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Old 02-21-16, 01:42 PM   #1
himespau 
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Would like to upgrade computer. Many stupid questions.

I have an older desktop computer that I'd like to upgrade because it's not meeting my needs as is and was hoping some experts here would have some advice.

I know most people will probably say the best/most efficient thing to do would be to buy a new one, but money's a bit tight at the moment, so I'd like to go piecemeal if possible upgrading whatever's most essential now and the rest as I can afford it. While I don't have that cash for a whole new desktop, I do have a $150 credit to amazon that will expire in a couple months that I could use toward upgrading.

So what's wrong with it? Well it can be very slow to wake up/get going and often freezes, especially when I've got multiple things going on at once. My wife and use different browsers (me chrome, her firefox) that we usually leave open with a couple of tabs and sometimes if I go up to a dozen or so tabs, that'll be enough to freeze the thing. Even if we have maybe half dozen tabs or less each and then I try to open Word or Powerpoint to do some work, it'll often freeze. My limited (very limited) understanding of computers would suggest that's a RAM issue, right? Isn't RAM sort of how many things it can think about at one time? I'm pretty limited in in my hardware experience, and have really only swapped out hard drives and put in a graphics card in another computer, so I am pretty ignorant here.

The computer I have is this: Acer Desktop PC Aspire AX1301-U1302 Athlon II X2 215 (2.7 GHz) 4 GB DDR2 750 GB HDD Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - Newegg.com

AMD Athlon II X2 215(2.7GHz)
Processor Main Features - 64 bit Dual Core Processor
Cache Per Processor - 2 x 512 KB L2 Cache
Memory - 4GB DDR2 800
Storage - 750GB SATA 7200RPM
Optical Drive - 16X DVD±R/RW SuperMulti Drive
Graphics - Integrated NVIDIA GeForce 9200 Graphics
Power Supply - 220W
Motherboard
Chipset - NVIDIA GeForce 9200 Chipset
CPU
CPU Type - Athlon II X2
Installed Qty - 1
CPU Speed - 215 (2.7 GHz)
L2 Cache Per CPU - 2 x 512 KB
CPU Main Features - 64 bit Dual Core Processor
Graphics
GPU/VGA Type - NVIDIA GeForce 9200
Graphics Interface - Integrated video
Memory
Memory Capacity - 4 GB DDR2
Memory Speed - DDR2 800
Form Factor - DIMM 240-pin
Memory Spec - 2 GB x 2
Memory Slot (Total) - 2
Memory Slot (Available) - 0
Maximum Memory Supported - 4 GB

Can I just buy some new RAM (maybe like this: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A14ZTRO/...8TE28GPI&psc=1) for it? The specs say max supported RAM is 4 gb. Is that because there are currently 2 2gb sticks in there or is there something about the motherboard that will only allow 4 gb?

I did have to put a new hard drive in this computer when the old one failed and there's not a lot of room inside. Ideally, I'd like to put another hard drive in (and maybe a graphics card as I'd like to do Zwift for my indoor training, but the computer is at the minimum everywhere else but way below that in graphics), but there just isn't any spare space, so I'd have to get a new tower at some point too.

Would it make sense/be possible to buy a new tower, power supply (because it currently as a pretty anemic 220W), and RAM with my amazon credit and then transfer the motherboard, hard drive, and optical drive over, and then at a later point in time when more cash rolls in get a video card, new motherboard and processor?

If I did it piecemeal like that and kept everything on my hard drive as is currently (or used a backup image stored on my external drive), would I be able to avoid having to reinstall all my software - I had to do that a year ago when my hard drive failed and it was a PITA, plus I don't have a Windows disk, don't want to pay for new and would like to keep Windows 7.
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Old 02-21-16, 03:17 PM   #2
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According to that info, you don't have any free RAM slots, so you would have to buy a new pair with greater capacity (either 2x3 GB or 2x4 GB) and set the old stuff aside. That doesn't seem worthwhile because when you upgrade, I think you'll want DDR3 or the newer DDR4 memory, not DDR2 as you have now (each of these is incompatible with the rest, so you need a new motherboard to change type). 4GB should be reasonable, you might consider closing the browser tabs when possible. If you're not using an ad blocker, you need one. Flash media player is used by many ads and when multiple ads are on a single page, it can be substantial. I recommend Adblock Plus. Also, it may be helpful to restart the browser every so often.

