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A few days ago, I got a call from a dear friend who had a computer problem.
Elizabeth is currently employed only part-time, and has very little money.
So she uses her laptop computer to look for, and apply for, jobs.
Unfortunately, her laptop runs really slowly.
So she asked me to take a look at it.
When I turned it on, it booted up to Windows XP Professional without any noticeable delays.
But, as soon as I started to try to use it, it bogged way down.
When I double-clicked the Firefox browser icon on the desktop, it took at least 30 seconds before the cursor icon even changed to the “working” icon, to tell me that it was working.
Then it took at least 30 seconds to connect to each Web page, and another 30 seconds to visibly “draw” each page onto its screen.
When I clicked on the “X” to quit Firefox, it took about 45 seconds for the Firefox window to go away — starting at the top, and deleting one scan line at a time.
It took me several minutes, but I was finally able to determine that her laptop was not running any extra startup programs or viruses that would have slowed it down.
Then I discovered that it only had a 600 MHz Pentium processor and only 64 MB of RAM.
It had originally come with Windows Me, but another friend of hers had upgraded it to Windows XP at some point in the past — and it has run really slowly ever since.
No wonder Windows XP Professional was running so slowly — her 11-year-old laptop’s tiny RAM was forcing XP to use 250+ MB of swap file space on the hard drive at all times.
In other words, she was running an OS that demanded much more memory and a faster CPU than her laptop had.
While I was figuring out all of that, Elizabeth told me that she’d actually prefer to have a desktop computer, instead of a laptop.
So, thinking that I could piece one together for her, I came home and took out the AMD Athlon 2100+ PC — which I later upgraded to a 2400+ — that I had built from scratch for myself about nine years ago, but that I hadn’t used for more than a year.
I removed its Linux hard drive and replaced it with its original Windows XP hard drive.
Then I checked all of its internal connections, connected it all up, and powered it on.
Its BIOS reported a checksum error — and told me that its keyboard was locked.
And gave me a choice to press either F1 or the Delete key.
Which, of course, I couldn’t do, because its keyboard was locked.
So I installed a new CMOS battery in it — same problems.
So I tried four different keyboards — same problems.
So I removed the CMOS battery for nearly and hour, to clear the CMOS — same problems.
So I did a Google search and only found a few reports of my computer’s particular problems — and they all reported that they had to send their motherboards back to the manufacturers for a replacement.
Yeah, right — Hey Asus, you know that motherboard that I bought nine years ago? Well I think it’s bad now, so please send me a new one.
So, I finally gave up — my homebuilt PC that served me well for many years, has finally reached the end of its useful life, and will now quietly retire into its new role as part of my inventory of old computer components.
So, what about Elizabeth?
I went online, to see if I could find a good, inexpensive desktop PC for her.
And, a little while later, I ordered one for her from Walmart.com.
It’s a refurbished HP DX5150 SFF Desktop PC, with a 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 Processor, 1GB RAM, a 40GB Hard Drive and Windows XP Professional. It comes with a mouse and a keyboard, but it doesn’t include a monitor — which is perfect, because I already have a couple of spare monitors.
The cost? Just $105, with free site-to-store shipping to my local Walmart store.
It’s scheduled to arrive on Monday, March 5. Then I’ll install LibreOffice and a few other things onto it before I deliver it to my friend.
It’s not the newest, fastest computer out there. But, for Elizabeth’s simple needs, it’s absolutely perfect — and it’s going to be hundreds of times faster than her old laptop.
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