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Topic # 157660 8-Dec-2014 20:50
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Hi there

I'm looking for some advice as to what to do with my increasingly unreliable Windows XP Pentium 2.6gHz 2GB RAM PC 600GB HDD (60% used).  Problems are that wireless connection drops regularly (and has done for a number of years in a variety of different locations and modem setups so it's a PC problem) and that current version of Chrome soaks up a lot of the processing power and freezes if I go away and leave things running.

Main uses are internet browsing, mtorrent, some CD ripping using EAC and MP3Tag, playing bridge online, Calibre for ebooks management, word processing and Excel, Skyping family in Australia, some watching media.  I don't do gaming.

I also use a Nexus 7 tablet (older version) and a Minix x7 android box hooked to my TV as a TV replacement using XBMC.

PC is currently in the study and I get grief from my wife because she likes me to sit in the same room as her for an evening - so something portable that I can use on the living room but also hook up back into my current screen and keyboard in the study feels like a good idea.

Options I have considered are -

1. Upgrading current PC OS to 
    a. Windows 7
    b. Linux
    c. another form of Windows (maybe wait for the expected Windows 10? - but will the hardware still cut it?)

2. Replacing current PC with a small form factor PC and moving to appropriate OS

3. Buying a cheapish laptop to use as a desktop replacement with larger monitor in the study and on my knee in the living room (no need to use it away from home really)

4. Some sort of Android tablet that can also be connected to large monitor and keyboard as a desktop replacement but also used as a tablet elsewhere - implies that it will have HDMI port and a decent number of USB ports. Haven't actually found anything suitable yet after a quick look online.

So any advice about any of these options and suitable hardware, or any other bright ideas you have would be appreciated.  Budget less than $1k as a guideline.

Thanks for any suggestions and ask questions if you need more info before suggesting something


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  Reply # 1191817 8-Dec-2014 21:19
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How old is it? You haven't said. Sounds like it's ready to be chucked.

I use a desktop PC then a phone for Skype, though my wife uses her laptop. I'm not a big laptop fan, they're more expensive for the same power, and you need more desk space than a floor mounted PC.

For you I'd go 2 or 3 depending on your preferences.

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  Reply # 1191829 8-Dec-2014 21:27
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Both problems you mention are probably not the PC but what is added to it which can be easily replaced. I would try these first before looking at a replacement or adding a portable.


  • Wireless problem will probably be related to the wireless card not the PC itself. Replacement cards are cheap.
  • Chrome problem could be because it uses a lot more memory as you open more tabs. Rather than having many tabs running in one process, Chrome runs many processes for the tabs. I prefer Firefox because I can load a lot more tabs.
1a. Windows 7 runs fine in 2GB but it will load your PC more than XP. On the other hand it has much better integration of newer features to improve security and integration (e.g. wireless) so it will be much better to use. If memory can be upgraded to more than 2GB then that would be worthwhile assuming there is no basic fault with the PC.
1b. Linux would be fine for this if you really want to ditch Windows but I'd try fixing the problems first before making that decision. Driver issues and wireless problems could leave your worse off in the short term.
1c. Moving to Windows 8 or higher won't really help as your hardware is probably too old to support key features and it may not even upgrade to Windows 8 anyway.

$1k will buy a new laptop with OK specs. You could buy a very usable second-hand laptop for a third to half of that. A docking station is worth having too if you want to use the existing keyboard, mouse and monitor. I spent $350 last time I bought an ex-corporate laptop and docking station.


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  Reply # 1191830 8-Dec-2014 21:27
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I reckon you won't go past a laptop for what you describe. Desktops are all but obsolete for but a few specific purposes. If you really need a bigger screen that can be easily accommodated.

Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, then always be the Batman


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  Reply # 1191832 8-Dec-2014 21:33
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You could try making chrome plugins an optional run to save processor & vm etc: Settings > Advanced > Plugin's > Click to play. Main thing that helps with is flash issues. After that plugins can be run optionally or enabled for a page from the url bar. If it is your online bridge window doing the damage - this might not help ; ).

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  Reply # 1191840 8-Dec-2014 22:07
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I agree with the poster above:

Install Windows 7 on it firstly and see how that goes.  If that doesn't work, you could try some variant of Linux, but seeing as you mention a few things like Word Processing and Skype, if you want it to "just work" without causing fits of rage, I'd suggest NOT trying Linux.

