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New Computers ship in dire need of simple upgrade.

Odd though it may seem, if you've purchased one of the lower priced systems with XP installed, it's likely that it won't work as it should unless you perform a simple upgrade.

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Making the upGrade
Following the upgrade trail


Looking for upgrade components?  Get them here...

Roll your own: home grown computers

With personal computers, one thing is certain: the system you buy today will soon be eclipsed by newer models.  Processor, RAM, and storage specifications keep going up even as the prices keep going down.  It can be hard to watch as your once proud performer falls behind the newest "entry level" systems touted in each Sunday's advertising supplements. 

Fortunately, there's no need to replace your entire system every time the next batch arrives on your retailer's shelves.  Personal computers are essentially little more than a collection of parts, each of which may be replaced in a process known as upgrading.

What's Inside a Personal Computer

. 1. Power supply 5. Hard drive .
2. Motherboard (also called main or system board) 6. Floppy drive
3. CD 7. Ribbon cables connect drives to mainboard.
4. Power cables More detail in Part Two, below...

Rewriteable CDs are probably among the most common upgrades as the speeds increase and prices fall, together with more RAM, larger hard drives, and more capable sound or video hardware.

Replacement parts are inexpensive, but if you have to pay to have someone else install them you'd be better off to save your money.  Do the job yourself, and you'll be on your way to the point you'll never have to buy a new computer.

Although the trail may seem steep if you're just starting out, it really isn't all that difficult.  The trick to upgrades is to gain enough experience (and components) to assemble a whole new system.  Once you've swapped a few components and become familiar with the maze of wires that lurk inside your system's case, the prospect is hardly as daunting as it first appears.

The main advantage of the upgrade trail is getting the components that you need as you need them.  You'll enjoy incremental boosts in your existing system's performance and utility, while readying yourself for the quantum leap of a motherboard/processor replacement.

What you need to know...

Before you even think of upgrading, you need to know what you're going to replace and, equally important, why you're going to replace it.  This means a thorough familiarity with your existing system- how it operates, what can be improved, and what needs to be improved.

For Windows 98 or later systems, most component upgrades are relatively simple.  Basically, they're just a matter of a little manual dexterity and a healthy dose of common sense.  The most important thing is an ability to read, understand, and follow instructions combined with a willingness to do so.

If you're working with an off-the-shelf mass market system like an HP, Compaq, or other brand name, you'll probably need to study the owner's manual just to open up the case.

The interiors of these machines are often quite intricate, with very little space and component mounts that are somewhat less than obvious.  You'll need to get inside though, just to see what can be done.

As prices have come down, so has the flexibility for upgrades.  Some of the lowest priced models have no room for expansion.  You can replace existing components, but not add new capabilities.

The owner's manual will usually state the limits of the machine with regard to RAM (we had one system that was limited to 48 megabytes), expansion slots, and so on.

An excellent source of information can be the technical support section of your computer manufacturer's web site, especially if there is an attached discussion board.  There are sometimes incompatibilities with specific systems and upgrade products, which it pays to know before you spend your time and money.

Our favorite source for upgrade components has an excellent selection of parts, processors, RAM, components, bare bones kits, motherboards and bundles, and whatever else you may need- all at some of the very best prices we have seen.  We suggest you check the bargains online now at the link below:

 


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