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Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?

Grendel's Dad 19 Aug 11 - 07:30 AM
Grendel's Dad 19 Aug 11 - 07:40 AM
Arthur_itus 19 Aug 11 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,Jon 19 Aug 11 - 07:44 AM
Richard Bridge 19 Aug 11 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,Jon 19 Aug 11 - 07:46 AM
Arthur_itus 19 Aug 11 - 07:46 AM
GUEST,Jon 19 Aug 11 - 07:49 AM
treewind 19 Aug 11 - 11:27 AM
Musket 19 Aug 11 - 11:39 AM
Bernard 19 Aug 11 - 11:56 AM
GUEST 19 Aug 11 - 01:33 PM
Arkie 19 Aug 11 - 10:27 PM
JohnInKansas 20 Aug 11 - 07:02 AM
Bonzo3legs 20 Aug 11 - 07:34 AM
GUEST,Jon 20 Aug 11 - 08:00 AM
JohnInKansas 20 Aug 11 - 08:17 AM
GUEST,Jon 20 Aug 11 - 09:37 AM
Bonzo3legs 20 Aug 11 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,Jon 20 Aug 11 - 10:21 AM
JohnInKansas 20 Aug 11 - 06:03 PM
GUEST,Jon 20 Aug 11 - 06:33 PM
JohnInKansas 20 Aug 11 - 09:01 PM
Steve in Sidmouth 21 Aug 11 - 06:43 PM
JohnInKansas 21 Aug 11 - 09:12 PM
Grendel's Dad 22 Aug 11 - 06:00 AM
Grendel's Dad 22 Aug 11 - 06:02 AM
Bonzo3legs 22 Aug 11 - 11:50 AM
Brian May 22 Aug 11 - 01:45 PM
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Subject: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Grendel's Dad
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:30 AM

I have finally made a start in copying all my analogue recordings (vinyl, cassette, reel to reel etc.) to hard disk.

It's obvious that my existing computer, which is pretty clapped out anyway, isn't up to the job, and I'm going to have to buy something more powerful. As I tend to get lost on computer jargon, I was wondering if anyone might be able to advise me as to what sort of spec I should be aiming at.

To give people a rough idea of the size of job I've got on. I'm first of all recording the analogue material, to a portable digital source, and then transferring the digitised files to computer. I'm aiming to copy several files a day, which usually range in size from 0.1 GB to 0.3 GB. These will then be amplified, cleaned, sectioned and saved, using some sort of audio software such as Audacity.

Since these are very slow processes, I want to be able to carry on with other computer tasks; Eg., recording the discographical data to database, or spreadsheeting, or word processing, or just posting occasional messages to Mudcat.

At the moment this just causes the computer to run even slower, or hang or crash.

If anyone can help me, I will be most grateful.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Grendel's Dad
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:40 AM

An afterthought to the above. There is probably no point in anyone recommending a specific model of computer. However, it might be helpful if I had an idea of the price range I should be looking in.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Arthur_itus
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:44 AM

Grendall's dad
I am assuming you are in the UK. If so, you could buy one from Mesh. I am sure you would notice a remarkable change with any of these. I always buy from Mesh now as they are a British company.

http://www.meshcomputers.com/Default.aspx?PAGE=PRODCATEGORYVIEWPAGE&USG=APPLICATION&ENT=APPLICATION&KEY=414924&utm_source=homepa

It also depends on what you can afford.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:44 AM

Maybe I've missed something and will be interested to see what other's say but I can't see anything there that I couldn't do with an entry level machine (running Linux, I don't know about Win requirements). Maybe something like this and add suitable sized drives.

In practice though, if I was to replace my current PC, I'd probably be aiming for something more like this.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:44 AM

Computers are easy to build these days. It all pretty much plugs together. I built the fairly powerful quad core that I am running for about £400, but I shopped around a bit for bargains.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:46 AM

Actually, I've just noticed my first link was a Sempron. For my more basic one, I'd rather an Athlon X2, a bit more expensive.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Arthur_itus
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:46 AM

That's pretty cheap Jon


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 07:49 AM

I've had a few Novatech barebones and motherboard bundles over the years Arthur. They are on the cheaper side but I've not had a problem with them.

--
Fitting the disks in a barebones is easy btw, in case anyone is wondering. Motherboard bundle is a bit more complicated as you've got the case connections to sort out.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: treewind
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 11:27 AM

AMD Athlon II x2 3GHz
4GB RAM
1TB hard disk. Samsung are good, quiet and cheap.
Maybe 2TB if you are really storing a lot of audio. (do the sums...)
Consider how you're going to back it up.

