboard; pentium; processor
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To: Revel
VIA is a good chipset. I'd stay away from SIS.
141 posted on 12/19/2002 5:42:08 PM PST by John Lenin
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To: NYC GOP Chick
yes. there are 1x - 4x AGP video cards. they should be backward compatible. there is also a physical difference that may prevent the card from being inserted.

have your motherboard tame and type on hand when you place your order. most places have a tech support person who can tell you if the new video card will work.

also be sure, if it doesn't work, you can return the part without a restocking fee.
142 posted on 12/19/2002 7:09:53 PM PST by krizzy
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To: John Lenin
Actually it was NvideaII
143 posted on 12/19/2002 8:41:04 PM PST by Revel
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To: krizzy
Thanks. I can't seem to find that much info, but this is what I did find:

Graphics Subsystems
l Graphics Chip Set Model & Mfr.: AGP
l Graphics Data Width: --
Graphics Type: Y
Default Memory Address:
Video RAM Std (MB): 8MB
Video RAM Max (MB): 8MB
Video RAM Type: SGRAM
Graphics Bus Interface:
Resolution Max (Video RAM Std), NI:
Resolution Max (Video RAM Max), NI:
Colors Max (Video RAM Std): 16777216
Colors Max (Video RAM Max):

Does this help me figure out anything? Thanks!

I have a local store that I usually go to for this kind of stuff -- J&R Computer and Music World -- and they're very good about stuff like this.

144 posted on 12/19/2002 8:50:14 PM PST by NYC GOP Chick
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To: NYC GOP Chick

If you are on a tight budget, and your 256mb of RAM memory is in two 128mb modules, get the ECS K7S5A.

If you can afford it, buy two 256mb DDR RAM modules.

An AMD XP cpu of anywhere from 1600+ to 2000+ is a great bargain. You will need a new case.

And you will need to install several cooling fans in the case to keep the AMD processor, which run a little hotter than the Intel processors, cool enough to run efficiently and with stability.

Preferrably, get an aftermarket heat sink and fan that cool more effectively than the original factory heat sink and fan.

Go to and do a search on such topics as "best AMD XP motherboard," or whatever other subject you wish to research.

Get your components from They have the best selection, the best prices, and the best customer service around. Read the reviews down at the bottom of each item's detailed description get as many opinions on your prospective hardware as you can.

Although Newegg has great prices, after you total up what you need, you might be as well off to simply buy a new system. Then sell your old one as a unit, or piece by piece on ebay, or locally, or use it as a second computer.

145 posted on 12/19/2002 10:10:27 PM PST by razorbak
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To: goldstategop
Actually, I didn't do anything. I installed XP on the laptop and called the MS activation number. I got the automated system, entered the activation key and that was it. I had read in a PC magazine that you could install one copy of XP on your desktop and one on your laptop.

Your question got me wondering so I did a little Googling and found a discussion thread on the XP activation process which I have included below.

PC Magazine Win XP Activation Forum

I just quickly skimmed a few posts because it's getting late and I'm getting up in a few hours to catch a plane to Baltimore. But I found out a few interesting things. For one thing, that magazine article was wrong - you can install Office XP on a laptop and a desktop, but can only install the XP OS on one machine. So I'm actually running an illegal copy on my laptop (but Microsoft activated it anyway!??).

I guess when I'm ready to put my computer back together, I'll deal with Microsoft as needed and see what happens. I really like the XP operating system - Win98 is junkware in comparison. But if Microsoft gets too nasty (or too greedy) with me, maybe I'll decide that it's time I learned Linux.

146 posted on 12/19/2002 10:17:35 PM PST by CFC__VRWC
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To: NYC GOP Chick
There are numbers of software (programs) and hardware (computer components) which will help speed up your 'throughput' (actual computer work processing/output). Many, many. Norton/Symantec has some good ones, Microsoft has many built in.

Think of a hard drive as a filing room, with many filing cabinets. Each partition (filing cabinet) has many drawers (directories) and folders (sub-directories) Which store information.

The FAT (File Allocation Table) is actually, a list of addresses of physical locations on the hard drive where the information is stored.

The hard drive storage in the computer works on a first come first serve basis, so when you store data, it pops it into the first place there is room for it. If there is enough room, it stores all your data in that place. If not, it stores as much as it can, then goes on, to store in the next space, etc etc etc. So think about working a file cabinet this way. You start with one drawer, then fill another drawer, and then another, etc etc etc. until they are full. And while you are doing this you start taking out and using or moving or throwing away some of the files, so like you have 'empty' spaces scattered through your drawers. So, as you have some space, the computer will store page 1 of your 10 page report, in drawer 1, page 2 and 3 in drawer 2, and the last 7 pages in drawer 5.

So, every time your computer accesses these reports it must go and gather up all the bits and pieces, and link them together. This takes extra time.