The maximum memory listing could either be because of the lack of free slots, or that a 32-bit version of the operating system was installed when new. I think you need a 64-bit installation to fully utilize anything more than 4GB.

That hard drive could be a place for improvement. Is it full? The operating system will bog down when there isn't much space left (I would aim for at least 5GB free). You could buy a new solid state hard drive and use it as the new operating system drive. An SSD is likely the best upgrade for that computer, plus you can put it into a new one later. I'd suggest at least 128GB if you do minimal file storage (you can still use that 750GB for data storage).

For your next computer, you'll need a motherboard, CPU, and memory. Very likely a power supply as well. If you're not gaming, the on-board video of most intel processors (Core i3, core i5) should be sufficient. Do your homework on the onboard video though. The latest chipsets are a good step up in 3d performance from years past.

Windows 10 should be a free upgrade for windows 7 users, but I think that offer expires in June or July 2016.
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Old 02-21-16, 03:21 PM   #3
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My understanding is that when it says max supported RAM, that's all the motherboard can read regardless of how much can physically fit. You can get some pretty good spec'd refurbished windows 7 pc's for ~$200 or so. I think for now, if you're not willing to spend the money for something notably better, (or the components to get you there,) you're best off just trying to keep the usage down. I've got a similar computer and yea, anything after a dozen or so tabs and things start getting choppy. Less if you're viewing something like the music thread.
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Old 02-21-16, 03:24 PM   #4
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friend more savvy than I says Just get stuff with an Intel Processor nothing else .

Wally World refurbished PC's were recommended as Bargains.
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Old 02-21-16, 03:25 PM   #5
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What I would do it buy a refurbished SSD (solid state drive), you can get 128GB for around $50 and a 256GB for around $100. Increase your memory to 8GB. Finally reload a fresh copy of Windows 7 on the new SSD and only install programs that you actually use.

Up unto 6 months ago I was using a 8 year old Dell desktop and 7 year old Dell laptop, both running XP and both had SSD drives. They both would boot in 20 seconds and ran great.
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Old 02-21-16, 03:31 PM   #6
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What I would do it buy a refurbished SSD (solid state drive), you can get 128GB for around $50 and a 256GB for around $100. Increase your memory to 8GB. Finally reload a fresh copy of Windows 7 on the new SSD and only install programs that you actually use.

Up unto 6 months ago I was using a 8 year old Dell desktop and 7 year old Dell laptop, both running XP and both had SSD drives. They both would boot in 20 seconds and ran great.
I have a similar computer, and as himespau noted, there was no disc that came on it, windows was pre-loaded. How would you go about that in that case? Just buy the OS or could you copy the original drive onto the SSD somehow?
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Old 02-21-16, 03:38 PM   #7
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or could you copy the original drive onto the SSD somehow?
You will need software that "clones" the drive. I use EZ Gig.

EZ Gig IV Cloning Software with Data Select for Windows

The advantage of reloading a fresh install is your machine will run faster. Ever wonder why your machine is slower than the day you got it? That's because every piece of software you install uses resources, even if you're not using it. and uninstalling it doesn't remove everything.

When my company buys new desktops, i take the old slow ones and wipe them out and reload them. They run great so I donate them to needy students at the local high school.
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Old 02-21-16, 03:41 PM   #8
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Agree with Oldnslw that an SSD would be a good choice, though I would spring for a new one.

Amazon has this: Crucial MX200 500GB SATA III 6Gb/s 2.5" Solid State Drive CT500MX200SSD1

$154

500gb, so check to see how much crap is currently on your existing HD. The spec's say it's a 750 but is it full or near full and can you dump stuff ?.

RAM is also a useful upgrade but in all the 'puter upgrades to Windows machines I've done, increasing RAM has always left me less then impressed with performance, where as the 500GB Crucial SSD I did to my otherwise dog of a Lenovo laptop saw a significant improvement in speed to access programs, open files, etc... SSD'd really can bring an old machine back to life. It's now something I'm thinking of doing on my desktop and would love to do on my work laptop if my boss would pay for it, the improvement is that noticeable.

