I’ve finally decided to retire my venerable Compaq Presario 6000 desktop computer.
When I bought this computer in 2002, around the time Compaq was acquired by Hewlett Packard, it was a pretty powerful machine with a 2 GHz Pentium processor and 2 GB RAM. Over the years I’ve added memory, expansion cards, and newer and larger hard drives. It has served me and my family well these past 12 years. But, alas, it’s time to say goodbye. It’s just too slow and too many of its components, like the parallel ATA disk controller, are completely obsolete.
I dithered for quite a while, OK years, about what to replace it with. I mainly use my desktop PC for email, web browsing, managing my photo collection, and occasional blogging. I’m not a gamer and I don’t do video editing, so I don’t need anything super powerful, but I do want to be able to watch videos and other streaming content without annoying buffering or stuttering.
I ended up buying what’s called a “barebones” PC, a Zotac ZBOX ID18-U. It comes with a dual core Intel Celeron 1.5 GHz processor and a whole lot o’ ports: 4 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0., eSATA, gigabit Ethernet, DVI, HDMI out, optical audio out (S/PDIF), analog speaker and microphone jacks and a memory card reader. This particular model has no Wifi but that was fine for my purposes.
It’s called a barebones PC because it comes with no memory, no hard drive, no optical drive and no OS.
So to round it out I bought and installed a pair of Crucial 4 GB memory sticks. (The unit supports up to 16 GB.) I also installed a 620 GB 2.5” hard drive which I had salvaged from a dead laptop. I already had an external DVD reader/burner so I was all set there. Lastly, I installed a copy of Windows 7 which I had also kept from a previous computer. (The ZBOX supports Linux too.) I had to install a bunch of drivers after I’d put on the OS. This was a little tedious, but the installation program supplied by Zotac worked without a hitch.
My total out-of-pocket cost for the ZBOX and the RAM was about $230 after tax.
If you had to buy all the components new, instead of using salvaged parts like I did, the cost would probably be over $300, more if you opted for a solid state drive instead of a traditional hard drive. In that case, you might be able to find a better deal buying a new computer from Dell or HP.
But I liked being able to reuse parts, and I’m not bothered about a little bit of DIY installation. I might even buy another one for a home theater PC.
So far I’m really happy with it. The thing is about the size of a hardcover book. It actually sits on my desk instead of under it. It’s really quiet and it performs well. I may not get 12 years out of it, but for that price, who cares?
The names are a little odd, though: Compaq and Zotac. They sound like alien overlords from a cheesy science fiction cartoon. Maybe they’re estranged brothers locked in a centuries-old feud over who was the favorite of their mother, Eniac. But I digress.