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All around better for all around best price

I have a PC with Windows XP here is my question:
What can I do to overall improve my system for the cheapest prices?
I am a HS student and currently don't really have a job. I am not really that computer savvy. I know a lot about only a couple of programs. I also know how to install hardware internally but that is about it. I want more speed, more space, and less trouble. I also may have a couple problems with viruses or spyware or the likes. What can I do?

COMP Specs.:
20 gig hard drive (recovered from a crash with only 11 gig)
40 gig hard drive (rpm unknown on either HD)
128 MB RAM
Mother board unknown. How do I find this info out?
Sound Blaster audigy pro 2
Nvidia GeForce FX 128 MB RAM
CRAP! CD drive
OK speakers and subwoofer
Standard Network card


P.S. I have used academic pricing for software but not for anything else. Is there somewhere that sells good computer hardware for good cheap prices?
1 Solution
Download and run Everest to find out details of your current system.  www.lavalys.com   It will tell you the make and model of your motherboard.

The 1st priority should be to add more memory.  I think that Microsoft recommends a minimum of 256M to run XP so any memory you add should result in some major gains.

Next on the list would be your processor.  Again, Everest will give you all the details on your current CPU.  Without knowing exactly what you have, It is hard to say how much gain you will get by going to a faster CPU... Also, we will need the details of your motherboard before it is possible to tell you which faster CPUs will be compatible with it.

After you run Everest, please provide us with more details.

With regard to pricing..   Academic pricing on SW is a great deal.  Take advantage of it when you can.  Unfortunately, most companies cannot offer similar discounts on hardware products.  Your best bet is to watch the sales.  Pay particular attention to rebates and don't forget to send them in.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Hi Steve_Brady,
> I have a PC with Windows XP here is my question:
> What can I do to overall improve my system for the cheapest prices?
> I am a HS student and currently don't really have a job. I am not really
> that computer savvy. I know a lot about only a couple of programs.  

Which Programs?  This is important to understand which programs you use on a regular basis so we understand the resources they use.  Once we understand the resources used, we can offer better advice on what to do to speed things up.

> I also know how to install hardware internally but that is about it. I
> want more speed, more space, and less trouble.

***The following is generic recommendations. For best info, tell us what you do with the computer***
1.  Add RAM.  128 MB of RAM for Windows XP is WAY too low.  Triple it at a minum, and go to 512 if you can.  RAM is relatively cheap.  You should be able to go to 384 MB (your existing+256) for as little as $36 (this depends on the type of RAM used by your system.  I am assuming it is SDRAM and NOT DDR RAM.  DDR RAM should be about the same. Consult your motherboard documentation or use Everest as previously suggested to determine what kind of RAM to buy.

Unless you had some weird case where nearly half the disk had bad sectors, it's more than a little bizarre for a disk to "lose" almost half its space.  Nevertheless, the drive is PROBABLY a 5400 RPM and quite old anyway, so replacing it would be a good idea.  a little over $50 gets you a 40GB hard drive.  Pay $10 or so more and you can double that to 80GB.

> I also may have a couple
> problems with viruses or spyware or the likes. What can I do?

Stop using Internet Explorer and Outlook/Outlook Express.  Most Viruses/spyware/adware come in through those.  Switch to Mozilla or Firefox or Opera, etc.  Install Antivirus software - I recommend McAfee which you have to buy, but if you can't do that, Try CLAM AV or OpenAntiVirus - you can find links to them here:
Also, try the usual Anti-Spyware suspects, Microsoft AntiSpyware, Spybot, AdAware - but in my experience these only have limited success.  You really need to go through everything that starts up and verify nothing is bad.  HijackThis with it's web site can help you figure that out, or you can also use a vb script, Silent Runners to check it out (www.silentrunners.org).

> COMP Specs.:
> 1.3 GHZ AMD
> 20 gig hard drive (recovered from a crash with only 11 gig)
> 40 gig hard drive (rpm unknown on either HD)
> 128 MB RAM
> Mother board unknown. How do I find this info out?
> Sound Blaster audigy pro 2
> Nvidia GeForce FX 128 MB RAM
> CRAP! CD drive
> OK speakers and subwoofer
> Standard Network card

> Thanks
> Lothar

> P.S. I have used academic pricing for software but not for anything
> else. Is there somewhere that sells good computer hardware for good cheap prices?

Never seen academic pricing for hardware.  Unless your an institution - and even then, you only get it from major vendors that cost more then most generic/parts vendors anyway.  

By the way, all price estimates based on prices found at www.newegg.com - in my opinion, one of the best places to buy online with low prices (not the LOWEST prices, but usually lower than most places... the LOWEST prices I wouldn't trust those companies most of the time).

I used to have an old AMD 850Mhz system when I first went to college in 1998. It ran on an old AMD 750 Irongate chipset w/ 64MB of SDRAM (RAM was 133mhz CAS2, but the board could only run @ 100Mhz). It had an old 6GB hard drive, which I eventually gave away. I bought a new 80GB hard drive @ 7200 RPM, ATA 100. That helped to improve my speed.

1) One of the EASIEST ways to increase the speed of your computer without costing you alot is by adding RAM to your system. I eventually upgraded my old system to have 512MB of RAM. For Windows XP, 256MB is the minimum for decent speed, and 512MB is even better. This increases your computer speed IMMENSELY (because of less hard drive "thrashing"), and RAM is fairly cheap these days. What kind of RAM does your computer take? SDRAM or DDR?

If you buy RAM, I recommend getting RAM from www.crucial.com. They are some of the *best* memory out there. They also have a lifetime warranty and also have a configuration wizard to show what RAM is compatible with your motherboard.