FWIW and I'd check, but when I did my upgrade, Crucial provided free cloning software that dumps everything to the SSD via USB, then you install the SSD, boot and are good to go. Total process was 1/2 hr. and painless.
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Old 02-21-16, 04:00 PM   #9
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FWIW and I'd check, but when I did my upgrade, Crucial provided free cloning software that dumps everything to the SSD via USB, then you install the SSD, boot and are good to go. Total process was 1/2 hr. and painless.
That's how I got my copy of EZ Gig. I've used it many times more copying other hard drives.
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Old 02-21-16, 06:58 PM   #10
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You will need software that "clones" the drive. I use EZ Gig.

EZ Gig IV Cloning Software with Data Select for Windows

The advantage of reloading a fresh install is your machine will run faster. Ever wonder why your machine is slower than the day you got it? That's because every piece of software you install uses resources, even if you're not using it. and uninstalling it doesn't remove everything.

When my company buys new desktops, i take the old slow ones and wipe them out and reload them. They run great so I donate them to needy students at the local high school.
When my old hard drive failed and I put a new one (1 Tb) last spring, I had to do a factory reset, so I got rid of most things I don't use (and then went about deleting all the bloatware I could find that came along with the install using the factory disk).

I didn't realize there was a difference in types of RAM other than connections. That's good to know.

I've got about 600 gb free on my hard drive right now.

I do use adblock plus and have for years. Microsoft security essentials for antivirus, which isn't as resource hungry as some things I've used in the past.

It's just slow sometimes getting going. Just now I clicked on my computer to see how much space I had and the screen got white and I got the thinking icon for 20-30 seconds before it opened a window that let me access my computer. That's the sort of thing I'm dealing with. Often longer waits than that. Would going solid state help me there?
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Old 02-21-16, 07:03 PM   #11
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When my old hard drive failed and I put a new one (1 Tb) last spring, I had to do a factory reset, so I got rid of most things I don't use (and then went about deleting all the bloatware I could find that came along with the install using the factory disk).

I didn't realize there was a difference in types of RAM other than connections. That's good to know.

I've got about 600 gb free on my hard drive right now.

I do use adblock plus and have for years. Microsoft security essentials for antivirus, which isn't as resource hungry as some things I've used in the past.

It's just slow sometimes getting going. Just now I clicked on my computer to see how much space I had and the screen got white and I got the thinking icon for 20-30 seconds before it opened a window that let me access my computer. That's the sort of thing I'm dealing with. Often longer waits than that. Would going solid state help me there?
Not all hard drives are the same. Some are 5400rpm while others are 7200rpm and 10,000rpm. Some have built in cache which also speeds things up.

Goto START - RUN and type in msconfig. Select the "startup" tab and you'll see all the software that starts automatically when you boot. You can uncheck what you don't need and it will make boot up faster and use less resources.
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Old 02-21-16, 07:10 PM   #12
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Not all hard drives are the same. Some are 5400rpm while others are 7200rpm and 10,000rpm. Some have built in cache which also speeds things up.

Goto START - RUN and type in msconfig. Select the "startup" tab and you'll see all the software that starts automatically when you boot. You can uncheck what you don't need and it will make boot up faster and use less resources.
Cool, I'll have to give that a try.

The game I want to run does not appear to be doable without an upgrade in the graphics chip front and there doesn't appear to be room for a new card in my tower. That makes it seem like a new tower will be necessary (or giving up on zwift). If I decide to go all in with a new motherboard, graphics card, tower, power supply, ram, will I be able to just transfer my hard drive over and go without reinstalling everything (other than maybe downloading new drivers)? I'm super lazy like that and hate spending all day installing stuff. Or is that a fantasy?
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Old 02-21-16, 07:13 PM   #13
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I'm waiting for the new amds cpu right now intel rules but amd was in the lead for a while and I hear there new cpu will be awesome. if not ill get a 7th gen i7 when its out
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Old 02-21-16, 07:14 PM   #14
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You might need to install a new Chipset for the motherboard and drivers for the graphic card.

