The Money Hole
A rough guide to upgrading your computer
by Will Fletcher
So, your thinking of upgrading your PC to be prepared for the release of
Quake III and you don't know where to start?
We've all been there, we come into a bit of money and immediately eight new technologies come out all
looking pretty similar and all promising this that and the other thing. This can be daunting and indeed
if you make the wrong choice you may end up thinking "Oh no, I've wasted my money again." No one wants
this to happen, especially if it's a major upgrade, so before you buy anything I suggest following these
Firstly identify exactly what is wrong with your PC at the moment.
This is the most crucial step, as most people just say, "Well it's just not fast enough".
This rather obviously is far too vague to be of any use...
An easy way to evaluate your PC is to buy a computer magazine and compare your system to those that are
being advertised. This will give you a good picture of the latest technologies and will show you in which
areas your PC is lacking.
For example, if the latest systems are rolling out of the factory with 128 megs of RAM and your system
only has 16 (hey, it could happen), you can deduce that RAM would be one of the things that you would
Secondly, and I can't stress this enough, you must then do research into the area of computing which you
will be buying.
This can be done on many sites on the web, or in most good PC magazines, and it will make your purchase
that much safer. The perfect example of this is where there are rival technologies in the same area,
for example 3D sound where you have the two main contenders A3d(tm) and EAX(tm).
It is still early days for this facet of gaming and there are already many cards that support one or
the other of these two. This is where the research comes in, as a good hardware review can show you
which is the better technology, and which is more likely to become adopted by the gaming world.
This isn't always the same thing, and one must also look at the companies behind the technologies, in
this example Aureal and Creative Labs. Creative is by far the larger company and so probably would
have more swaying power in the games industry, as well as being able to market their technology more
Ideally you would buy a card that supports both, although this rarely happens. What it comes down to
really is personal preference, as most games companies at this point have decided to use both, (e.g.
Half-Life), so the only thing I suggest is you find someone that has what you are looking for
and try it out for yourself because at the end of the day it is your computer.
Next, the best and probably the hardest thing to do is to wait for a little while before buying anything,
especially if you know a new technology release is in the near future.
This is not necessarily to buy the new technology, but to buy the next best thing for a cut down price.
For example when the new Pentium IIIs come out, Pentium II 450s will immediately drop in price significantly
and so one could buy one of them, and the latest graphics card, for less money, and still have a machine that
is in with a chance of coping with the next round of games, which we know are only going to get more and more
Finally, it may sound rather commercial but it is true that you are probably better off buying from established
manufacturers such as Intel and 3dfx, as they have a large following in the games world and tend to set the
standard that game makers work around.
I hope this has helped you along the path to the ultimate upgrade, and if not has given you some idea of where
to start. One last piece of advice - once you have bought the new piece of equipment, if it comes with drivers
make sure you keep them updated, as this is the most common cause of newer games not functioning properly.
Here are a few of the best sites of the many on the web:
Bx Boards - this is a quality site that has a large amount
of information about motherboards, processors and overclocking. Although I don't suggest overclocking
anything, if it floats your boat then this site will clue you in. A definate visit if you're thinking of
upgrading your processor.
Games.net Hardware - A reasonably large site which
offers quite a few reviews, leaning more towards systems than individual components, but still very good.
GameSpot - The site for reviews of games (if you can tear
yourself away from Quake) and hardware specifically marketed at gamers, i.e. video cards, speakers etc.
PCMagazine - Well designed site that does high quality
reviews of all aspects of the PC.
PlanetHardware - This is a highly informative site
that is updated often and has the latest reviews by impartial reviewers (and I'm not just saying that).
Voodoo Extreme - An extremely informative frequently
updated site that gives in depth reviews and support such as patches and drivers, also reviews software.
-- Will Fletcher
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