That's about the sweet spot today, where more performance costs disproportionately more money, but you could spend a lot more if you can afford it. If multitasking is still slow, more memory is likely to bring the best further improvement. Maybe choose a motherboard with 4 instead of 2 memory slots, then you can upgrade later without wasting what you already have.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Musket
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 11:39 AM

I did a bit of searching around last month for a relative. After looking in eBuyer, DABS etc, and comparing full systems, bare bones or parts and build from scratch, I then compared with just buying Dell and having done with it.

Which is what I did for him.

Ok, personally, I run and fetch any baubles Steve Jobs throws, so am a mac user, but his Dell is not bad, less than £300.00 (his existing monitor is still good and less than a year old) and I was quite impressed when I set it up. A 500GB hard disk came with it, and if in the same boat as the OP, you can add three more internally, let alone external ones. 1TB internal drives seem to be around the £40.00 mark now if you look for them.

If you don't go for a mega processor then look to see if Linux can do what you want, as it is less processor hungry than Windows. Also, the new Mac Mini is just over £500.00 with a dual core i5 and the best operating system you can get, including iLife with some good software to help you.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Bernard
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 11:56 AM

I prefer not to have a large C: drive, and install a secondary drive for data. That way, it's quick and easy to backup the system drive, but more importantly, quick and easy to restore should something go wrong.

It also means that you won't get processing bottlenecks with swapfiles and so on...

This is standard practice with servers, too.

Better still, use a network drive for backups - it always comes down to how important your data is and how easy it would be to replace it... recordings and photgraphs tend to be unique...!


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 01:33 PM

Get a copy of Audio Cleaning Lab- They are up to Production # 17- but the earlier ones might be still available online and cheaper.
Then get a USB 2 hard drive and a DVD writer and you are in business. You can clean up scratchy records, hissing tape, or even the odd dog bark from your analogue recordings, and save them as wave,AIFF, OGG or WMA format. Then save all th cleaned material to a DVD disk. You can probably get 1000 songs on a single disk. You will need a computer (laptio will do) , DVD recorder, USB 2 Hard drive, and a copy of Audio Cleaning Lab. Total cost $500 to $6000 or less.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Arkie
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 10:27 PM

You may have done all the research you need on the process and you may well have some real skills in the recording and cleaning procedures, but I am pretty much an audio idiot and have been using "Spin It Again" to record directly to the computer from a turntable that has USB capability and from my cassette player. The software can do quite a bit of cleanup through various settings as well as identify and label tracks. Not all is automatic but when all goes well the software can save a lot of time and provide a digital recording that is good enough for my purposes and it did not break the bank. Plus Acoustica has been good in providing support.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 07:02 AM

The first currency converter I grabbed out of the air indicates that the 400 £ mentioned by Jon above is about $660 US, so the home-built 'nix machine is close to what I see advertised for packaged basic Windows machines.

"Student" laptops - which can cover a range from itty bitty urchins to possibly entry university level - start at around $360 (US) with slightly better equipped ones in "stock" configurations up to about $800.

If you can find a desktop, the price range for "basic packages" is similar to the laptop prices but the monitor is "extra."

You probably should think in terms of a "target price," for a "Windows package with some options" of around $600 - $800 for your use. (360 - 480 £?) It could run a little above that if you can pin down specific things you need to add, but that should get you into something quite usable.

If you want a Windows machine, it will require some "extra effort" to get anything other than Windows 7 now. The "ancient" WinXP still runs on about half of all computers in use, but is (always was) vulnerable to lots of "stuff that smells bad." Either Vista or Win7 are a whole lot more secure, and the last time I looked (3 or 4 months ago) a few makers still allowed you to opt back to Vista. Remember though, that the first ads for Win7 said "It's not Vista" as the selling point.

If you really want to do more than minimal multi-tasking, a multi-core processor is pretty much necessary, although lots of individual programs still haven't been updated to use multi-channel processing very effectively. Current builds nearly all use "quad core" processors.

In Vista or Win7, you probably will want a 64-bit OS version, which requires a machine capable of running it.

