I was asked to upgrade an old
computer the other day. It's running Windows XP and based on
a processor that's already been fitted in place of a much earlier
Because of manufacturers' fear of buyers drying up they change
things progressively over the years so that hardware upgrades
are not too straightforward.
Using the original case meant changing the power supply. Why?
Because there was only a single SATA power plug, and that was
plugged into an old 4-pin connector. The motherboard power plug
was too short although you don't necessarily need all the connections.
The RAM was a couple of sticks of recent looking manufacture
but now two generations older than current RAM.
The motherboard had a newish processor connector but that too
was two generations out of date and despite the fact it had a
couple of SATA connectors it was too dated to re-use.
The graphics card had a rather tatty fan that looked on it's
last legs and so that was ditched also.
What about the rest of the computer? The DVD rewriter had an
IDE connector so that was no good. The card reader was OK because
that was fitted with a USB lead and probably fast enough for
purpose. The hard drive looked new but was dated 2006 so would
be getting close to end of life.
So, recapping, I needed to order a new motherboard, new processor,
new RAM, new power supply, new DVD, new hard drive and to make
the most of latest values, a new solid state hard drive.
Now the task of ensuring everything would plug together without
First the processor: the i5 is currently best value, at least
for Intel products so that was the choice. The model I chose
was the i5-6400 which fits an 1151 socket. Next the motherboard:
the newest chipsets include the B150 and I selected an Asrock
B150M-HDV. There's a cheaper version but I needed more SATA sockets
and extra USB connectors, plus built-in graphics with both VGA
and DVI sockets. I forgot to mention its physical size
it's a micro-ATA to fit the old case. It also claims to have
reliable capacitors. These are the items that usually fail and
result in freezing and dodgy operation, but that's another story.
Next the RAM: I selected a pair of 8G sticks listed in the motherboard's
preferred types. These are Kingston PC4-17000 DDR4 CL15 288 PIN
non ECC 1.2V TYPES.
Quite a mouthful, but nothing's worse than failure to boot up
a new machine or finding the RAM doesn't fit the motherboard
Next, an SSD: I chose a Mushkin 256GB at £48. The data
hard drive was a 1TB SA36 with a 64MB cache which is an old design
running at 7,200rpm and should be reliable enough.
The power supply is just a bog standard type although to keep
it cool and unstressed I chose for a couple of pounds extra a
"silent" type rated at 650W, which means it has a large
fan. Goodness knows what the 650W rating really means.. maybe
one day I'll do some bench tests and find out
The DVD is a bog standard type which are ridiculously cheap and
I needed a built-in wireless card so I chose one with twin aerials
and good for "300MBPS".
The next day all the new parts arrived
and I removed the parts from the old case. I needed to move the
brass pegs around but the new motherboard fitted fine. In fact
it was a third smaller than the old micro-ATA one. Clearly "micro"
is a bit vague.
The processor fitted correctly as did the RAM but there was a
problem with the hard drives. The old case didn't have a 3.5"
tray. The old drive was screwed to the front metal panel so after
some thought I fitted the new 1T drive in its place. The old
drive, carrying old data was fitted under the new DVD in a 5.25"
mounting location and the new SSD screwed to the metal front
panel using two correctly spaced holes. Of course these operations
meant detaching the plastic front cover. This turned out to be
useful anyway because I was able to see where the "system"
wires connected, and I also found the two USB sockets at the
bottom of the metal front panel were very wobbly because their
soldering was badly cracked.
A note of caution at this point. In
the past I discovered that plugging in a card reader before the
operating system is installed can often result in a new system
being installed on "Drive H" rather than Drive C. Also,
plugging in a peripheral like the new wireless card might sometimes
result in a blue screen of death so these two items were initially
The new power supply connected up OK.
Note that it's vital to use the additional 4-pin (or sometimes
6-pin) lead which plugs into the motherboard close to the processor.
If you don't the thing won't boot up.
The system connections to the front
panel were straightforward.
Now software installation: It had been
planned to fit Windows 10. Currently this is available free of
charge if you have an activated version of Windows 7 or 8. Why
is this? Well Windows 8 had proved to be a fiasco. Not because
it wasn't a good system, but because it was too big a jump in
the graphics interface design for people used to Windows XP or
Windows 7. A modified version of Windows 8 had been introduced
but that went down like a lead balloon, hence the free offer
for Windows 10 from Microsoft. Maybe an attempt to pacify once
loyal supporters or maybe part of a hidden agenda?
I won't bore you with the steps to install
free Windows 10 on this new computer, but it was soon working
in the updated box. It was very fast, bearing in mind I used
an SSD for the operating system and used the custom install option
A word of advice here: During the tail
end of a normal upgrade (or is it an update?) an obvious box
appears on the right of the screen to use the EXPRESS installation.
Do not use this, but instead look for the less obvious CUSTOM
installation over on the left and switch off EVERY option that's
presented (I think the last count was 16 spread over 3 pages).
If you don't do this you may find your computer has a life of
its own and far from being a "Personal Computer" will
be a "Microsoft Computer" reluctant to obey key presses
and mouse buttons because it's too busy sticking to a Microsoft
agenda. That's what I found anyway
As long as your old operating system
was activated your new operating system will also get activated.
Not everything on your old system will work, but most things
will be OK. The anti-virus may not be compatible and finding
drivers for some peripherals may be difficult so you might need
a new printer.