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Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 12:03:59 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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I'm in the market for a new computer. It's been a long time since I have been computer shopping and I'm just about lost in all this talk of dual and quad processors. What is good, what is bad? What I want is a machine that will handle graphics better than an old Pentium IV 2.6 ghz single processor which I now have.

Basically the programs I use most which may be processor intensive are War in the Pacific, Civilization III & IV, Poser 7 and Bryce 5.5. The machine I have now runs them but it takes its good old time sometimes.

I prefer not to spend over $700-800.

Can anyone recommend some good machines, processors, etc considering my budget and my needs?

Many thanks.



< Message edited by Gary Childress -- 6/10/2008 12:04:43 AM >


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 1:28:29 AM   
tc464

 

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What I have told my friends in the past is to go to a store, find what you want, write down the specs, then go shop on tigerdirect.com   and watch their deals. I bought a dual core with a 160GB drive, 2 GB RAM, DVD writer, etc for about $400, then moved my 2 other hard drives over to it.

Works just fine with WITP and Civ IV.


< Message edited by tc464 -- 6/10/2008 1:29:34 AM >

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 1:29:13 AM   
Gem35


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It depends alot on if you will build this yourself or buy a shelf-bought PC?


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 1:30:08 AM   
06 Maestro


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PC's in that price range tend to have integrated graphics and low L2 memory-which can work for WitP, but is not ideal. If you can raise that by 3 to 4 hundred it would really open up the door to some decent machines.
The other possibility is to have someone build one for you and get you the required software and system cheap.
A good start is to check out some reviews at places like CNET.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 1:40:18 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35

It depends alot on if you will build this yourself or buy a shelf-bought PC?



It will probably be a shelf bought PC. I had heard of a place in my area where you can build your own PC under the supervision of experts at the shop. I guess I could look into that if it is any cheaper. Not sure if they still offer the service or not.

@ 06 Maestro: I was afraid that was going to be the case. What about buying a relatively low end machine and placing a good graphics card in it? I really hesitate to go over $800. Just don't have the money right now.

Thanks for the tip tc464. I'll check out tigerdirect.com.

PS. Thanks for the replies everyone.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 1:43:26 AM   
Gem35


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If you build yourself, you can have a very nice top-end workhorse PC for under $500 assuming you can purge your hard drive, dvd burner and case from your current machine.
Those items would cost in the neighborhood of $150-$200
So...
If you went the DiY route, you could get a cpu for $120
Motherboard for $100, a set of 2GB or 4GB RAM for $100
and a power supply for another $80-$100.
I can give you linkage to the hardware if you like, but all of this is moot if you want pre-built or shelf-bought.
You can get a decent one from Dell in that price range you listed in your original post.
You can buy memory upgrades from them or buy your own set and do it yourself.
It's not that hard to install memory.
I can help you if you like, I build PCs all the time.
It's my hobby other than WitP .

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 1:53:57 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35

If you build yourself, you can have a very nice top-end workhorse PC for under $500 assuming you can purge your hard drive, dvd burner and case from your current machine.
Those items would cost in the neighborhood of $150-$200
So...
If you went the DiY route, you could get a cpu for $120
Motherboard for $100, a set of 2GB or 4GB RAM for $100
and a power supply for another $80-$100.
I can give you linkage to the hardware if you like, but all of this is moot if you want pre-built or shelf-bought.
You can get a decent one from Dell in that price range you listed in your original post.
You can buy memory upgrades from them or buy your own set and do it yourself.
It's not that hard to install memory.
I can help you if you like, I build PCs all the time.
It's my hobby other than WitP .


Hey thanks Gem35! I may take you up on your offer! Unfortunately I'm handing down my old computer for my folks to use. So I won't be able to salvage anything from the old PC. I'll basically need to get everything if I build it myself. But if I can do it cheaper that way then I'm game. I've "built" bare bones systems before, never messed with a motherboard though. I mean if I could get some local computer shop to even help me just with the motherboard and the component selection, I would be set.

What I don't understand is why a low end dual processor is apparently not any better than my old single processor machine? At least that's what a guy at Dell told me over the phone. I mean, the programs do function on my old machine. They just don't run very fast. I would just think a new dual machine today should out process any old machine. Of course that's just my computer naive logic.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 2:04:11 AM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress


quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35

If you build yourself, you can have a very nice top-end workhorse PC for under $500 assuming you can purge your hard drive, dvd burner and case from your current machine.
Those items would cost in the neighborhood of $150-$200
So...
If you went the DiY route, you could get a cpu for $120
Motherboard for $100, a set of 2GB or 4GB RAM for $100
and a power supply for another $80-$100.
I can give you linkage to the hardware if you like, but all of this is moot if you want pre-built or shelf-bought.
You can get a decent one from Dell in that price range you listed in your original post.
You can buy memory upgrades from them or buy your own set and do it yourself.
It's not that hard to install memory.
I can help you if you like, I build PCs all the time.
It's my hobby other than WitP .


