Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU

When my Windows 7 upgrade disc arrived in the mail last week, it triggered in me an urge to do a more extravagant upgrade to the machine I intended to install Win 7 on. (See, the Law of Unintended Consequences.) An urge that I had previously been able to suppress– even though I am a capital “G” geek.
(We here at T4E Headquarters use “geek” as a compliment.)

Intel dual core CPU on mobo I had long ago decided that I was going to install Windows 7 in the 64-bit version (my machine is not too old, and so it has the required 64-bit hardware) as my trials with the beta versions of 7 had been so stellar. 64-bit computing is officially here for us Average Folk, and it has many advantages. One of the nicest is the ability to “access” more RAM memory.
(I cannot think of a way to write this article w/o using some of those durnded Geek Acronyms; so, I will make them ‘click-able’ to the relevant Wikipedia page.)

So.. in celebration of Win7, I decided I would pack in as much RAM as my board would hold. (I wrote about that here, Windows 7 64-bit Adventures.) That gave me 8 Gigabytes and a certain amount of bragging rights.
(When I started computing, way back in the day, I honestly never dreamed I would one day have this much.. 64 Megabytes was ginormous! See, A trip back to the land of Mega.)

That went well, so.. I decided I would pull out my low end Intel dual core E2200 CPU and replace it with a quad core CPU of the higher end variety.
And I found a good price on an Intel Q9550. So..

CPU Replacement – First Things First

The first step in the process is to determine what kind of processor your machine has now.
Why? When you’re intending to replace it?
Because this will tell us the manufacturer (AMD, or Intel), and by inference it will tell us the the type of socket our computer’s motherboard has. Knowing those two things are vital for shopping for a replacement that will fit and work properly. There are scores of CPU’s to choose from, but only certain ones (or “families”) will work in certain sockets.

1) Right-click on “My Computer” (just “Computer” in Vista/Win7) and click on “Properties”.

A window will open which tells you your system’s basic information.


In this sample, we have just determined that the computer in question has an Intel processor (not AMD), and that it is a 2.4 GHz, of the type “Pentium 4“, which was a very common chip, and the last of the Intel single-processor (aka “core”) chips.
(As an experienced Tech, it also tells me that we [probably] have just stubbed our toe.. but, let’s play it through.)

2) Now that we know the make and model of our processor, we need to learn which type of socket it uses. You can use a search engine, or simply click on the “socket” hyperlink three paragraphs up, and consult the table on the Wikipedia page. (Let’s say we did that) Look for the CPU name and find the matching socket.

Most CPU’s only use one type of socket, and so our Step 1 task is now done, and we know what type of CPU to be shopping for.

But, here, we have a “problem”. On the table we can find “Pentium 4” in the table next to Socket 423, and Socket 478/Socket N, and LGA 775/Socket T.
Hmmm… eenie, meenie, miney, moe? In this instance, I would open the computer’s side panel, and look at the motherboard for large lettering that told me the make/model of the motherboard. Or I would look in the computer manufacture’s documentation (usually found online) for the motherboard type. Looking up the motherboard specifications will also tell you the socket.
(Sometimes, the speed [GHz] will provide a clue. Wikipedia’s tables on the P4 indicate that the 2.4’s used Socket 478)

Knowing the socket determines our CPU “upgrade path”.

In wrapping up for today, we are going to pretend that we have determined that our hypothetical machine has a Socket 775 version of Pentium 4.. because then it might be feasible and/or practical to upgrade the CPU, and we can proceed to Step 2.

Because if it were Socket 423 or 478? I would not even think of doing an “upgrade”! I would be looking at a whole new machine. The overall cost saving and performance gain of a new system – in this example – is hands down the winner over “upgrade”-ing. Right now, stupendous deals can be found on the remaining inventories of dual-core, and first-gen quad-core, machines in the stores as they need to make room for the new “i” series and Windows 7 machines. (I humbly suggest you grab one while you can, if you are on a P4…)

So I will continue this tomorrow as if we had a “good” socket  …

update: See, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU – Pt 2
update:Upgrading the CPU pt3 – Selecting A Processor
Upgrading Your CPU – Conclusion(s)

Related links: If you are considering upgrading your current machine, you may want to look at ZDNet’s Hardware 2.0 ‘Very Best Kit List’ for Nov/Dec 09 for some recommendations and ideas.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 3, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, dual-core processors, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Compatibility Tricks for Old Programs, New Machines

How To Get Old Programs To Work On New Computers

So you went out and bought a new computer — congratulations! You got a good one, too: it has everything, including a dual-core processor. You have installed your favorite programs, and by that, I mean your games — great!

