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Need a new PC? Make do and mend.

A couple of weeks ago a friend called me, worried that after clicking on a link in an email seemingly via Facebook from a friend she knew,  "some virus thing came up" and the PC was now really slow.

I took a look, expecting the worst. AVG was installed and had half a dozen suspects in the virus vault, but there was no other evidence of infection. No weird processes running. But it was really slow.

So - when all else fails - back up the useful stuff and re-install Windows. Repartioning, reformatting and re-installing isn't exactly fun, but if you have all the drivers to hand you can sort it in a couple of hours - and it takes that long with all the updates afterwards.

Trouble was - after all that it was still really, really slow. I was staring at the Windows XP thing for minutes on end while it booted. At this point I began to suspect the hardware.

Toshiba laptops come with a simple diagnostic tool - everything passed except the hard disk. I decided I wanted a second opinion and it was then I stumbled across the Hitachi drive fitness tool. You create a bootable CD (which runs PC DOS) and then use a simple testing tool to work out if your drive is faulty. And this one was faulty. It failed.

I ordered a new and faster hard disk (37 pounds) from and for good measure an extra 512Mb RAM (9 pounds). Fitting both just involved removing a couple of panels under the machine. Then the windows install thing again.

The end result is a machine twice the speed (seemingly).

This got me thinking. In these credit crunch times how many people out there could save money by not buying a new computer and instead fix up an existing machine to perform better. Besides - buy a new PC and you might end up with Vista.

Speed up your PC

I'll put up some performance tweaking posts in coming weeks - but tip number one - if you have less than 1Gb of RAM and your PC seems to be accessing the disk a lot, look at putting more RAM in your machine. RAM is the single most cost-effective upgrade for a Windows PC. The difference can be staggering. Also applies to Macs if you do music and video - I've just ordered 4Gb for a Macbook Pro for about 40 quid. for example, have a handy tool and lots of advice to help you identify what to order.



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