Vista machines were often sold with 1 GB RAM, and they'd limp with that, but 2 GB was generally considered the minimum for even limited multi-tasking. Vista 32-bit CANNOT USE all of 4 GB of RAM, but can use a little more than the 2 GB that's the normal next step lower. The actual "maximum" is somewhere around 3.6 GB. I'm not sure what the limit is for 64-bit Vista, but with your task description I'd say you really want at least 4 GB of physical RAM installed in any Windows machine that's viable now. 8 GB RAM would probably be a good option for Win7 if not a requirement.

You'll want a minium 500 GB Hard Drive for the OS, even if you add a second data HD. For what you indicate as your use, I would expect you to want a 1T HD for the data. I recently replaced a 500 GB HD, and found the replacement internal 500 GB priced at $87 and the 1T (same mfr) at $105, so the difference in price doesn't really justify cramping your style. The "markup" for an optional HD in a package may not reflect the small difference in retail price, but "it's a clue" to what's reasonable.

To do lots of "music" you probably want a step above the default "kiddie OS" that's the default in most packages. Microsoft has changed the versions available so often that I can't say what they call the current options, much less what to suggest.

Add-ons you'll probably (should probably?) want, will run the starting price for a minimal Windows machine package to around $800 or $1,000 (US) although that's just a guesstimate.

"Gamers" generally add graphics and RAM, and sometimes HD space, to drive what the sellers consider "game ready" units to $1,200 (for little kids) to $6,000 for "serious adolescents," but you probably don't need to get into that range.

While it's theoretically fairly easy to equip a laptop to the "same specs" as a desktop, my experience is that the laptop will do about 60% of what the "identical" laptop will when you get them in use. Raw performance isn't the only thing that matters though.

As a side note: HP has just announced they will cease producing computers, leaving only Dell as a locally recognized "main stream" manufacturer in the US. (No comment about support for those already sold.)

There are a couple of other brands at outlets here, but none with established reputations. Some news reports indicate that there are brands that have developed "name value" in UK markets, but most of them aren't sold enough here for us to hear much about which ones are any good, or how good.

If you're creating an "archive" of a lot of stuff, you need to think seriously about how you're going to archive-backup the archive, but that's a "separable" subject so best to wait - except to say "YOU REALLY BETTER DO IT."

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 07:34 AM

A great deal of confusing jargon here. I doubled my ram memory from 1Gb to 2 Gb on my 5 year old PC running XP. The difference in performance is amazing, especially using Photoshop CS5.

The other thing to do for maximising performance is to make sure no junk software is running in the background, and it's amazing how much faster internet is without a firewall!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 08:00 AM

Yes, RAM can make a lot of difference. I'd think 2Gb is the absolute minimum for a new machine these days.

I'd not recommend using the Internet without any firewall, bonzo, although you may perhaps question the need to use one on individual PCs.

If I was say connecting via dial up, I'd say I needed one but with broadband at home, I rely on the firewall in my ADSL router which is configured to open the ports (HTTP for one) I need and block all other incoming requests, etc. Others may prefer to have more protection.

I am surprised your firewall gives a noticeable performance hit.

-------------
I noticed my (wrong I'd intended an Athlon X2, not a Sempron) link from yesterday has gone from the suppliers pages and they seem to have added this which in terms of cpu and RAM is about treewind's spec.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 08:17 AM

You can improve performance on almost any computer by adding RAM, if you start with inadequate RAM for the OS you're using.

The only machine I still have running with WinXP, with maximum usable RAM still runs about a fifth as fast as even my Vista machine with it's maximum RAM. (The Vista is 32-bit so 4 GB is all it can use.)

Additionally, WinXP is unsupported and although about 50% of computers worldwide are still running it, it accounts for 80% of the serious current malware infections, that keep escaping from the infected machines to attempt to infect everyone else.

Any machine can bite you if you do something stupid, like clicking on phishing links; but any WinXP has multiple remaining vulnerabilies that can let malware in, with the ONLY requirement being that someone with malicious intent finds the machine. The holes not patched are the ones previously considered "more difficult than the easy ones" and were so rarely used that they were left hanging; but criminals now are much more willing to work a little harder (and have better tools to work with).

If you're still running WinXP I wouldn't say it's necessary to "flee in panic" if you use good AV defenses including an invulnerable firewall, but I can't recommend (or condone) buying a new machine to run it on, except perhaps as a secondary OS for dual boot if necessary for legacy programs. I would recommend using another OS (even later Windows) any time you have open web connections, if you can, and disconnecting completely from the web and any networks any time you need to turn off your firewall, regardless of what OS you surf with.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 09:37 AM

On what we have here: There is only one PC (I put an Athlon X2 with 4GB in the webserver after a storm upset the motherboard in June..) with 4Gb of RAM. With the exception of the Laptop, they are all 2GB and that seems to be adequate for my own needs.

