To upgrade or buy new: an easy call

Help Line

February 15, 1999|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Is it worth it to spend any amount of money to upgrade my machine to more modern standards? We have an antique 486 dating back to 1993 that has served us well and continues to do so as a word processor - an IBM PS/1 with a DX33 processor, 14k modem, 2x CD-ROM. It is still a very useful machine.

Lately, however, I have been looking into a new computer mainly for Internet access, but also to run more up-to-date games and programs. Will a Pentium Chip fit in the 486 motherboard? Could I get a hard drive, a 32x CD-ROM, more RAM and V.90 modem? It seems to me that the prices for these items are reasonable, but is the whole box just too outdated?

Set that 486 workhorse aside or continue using it as is for word processing and other low-power, high-value pursuits. Then haul out the catalogs or trot down to the computer superstore and check out a low-cost multimedia PC running the Cyrix MII chips, the AMD K6s or Intel's cheap-side Celeron.

You can get such a machine in the $400 to $800 range, sometimes with monitor included. (You also could cannibalize the monitor and printer you own).

It's a shame to retire your faithful old box but the reality is that if you buy the needed chip upgrade, new hard drive and new modem for that 486 dinosaur, you would spend as much or maybe more and still have a machine far inferior to one of today's el cheapo PCs.

I had a new hard drive installed in my (AST) computer. Originally, the disk assignment was ``C'' for the primary drive; ``A'' for the floppy and ``D'' for the CD-ROM. The installer of the new hard drive partitioned it to ``C'' and ``D'' for the primaries, ``A'' for the floppy and ``E'' for the CD-ROM. I have attempted to restore my original configuration, but the computer does not recognize drive ``E'' as the CD-ROM.

It seems to me there should be a way to fix this problem short of lugging the computer back to the installer.

You can't do that because Bill Gates doesn't want you to do that. Almost all operating systems assign priority numbers to storage devices by class. Thus ``A'' and ``B'' always go to floppy disk drives. Hard drives are assigned letters starting with ``C'' and continuing in consecutive order. Removable storage devices can be assigned any letter not taken by a hard drive. If you later add yet another hard drive it will bump your CD-ROM one more step down the alphabet.

You might be interested to know how to assign a letter to your CD-ROM: Click on Start and then Settings and Control Panel and then select the icon for System. Next choose Device Manager and then click on the icon for your CD-ROM. Then choose Properties and then click the Tab for settings. There you can change the drive letter from ``E'' to ``F'' and above, but not to the ``D'' you want.

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