Can a 6 year old computer be cheaply updated?

Published on Sunday, March 29, 2009 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing


I have downstairs an old Dell Dimension from 2003. It wasn’t state of the art, not even back then. It is running a Pentium IV running at 2.8Ghz.  My office machine, powered by a Core i7, is 15 times faster.  So the question is, is it possible to make this machine still useful today and if so, how much and how much work would it take?

One of the things I always hear in support forums or critics of the PC is how expensive it is upgrade hardware.  So let’s take a look. This is a 6 year old PC. What would it take to make it pretty decent?

Let’s start with memory upgrading.  I go to and learn that it’ll cost around $40 to upgrade its RAM to 2GB (it has 1GB already – which is how it came 6 years ago!).

Second, its ATI 9800 Pro might have been decent 6 years ago but it’s not really capable now.  Because it’s 6 years old, I’ll have to find an AGP card that’s decent.  The dirty little secret about game performance is that RAM matters the most. I will also need to get something that supports DirectX 10.1. Not because I will run Vista or something on this machine but because I know then it has the latest/greatest Pixel Shader support without having to do any real research.  So going over to NewEgg I find this. $76 AGP 4/8X.  I’m also looking at this one too.

I found video cards that were cheaper that could do DirectX 10 but the reviews mentioned driver issues and part of the point of this exercise is to put something together that’s cheap but also easy to do.  So we’re at about $120.

If all goes well, for $120 this PC will be just fine for a long time to come.

Stay tuned…