There’s just one catch — now some of your games misbehave and act like they’re in hyperdrive, everything moves at warp speed, and instead of three bloodthirsty hobgoblins, there’s thirty. You’re getting killed faster than you can press your “S” key… and that isn’t any fun! Or worse, the game will just freeze in mid-play.

I first noticed this on Battlefield 1942 (the whole series, actually). And then I noticed it on Call of Duty, but not so much on Call of Duty 2. And it was really bad on Quake. It became clear to me that the older the game, the more susceptible to this unplayability it was.

If this has happened to you, the odds are good you have a dual, triple, or quad core CPU. These processors weren’t available when these programs were written, and so the programmers didn’t factor in their ability to process multiple “threads” — basically what’s happening is these new processors are making two (or four) ‘events’ occur at the same time, where they are meant to happen one at a time.

But don’t worry… you need not say goodbye to your favorite games!

Tip of the day: Getting older programs to run smoothly on a new machine is just a couple of clicks away. Some of your programs are going to require you to “turn off” one of the ‘cores’ before it will run right.
To do this, launch the program and let it load (but don’t start using/playing it yet).
Now launch the Windows Task Manager by doing the “three fingered salute”, combination-press the Ctrl+Alt+Del keys (or Start >Run and enter “taskmgr” no quotes).
Click on (select) the Processes tab. tm.jpg

This shows a list of all the running processes on your machine, and how much RAM and CPU cycles are being used by each process. I have launched Battlefield 1942, which shows as the top (most recent) process.
* Right-click on the app that you want to adjust, in our case “BF 1942.exe”.

For some reason, the program-to-processor linkage is called “Affinity“, so from the menu of choices that appear due to our right-clicking, we want to click on (select) “Set Affinity”.
If you have a dual-core CPU, two CPU’s will be shown and checked, A quad-core, four.. We want to uncheck all but one… as shown below.


With luck, now your program will run like it should. Unfortunately, you must do this each time you want to launch your game/program. Sometimes, the game manufacturer’s will issue a “patch” that will mitigate this issue. Visit their website and look for downloadable “patches” and/or “updates”.

For really old programs and games, you may need to set them to run in something called “compatibility mode“. Mostly these will be items you have left over from your Windows 98 (or Me) days… but if you’re running Vista, you may need to do this for programs that ran fine on XP. Right-click on the program’s shortcut (desktop) icon and select (click) Properties. Now click on the Compatibility tab, as shown below.

Use the drop-down arrow to select the operating system you would like the program to run in as if it were installed. Here I am telling a Vista machine to run a XP environment, but you may need to set it to “Windows 98”. A little experimentation will determine your best choice.

See also, Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated) for more help.

Today’s free download: There’s a small app called Prio that allows you to “Save” priority and affinity, so you won’t have to set them at each launch.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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June 28, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, dual-core processors, Gaming, how to, PC, performance, tech, tweaks, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Some Guidelines For Purchasing a New PC

Recently, my duties included an unexpected shopping jaunt. I had been asked to purchase and set up a new PC and home network (a service I provide at Aplus Computer Aid). Inspired by that, and in light of the fact that Shopping Season is nigh upon us, I have reposted an article on guidelines for purchasing a new PC, which first appeared 8/17/07–

How much RAM do I need, and other guidelines for buying a new PC. To conclude this series, I am going to review the topics covered, assume that you’ve decided that, yes, it is time to buy a new PC, and then give some advice on what to look for in a machine. I’m not going to get into a Mac versus PC debate, or talk you into trying Linux. I am going to focus solely on hardware (the ‘capabilities’) options of a non-Mac desktop or laptop PC.