Hey thanks Gem35! I may take you up on your offer! Unfortunately I'm handing down my old computer for my folks to use. So I won't be able to salvage anything from the old PC. I'll basically need to get everything if I build it myself. But if I can do it cheaper that way then I'm game. I've "built" bare bones systems before, never messed with a motherboard though. I mean if I could get some local computer shop to even help me just with the motherboard and the component selection, I would be set.

What I don't understand is why a low end dual processor is apparently not any better than my old single processor machine? At least that's what a guy at Dell told me over the phone. I mean, the programs do function on my old machine. They just don't run very fast. I would just think a new dual machine today should out process any old machine. Of course that's just my computer naive logic.

That guy at Dell has no clue what he is talking about.
ANY low-end dual core processor will blow the lid off of any top end single core processor, and I am not exaggerating.
The amount of processes that go through the "pipeline" in today's dual -core cpu's is astounding.
You can use a simple program that is free to all to see for yourself.

super/multi Pi
I used to have a 1.3 ghz cpu and 1GB Ram that would finish a 1 m super pi test in about 70 seconds, my current dual core 2.4 ghz PC can do that same test in 21 seconds.
Overclocked to 3 ghz it can do the test in under 15 seconds.

This test is just an easy way in laymans terms for you folks to understand. There is quite a bit going on in today's newer faster PCs.
The way a CPU accesses RAM in todays machines is amazing, quad core do evern better, especially in the multi-tasking environment or video editing/graphics.




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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 2:13:20 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35

That guy at Dell has no clue what he is talking about.
ANY low-end dual core processor will blow the lid off of any top end single core processor, and I am not exaggerating.
The amount of processes that go through the "pipeline" in today's dual -core cpu's is astounding.
You can use a simple program that is free to all to see for yourself.

super/multi Pi
I used to have a 1.3 ghz cpu and 1GB Ram that would finish a 1 m super pi test in about 70 seconds, my current dual core 2.4 ghz PC can do that same test in 21 seconds.
Overclocked to 3 ghz it can do the test in under 15 seconds.

This test is just an easy way in laymans terms for you folks to understand. There is quite a bit going on in today's newer faster PCs.
The way a CPU accesses RAM in todays machines is amazing, quad core do evern better, especially in the multi-tasking environment or video editing/graphics.



That's why I chose to consult people here. I'm a little leary of Dell. My current machine is a Dell and it just seems like too much of it is proprietary. For instance I went to the PC store a few years ago during a super sale, shopping for RAM. Found out from the people there that I can only use special RAM produced by Dell. I probably paid twice as much for the Dell RAM as I could have gotten from the PC store. Ticked me off at the time. Granted my Dell has been pretty reliable.

I'm going to give that testing software a try.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 2:21:24 AM   
ird

 

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Dell are over priced and their "specialists" are a bit lacking in knowledge. I bought a desktop last year from a company in the UK which makes computers to the spec you want. Not sure if they ship to the states but might be worth a try. I think the website is www.pcspecialist.co.uk. You should be able to put a decent package together within your price range

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 2:43:38 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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Calculating the 1M took 64 seconds with my current PC.

So you say your dual core can do the same calculation in about 1/3 the time? Is it a high end dual core or is it low end or middle? So if I purchased a medium to low end dual core you think it should still represent a vast improvement over my current single processor?

I'm going to give my local PC shop a call tomorrow and see if they will offer assistance in building my own PC.

Thanks for all the advice everyone! Somehow taking advice from a Dell computer salesman just didn't seem very prudent.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 3:04:57 AM   
Joram

 

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I like Dells but they tend to be a bit pricey for what you get.  But I've never had any performance issues with mine.  These days I tend to build my own and I built a very nice computer for ~$800 but if you want off the shelf, I was surprised to see that HP tended to offer the most bang for the buck.  Helped my friend get one for ~$500 that suited his needs (audio, photo editing, web surfing).  I'm sure you can find something a bit more powerful in your price range without even using an integrated graphics chip though should probably plan on integrated sound.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 3:06:43 AM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress

Calculating the 1M took 64 seconds with my current PC.

So you say your dual core can do the same calculation in about 1/3 the time? Is it a high end dual core or is it low end or middle? So if I purchased a medium to low end dual core you think it should still represent a vast improvement over my current single processor?

I'm going to give my local PC shop a call tomorrow and see if they will offer assistance in building my own PC.

Thanks for all the advice everyone! Somehow taking advice from a Dell computer salesman just didn't seem very prudent.

