Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 168 / SEPTEMBER 1994 / PAGE 49

What should you upgrade? (Compute's Getting Started With: Upgrading Your PC)(personal computer)
by Richard O. Mann

Boyd Peterson, president of DeskTop Media, a Salt Lake City mail-order firm, has counseled hundreds of computer owners anxious to modernize their computers by upgrading. "Find the bottleneck in your system," Peterson advises, "and attack it first. if you work primarily in Windows, the first thing to do is upgrade to 8MB of memory. Even with older computers, the extra memory often speeds everything up to tolerable levels."

Sometimes, the bottleneck is obvious - the software tells you why it won't run. You generally know when you've filled your hard drive. When the computer locks itself up tight, you'll probably have to work with knowledgeable friends or tech support in order to identify the problem. Once you do, you'll know what needs to be replaced - if outdated equipment is the cause.

The most common upgrade impetus, however, is the need for speed. Here's where bottleneck elimination can pay big dividends, To find the cause of your slowdown, take note of exactly when you're waiting for the computer. What's happening at that moment? Is the hard drive light flashing as the computer loads programs or reads data? Are you waiting for the computer to redraw complex screens? If you're in Windows, is the hard drive running all the time as your applications continually swap memory out to disk? Is the computer crunching numbers or doing large data sorts or manipulations?

If the problem is mountains of data clogging up the works, a new motherboard with a faster and wider bus is the answer. If it's raw processing power (number crunching, sorting, processing vector graphics), a simple chip upgrade is called for. If it's screen redraws, a new video card may do the trick. if Windows is grinding your hard drive into an early grave, you need more memory. Or you may require a combination of these things.

If you decide to upgrade, it's going to take some planning and care, but it isn't unreasonably difficult - even for the mildly fumble-fingered among us. Upgrading is such a common activity these days that the upgrade component makers are now skilled at providing adequate instructions and tools, when needed.