The laptop shows ( assume because of shared graphics) under 1GB. This is still quite usable on Linux but (it's dual boot) although it was sold with Vista Home basic on it, I found after firewall, a few Windows updates, etc, it is painful to use as a Win PC - does for my occasional need to try a web page in IE9, etc. but I'd hate to have to use it every day.

---
re the 4GB limit on RAM with 32bit operating systems. This is a (at least certain versions of) Windows limitation. I think Linux introduced pae Kernels to address more memory around 1999.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 09:55 AM

But at the end of the day as they say, it does depend on what you need to use a computer for and the size of anorak you wear. I do have a camera with a 30 x optical zoom - the most currently available, so that warrants a size 8 anorak I think!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 10:21 AM

I don't think the optical zoom would make a difference, bonzo. The size of the image would be the same regardless of zoom.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 06:03 PM

Jon -

One of our managers actually did complain once about not being able to get all his files on the floppy, and a smart-a** fellow worker told him to "use a smaller font" so the files won't be so big."

The "boss" came back a little later complaining that now his documents were hard to read and the files still didn't fit.

His real problem was the "FAT limit." Old FAT format disks have space in the root directory for only a specific number of files because the length of the root sector is fixed, but if you make a folder, the number of files you can put in a folder is unlimited except by the entire disk size. He was happy when I made a folder and put the files in it, and they all fit with room to spare. (Recollection is he had about 300 files, and they were all small. Theoretically a FAT12 (floppy) root can hold 256 addresses, but most actually crapped at 254.)

The same kind of limit exists on normal hard drive (FAT16) formats, and FAT32, but the number is big enough hardly anyone ever runs up against it. One of the changes for NTFS format is that the root sector can be any size, and is "movable" so that particular limit doesn't exist - although there are some others in the "mostly theoretical" realms.

We might have a few people still running old formats on hard drives, and with the number of small audio files some are saving, putting them all in the root (of a FAT formatted drive or partition) could conceivably run into the root-files number limit. You get a "disk full" error when the total size of all the files is nowhere near the size of the disk. Moving them all into a sub-directory usually solves the problem (for a while), and lets you use the whole disk.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 06:33 PM

John, I encountered a FAT limitation fairly recently with a USB pen drive. I think I wanted to put a file greater than 4GB on a FAT32 partition...


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 09:01 PM

When I first encountered the root number of files limit, you had to add an Aboveboard to put more than 64K of RAM in a computer, and 5" floppies were the only thing we had for "portability" and backup. A 30 MB HD ran around $400, anything larger required an add-on SCSI hookup.

The various formats do have limits on the file size they can handle, but I haven't run into it on any I've used since everything started getting "really big." Some of the limits stated are a little "flexible" and I have a fistful of Word documents about twice what Word 2007 says is the "maximum you can use." They lurch and stagger a bit, but do run okay. I can't sort the whole 676 page list of songs to alphabetize them in one pass, but overlapping sorts works okay.

File bloat is an objective for most programers, obviously; but I don't think it's anything new.

With respoct to the original question here, most people running any older OS will be amazed at how much more HD space gets used up with a move to a newer (Windows) one like Vista/Win7. It would really be hardly worth the effort to install either on a drive smaller than 500 GB for me, or for anyone if you're going to put many "big" app programs on the same drive, although many people might get by with the 350 GB offered on some "basic" machines - especially if they have someplace else for the "media" files.

I recently considered making a "recovery disk" with Windows Backup, but the only backup offered that includes the OS is "all or nothing" of a Drive, and the "wizard" informed me that I'd have to have 74 DVDs ready to make the backup. Since I've made "Microsoft Bsckups" of every OS since DOS 3.5 and NEVER HAD ONE THAT WOULD RESTORE ANYTHINNG I decided it would be cheaper just to buy another HD to mirror on than to blow that many disks on something that probably won't work anyway.

I just XCOPY all my data files to an archive on two 1 TB portable USB HDs, alternating which one gets used, and individual files can be copied back any time I need one. Nearly all "backup" systems give you, at best, limited choices about what to restore, and don't allow you to call back just a few single files. So far, my data files from 7 working HDs (4 computers - not all still living) has the archive drives only a little over half full. The last time I did a "full restore" of all the data files on one working drive, it only took about 3.5 days (with a USB2 connection).

