Don't waste money upgrading ancient PC

The Baltimore Sun

I have a Dell desktop computer with a 10-gigabyte hard drive. Last week I decided to upgrade the operating system from Windows 98 to Windows XP. At that time, I had about 60 percent free space on the hard drive.

The upgrade went smoothly until XP kicked Norton Internet Security off my system for lack of space. With the help of Symantec, I got Norton reinstalled, but now the computer is slow and the free space on the hard drive is down to 25 percent. Is there an easy and inexpensive way to expand the hard drive capacity?

- Joep Jurgens

If you can afford it, buy a new computer. Your PC is very old, and it makes sense to replace it. I hate to see you spend money upgrading a computer that is so far out of date.

If a new one is out of the question, I recommend you buy a larger hard disk. My guess is you will be better off having a technician install it for you. That way the tech can take care of backing up the files from your old hard disk and putting them on the new one. But you'll pay $50 or $60 for the disk and maybe that amount again - or more - for the file transfer and installation. Considering that some very nice computers are available for $500 or less - well, you get my first point.

If your computer was a little younger, I would have recommended an external hard disk. However, for an external drive to offer decent speed it needs to be connected via a USB 2.0 port, and I'm sure your computer won't have one. That means you'd also need to add a USB card and that would - even if you do the labor yourself - add $40 or so to the cost.

Recently I became aware that the hard drive on my computer (which runs Windows XP Home) is almost full. I have a 75-gigabyte drive and, when I check, it shows just 3.9 gigabytes free. I added up the sizes of all my programs and that only amounted to around 4 gigabytes. I removed all of my digital pictures. I do not store documents on the hard drive.

I can't run the defrag program because I do not have 15 gigabytes free on the drive. I can't understand what could be taking up all of the space on my drive.

Any thoughts on this problem?

- Margie Burge

I have no way of double-checking to see if you are missing something in your account of what you have stored. But assuming that's correct, one unpleasant possibility is that your computer has been infected by a virus. These can multiply and soon take over a hard disk. For starters, do a careful check with a good anti-virus program.

My advice if none of that helps: Either copy all the data on your hard disk - or have someone do it for you - and reformat the disk and start again by reinstalling your programs.

bhusted@ajc.com

Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

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