Out With The Old, And In With The New

Before you buy a new PC, a CPU might do

By merely following instructions, I’ve installed RAM, numerous add-in cards and a second hard drive, all of which required no more skill than it takes to erect a Lego set. A motherboard, however, figured to be much more daunting.

Since the unit already had 32 megs of RAM, I decided a motherboard/CPU combination would extend this computer’s life sufficiently.

The computer originally had a Pentium processor, so I decided to stick with Intel for both the processor (Pentium 166 MHz MMX, $119) and motherboard (TC430HX, $127) to ensure a smooth upgrade and ease compatibility problems. Some motherboard upgrades include a disk that updates the BIOS (basic input output) system. BIOS contains detailed instructions that activate peripheral devices.

Before you even think about opening up your computer, make sure you have read the manuals for all the devices you intend to add. In addition, it is imperative that you consult your PC manual and, if necessary, the helpline to find out which upgrades are right for your computer. While these upgrades are fairly simple, even the smallest omission can mean a broken system instead of a better one. Take the time to find out the specifics of your system before you attempt any upgrade, and if it’s your first time upgrading your PC, please consult with a computer professional before you take matters into your own hands. This is a general upgrade guide:

STEP 1: Determine if your PC will accept a standard motherboard upgrade. Refer to your PC manual or call the original manufacturer to find out possible upgrade paths. Some proprietary motherboards can only be upgraded with similar boards purchased directly from the manufacturer. An alternative would be to purchase a motherboard and case combination to replace the old one. However, this means that you’ll have to transfer everything from your old case to the new one, including hard drive, CD-ROM drive, floppy drive, etc. It isn’t hard since it’s mostly screws and snap-together modules, but it can be tedious.

STEP 2: Back up your hard drive. While it’s unlikely that anything will happen to your data during this procedure–better safe than sorry. You’ll also want to take a look at your computer BIOS and record the settings just in case you need to input them after the new motherboard is installed. Check your manual if you don’t know how to access BIOS.

STEP 3: Turn off your PC and open the case. Make sure you are grounded before touching or handling the CPU, the motherboard or any components inside the computer. Static electricity can render a perfectly good CPU worthless. Ground yourself by touching the PC’s metal frame while the unit is still plugged in. Repeat this process frequently during the installation process since static electricity can build up at any time and will destroy any circuitry you handle.

STEP 4: Unplug the PC. Disconnect all wires and cables that connect to the motherboard. Use masking tape to mark cables as you remove them so that you’ll know where they go later. Remove all

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