2) The next thing you could upgrade is your CPU. If you're running a Socket A motherboard (you more than likely are), then upgrade to a new AMD Sempron (or Barton if you can still find one) processor (www.amd.com, Processors link at top of page). Check if your motherboard can run at the Front Side Bus speed of the processor (i.e. 266mhz, 333mhz, or 400mhz).

3) Since you probably have older hard drives, they more than likely are probably 5400 RPM. It wouldn't hurt to get a 7200RPM hard drive of at least 80GB or more with ATA 100/133. 80GB, and even 120GB is really cheap right now! You can check prices on hard drives at www.pricewatch.com. The increase in speed from 5400 to 7200RPM is quite noticeable.

4) Another way to increase the performance of Windows XP is to "tweak" hidden settings. A program I use is Xteq Systems X-Setup. The newest version is X-Setup Pro 7.0, but it's no longer freeware. You can download the older version 6.3 at http://www.majorgeeks.com/download.php?det=127, and I would also recommend downloading the last freeware version 6.6 Pro  http://www.x-setup.net/downloads/XSP66/xqdcXSP-Setup-EN.zip. This program includes tweaks that can help speedup Windows XP. Be careful of what tweaks you use. All of them are explained as to what they do.

You can also download Microsoft's PowerToy TweakUI for Windows XP at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx. The TweakUI program can tweak certain settings like MenuSpeed, as well as other tweaks. They are explained as well.

4) I also recommend tweaking your video card's settings. You can do so using a program like RivaTuner or NVHardPage. Both of these are available from www.guru3d.com. I also recommend downloading this registry file for additional tweaks directly through the Display settings window for you graphics card (right-click your desktop, click Properties -> Advanced -> graphic card name) at http://downloads.guru3d.com/download.php?det=462. It allows you to see "hidden settings".

4) Since you're running an AMD processor, I recommend downloading S2KCtl. It can be downloaded at http://www.majorgeeks.com/download4216.html. It helps cool your AMD processor by letting it idle more. I recommend that you not put the StopGrant divisor at anything less than 8 or you will notice some slowdown in performance since your system has to "wakeup" from being "sleep". You can also try CpuIdle at www.cpuidle.de and see if you like it. It does much of the same functions as S2kCtl, and more.

5) If you want to increase your internet speed/performance, I recommend downloading CableNut from www.cablenut.com. Also download the update package as well, since it has settings that are updated for Windows XP.

Please tell me more specs on your computer when you run that program "Everest Personal Edition" that rudy_bagga told you about above from www.lavalys.com. I can then tell you where to find even more tweaks for your system!!
Hi there...

I would say that upgrading the Hard Disk would offer more performance than upgrading the RAM at this point.  128MB is a minimum for WinXP... but a new hard drive will give better performance since it's a mechanical device and is the biggest bottle neck.  After that, I would get another 256MB since, well, it's really cheap these days now for memory.  Even a stick of 512MB is not expensive.  More than 512MB would be a waste if you're not utilizing heavy apps with your computer.

Go for an 80GB maxtor 7200RPM with 8MB cache.

at yourtechonline.com
Among the good suggestions from the other experts i can only say,
if you you want a better performance you need at least a new and good motherboard,,,cheap and good solutions give:
ASRock,Shuttle,Biostar,such as many others ,,,surely you'll need better cpu and more RAM ,so i'll suggest to wait a couple of monts to save 150 bucks and go for buying theese new parts,,,
when you buy RAM you need for best identical modules ,the worst RAM module regulate the timings and the operating speed of your RAM ,so if you current ram is not fast ,then you'll not have tremendous advantage in the performance even after buying new 384 mb of RAM,check out with everest as other suggested what is the maximum amount of memory your current board supports and check out the timings and model of your current ram,buy such kind of ram models with the same tech specs,,,
buying a faster hdd is also not a bad option ,,,if you open your case you can see all tech specs for your hdds on their labels such as :model,capacity ,rpms,,,only thing i'm wondering is :
what is your system harddrive the -the resqued 20GB one or the other 40GB one ,,,
>>20 gig hard drive (recovered from a crash with only 11 gig)<< - if this is your sytsem harddrive i'll sugest to move to the healthy 40 GB one,and install there your operating system,,,
so if you buy now new ram and new 80 GB hdd you'll give about 80~100 bucks,so i think this will be not the greatest factor by upgrating your system,as before wait for cpoule of months and go for brand new mobo,512 MB ram and cpu~about 150 bucks,,,
later you can buy your better hdd ,i would also recommend:
seagate barracuda 7200.7 80GB,,,

other software:
ZoneAlarm: http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/catalog/products/sku_list_za.jsp?lid=nav_za
Sygate: http://smb.sygate.com/products/spf_standard.htm

AVG: http://www.grisoft.com/doc/71/lng/us/tpl/tpl01
Antivir Personal Edition: http://www.free-av.com/

Malware software:
Ad-aware: http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/
Spybot Search&Destroy: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
Winpatrol: http://www.winpatrol.com/upgrade.html
SpywareBlaster: http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html
SpywareGuard: http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/sgdownload.html
CWShredder: http://www.softpedia.com/get/Internet/Popup-Ad-Spyware-Blockers/CWShredder.shtml
GoGo Data Security advisor: http://toolbar.gogodata.com/
(+ as suggested Hijack This!)

why don't you try with some linux distributions,this will increase much your pc's performance:
Mandrake: http://www1.mandrivalinux.com/en/ftp.php3
Fedora Core: http://fedora.redhat.com/download/

Good Luck!


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