Mine is a middle of the road, I'll provide some links for you.
You can use after-market RAM such as Crucial RAM in a DELL PC. I upgraded my Mother's dimension desktop with some of the nice RAM from Crucial. But remember that Dell is a business and if they can sway you to buy their stuff, then they were trained well(not saying that it is good to "lie" to people)

I'll link low-end, middle and top -end CPUs from Intel( they are better and a little faster than AMD)
low-end dual core cpus These are plenty fast and will do ANYTHING you need them to do according to your OP
mid-end dual core cpus
top-end dual core cpus
quad core cpus

Notice the quads are very similar in price to the dual cores. The multiple core cpus are for multi-tasking, they will not play games faster per se than if they had a single core(newer games are beginning to take advantage of muli-core cpus), but as I explained earlier in the super pi thread, since single cores are obsolete and can't utilize today's newer and faster bus speeds, dual core and quad core cpus trump them.

You cannot go by pure gigahertz speed, it is the memory latency and bus speeds/bandwidth that have improved communication fro the cpu and memory that make these newer dual core and quad core cpus faster, even if they have a "lower" gigahertz speed to your current single core cpu.

One thing to note on all of these cpus I listed:
They are all very overclockable meaning you can force your motherboard to run them at higher front side bus frequencies to increase performance.
It's kinda like adding more horsepower to an automobile.

I will caution that anyone who does not understand how to overclock runs the risk of destroying their hardware.
The main idea behind overclocking is to get more bang for your buck so to speak.
Buy a $100 cpu and clock it up to a $300 cpu and so on.

Being that any of these cpus I listed will perform very very well using today's applications, it is not needed to overclock them.
I do so for my own fun, I have been doing this for years and understand what I am doing.
As I said, if you don't really know, I would really urge you not to think about it, it is just an example used to help explain things a little easier.

Hope I made sense.


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 3:10:08 AM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress

Calculating the 1M took 64 seconds with my current PC.

So you say your dual core can do the same calculation in about 1/3 the time? Is it a high end dual core or is it low end or middle? So if I purchased a medium to low end dual core you think it should still represent a vast improvement over my current single processor?

I'm going to give my local PC shop a call tomorrow and see if they will offer assistance in building my own PC.

Thanks for all the advice everyone! Somehow taking advice from a Dell computer salesman just didn't seem very prudent.

This is my current cpu.
I have clocked it as high as 3.5 ghz but run it at its stock speed 24/7
Iirc my fastest super pi run was 12 seconds.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 3:44:10 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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So if I understand correctly, a quad or duo core may not on it's own increase processing speed but rather it's ability to utilize the newer, faster FSB gives it an advantage over single CPUs which cannot utilize the faster FSB? So in other words, older single CPUs were in a sense underutilized because they were restricted by FSB speed?

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 3:56:06 AM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress

So if I understand correctly, a quad or duo core may not on it's own increase processing speed but rather it's ability to utilize the newer, faster FSB gives it an advantage over single CPUs which cannot utilize the faster FSB? So in other words, older single CPUs were in a sense underutilized because they were restricted by FSB speed?

Sort of,
newer cpus have a smaller die size that can allow more transistors in return allow for more mathimatical computations, older cpus have a larger die size. for instance 130n to todays 65n.
Memory latency is also lowered( lower = fatser) in the RAM on the market today.
faster RAM speed means increased performance. think of memory bandwidth as a highway, more traffice can travel on a 4-lane highway than a 2-lane highway.
DDR SDRAM was the standard and now we have DDR-2 and DDR-3 SDRAM
think of it like a highway, ddr has 2 lanes while DDR2 and 3 double and triple the amount of traffic lanes so more information can be transferred in a simple similar way so to speak.
Intel still uses a front side bus while AMD has an on-die memory controller.
These are two ways in which the cpu "accesses" the memory or RAM in a PC.
Here is a overclocking wiki that can explain the basics of what makes a PC "tick"


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 9:22:04 AM   
06 Maestro


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Gem35

Is the operating system included in the estimated price of 700? I suppose that basic utilities are not a problem any more ( I finally tried Sun's free programs-not bad).
It's been a couple of years since I seriously considered building my own PC. The cost of required and desired software cooled my heels.


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 11:21:36 AM   
Zakhal


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress

That's why I chose to consult people here. I'm a little leary of Dell. My current machine is a Dell and it just seems like too much of it is proprietary. For instance I went to the PC store a few years ago during a super sale, shopping for RAM. Found out from the people there that I can only use special RAM produced by Dell. I probably paid twice as much for the Dell RAM as I could have gotten from the PC store. Ticked me off at the time. Granted my Dell has been pretty reliable.


You know thats how all the money is made. They sell all kinds of "special" products for "special" customers. In example graphics card makers have produced many "special edition" graphics card that were actually worse than the vanilla versions.

