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I am not really very computer literate

My PC at home (a Compaq Presario) currently is partitioned into a 7.35 GB main drive and a 2 GB backup. Both are practically full. Our needs have changed in the last few months, as Fergal has discovered games and I have discovered, cough, archived videos. We've had it for just over five years.

Is there hope? Can I add much extra memory to it without having to resort to buying a new machine? If I do get a new computer, is it worth while considering getting one that I can just plug into the existing peripherals (printer, monitor/microphone, speakers)?

Your advice is welcome.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2006 11:15 am (UTC)
Easiset way would be to just buy an external hard drive to put your video on - it will be slower than your main one, but you can just move all your video there. Unfortunately, I think Presarios are too small to have space for a second hard drive.

And certainly, if you're happy with your peripherals, I wouldn't change them - if you want a new computer, then just buy the box.

Feel free to dtop me a line if you want to ask more questions.
May. 7th, 2006 11:21 am (UTC)
Thanks! Can I then also install games and other such memory sinks onto the external hard drive?

(Though there is an additional problem in that the Presario only has two USB ports, and one is normally needed for the Internet and the other for the printer.)
May. 7th, 2006 11:25 am (UTC)
USB hubs are fairly cheap. You plug them into one of your USB ports and you get four (or more) ports coming out.

Maybe 20 quid if you buy from a shop.
May. 7th, 2006 11:32 am (UTC)
Ah, now that is very useful to know.
May. 7th, 2006 11:30 am (UTC)
Not a good idea. However, you can move your archived video out there so there's more space for the games on the internal hard drive.
May. 8th, 2006 05:48 am (UTC)
I'm betting you're talking about USB 1.0 ports, so limited in speed to something like 2 Mbit/sec. You would not want to talk to a harddisk at that speed given that even an 3 year old portable (slow) HD can read at 17 Mbyte/sec so ~ 135 Mbit/sec.

I would strongly suggest you to get a newer computer. Personally I always have problems with hardware, so I don't buy Dell or something like that but from a local shop so I can just walk in and talk to the tech. If you're not so lucky then almost any PC would be 'good enough' these days, the difference in just in support you get.

Saying this, I'm waiting for the right moment to get me an iMac (with Applecare of course) from a not-so-local dealer :-).
May. 7th, 2006 11:18 am (UTC)
My experience of Compaqs is that they tend to have their own interfaces for things like hard drives, which makes upgrading the innards a bit tricky. But that was years ago and they may be much more standard now. Alternatively you could get an external hard drive, provided there's a port on the back - probably USB - which, of course, you could continute to use if you upgraded to another PC later. Depending on size, a new hard disk (much larger than either of your current drives) can be had for less than £100 (external units tend to be more expensive per GB because they have their own case and more electronics).

Monitor, microphone and speakers would probably be OK with a new PC, though it may not save you much money; the printer may be obsolete if it doesn't have a USB interface (i.e. if you have a lead with rather chunky D-shaped ends with lots of pin connections in them). Certainly in the UK, prices have fallen a lot in the past few years. A friend of mine got a new Dell PC for about £500 recently (including LCD monitor, printer/scanner/copier), and I'm minded to spend only a little more when I come to upgrade mine (which is c.1999 and starting to show its age rather less then gracefully). I'd recommend a minimum of 512MB RAM and 80GB hard disk for a new PC; more of both of these, if you can afford it (especially the RAM; adding a new hard disk later is simpler, as you can avoid opening up the box by getting an external one if you prefer).
May. 7th, 2006 11:24 am (UTC)
Since Compaq got bought by HP they only seem to make "HP" Pcs any more. The ones I have seen appear to be pretty standard but with novel things like being able to remove the hard disk without using a screwdriver.

I remember the good old days when compaq had their own type of screw :-)
May. 7th, 2006 11:27 am (UTC)
I seem to recall (sometime in the mid-90s) a Compaq hard drive that had neither an IDE nor a SCSI interface (or was it the connector at the motherboard end rather than the drive, I can't remember). It was supposed to be an IDE interface. Of course, I didn't find this out until the maching was in pieces...
May. 7th, 2006 11:31 am (UTC)
You are correct. Compaq's did use a drive interface that was neither IDE nor SCSI - but that was a long time ago.
May. 7th, 2006 11:30 am (UTC)
Thanks, especially for the advice about minimum requirements.

I think the Presario may have been the first Compaq which was really compatible - certainly the printer does indeed use a USB connection (though there are only two of those, and inconveniently at the back). So that's less of a worry.

May. 7th, 2006 11:22 am (UTC)
No problem with clanwilliam's suggestions.

