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Get IT Done: Increase an older personal computer's life by upgrading the CPU

Upgrade the CPU to extend a PCs life

So, you have an older Pentium system sitting in the corner, collecting dust. You think that, because it doesn’t have MMX or 3DNOW capabilities, you’ll never be able to get anything out of that old piece of junk. Besides, the motherboard manual says that it can only go up to so and so MHz—no ifs, ands, or buts. Well, maybe you can be nice and give it to your grandmother or grandfather; they wouldn’t know the difference!

THINK AGAIN! Believe it or not, with the right processor upgrade kit, you can take that old piece of junk in the corner and make it powerful once again! Read on to find out what you need to have in order to make your machine shine again.

What is an upgrade kit?
Simply put, an upgrade kit is a processor along with a voltage adapter. The problem with older motherboards is that they don’t have the tools necessary to handle the power the new processors dish out these days. So, you are limited to what your vintage motherboard can do with the processor. With an upgrade kit, however, the rules are bent backwards. You can use the kit to actually upgrade your old Pentium board and achieve amazing speed! Here are my favorite top three manufacturers of upgrade kits:

How does a CPU upgrade work?
The parts and instructions within an older motherboard limit the board’s ability to perform past a certain speed. The adapter that comes with the upgrade kit gives the board both the parts and the instructions it needs to run a bigger, faster CPU. In some cases, you can actually purchase an ISA or PCI card that will "replace" the processor, or for that matter, take over the motherboard all together (as described on this page at PowerLeap ), allowing you to add a new processor and SDRAM memory. Take that old 486 and make it useful again!

Okay, what’s the catch?
There really isn’t any catch to this project. As long as your motherboard still runs and is Y2K compatible, there is an upgrade kit out there for you! The kits are a bit pricier than a standard CPU because they include all the parts you need to run the chip as well. And there is even better news! If you want to upgrade your processor again down the road, you can simply remove the CPU that came with the kit, and put in a new one.

What kinds of upgrade kits are there?
There are many types of upgrade kits. You can find kits for anything from a 286 to a Slot1 motherboard (for Pentium II and III systems) or a Super 7 motherboard (for AMD K6-2 and K6-III). The price of each processor upgrade varies, depending on how many megahertz you want to run and the type of machine you’re upgrading. You can generally upgrade a 486 to a Pentium 133 and a Pentium 75-200 to a 233 up to 400. You can also upgrade your current system from a 300/400 to a 600+. Again, all of these options depend on your system’s capabilities.

Is upgrading cheaper than buying a new motherboard and CPU?
Sometimes upgrading the CPU is cheaper than buying a new motherboard and CPU, but the decision depends on what you want to do with your computer. If your computer doesn’t have a PCI slot or an AGP slot, or you want a computer with USB support, you may want to consider upgrading the motherboard. If these things are not important to you, or you don’t wish to hassle with putting in a new motherboard AND processor, by all means try the upgrade kit.

This all sounds great, but my old computer isn’t Y2K compliant!
If your machine isn’t Y2K compliant, Evergreen Technologies offers a Y2K upgrade ISA board that plugs into your computer and makes it Y2K compatible. Even the oldest computer can come back alive as long as it has an ISA slot on the board where you can plug in the card. Keep in mind that there may be other companies that have cards out as well, so shop around to find the best deal.

Isn’t it great?
Upgrading the CPU can put the spark of life back into your old machine so that it can serve you well for another few years! Good luck, and remember to shop around for the best price. If you have any questions about compatibility, visit the Web site of the upgrade kit that interests you and look for the list of machines compatible with their parts.

Ed Engelking is co-owner of .

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