I'd say you'll most likely need to reinstall Windows for best results.

If you boot into the BIOS setup you might find there's a "recovery" partition on the hard drive that contains the Windows 7 install image. Years ago OEMs used to give you the recovery on a Cd/DVD, but since hard drives are so large they cave out a 1gb partition and put it on the hard drive.

I found this:
http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/w...5ec324b?auth=1

Acer Recovery Instructions:
1) Power on the machine
2) At the ACER BIOS screen, press and hold the 'Alt' key and the 'F10' key simultaneously to start Acer eRecovery.
3) Once eRecovery utility is displayed, click 'Restore to Factory Default Settings'.
4) Click 'OK' to continue
5) The recovery process restore a fully functional factory image of Windows.
6) After eRecovery has completed, press 'OK' to reboot the computer.
Acer Recovery Media Purchase Program: https://secure.tx.acer.com/RCDB/Main.aspx?brand=acer
This site is used for purchasing recovery media for your Acer product.
To get started, please enter the serial number or SNID located on your Acer product and click "Next"
System Information
Get your system information: http://secure3.tx.acer.com/FindSystem/FindSystem.aspx?title=Information%20About%20Your%20System

Acer Main Support page: http://www.acersupport.com/

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Old 02-21-16, 08:13 PM   #15
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I have an older desktop computer that I'd like to upgrade because it's not meeting my needs as is and was hoping some experts here would have some advice.
That machine should be OK as it is for what you are using for. Don't expect that upgrades will fix whatever problems you are having.

The motherboard most-likely can't handle more memory.

It really isn't worth to spend "real" money upgrading that machine.


I have a laptop from 2008 and 3gb memory and it ran fine with Windows Vista.


I upgraded it to Windows 10 and it still runs fine. I did get a $20 5gHz WiFi USB stick for it. You are using wired Ethernet and that is fast.


How big is the HD currently? If it's 750 and full, what do you have on it.


An SSD will make some things faster but doesn't address the problems you are having (unless those problems are it just being slow).


Reinstalling Windows fresh might help but you'd also need to reinstall evey other program you use (you'd better have the keys).


Upgrading to Win 10 might work too and it might even be easier. Thoug, if the machine isn't quite working, it might be risky.
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Old 02-21-16, 08:27 PM   #16
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I agree with others who said that what's wrong with your computer might not be fixed with an upgrade. Do some maintenance first and see if that helps.

Open the case and blow out the dust bunnies with a can of air that's available at Walmart and computer stores. While the case is still open, start it up and make sure that all the fans are spinning. If not, that can be the problem.

Run a freshly updated virus and malware checker. That might be the problem.

If you don't already have one, with your $150 buy an external hard drive and back up all your files. If your computer is starting to act badly, you want a good, recent backup just in case it fails completely.

After a fresh backup, upgrade to Windows 10. I recently bought a new PC with W10 installed plus upgraded my wife's laptop from W7 to W10. The new OS might fix the problem. The upgrade can take a day or two as it has to do a lot of updates for a while. As you have a W7 computer, the upgrade to W10 is free for a few more months.

Properly uninstall anything that you don't use any longer.

Don't depend on Sleep or Hibernate mode too much. Every couple of days completely reboot the computer. Sometimes a simple reboot can cure a lot of Windows issues.
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Old 02-21-16, 09:23 PM   #17
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Don't spend much on upgrades.

You don't need more memory. Windows will adapt to 4GB or 8GB and not overload either size. I even have Win 10 at work running fine on 3GB and a fairly slow processor. An SSD drive would speed up some functions, but it's not really worth it for that older machine. And SSD drives with large capacity are fairly expensive.

Failing hard drive
My 4 year old laptop running Win 7 started getting random slowdowns, with the disk activity light on for more than a minute at a time. It even froze once and couldn't boot normally, and Windows did a recovery process to the startup files that fixed it for a few months.

I suspected a failing hard drive, but the Smart drive statistics showed it was fine. Then, finally, it was barely running at all, very very slow. Entries in the Event Log showed time out problems with some of the installed software.

