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.
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
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.