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Upgrade Wars: My Story

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Well, I've wrapped it up finally.

It took nearly a week--and a huge learning curve--but all my hardware has
now been upgraded.

I was able to accomplish the following:

1. In my desktop machine, swapped out old motherboard with 66MHz FSB speed
and Intel Celeron 400MHz for new motherboard with 133MHz FSB and AMD Athlon
1.0GHz processor. Windows 2000 now has 512 MB RAM to play around in (minus
64 MB for video--see below) instead of the "mere" 256 MB.

2. Moved my entire system, "undisturbed", from 10 GB Maxtor drive to 40 GB
Maxtor. By "undisturbed" I mean I ended up with the same exact system I had
to start with. No reinstallation of applications or backup/restoration of
data was required. I did have two 10 GB HDDs in the system, now there is
only the one 40 GB.

3. Moved my wife's Windows 98 system from the original Quantum Fireball 4 GB
drive over to one of the spare 10GB drives.

4. Replaced one 1 GB Fujitsu HDD and one 480 MB Conner HDD in the Linux
server with the remaining 10 GB drive from my machine, and the 4 GB drive
from my wife's machine, respectively.

Now, for the description of the aches and pains:

1. The motherboard swap-out was actually easy. I was limited in that the
case that I have requires a motherboard with a so-called "microATX" form
factor--which restricted me to only a few available boards, of which the
fastest processor supported was "only" the 1.0 GHz Athlon. But after the
board was in, the system booted just fine from the old drive.

At first I was dismayed in that I didn't seem to be able to get it to
recognize my Creative Riva TNT2 Ultra AGP video card, apparently because of
a conflict with the on-board video graphics chipset that comes with the
motherboard. Then I realized that the on-board graphics were actually
superior (i.e. faster, addresses more RAM, etc.) I thought that having to
use on-board RAM for the VIDEO would be a "bad thing," till I realized that
seldom if ever does Windows 2000 utilize anywhere near the total available
RAM, even with several applications open, and that using on-board RAM for
video is actually faster.

In fact, the new motherboard came with on-board NIC, fax/modem, and 32-bit
sound as well. These kinds of integrated system mainboards can make building
your own system quite cheap, btw. The entire mainboard with everything
mentioned was only about $220. Heck, you can pay twice that for "mid-range"
sound, NIC, fax/modem and sound cards altogether.

Oh, and I found a good new home for the TNT2 Ultra: It now sits in the Linux
box. How simple it is to swap out hardware with Linux. It immediately saw
the card, said "installing drivers" and that was that. No rebooting

2. Partition Magic was next to useless in moving my Windows 2000 system.
Don't ask me why. Even PowerQuest's support folks were unable to figure out
why. Finally, I bought a new version of PowerQuest's Drive Image product (I
had the old 2.0 version but it would not work with the version of
NTFS--Version 5 I believe--that Windows 2000 uses, so I had to upgrade to
Drive Image Version 4.0).

I finally got everything copied over, but when I tried to boot off the new
drive, it got "stuck in a loop" right after the Windows login screen,
sending me back to the login time and time again.

Luckily, I found a "tech-note" on the PowerQuest support board, that
addressed this very issue. Seems that you have to "reset" the Master Boot
Record (MBR) using FDISK, and it'll boot fine. It worked, anyway.

3. Again using Drive Image, I moved the wife's stuff over with absolutely NO
problems whatsoever. In fact, the only problems I encountered had to do with
the very close quarters inside that itty-bitty case that Hewlett-Packard was
fond of using for their Pavilion series.

4. The Linux drive installation wasn't too bad either, just a bit
complicated by the fact that all four drive bays are in use. So I had to
simply remove one drive, reboot (whereupon Linux noticed something was wrong
in that the drive configuration didn't match what it expected, and dropped
me to a single-user "emergency mode" command line whereby I was able to do
everything I needed to do from there), copy files from the old drive to the
new, re-reboot, and everything worked just fine.

My only comment there is that if everything in the computer world worked as
logically and straightforwardly as Linux, that world would be a happier

Now, all I have to do is sit back and enjoy the new configurations! I can
tell you that going from the 400MHz Celeron to the 1.0 GHz Athlon has been

So now that I'm an "expert" I am quite willing to share my accumulated
wisdom with any and all of you who may need it.

William L. Polhemus, Jr., P.E.
Polhemus Engineering Company
Katy, Texas
Phone 281-492-2251
Fax 281-492-8203

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