A new hard drive cleared up all these problems. I was really surprised that there were no notifications or scans that showed the drive was failing.

Virus scan with a bootable DVD
I like the free Kaspersky Rescue Disk. It's an image file to burn to a DVD (or a flash drive, I suppose) and makes a bootable disk. So viruses can't hide in the running Windows and reinfect at the next boot.

It's also possible to use it to recover files from a half-mangled disk that won't boot Windows, by copying the files to a flash drive.

Burn as an "iso image" instead of copying as a file to the disk.
set your pc to boot first from the DVD if it isn't set already.
You have to hit enter while it counts down from 10 seconds, or it'll boot Windows normally.

tell it up update the virus database. This can be slow, taking 10 minutes or so.
Click scan the computer. It'll take a while, maybe a few hours. If the icon is still green, it hasn't found anything.

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Old 02-21-16, 09:37 PM   #18
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I have an older desktop computer that I'd like to upgrade because it's not meeting my needs as is and was hoping some experts here would have some advice.

...snip...
So what's wrong with it? Well it can be very slow to wake up/get going and often freezes, especially when I've got multiple things going on at once. My wife and use different browsers (me chrome, her firefox) that we usually leave open with a couple of tabs and sometimes if I go up to a dozen or so tabs, that'll be enough to freeze the thing. Even if we have maybe half dozen tabs or less each and then I try to open Word or Powerpoint to do some work, it'll often freeze. My limited (very limited) understanding of computers would suggest that's a RAM issue, right? Isn't RAM sort of how many things it can think about at one time? I'm pretty limited in in my hardware experience, and have really only swapped out hard drives and put in a graphics card in another computer, so I am pretty ignorant here.

The computer I have is this: Acer Desktop PC Aspire AX1301-U1302 Athlon II X2 215 (2.7 GHz) 4 GB DDR2 750 GB HDD Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - Newegg.com


Can I just buy some new RAM (maybe like this: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A14ZTRO/...8TE28GPI&psc=1) for it? The specs say max supported RAM is 4 gb. Is that because there are currently 2 2gb sticks in there or is there something about the motherboard that will only allow 4 gb?

I did have to put a new hard drive in this computer when the old one failed and there's not a lot of room inside. Ideally, I'd like to put another hard drive in (and maybe a graphics card as I'd like to do Zwift for my indoor training, but the computer is at the minimum everywhere else but way below that in graphics), but there just isn't any spare space, so I'd have to get a new tower at some point too.

Would it make sense/be possible to buy a new tower, power supply (because it currently as a pretty anemic 220W), and RAM with my amazon credit and then transfer the motherboard, hard drive, and optical drive over, and then at a later point in time when more cash rolls in get a video card, new motherboard and processor?

If I did it piecemeal like that and kept everything on my hard drive as is currently (or used a backup image stored on my external drive), would I be able to avoid having to reinstall all my software - I had to do that a year ago when my hard drive failed and it was a PITA, plus I don't have a Windows disk, don't want to pay for new and would like to keep Windows 7.
memory 4GB is the max.
video
I don't deal with graphics cards, since I don't do games. You do have a PCI Express x16 slot, so you should be able to upgrade the graphics by adding a card. Graphics cards range from inexpensive, to more than your PC cost!

memory usage:
right click on the bottom task bar's blank space,pick Task Manager and watch the graphs. On the Processes tab, click Show all system processes. You can click CPU or Memory column headings to sort by that column. Compare a newly booted PC's memory usage against what it looks like when it gets slow.

I have seen Firefox eventually use quite a lot of memory when I had many tabs open. But not in normal usage. Is your Firefox updated?

extra disk

Why add another disk? You haven't come close to filling the one you have. (or is it getting full? But you can copy off older stuff to a flash drive or usb hard drive. Make more than one copy on different devices!)

Power supply This is way less critical than it was years ago, with power hogging drives, video, cpu, etc. It's fine.

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Old 02-21-16, 10:55 PM   #19
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Don't depend on Sleep or Hibernate mode too much. Every couple of days completely reboot the computer. Sometimes a simple reboot can cure a lot of Windows issues.
Yeah, good thought. I don't do that as often as I should.