If that doesn't work, you'd be able to get a decent laptop with Windows 8.1 (then install Classic Shell to make it less terrible, it's a free Start Button replacement) for under $1k.


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  Reply # 1191867 8-Dec-2014 22:58
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How much would the cheapest Windows 7 cost?  What percentage of the price of a new system would that be?  I'm not saying don't do the OS upgrade, but I would absolutely do a comparison.   You can still get new Win7 systems, but 8.1 is not so bad IMO.

If you decide to at least look into a laptop, TradeMe has useful filters.

Trevor Dennis
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  Reply # 1191881 9-Dec-2014 00:30
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I've brought from here before as have a few others I know.


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  Reply # 1191884 9-Dec-2014 00:44

Your requirements/needs pretty much describe a laptop.

You can get some quite reasonable laptop hardware for $1000 and there should be some good sale prices around this time of year (especially after xmas).

A laptop would come with Windows (8.1 now) installed already.

However, if you don't game then Linux is also an option...

  - internet browsing- Yes
  - mtorrent (utorrent-mutorrent?)- don't think so.. but alternatives exist.
  - some CD ripping using EAC and MP3Tag- Yes
  - playing bridge online- Assume this is browser based- so yes
  - Calibre for ebooks management- Yes, Linus Version (Awesome piece of software btw)
  - word processing and Excel- Excel isn't available for Linux. But free alternatives to Microsoft Office exist with a fair amount of compatibility.
  - Skype for linux- yes
  - Media players- Yes (lots)

Of course, there is a fair learning curve in swapping to Linux. Linux Mint would not be a bad option.

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  Reply # 1191886 9-Dec-2014 01:00
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Don't consider any option that involves keeping the old XP machine - Windows 7, more RAM, faster disk, whatever, it will still be a old XP machine.  

Spend some money:


  • Win7 or 8, 64 bit
  • 12 or 16G RAM
  • 1 Tb drive
  • 4790 or better processor
I've just been through a similar exercise and have just had my first day of not spending 15 minutes out of every hour sitting and staring and waiting for the hourglass to turn back into a cursor.

It was magic.  You get what you pay for.


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  Reply # 1191916 9-Dec-2014 08:17
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I'd put Linux Mint 17.1 on the old PC. If runs faster on the same hardware than Windows XP and its free. You'll be surprised how much better it will run. Linux Mint looks very similar to XP. It comes with plenty of free software, including office software. It is probably the most user friendly version of Linux for a windows user.

You may have to open a terminal and type commands if you have some unusual hardware to install, but typically, you won't have to: if you give it an Ethernet connection to the internet during the install it will download and install most drivers required.

Give it a try, you won't regret it and your old PC will have some new life.

You can even run some windows programs on it using PlayOnLinux or Wine.


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  Reply # 1191933 9-Dec-2014 08:49
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I threw a SSD into an old PC (Core 2 Duo) and wow, what a difference it made... but if you can afford it, spend a few $$ and get a new system. You dont need to spend lots these days.

I recently upgraded my old PC to a "budget" build box (was $700) which gave me more modern tech and upgrade paths further down the track. Compared to my friends PC's, my new one is a dog, but it does what I want very well and was at the right price :)

What I purchased etc is here

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  Reply # 1191959 9-Dec-2014 09:26
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rossmcm: Don't consider any option that involves keeping the old XP machine - Windows 7, more RAM, faster disk, whatever, it will still be a old XP machine. ...

+1  If it's old enough to be running XP, and it's starting to die, don't waste any money on it.


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  Reply # 1191974 9-Dec-2014 09:58
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  Reply # 1191980 9-Dec-2014 10:08
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Life and old age have taught me that most people don’t feel comfortable in other people’s clothes. Everyone has their own quirks and preferences and these rarely have much to do with what is ‘best’ or ‘most efficient’ or ‘trendy’ or whatever the experts recommend. Here is what works very well for me. It might also work for you, or maybe not, but it fits me very comfortably:



Long ago I decided that two computers are much better than one. Actually, I have more than two, but two are enough. One computer, an old desktop, still runs XP and it works very well. Another has Vista and Win7 on it in a dual-boot set-up. I use Vista for video editing and Win7 for video downloading. The advantage of this is that it splits up functions that have very different requirements which allows each installation to be optimised for its main task. The Internet machine on XP is just used for browsing and email. It is protected with a firewall and anti-virus, but if it gets hacked or compromised that is no big deal. There is nothing critical on it and it can easily be restored from an uncorrupted backup. This is the advantage of separating functions.