Anyone getting a new computer should look for a USB3 hub in it. Only a few USB3 devices are out now, but the USB3 hub should be "backward compatible" with USB2 or USB devices, and is reported being "a whole lot faster" than USB2 when you get the newer devices.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Steve in Sidmouth
Date: 21 Aug 11 - 06:43 PM

"Additionally, WinXP is unsupported "

That is worrying.. a lot of XP machines are in use in UK and there are security updates issued almost every week via Update. Even my fastest machine only has 1GB RAM, some friends run XP with 256M RAM, the motherboards won't support much more and obtaining 512 sticks of (say) PC100 memory is quite difficult - and so expensive that it's hardly worth upgrading on old (say 700MHz) machine.

The scale of the internet fraud problem is made clear on www.bobbear.co.uk - originally based in UK but now in the USA but no longer being updated? http://www.bobbear.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 21 Aug 11 - 09:12 PM

Full support for WinXP ended a few years ago. Microsoft has still been distributing Critical Updates for malware known to be in circulation and causing "significant" damage, but there are no optional updates, and no protections against the infamous "bit rot" that has a tendency to cause declining reliability of the OS itself. (In (over?)simplified terms, new aps may demand OS updates that won't happen for XP, and if the new stuff is marginally compatible with the old system, the whole system eventually gets scrambled.)

A final "SP" update, consolidating previous patches, was released some time ago, and NO OTHER PATCHES are being provided unless that one is installed. The SP patch package has been available, for those who don't have it, to bring WinXP up to "maintainable" status; but I don't know how readily it remains available.

The primary reservoir of infected WinXP machines appears to consist largely of those who have never, or rarely, installed any security updates, or used AV protections. Microsoft estimates that 50% - 60% of those machines are "pirated" copies that have never been able to get updates for that reason.

Even with all patches, WinXP has a fairly large number of vulnerabilities that were not patched when the weaknesses were discovered based on their difficulty of use, and the likely amount of damage that could be caused by exploiting them. Newer malware methods have made some of these potentially "more useful" to maleware distributors, and hence more dangerous to users.

RAM chips suitable for upgrading most WinXP machines were not particularly expensive the last time I looked for some, but may be hard to find now. For newer machines the RAM chips are fairly generic, but some WinXP and earlier machines were picky about check bits and error correcting features, as well as speed. Since you need to "install in pairs" you may have to take out two and put in two (or 4) bigger ones. As noted, most WinXP processors will be at clock speeds slower than recommended for some current software, so there's little you can do to make a useful improvement that will be cheaper than just replacing the both the machine and the OS.

It's unlikely that anything more than about 1 GB RAM will really help most users of WinXP, although I don't recall what was spec'd as the maximum installable. More RAM would let them load more into RAM, but as the amont loaded increases the overhead to keep track of what's-where results in a phenomenon called "page flop slowdown," so excessive amounts of RAM are self-defeating above a certain point. For WinXP, on most machines, the maximum installable was quite a bit more than the optimum amount to install.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Grendel's Dad
Date: 22 Aug 11 - 06:00 AM

Thanx for the information one and all.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Grendel's Dad
Date: 22 Aug 11 - 06:02 AM

Sorry, I pressed the Submit Message button before I was ready.

Just to add that I now have an idea of the size of computer I need.

Once again, many thanx


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 22 Aug 11 - 11:50 AM

Best to keep all critical data backed up and reinstall XP if there is a problem - it only takes an hour or so and leaves you with a faster PC at the end of it. Of course all of your other software will need to be reinstalled, so I keep all mine on a CD just in case.


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Subject: RE: Tech: New Computer. How Powerful?
From: Brian May
Date: 22 Aug 11 - 01:45 PM

I'll stick with my Mac.

Over 3 years old, still moves like greased weasel pooh and runs XP in a virtual machine faster than my PC at work.

Laptop, 4 Gb RAM, twin core processor, 500 Gb, 256 Mb video memory - new fully functioning operating system (unlike Microsoft Windows that disables software, even if your computer has the hardware) that cost me £21.00 (retail) instead of a couple of hundred.

Few if any bugs, few if any viruses. It's a no-brainer. Expensive, yes - but you get what you pay for and it WORKS.

Go Mac!


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