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Nameless gift computer may be fine for son, 9

The Baltimore Sun

How old is too old when it comes to a computer? I have a 9-year-old son and a computer that was given to us by a family member. The computer is about five years old. The only thing it showed on the front was 52X max. There is no brand name. It has a CD drive and a slot for the smaller disks. Is this one even worth keeping or trying to upgrade?

- Stephanie Duran

In general, a computer is too old when it won't do the jobs you need done. Almost any computer of that age can be used for letters or e-mail. If, on the other hand, your son wants to use it for games, it may be too old for newer titles. And it's too old to run Windows Vista.

The 52x defines the speed of the CD drive. So that doesn't tell me anything about the computer's processor, its random access memory (RAM), or the size of the hard disk.

None of that matters, if the machine meets the computing needs of you or your son. So turn it on, use it and judge for yourself.

In your recent column there was no mention of the most common cause of a slow computer. In the past, I have encountered several people who were bogged down with very slow computers. I would run defrag. It sometimes would take over an hour to run, but then the computer would run well.

- Richard Cressman

I think adware and spyware is a more common cause. But you're absolutely right that running the Windows defragmenting utility can help speed up a computer. Here's how to do it. Click on the Start button, select All Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools and finally Disk Defragmenter.

Computers store data on a hard disk in a slapdash manner. A single data file may be broken up into dozens of tiny pieces.

The computer does this to make the best use of space available. But it takes longer to get at that data.

Defragmenter reorganizes the hard disk and rejoins some of these scattered files.

I've found that users of versions of Windows earlier than Windows XP get the best results from running this program.

Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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