I have never bought a new machine. That is like buying a new car; the instant you take possession it loses most of its value. Again, this is a matter of preference but I have had good luck with old (but not too old) boxes from Trade Me. That can also be a way of getting a free OS upgrade at the same time. The comment about avoiding Linux if you want a stress-free life is good advice, but this also applies to Windows, which has a terrible record of ruining things that used to work fine every time it releases a new OS version. Usually it takes them at least two upgrades to iron out the worst idiocies. I would never buy a new computer because that means I get stuck with a new Windows version and all the misery that entails. Right now both Vista and Win7 work well. 8 is to be avoided like the plague. With a track record like Microsoft’s, why would anyone want to be an early adopter of 10 or any other new version?



Naturally your choices also depend on your needs. If you are into serious on-line gaming, my preferences won’t work for you. However, I don’t need high-speed graphics performance so I have all my computers on an old flat screen TV via VGA and a KVM switch. Works like a charm.



Of course not everyone will agree with these views. This is just my opinion but it comes from my experience. If you are not already an expert or technical hobbyist, play it safe and stick with what has been shown to work well.



I reject your reality and substitute my own. - Adam Savage


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  Reply # 1192079 9-Dec-2014 12:14
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Rikitic, you need to qualify some of your statements iMO.   For instance, what application do you use for video editing, and what codec are you editing with it?  If Premiere Pro, then straight away you need a high end system, and if a highly compressed codec like H.264 or AVCHD, then you also need multiple drives at least one of which needs to be fast.  You also need a robust backup strategy because hundreds of hours can go into a video project, and you _really_ don't want to lose your data.

You also mentioned ironing the bugs out of a new OS.  That holds true with new versions of OSX.  Mavericks was problematic with Adobe apps for a long time, and Yosemite still has issues with Adobe apps.  I don't use OSX, so my experience only comes from the Adobe forums where I used to spend too many hours a day.  On the other hand, you can still buy new hardware with Win7, and even Win8.1 is getting long in the tooth.  I believe Win10 is still a year away, so not worth worrying about.

If the OP has the cheap as a chips Photoshop/Lightroom Photographers subscription, then he would also benefit from a half decent graphics card.  Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects make good use of GPU acceleration.   They also use all the cores, and sometimes most of the threads available to it.

So if thinking about a laptop and into photography, I strongly suggest looking at gaming systems, because they work really well with graphics heavy applications, and economy of scale means you get a lot of bang for your buck.  I bought an MSI GT70 from Just Laptops via TradeMe last year, and it runs all of the Adobe apps surprisingly well for a laptop.  (I have a full CC subscription)  It has two SSDs in a raid0 for the boot drive ( a lot of gaming laptops do this) and cold boots in less than 30 seconds; opens Photoshop CC in five seconds from cold, and two seconds there after.  It opens small apps like Powerpoint instantly.

The beauty of desktops is their modular build means you can add to them as you can afford to.   I also run a desktop with 3930K @ 4Ghz, 32Gb RAM, GTX570 in a Storm Trooper tower. It started with a single SSD boot drive, and several HDDs, but I was unable to run Premiere Pro with DSLR H.264 footage because the HHD drives could not keep up.  It has changed in that time, and now has a pair of Samsung 256PRO SSDs in a raid0 for the boot drive, plus two other raid0 and other internal and external drives totaling 24Tb.  Shadow Protect looks after backups, and has saved me lost twice now.  It makes incremental backups every 15 minutes, and you can mount a backup at any point, and be up and running in five minutes.  Same applies to failed boot drive.

So that's my two cents worth.  Even if not a heavy user, you'll find a relatively cheap new box an absolute joy to use after the old box. 

I mentioned the TradeMe filters back up the thread.  They help you narrow down your search and research, and so long as you check a seller's Feedback, I think it is safe to buy that way.  Remember though, that Consumer Law (which changed this year) does not help you with items sourced off-shore.

Trevor Dennis
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