It seems to me that a machine with a 10Gb hard disk is pretty old (>five years you say!)and you will probably be best off buying a new one. Consider that I recently bought 2x250Gb hard disks and am thinking of doing the same thing again because they are full :-)

It would be possible to swap the old hard disk for a bigger one. That would involve the least cost but you would need a fair amount of expertise in copying over all the software. You may of course buy a hard disk which is too new to work in your old machine.

May. 7th, 2006 11:31 am (UTC)
Yes, I'm increasingly convinced of all of that. Thanks.
May. 7th, 2006 11:32 am (UTC)
I'd give pretty much the same advice.

An good quality, entry level, no-brand machine with 40Gb HD, 256M RAM and a 2.6Ghz Celeron processor should cost less than €400 inc VAT (not including the monitor). A slightly more realistic spec would cost closer to €600 inc VAT.
May. 7th, 2006 11:46 am (UTC)
Does anyone still make 40Gb hard drives (other than iPod sized ones)?

Last time I was in Toys'R'Us(!) they were selling laptops -- not very light and probably with a crap battery life, but it's still a PC with a flat panel display and a UPS -- for £400 that met that spec.

If you're doing video you want the biggest drive you can get. The good news is, the introduction of Seagate's new 750Gb drive is probably going to push down the price of 300Gb drives over the next few months. I've been seeing prices of about &#euro; 0.9/Gb in the shops. So you might want to get a basic entry-level PC-plus-monitor package, and spend a little extra on a better video card (for gaming) and a second h-u-g-e hard disk (for storing movies).
May. 7th, 2006 02:16 pm (UTC)
Seagate still make a 3.5" 40Gb Ultra-ATA drive. The price I was quoting was based on the low-end systems from Transtec, a reliable and reasonably priced system supplier that we use extensively at work. As it is, they're charging around €0.43/Gb on 250Gb Hitachi ATA drives in assembled systems, so your thumbnail retail estimate of €0.9/Gb is probably an overestimate, even allowing for high street gouging.

But yes, I concur with your advice - the incremental cost of more disk space is so low that there's really no reason not to buy as much as you can comfortably afford.

It makes me want to weep when I remember that I paid £380 for a 420*Mb* IDE HD back in 1994.
May. 8th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC)
Last time I bought computer parts (a month or two ago) I did see 40GB drives, although it's about the smallest drive you can get, and there's little point since you can get twice as big a drive for a pittance more.
May. 7th, 2006 11:48 am (UTC)
Get a Western Digital 320GB external hard drive in Carrefour! I got one when visiting cygny for 169 euros - it's great! (Connects via USB, compatible with both PCs and Macs).

For a very nice display for watching archived videos, the iMac is great - however, I think there are far fewer games for the Mac, and they're more expensive.
May. 7th, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
I used your pc and it's old and slow (the granny screen resolution doesn't help either :)!
A nice low spec jobbie from Fnac or wherever would be a great upgrade for you, although for Fergal's sake you might want to make sure the videocard and the internal memory are fairly decent.
May. 7th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
*ahem* archived videos? ;)
May. 7th, 2006 01:37 pm (UTC)
oh, and to actually be helpful, the least disruptive solution for just pure storage would be an external hard drive.
something like that. cheap and cheerful.

if buying a new computer, dell outlet is quite good for laptops and the such.
May. 7th, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC)
TBH, my advice is just buy a new machine. You can get rock-solid desktops from Tesco for E600ish at the moment and that'll give you a faster main processor with more cache memory. That's about E400 more than you'll pay for a new hard drive and new memory alone, but if you can afford it I'd go for it.
May. 7th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
I'll echo the advice of everyone who said buy a new machine. It sounds like your Presario is pretty old, and you'll be happy with the improvement in performance and leg-room that a new machine will provide. I've no idea what prices are like in Belgium for PCs, but I presume they're not crazy money.

May. 8th, 2006 03:59 am (UTC)
My two cents: If it's just extra space you need, an external drive would do well. If you're finding the computer to be not modern enough for your needs and you have the money, consider an upgrade.

You can keep your old monitor, etc, if you upgrade, although if it's particularly old and you use it a lot, your eyes might thank you for buying a better one, perhaps a nice LCD.
May. 8th, 2006 08:20 am (UTC)
At the rate these things progress nowadays, a 5-year old PC is not old - it's ancient. And you are talking about 2 most power-hungry applications for the home computer - games and videos... There is nothing that requires more modern hardware than computer games (check out the minimum requirements of Civ IV for example:
), and videos a just bulky. Plus, the PCs are getting less expensive by the year, so it would seem logical to buy a new one.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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