What should I do about my old computer??
September 2, 2009 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Windows xp and Ubuntu? PCI video card? Mac Mini? Opinions?

I have an old old computer (Pentium 4 CPU 2.4 GHz with 512 MB Ram). My video card went belly up a few weeks ago and I put in an old barebones type of card out of an old computer. I am unhappy with the performance so I bought a card from newegg but I couldn't use it because my expansion slots are only PCI NOT PCI-e. Also my power supply is 300w and newer cards seem to require more power. So my questions are:

1 - Should I try Ubuntu via WUBI? (I need windows for Quicken and a few other things.) Would Ubuntu make me and my old computer happy?

2 - Should I just grin and bear it for a couple of months and buy a new system with Windows 7?

3 - Should I get a Mac Mini?

4 - Should I forget computers entirely?

5 - Is there a good video card that is PCI?

Oh by the way, I can't add more memory because the super old memory is way to expensive. I forget what kind it is but as someone once told me, I lost the memory lottery.
posted by snowjoe to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
The specs of the computer look ok enough to run Windows XP. It shouldn't be great with only 512MB ram, but if you are just using it for Quicken and things like that, I think you should be fine. Is it really that bad right now? An old video card shouldn't hurt you if you're doing office work.

If you are in need of a PCI video card, most computer geeks will have some sitting around that might work a little better than your current one.

That being said, Ubuntu should run pretty well on what you have listed. If that suits your needs, then by all means, use it.
posted by JauntyFedora at 9:53 AM on September 2, 2009

The video card is way too slow. I do surf the web (surprise!) and pages load slooowwwllyyy and youtube is not fun anymore. The card that went belly up was an MSI somethin' somethin' with 256 MB and working with video and digital pictures was pretty quick. The computer itself does seem fine, it's just that the graphics is bumming me out.
posted by snowjoe at 10:13 AM on September 2, 2009

The computer will run great. I run a PC with windows XP Office 2003 on a P4 2.0GHz with 512MB and 300W. I used to use it to run photoshop cs2, office 2003, and everything reasonably well. The video card is a craptacular radeon 9200, which was $30 when I bought it years ago. It also runs xbmc driving a full 1080p hdtv, so that option is available too.

Are you sure the video card is not AGP? Can you find the memory you need here?

Here is a craptacular PCI GeForce 5200 for a whopping $45 I'm sure cards like that can be had cheaper.

But even at this price, say $50 for video and $100 for windows 7, you're outof pocket another 150 and now you are still stuck with a memory and processor bottleneck in the event you want to run any more powerful software.

On the other hand, for about $500, you can get a core 2 duo E7400 2.80GHz processor, 6GB of DDR2-800 memory, a 750GB hard drive, a free windows 7 upgrade, and graphics that are much better than what you current have. And it has a PCI-E x16 slot for a much much better video card if that's something you really want. I've bought from Tiger Direct before, even refurbished machines and parts, and have never had a problem.

These deals, and cheaper are always around, so it's not like you have to rush out and buy a new one now.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:17 AM on September 2, 2009

I highly recommend that ATI R300 family of GPU's. I have a slew of PCIe X600's... and a few running under Fedora 11. The open source 2D/3D driver is very mature for the R300 family. In your case you will want to look for the PCI variants of the Radeon 9550 through 9800.

You will need to stick with froogle, ebay, or craigslist as you are not likely to find silicon this old on a store shelf.

Just for the record Compiz Fusion runs very nicely on my Dell D610 with X300... and screams on my X600's in the TPSL cave.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 10:18 AM on September 2, 2009

Should I try Ubuntu via WUBI? (I need windows for Quicken and a few other things.) Would Ubuntu make me and my old computer happy?

Er, just try it, already. Typing that sentence took as long as starting Wubi takes.

Outside that, you can get a good computer for $300 and a great one for $500 these days. Add $50 to $100 for MSFT Windows, generally.
posted by cmiller at 11:54 AM on September 2, 2009

Until two months ago I was on the same computer.
Had to reinstall xp because was way too slow and was changing HD anyway.

Couldn't get my old license. if I had to buy xp for 150$ then maybe it was the time to try ubuntu before anyway wiping it out and get xp.

I loved ubuntu. A couple of problems setting it up with monitor with odd resolution and crap Luke that, then a couple of things actually are a little less intuitive, and you need to master the art of workaround and googling a lot. But boy it was fast. The crazy desktop-as-a-cube that you see on YouTube (compiz) was no problem, even with videos running. In xp wouldn't had happened.

Then couple of months ago I built a new generation pc and I installed win7 just because the rc is free till mid 2010. I wanted to try it out before wiping it and installing ubuntu again.
So far haven't installed ubuntu yet (even though I saved my home folder, that meaning that if install ubuntu on a new computer with even another version of ubuntu, all my data and application settings... Will be there like nothing happened - like a cylon in bsg).

Sorry for the personal adventure digression but the point is: if you want to continue to use that pc for a while, jump to ubuntu it will give it new life.
If you want to upgrade pc, windows 7 is really not bad.
posted by madeinitaly at 1:14 PM on September 2, 2009

It sounds like your issue isn't your video card but your windows install. The XP desktop isn't graphics accelerated, the most baseline video card will handle browsing, youtube, etc.

I have a 6 year old PCI card in my desktop just for the 3rd monitor out and it works just fine.

A reinstall of XP or any OS should make your computer happy.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:59 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

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