Tip(s) of the day: Laptop computers. Most of what I am going to recommend today applies equally to laptops and desktops with very few exceptions. Today’s portable machines (notebook and tablet PC’s) very nearly rival the hardware capabilities of a desktop (or “tower”), and some models market themselves as a “desktop replacement”. They have large hard drives for storage, can ‘burn’ dual-layer DVD’s, have nice large screens, can access the Internet wirelessly, and are fast. Some have high-end graphics adapters that can keep up with the latest games.

Where laptops are different is: they are comparatively more expensive, they (often) depend on a battery, and they’re limited in terms of “expansion”. Expansion, quite literally, is room to “add stuff”, commonly referred to as “upgrading”. For this reason, I advise (when purchasing a notebook/laptop/tablet) differently than when buying a tower, to wit – buy the most machine you can afford.
Also, I advise buying the battery “upgrade”.

If you have to penny-pinch, reduce the RAM and/or go with a smaller hard drive… because these are the two components on a laptop that it is relatively easy to “upgrade” at a later date, when your finances have recovered. The other things – CPU, graphics, motherboard, sound, etc. — are not so easy to swap out/upgrade. In a tower there is practically nothing you cannot replace: in a laptop you’re kind of stuck, so buy as high up the scale as you can. Not just what you think you’ll need today, but buy for tomorrow as well. Because that’s the way the machine will be for its lifetime.

When deciding which model laptop, do not forget to compare battery life (these stats are published). Also, and I can’t stress this enough, do not buy a laptop that you haven’t typed on. Yes, you can make your purchase online or out of a catalogue, but go into a store and touch it first (sorry, all you Best Buy salespersons out there). Each keyboard and touchpad is different. Make sure you like the layout and “feel” of typing on the keyboard. There’s nothing worse (in laptop computing) than trying to work on a keyboard that just isn’t “you”–IMHO.

Desktops: When considering which tower/desktop to buy, there’s basically three categories of machines; budget/student, workstation, and “performance”/gaming. Low, middle, and top-end. You can spend as little as $300, or as much as $8,500. (Yes. $8,500. But, those systems are cool!) I have mentioned before that to do it right, you can get everything you want/need for $700 – $1,100, and that even the budget machines have the “good stuff”.

My advice for what to look for in a desktop, is a little more flexible. First, decide roughly what you’d like to spend. If you really are in the $300 -500 range, do not rule out “refurbished” machines. Rebuilt/refurbished machines are an excellent value. Any negative stigma they may have is unjustified.

Get the most RAM you can. If your machine is coming with Vista (and most of them are), you should avoid Home Basic — and Vista really should be run on 2 Gigabytes of RAM.

Go with a mid-to-high end CPU. The Athlon X2 chips are better than the older “dual core” Pentiums, but not quite as good as the Pentium Core Two Duo. (I know that’s confusing: there are two types of dual-core Pentiums. The D-series is the older type. You want either the Athlon or “Core Two Duo”.)
The quad-core CPU’s from Intel are very good, and are the latest ‘generation’. If it is in your budget, go quad.

Optical drives. Unless you really need a ‘high def’ burner and you want it right now, hold off on going for a “Blu Ray” burner just yet. Two optical drives, while nice, is not a necessity. Do, however, make sure your “combo drive” can burn (“write”) to a dual-layer DVD.

Graphics. Most people do not need a $800 graphics card (only us hard-core gamers, and other boys-of-all-ages, do) nor do they need an “SLI” set up. However, whenever your budget allows, it is almost always better to have a “graphics card” than “onboard graphics”. Onboard graphics chipsets are built into the motherboard, and while they do a quite adequate job, they “share” your RAM … and by that I mean “steal” your RAM.
Please note, you can buy, and install a graphics card at any time..

Do not skimp on your monitor.

Power Supply. Do not forget to check the Wattage of the machine’s power supply. Here is another area where more is definitely better. It constantly surprises me how many seemingly unrelated computer ‘glitches’ and quirks turn out to be caused by an inadequate or failing power supply. Shoot for one that’s rated in the neighborhood of 350W, unless you’re going for a more “loaded”, high-end performance machine — in which case 500W, or higher, is not unreasonable.

