If you’re thinking of buying a new computer and you don’t play games or use your machine for other really stressful things, save your money! Really.
This comes up, because I went to my friend Steve’s house last Sunday and, for an investment a little north of $100, refurbished his computer.
He says there’s a real difference. That makes me smile.
I increased the RAM from 512 mb to 2 gb. At the same time, we added a second hard drive. There he added 300 gb to his original 120 gb.
If the darned case wasn’t so anti-intuitive, the whole process would have taken five minutes. Unfortunately, it took closer to a half hour as I fiddled and fuddled, trying to get the hard drive in its bay.
I finally realized pulling the front panel off was the way to go. I’m an idiot.
Steve’s computer had slowed down. There are a few reasons for this. First, with most little utilities you install, programs like Real Play, Quicktime or Adobe Acrobat, small starter programs are also installed. They run every time you boot your PC.
These little programs sometimes check for updates and often pre-load helper files, making the programs start quicker. Each also ‘steals’ a little RAM. That makes the computer run slower!
None of these programs uses enough memory to be a problem on its own, but in the aggregate, they become leeches. Using MSCONFIG, I turned a bunch of these little applets off.
Most computers also run antivirus and spyware suites. These are real resource hogs. I personally choose not to run either. It’s the Internet equivalent of unsafe sex, but it works for me.
I’ve never cleaned a virus from a computer that didn’t have antivirus software! Most new viruses are designed to get around them anyway.
Steve’s computer was also running slower because he was doing more with it. He now loads larger image files from his digital camera and manipulates them with Photoshop. Those files are compressed on disk, but must be expanded to their real size when played with. There’s a lot of complex math involved with photos.
When the new drive formatted (a long and tedious process) and the machine rebooted, he looked at me as if I was a wizard. It was really pretty simple. I’ve yet to kill a machine while trying to upgrade it.
PCs aren’t as expensive as they once were, but for years they’ve been a whole lot faster than we need for most tasks. If you surf the web, read email and occasionally play with photos, a computer that’s a few years old is plenty fine.
Real hard core ‘big iron’ computing is the answer for video editors, heavy duty photo manipulators and gamers. For everyone else, save a few bucks and wait.
Oh – and if you really have your heart set on that quad core smoker with 4 gb of RAM and a terrabyte of hard drive space – I won’t rat you out.