Rebuilding vs Replacing?

With the imminent introduction of Windows 7 and consequent phase-out of XP, all schools in NZ (and elsewhere) will be compelled to consider upgrading older PCs if their spec is insufficient to be able to run Windows 7. I am currently interested in whether this would be a viable option for some of our school’s older PCs, which are almost 5 years of age. The economics are favourable if you have access to wholesale or nearly wholesale pricing, and can rebuild the PCs within your school. To get a Windows 7 PC which has a reasonable amount of memory, 64 bit and Intel hardware virtualisation capability, the following are examples of what would need to be purchased

  • Intel DG31PR mainboard (may be available cheaper in a 10 pack)
  • Intel E6300 Pentium Dual Core boxed CPU (including heatsink and fan in the box)
  • DDDR2-667 memory: 1 GB or 2 GB
  • If you have only CDRW drives, you may wish to purchase a replacement DVD writer.
  • If your power supply is less than 300W it may need to be replaced. In our case, a TFX supply is the type required and should fit into the case (Foxconn DH153)
  • A card reader is desirable in today’s media-conscious environment. Sony make the MRW6202 which is internal and can be installed in the FDD bay (the nearly-obsolete FDD being discarded). You could buy one or two USB external FDDs to keep for a rainy day when an occasional Floppy might turn up from somewhere.

The key questions needing to be answered include how well everything will fit into an existing case. This depends very much on whether there has been much change to the microATX form factor in the past five years. Another question is how much life you can expect the existing HDD to provide. However an HDD replacement is a fairly straightforward procedure to carry out where it is required.

The main benefit is in recycling the case and Windows XP Home license. We are assuming here that the MOE will get a new license deal for 7 that will give effectively a free upgrade from XP. I’d prefer to wait until the new licensing comes out to be able to confirm that will be the case before proceeding with any upgrade programme. However the case and license together could be worth as much as $300 depending on specs. Since most cases are well made, they can be expected to give many years of useful service and as such can be effectively recycled without problems. If reuse of case and license work out this would be extremely worthwhile since this value would never be recoverable in resale of these items. In our situation our existing LCD screens which are four years old can be expected to last for years yet. In fact it is fair to say that no one really knows how long LCD displays will last because they haven’t been in production that long.

Assembly is relatively straightforward if you are confident about your skills of putting a board together and inserting it into a case. If you can find assistance within your school community for the assembly then it could be cost effective and economic to consider a rebuilding rather than replacement option.