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Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 2)

Before we can go shopping, we need to see what we can reuse.

An inside view of the 'old' system.

The motherboard and hard drive need to be replaced. The new motherboard will require a new processor and memory. So here's a list of what we can reuse:

  • Mid-tower case
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-RW
  • Floppy drive
  • Internal wi-fi card
  • Power supply

Normally you would also have to change out the power supply to accommodate the increased electrical requirements of the new motherboard. This power supply was replaced within the last two months, so it has the power needed to run the new configuration.

Time to go shopping. We can go with on-line and local retailers. I prefer to go with local retailers, as returning items purchased on-line can be kind of a hassle. But if you're sure that the possibility of returning the items is slim, it's a great way to get a bargain. The first item is a new motherboard and what type of CPU (Intel or AMD)?

I'm going with Intel this time. O.K., an Intel processor may not the be the most frugal way to go (AMD processors cost less), but for this system I think it's the way to go. I went looking locally and found a Biostar G31-M7 for $50. It has a LGA775 processor socket. The array of processors available for is large.

I found an Intel Celeron 430 1.8 GHz (Retail box) on-line for $35. This is some thing I am relatively sure I will not have to return. Geek tip: Intel warranties are different for retail (boxed w/ cooling fan - 3 years) and wholesale (no box or cooling fan - 1 year). The price difference is the cost of a cooling fan. So unless your going to over clock your processor (which requires more cooling than the standard fan provides and voids the warranty), go with the retail version.

I found a deal on memory locally. Got a Corsair twin pack of 2gb DDR2 PC-6400 memory for $50. It came with a $25 mail-in rebate, making the final cost $25 for 4GB of memory.

I also got the hard drive locally. It's a Western Digital 3200AAKS 320 GB SATA hard drive for $52. I could have gone with a smaller size to keep down the cost, but this is the time to think about storage requirements (now and future). The larger the drive, the less the cost per gigabyte.

The total cost at this point is $162 (if you get the feeling I'm not done yet, you'd be right). We have a Intel Celeron 430 running at 1.8 GHz on a Biostar G31-M7 motherboard with 4 GB's of memory. The system has been running on a preinstall environment for over 24 hours and passed several stress tests. So it's time to...

Outside view of the 'old' system.

'Pimp my Box' (sorry MTV, just had to use it).

The next time I write, we'll start building this system and take a trip to Home Depot. (Note: I am going excessive at this point).

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 3)

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 1)

Just the other day I got a call from my daughter about her computer. It was acting strange, so I told her to bring it over. Sure enough, her system is starting to fail. The hard drive has bad sectors and the motherboard has only one working USB port. Pretty good life for a system I built nine years ago.

So now I am looking at the options available for upgrading her system. In the next few blog entries, I will give you more insight to the process of undergoing a system upgrade. The options that I am looking at are:

  • Completely brand-new
  • Used / Refurbished
  • Partial rebuilt with new parts

At this time, I would like to explain my two theories on computers:

1." Infant Mortality" is the belief that if it will run for a day (24 hours), it will run for it's lifetime.

2. A computer "Lifetime", from my experience, is three years from start of service. At three years or older, it's not if it will break down, but when will it break down. Just like a car, the older it gets, the more repairs it will need.

With these in mind, you can see where a used system over three years old would not be recommend, but can come in handy in an emergency. Refurbished systems can be good deals, but remember, they have been returned to the manufacturer and had something repaired. They still have their full warranty, software and documentation, so a refurbished system may be right for your particular needs.

New systems can be found starting at $299 and up. These systems can come with and without software, so always read the specifications before buying. But if you already have a computer, you already have software too. And in most cases, you can install it on your new system.

Since this article is about upgrading your computer cheaply, I will do it the most frugal way possible. I will disassemble the system and rebuilt it from the case up.

The next time I write, we'll go shopping for parts.

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 2)

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