I do back up to my external hard drive weekly. I only do an incremental backup. I had thought about getting a second internal hard drive and doing weekly system images on it, but there wasn't room for that and I like being able to access the files on the external from any computer that an incremental backup gives me that a system image doesn't.
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Old 02-21-16, 11:00 PM   #20
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memory 4GB is the max.
video
I don't deal with graphics cards, since I don't do games. You do have a PCI Express x16 slot, so you should be able to upgrade the graphics by adding a card. Graphics cards range from inexpensive, to more than your PC cost!

memory usage:
right click on the bottom task bar's blank space,pick Task Manager and watch the graphs. On the Processes tab, click Show all system processes. You can click CPU or Memory column headings to sort by that column. Compare a newly booted PC's memory usage against what it looks like when it gets slow.

I have seen Firefox eventually use quite a lot of memory when I had many tabs open. But not in normal usage. Is your Firefox updated?

extra disk

Why add another disk? You haven't come close to filling the one you have. (or is it getting full? But you can copy off older stuff to a flash drive or usb hard drive. Make more than one copy on different devices!)

Power supply This is way less critical than it was years ago, with power hogging drives, video, cpu, etc. It's fine.
The desire for a second drive was just mainly so that I could do a weekly system image for backup. I have a lot of student papers/data on here and I'd hate to lose that stuff.

No room for a graphics card internally, but I've seen where people used a special board to hook up a graphics card externally so they could run fancy graphics on a laptop. Don't know whether I want to try rigging something like that up or not.

It's been a year, so it's probably time to do a more thorough system clean up to make sure I'm not running stuff I don't need again.
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Old 02-22-16, 06:43 AM   #21
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I keep a 64gb flash drive in the back of my desktop. I then created a ".bat" file with XCOPY commands that copy specific directories to the flash drive. I then used the Windows scheduler to run the bat file every night. It does incremental so after the first backup, it only copies new and updated files and runs in a few seconds.


xcopy C:\Users\oldnslow2\Documents\*.* Z:\MyDoc\ /s /e /c /v /y /d

Flash drives are cheap and you can easily put it in your pocket.
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Old 02-22-16, 06:49 AM   #22
Juan Foote
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Where older, that proc should do fine for web browsing and such. You have more than enough memory for the OS.
What concerns me is the "freezing up" you are describing. It sounds like one of two things to me. You have mentioned putting in a new hard drive, so that takes care of one.
The other: Have you ever cleaned the dust out from around your proc? Can you confirm the cooling fan is running?

Sounds like its going into thermal shutdown or similar.

Given it's age, I would consider a clean out, a new power supply, and perhaps if you are (or a shop) knowledgeable enough look to see what socket your proc is and what the next better chip you may be able to put on the MoBo...AMD is really good about that most of the time.
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Old 02-22-16, 07:03 AM   #23
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Is it possible you have it set up to use more virtual memory than it can search across? Is it possible your screen settings are causing the integrated graphics adapter to affect the regular processor? I often suspect msft updates aggregate to drag down pc performance substantially but really with that amount of processor and memory you should be in pretty good shape.
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Old 02-22-16, 08:02 AM   #24
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The desire for a second drive was just mainly so that I could do a weekly system image for backup. I have a lot of student papers/data on here and I'd hate to lose that stuff.

No room for a graphics card internally, but I've seen where people used a special board to hook up a graphics card externally so they could run fancy graphics on a laptop. Don't know whether I want to try rigging something like that up or not.

It's been a year, so it's probably time to do a more thorough system clean up to make sure I'm not running stuff I don't need again.
Rotating backups onto different media is good. All your documents will fit on a $6 flash drive. Get at least two, and alternate them.

I'm pretty sure you do have a slot for a PCI Express video card. It should fit.
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Old 02-22-16, 08:57 AM   #25
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Before spending any money as suggested physically check and clean the inside of computer. Run the Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragment utilities. Make sure Windows and other programs are updated and patched. Download and run a virus scanner like Malewarebytes.
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