Well, that should get you started. Buying a new PC should not be a stressful thing. It should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Just remember to test drive before you buy, and do a little comparison. It really doesn’t matter if you decide upon a no-name, a HP, a Sony, Dell, or whatever. You may want to take advantage of the many mix-and-match-components “custom build” option, and design your own PC.

Here are the links to the prior parts of this series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Today’s free link: To help shop for a new PC, another excellent shopper’s resource can be found at the PC World magazine’s website. Click here.

Hotmail users: please help me with an upcoming article by answering this Yes/No survey question.
Hotmail Poll*

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 1, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, shopping for | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Quad-cores? I want 80 cores

From time to time in my writing I have made reference to Moore’s Law; which, phrased simply, means “the power of computers doubles every 18 months” (some say two years). I like Moore’s Law– smaller, faster, double the power (and often, power consumption is lower too).

Moore’s Law is most often comes up when speaking about CPU‘s (your computer’s “brain”). My first Intel computer ran a very good CPU– a 486 DX (at 133MHz [that’s .1GHz]). It had a million transistor on it, and was considered Top of the Line.
Today’s Top of the Line consumer chip is actually four-CPU’s-in-one (or, “quad-core”) and runs at just over 3GHz.

I don’t think you have to be particularly good with numbers, nor particularly geeky, to see that there’s been some improvement since the 486.

Just the other day, in an article about chip-maker AMD and corrupt European Socialist bureaucrats (EU punishes Intel+corruption, greed, gov’t) it was mentioned that chip-maker Intel had produced the fastest chip ever.
I like fast, so I looked into it.


The chip is capable of performing a trillion calculations a second (called a “teraflop”), is the size of a fingernail, and has 80 cores. Oh yeah, and it’s dialed-down to 3GHz but can handle 6.


The condensed (sound bite) details of the new (and yes, revolutionary) chip design can be read here, Intel Will Revolutionize Computing with the Fastest Chip Ever. And Intel’s press release version (detailed) can be read here.
Intel says we’ll see it in our devices in “about 5 years” (Boo!).

* The electrical outage mentioned yesterday has not been truly resolved, but hopefully, Tech–for Everyone will appear as usual. Y’all have a good weekend now. Ya’ hear?

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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June 21, 2008 Posted by | computers, hardware, PC, performance, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quad-cores on a cold Monday morning

Let’s start the week with a reader question.
Q: I’m buying a new desktop. Do I need a “quad-core”?
A: Like so many things in life, the short answer is, “that depends.” But before I explain further, let me say that a “quad-core” CPU is pretty much just what it sounds like– four processors ‘stacked’ onto one chip. This is the next evolution of Moore’s Law (short version=the power of computers doubles every 2 yrs.). Quad-core equipped desktop computer have been available to the general public for a while now, and can be found for around $250 more than a dual-core version. It won’t be long before quad-core reaches the notebook market; and it won’t be too long before every desktop sold will have quad-cores.

To get back to the reader’s question — do they need a quad-core — the answer depends on what they are going to be using the computer for. [note:A quad-core CPU handles tasks faster than a dual-core can, but software has to be written to take full advantage of the “multi-threaded” capabilities of these processors.. something that is only beginning to happen.]
If you will be using your PC as a “media center” component in your entertainment center, editing HD home movies, are a video gamer, or are otherwise “pushing” the abilities of your PC, then yes; you should go for the quad-core, IMHO.
On the other hand, if you are the type of user who only uses your computer to browse the Internet (and use e-mail), and the most resource-demanding game you play is Solitaire, then you probably don’t need to spend the extra dollars for the latest technology.

I wrote a four-part series on When it’s time to buy a new computer to help folks decide on the various advantages and questions one faces. To read these articles, click here.

Time is short today, so…
Today’s free link: Speaking of video games, I stumbled across a funny/accurate critique of the state of video games and game consoles called the Gamer’s Manifesto, or “20 things gamers want from the seventh generation of game consoles. This particular entry is definitely for the gamer (someone who knows what Doom III looks like), but the site, Pointless Waste of Time, is a fun, “hip” site for mature audiences (..tho, of a younger set).

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 14, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, dual-core processors, hardware, PC, shopping for, tech, Vista, Windows | , , | Leave a comment