Tech – for Everyone

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

New Hardware In An Old Machine

Reader Asks About The New SATA Hard Drives

Q: Paul, I enjoy reading your articles. I have a question I hope you will clear up for me. A few years ago I had a computer assembled for me, and I have pretty much filled up its hard drive so I am shopping for a new one to add as a second drive. I read (not on your site) about the new SATA drives and how fast they are. I am wondering if the new versions will work in my computer and any advice you have for installing it. I took your advice and looked inside, and I have a Asus A7N8 motherboard. Thanx.

A: Dear Reader,a7n8
The quite new hard drive technology – called SATA III – is indeed quite fast, with a transfer rate of 6 Gbps.
And, yes, indeed your ASUS motherboard has SATA ports.
And, yes, adding a second hard drive is an easy and relatively inexpensive “upgrade” which will give you more storage room.

But (why, in life, does there always seem to be a “but”?) there are a couple of factors to consider. One, by “a few years” you really mean several years and you must remember Moore’s Law and that tech doesn’t age like you and I — your motherboard is several “generations” old (in reality a Great grandpa, or even a Great-great grandpa). It can only transfer (read and write) at the original SATA speed of 150 MBps.

Due to “backwards compatibility” you can install a SATA II, or even a SATA III drive, which will – indeed – give you more room for music/movies/games etc., but you will not gain any performance benefits (they will transfer at 150 MBps) unless you also upgrade your transfer path (aka your “port”) which is typically done by adding an “expansion card”.
(The method is the same as I describe here: Add Firewire 800 To Your PC– Fast Video Transfer).

I looked it up, and it seems that ASUS will be shipping the first such card any day now, and it will retail for around $30 (see Asus’ Awesome USB 3.0, SATA 6Gbps Card Now Shipping), and as a side benefit, the card has the new USB 3.0 ports as well.

So as I see it, it boils down to three options:
* Don’t worry about the “speed” and simply install an affordable second drive.
* Install a card and a SATA III drive.
* Think about a new PC… though, I know of no manufacturers shipping units with the new SATA III technology yet (Computer hardware technology really has come a long way since single-core CPU’s and 400 MHz DDR RAM).

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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January 21, 2010 Posted by | computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Get new life out of your old DVD’s

Many of us put off buying a Hi-Def disc player until the “format war” was settled, and many of us still haven’t shelled out the big  bucks for the winner, Blu-ray, yet. Instead, we keep on watching our collection of movies using our “standard”, old, DVD players.

This works fine until you bring a HDTV into the the scenario.. and then our old movies look sorta, well, old. (Certainly they don’t look Hi-Def!

The truth is simply this, to show you an actual HD image, your HDTV’s “input” (used to be called a “signal”) has to be HD– such as what you can get on (some) over-the-air channels, (some) satellite, and (HD) cable.. and Blu-ray discs.
What is missing from that list is all the DVD’s you’ve purchased so far— they’re “standard definition” (SD). Bummer.

So.. do you have to go out and purchase a whole new movie library, and a HD (Blu-ray) player to enjoy the “Hi-Def experience” you purchased the HDTV for? {Many of us would find this prohibitive.. Blu-ray players are around $400.} Fortunately, the answer is no.

Tip of the day: Enjoy near HD quality images from your (old) DVD’s buy purchasing a player that is capable of “scaling” SD signals up to 1080p (HD). [note: you want this ability even if your HDTV is less than 1080p] This “scaling” is sometimes called “upscaling”, “upsampling”, and sometimes “upconversion“. More info than you’d want to know about this can be read here. These types of players can be found for around $100.

I won’t bore you with the technical specs (you can click the provided links for that) but  I will say that upscaling uses a sort of intelligent “magic” to fill in the pixels required for the HD image.

Your HDTV has some scaling ability built into it, and this will help provide a fair picture from a SD source. It is possible that it does a good enough job with your DVD’s. But to get better results than you already are getting, a player with this capability is the way to go. Your SD DVD’s will appear much more “Hi-Def”, and you’ll enjoy watching them (again and again, if you’re like me) for years to come.

Today’s free link: (Yes, loyal Friends, I have posted this one before..) With the ability to scan your RAM, Registry, hard drives, and external storage devices for known data-mining, advertising, and tracking components, Ad-Aware 2008 can clean your system easily, allowing you to maintain a higher degree of privacy while you surf the Web

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

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June 7, 2008 Posted by | advice, HDTV, how to, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment