What’s approved vs what works

So, I’ve always been one to push limits a little bit. Not to the extreme, but I’m always interested in seeing if I can get away with a little more than is officially “authorized”.

This applies to a lot of things, but recently it applied to a computer I have. It used to be my wife’s computer, but we recently bought her a MacBook air so she didn’t need this old slow Windows machine any more.

Well, I’m not one to just throw away something that works perfectly well, even if it is outdated, so I decided to hook it up to the KVM in my office and have an antique windows machine in there to go with my antique iMac.

So, I got it set up but quickly realized that the machine is painfully slow even running Windows 7, so I checked the specs. It has a single core AMD Athalon II 2.0ghz cpu and 2gb of memory. I was pretty sure I could improve things a bit, so I opened it up and checked the motherboard model number.

According to all the documentation I could find, the motherboard can only handle a maximum of 4gb of memory (2 2gb sticks). I found that a bit difficult to believe considering it’s a 64 bit processor, even if single core.

Memory is cheap right now…especially older technology DDR2 which is what this motherboard supports, so I figured “what the heck” and bought two 4gb sticks.

Guess what? Works like a champ and made a HUGE difference in speed. I think the memory sticks I bought were faster clock speed too which may have added to the effect.

I also ordered a used “new” processor…a quad core AMD Phenom II 4x. Four times the number of core CPUs and runs at 3.0ghz rather than 2. This is also a bit more than the motherboard is officially supposed to be able to handle, but we’ll see.

The biggest thing is it’s going to tax the power supply. The original Athalon CPU is very energy efficient and only requires 20 watts. The one I’m going to upgrade to pulls 95 watts. That’s the thing that really causes me concern. If I have to replace the power supply too, I’m starting to get into the realm of “should have just bought a newer computer”. This one was made in 2009. You can buy refurbished machines on Amazon that are much closer to current technology and only 4 or 5 years old for $200 or so.

Anyway, if that works, it should also make a huge difference in processing speed.

But I digress. I went back to the Crucial website (memory manufacturer) and ran their system check application again just out of curiosity. I thought it was interesting.

I guess they get their maximums from the manufacturer’s docs because in the left column it recognizes that I’ve got four gig sticks in each slot, but in the right, it still shows the maximum memory of 4gb. Weird.

Anyway, honestly with the performance increase just from adding the memory, I’m not sure I really need the upgraded CPU. I already ordered it, so I’ll put it in and see what happens, but if it runs too hot or things start to look squirrely, I’ll go back to the original and be satisfied. I just thought the memory thing was interesting.

Also, now that it’s running a bit faster, I’m thinking an upgrade to Windows 10 might be in order. Windows 7 isn’t supported any more, I wasn’t going to upgrade for fear of a further performance hit, but the machine is working well enough now that it might be worth it. I’ll give it some thought.

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