Ihave a Pentium 4 PC with a 1.7-gigahertz chip. It has 256 megabytes of memory. I recently installed a high-speed USB card. When I run the backup or run my spyware program, it freezes up. What can I do about this, and what upgrades would you recommend for my system? I basically use it for spreadsheets and Internet.
-- Ron Rowland
Try adding memory. I'd upgrade to 1 gigabyte, or 512 megabytes at the least. If that doesn't help, I would consider replacing the machine. Beyond adding memory, which is easy and fairly cheap, additional upgrades would be too costly. I would replace the computer with a $500 or $600 machine instead of pouring several hundred dollars into this one.
Readers talk back
I recently recommended against installing a flat-panel television above a fireplace, noting the danger of heat. A reader added this:
Your answer is incomplete. More important is neck fatigue while viewing. The center of the screen should be 42 inches off the floor.
-- Home theater expert Mike Tilly The next reader takes issue with my thought that it is not a big deal whether you leave a computer on all the time or turn it off when not in use:
Another take on leaving computers running. The biggest enemy of hard drives is thermal cycling. That occurs every time a machine is turned on, then off, repeatedly. The drive's delicate hardware heats/cools/heats etc. and suffers distortion, as do the internal electronics, eventually failing. The same thermal cycling of the other computer components is damaging to electronic component connections on circuit boards. Better to let the machine run continuously.
-- Pete Schuyler
Pete knows what he is talking about. I still suggest that a home user balance the risks between the problem he notes and the danger of a damaging electrical storm when the computer is unattended. There is also the chance that the cooling fan will wear out and allow the machine to overheat. On balance, I still believe it is OK to turn a desktop computer off at night when going to sleep, or when leaving for a vacation.
Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.