< Message edited by Zakhal -- 6/10/2008 11:23:11 AM >


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 6:20:13 PM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 06 Maestro

Gem35

Is the operating system included in the estimated price of 700? I suppose that basic utilities are not a problem any more ( I finally tried Sun's free programs-not bad).
It's been a couple of years since I seriously considered building my own PC. The cost of required and desired software cooled my heels.



No, I would assume one still has their liscensed CD-ROM.
A new OS such as Windows XP would cost an additional $100.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 8:02:06 PM   
Zakhal


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35
No, I would assume one still has their liscensed CD-ROM.
A new OS such as Windows XP would cost an additional $100.


You can buy new win xp for 50$ from ebay.


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 8:07:05 PM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Zakhal

quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35
No, I would assume one still has their liscensed CD-ROM.
A new OS such as Windows XP would cost an additional $100.


You can buy new win xp for 50$ from ebay.


It is not a smart idea to buy those on ebay.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 8:23:21 PM   
GaryChildress

 

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I have an original XP disk for a computer which is no longer any good. I wonder if I can use it on a different computer if it was installed on a computer to begin with.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 8:53:11 PM   
Zakhal


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35
It is not a smart idea to buy those on ebay.


I must disagree. They are just as good as the ones bought from stores - only cheaper. And paypal has automatic money paypack guarantee nowadays. As a buyer you cant loose. I have made over 20 purchaces from ebay just this spring and I have never had any problems.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress
I have an original XP disk for a computer which is no longer any good. I wonder if I can use it on a different computer if it was installed on a computer to begin with.


If its an oem-version then technically no. You need to buy a new OS.

< Message edited by Zakhal -- 6/10/2008 9:06:48 PM >


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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 10:45:12 PM   
GaryChildress

 

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How do I tell if it's an OEM version? I bought it off the shelf. It didn't come with any computer. It's an upgrade version.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/10/2008 11:01:53 PM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Zakhal

quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35
It is not a smart idea to buy those on ebay.


I must disagree. They are just as good as the ones bought from stores - only cheaper. And paypal has automatic money paypack guarantee nowadays. As a buyer you cant loose. I have made over 20 purchaces from ebay just this spring and I have never had any problems.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress
I have an original XP disk for a computer which is no longer any good. I wonder if I can use it on a different computer if it was installed on a computer to begin with.


If its an oem-version then technically no. You need to buy a new OS.

Now wait a second here, You can disagree all you want but ask officials at ebay if it's legal to do so.
eBay tries to monitor pirated software but they can't stop everyone.
Secondly if you have a genuine windows xp disc you are free to use that as long as you install it on one computer, oem or not.
Gary, you may use that disk in your future build if you so choose.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/11/2008 2:33:58 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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Will XP work with the latest processors, etc? Or do I need to upgrade to Vista in order to take advantages of the latest technologies?

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/11/2008 2:36:46 AM   
Gem35


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gary Childress

Will XP work with the latest processors, etc? Or do I need to upgrade to Vista in order to take advantages of the latest technologies?

Xp works great, I am running that OS and will continue to do so.
I would like to add that in my previous post concerning your old XP disc, as long as you have the authentification code(it might be on a sticker on the back of your old PC) you are free to use it on any upgrades and builds you have.
Good luck to you Gary and if I can be any help, don't hesitate to ask, Sir.

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/11/2008 2:45:54 AM   
GaryChildress

 

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Awesome! Thanks Gem35! You've been a great help!

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RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/11/2008 3:03:24 AM   
06 Maestro


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35


I would like to add that in my previous post concerning your old XP disc, as long as you have the authentification code(it might be on a sticker on the back of your old PC) you are free to use it on any upgrades and builds you have.



I was not aware of that-I thought it was legally tied to the OEM equipment.
I happen to have an old unit that needs a total overhaul. I wonder how well Win98 or Mellinium would work with a modern processor and MB?

(in reply to Gem35)
Post #: 29
RE: Need Computer Advice - 6/11/2008 3:22:22 AM   
Gem35


Posts: 3420
Joined: 9/12/2004
From: Dallas, Texas
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: 06 Maestro


quote:

ORIGINAL: Gem35


I would like to add that in my previous post concerning your old XP disc, as long as you have the authentification code(it might be on a sticker on the back of your old PC) you are free to use it on any upgrades and builds you have.



I was not aware of that-I thought it was legally tied to the OEM equipment.
I happen to have an old unit that needs a total overhaul. I wonder how well Win98 or Mellinium would work with a modern processor and MB?

You are allowed to use that OS as long as it was purchased "on the level"
I would not personally use anything other than a version of Windows XP, especially if you are building or re-building.
Good for those who have Windows Vista 64-bit version working properly.
Anything other than 64 bit Vista is , I will lightly put it, dumb.
32 bit Vista is Xp in a Halloween costume.

_____________________________

It doesn't make any sense, Admiral. Were we better than the Japanese or just luckier?


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(in reply to 06 Maestro)
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