Optimizing (defragmenting) your hard drive, is like reorganizing your filing cabinet, and putting all the parts of your reports together, one page after another.

If you click on programs, accessories, system tools, then disk defragmenter. you will get a program which 'optimizes', or 'defragments' your files on your hard drive.

The older your hard drive gets, and the more you use it, the more 'fragmented' and slower it becomes. so it is wise to 'defragment' or optimize it about once a month, (depending on your workload, and your work.

Partitioning your hard drive is something you should do first, like when you buy your filing cabinets and first organize your filing room. Optimizing it is like recurring maintenance, like a good filing clerk would do.

You have a fine computer already, which is quite probably good for everything you need to do, but it is sort of like a 3 year old car, not the latest and greatest, and not a Corvette, but a good Ford Crown Victoria. You just need to give it a tune up, every now and then, as your family grows. But, after a while, you will find it hard to get the grand children in it too, and will need to go to a van, or if you have a mid-life crisis, a shiny red corvette -va-va=voom.

But, if time is money to you, you will win more races with the corvette than with the ford.

Oh, sorry, you are from NYC and probably don't drive.

147 posted on 12/20/2002 6:03:10 AM PST by XBob
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To: sixmil; NYC GOP Chick
New graphics cards are great, if your BIOS will handle them. I doubt NYC's IBM will handle the latest ones. A BIOS upgrade might work, if it is upgradeable and if IBM is still doing them, but as IBM is not noted as a graphics machine, I doubt many are available.

But, NYC, sixmil is right about the speed improvement being in graphics, if your computer will handle it.

Note - it is best to get a good 'clone', rather than a name brand, as clones are generally really upgradable compared to name brand machines. But some cheap ones can be a disaster. And name brands are made to sell by the millions and profit motive is there, not performance.

Computers are sort of like French wine - some are great, but some are garbage, and you need to know what you are doing. If you do, you can get some great buys.
148 posted on 12/20/2002 6:17:21 AM PST by XBob
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I heard that MS started out with once computer one XP, period, registering each one, but then they got bombarded with complaints and changed their policy, and no longer have that limitation.

No proof on this, as I use 2k, which I bought specifically to avoid the problem.
149 posted on 12/20/2002 6:24:31 AM PST by XBob
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To: XBob
Thanks for all the info! I already do periodic (at least once or twice a month) defragmenting. And I'm going to do the partition thing once I do my periodic back-up of important stuff on CDRW.

It's going to be quite a while before I can buy a whole new computer, so any discussions of pros and cons about that don't mean much for me right now, but I will take into consideration for future reference. :)

I did a BIOS upgrade the other day, and this is the BIOS info I was able to get from some program that gets all that info:

Manufacturer: Acer OEM
Date: 3/3/00
ROM Size: 256K
Chip set: Intel 440BX/ZX rev3
Super I/O chip: SMC70x or 80x

Does this tell you anything about whether or not I can use a new graphics card? Thanks once again!

150 posted on 12/20/2002 8:06:56 AM PST by NYC GOP Chick
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To: NYC GOP Chick
Your computer (perhaps your bios) is now pretty old (nearly 3 years) for the latest graphics, which are changing several times a year.

Personally, I gave up on keeping up, as I am not a gamer, but work mostly with giant databases in the commodity options markets, so graphics are not so important as system and computing speed and power.

However, you quite probably could do a lot better than you are doing. If I were you, I would take your computer to the place you trust do, and pay them the $50 labor or so and discuss with them how best to speed up your computer, particularly with better/fastest/bestest graphics. You may not want to pay for the best graphics, because in all probability, by the time you get a new computer the boards will be out of date, and not transferable. But, for about $100 you should be able to get a very good card, which will bump the performance a lot. And they will guarantee that it works properly and guarantee the card.

While they are there, have them check your bios, as if you just upgraded and it is 3 years old, it seems like you got rooked, or there is no real upgrade available (which is most probable).

Looked at your pictures of NYC, and they reminded me of when I used to live there in the East 50's. What I miss most is the excellent pizza at those little windows on the street, and the excellent deli's.

But I am glad I now live in east Texas, fine friendly people, and warm weather, not much traffic, and great sausage, BBQ, and cajun food. And I live under trees and don't have to get on a crowded subway to go find one.
151 posted on 12/20/2002 3:22:15 PM PST by XBob
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To: XBob
When I said that I upgraded the BIOS, I meant that I downloaded the flash update or whatever they call it.

I don't really have a place that I trust or know very well, and without a car (lower Manhattan), I can't really carry it very far. :)

I sometimes wonder if Windoze 98SE might be the cause of some of my problems. Do you think that upgrading to, say, 2000 might make a noticeable difference?

