The Last Upgrade

Our main desktop PC is an old timer. We got it in 2012 when it was time to replace an aging Dell that ran Windows XP.

Even in 2012 the mini-tower Acer Veriton M we got was a year or so behind the times. But thanks to upgrades over the years it is still performing well.

It’s a business grade unit – the two items you would never upgrade (processor and motherboard) are very solid. The motherboard is an Intel Q67 model with plenty of useful features and opportunities for expansion. The Sandy Bridge i5 processor was one of Intel’s best when new and still is plenty good enough for most tasks. Intel is now on its 9th generation of Core desktop processors – Sandy Bridge was the second – but in recent years the company has concentrated more on mobility and energy efficiency than on raw performance. The i5-2320 in our desktop is a bit power hungry but it still does the job.

In other areas technology has steadily made the old PC obsolescent. However a lot of this loss in power can be made up by upgrades, rather than buying a new system. That is what I have tried to do. Some upgrades that I have made to keep an old computer fresh include:

  • Power Supply – the original power supply was fine for office tasks, but more power was needed to add in a video card to run my train sims. Fortunately, the connections to the motherboard were the standard ATX variety so I was able to drop in a more powerful unit.
  • Memory – The original machine came with 4 GB of RAM and I have upgraded to 16GB. That is probably overkill, but you need close to 8 GB for a good experience these days. The older machine uses DDR3 RAM which is slower but still OK.
  • Solid State Drive – I added one of these and it made a huge difference in performance. Now I have the operating system and programs on the SSD and I use the original hard drive for data files only.
  • Video Card – this was an early upgrade along with the Power supply, so I could run Train Simulator properly. Graphics cards age more quickly than any other pieces of hardware, so I’m upgrading again. More below.

2018 was a horrendous year to upgrade a graphics card. Cryptocurrency mania was rampant, and Bitcoin miners bought hundreds of cards to set them up in mining farms. The result was short supply and very high prices, even for the modest cards.

That problem has abated with the drop in Bitcoin pricing. The chipmakers have also started to bring out the next version of graphics card, which means the older cards are starting to drop in price.

With my older system and my interest in older train sim games, I don’t need the latest or most powerful graphics card. So recently I got a good deal on an MSI GTX1060.

I have installed this card in my aging desktop and it runs my simulation games smoothly and at higher graphics quality.

There is an additional benefit. The desktop had been starting up with quite a bit of rattle and hum lately, and the source of the noise was the cooling fan on the previous graphics card. The fans on these cards run full blast when the computer boots up, and slow down as it gets warmed up. A noisy fan can also be a sign it is about to fail – not a good thing.

With the new card in place, the computer started up silently – blissfully quiet performance.

So there you have it. With any luck, this upgrade will keep my older PC running for a few years longer. And given its age, this will be the final upgrade to a well-used and well loved system.

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