East Texas sounds like a wonderful place, but I don't have to get on the subway to find Cajun or barbecue places. :D

152 posted on 12/20/2002 4:22:20 PM PST by NYC GOP Chick
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To: NYC GOP Chick
Yes, I have an AGP slot. Are they any limits as to how powerful or big I can go, in terms of MB, etc.?
You can run the biggest, fattest graphics card you can find since AGP is backwards compatible. I think the newest cards are AGP 8X, and your motherboard is probably only 2X. Not a huge deal since your CPU will only be able to push so much data across it anyway. The important thing is that the newer graphics cards are like mini computers. Mine has 2 processors, 64MB of memory, and its own fan. So, once the data gets over to the graphics card, it gets processed really fast. You probably will not be using a hot card to its full capability, but just as an example, my computer can run Quake 3 1024x768 at 100 frames per second. My old card only managed 100 fps at 800x600. I also now have instantaneous response with anything I click on in Windows. I wish I knew a way to tell you which card would be a nice upgrade to your current system without paying for power that your current CPU will not be able to use. In my case I went from an 8MB card to a 64MB, and I have an Athlon 550. You can currently get 128MB cards, but I'm guessing that you will spend less money and get the same boost if you go with a 64MB card. I think they are now down to $200. Also check with XBob about what he said with respect to BIOS. I am not quite sure what he is referring to (didn't have any problems on my machine), but safe is better than sorry since they will probably not do returns on graphics cards once you open the box. If you do go the graphics card route, you will basically be choosing between ATI and NVIDIA. The general concensus it that NVIDIA is a little faster, and ATI is a little prettier. If you want to watch or record TV on your PC, then go for one of ATI's All-In-Wonder cards. Good luck!

153 posted on 12/20/2002 5:28:55 PM PST by sixmil
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To: savedbygrace should build your own computer at least once.

Agreed. I built my own system a few months ago, keeping only the old HD and monitor, and it destroys any store-bought box I've ever owned - not to mention being cheaper.

154 posted on 12/20/2002 5:46:24 PM PST by Senator Pardek
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To: razorbak
"...get the ECS K7S5A."

I did that, bundled with an Athlon XP 1900. Unfortunately, I've been told that it won't handle the FSB at 133 mhz unless I upgrade to ddr ram, which I suppose is a good investment. Otherwise - the board is fantastic for the price.

155 posted on 12/20/2002 6:01:44 PM PST by Senator Pardek
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To: NYC GOP Chick
I use PhotoShop a lot and upgrading to a quicker processor will help, but memory is your best bet. New video cards will not help PS speed,as they are designed for 3D acceleration (totally different from 2D). You should install the largest amount of memory your motherboard will hold. 256 meg is not much for PS and Win98 really sucks at memory management. I ran 98SE and saw a big difference when I switched to 2000 (not really speed increase, but definite stability improvements) .

Macs are nice, but talk about over-rated and overpriced! I am now running a dual PIII 933 with 1 Gig of RDRAM that I built last year for around $1200 (at the time a comparable G4 was around $5G). I would put it up against any G4, but I still salivate when I see that 23" flat screen display. . .

156 posted on 12/20/2002 6:16:33 PM PST by antidisestablishment
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To: Senator Pardek
The box I just built is an Asus P4S533 with a P4-2.4GHz-533MHz Front Side Bus CPU, 1GB of PC2700 DDR RAM with about 200GB of 7200rpm hard drives, all in an Antec gun-metal gray full tower case cooled with five case fans. The mobo never seems to get warmer than 80 degrees F, and the CPU stays at 104.

If I had a mind to, I could probably overclock this bad boy up to 3GHz. But I'm too conservative. ;-)

Add to that, I'm on DSL with a connection that typically runs 1.5Mb/sec and I'm a happy camper.

I could also tell you about my PowerMac Dual 1 GHz box with 1.75GB of PC2700 DDR RAM, and nearly a half-terrabyte of hard drive space.

The coolest thing about my Mac setup is the Granite Digital FireVue IDE/Firewire Hot Swap drive enclosure. When the removable drive tray is inserted and the lock is set with power on, there is a very cool blue neon light that runs across the front of the drive tray. Sexy, sexy, sexy.

157 posted on 12/20/2002 6:41:15 PM PST by savedbygrace
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To: sixmil
Thanks for the info. I really appreciate the different perspectives and advice that can only come from FReepers! :)
158 posted on 12/20/2002 7:05:58 PM PST by NYC GOP Chick
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To: antidisestablishment
My machine is maxed out at 256 megs -- if it could take more, I would have gotten more. So you think Windoze 2K is worth it, in that it will make a noticeable difference? I really appreciate the insight from someone who uses Photoshop!
159 posted on 12/20/2002 7:09:22 PM PST by NYC GOP Chick
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To: antidisestablishment
I've been using a 22" Apple Cinema Display for several months. It's a real eye-catcher and it'll spoil you quick, that's for sure.
160 posted on 12/20/2002 8:01:03 PM PST by savedbygrace
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