Putting some life into an old pentium 4 PC?

At the parents' they have:

Pentium 4 3GHz

1.5GB DDR ram

200gb IDE/PATA HDD - over 80% full though

windows 7

and its painfully slow!

The most they would need is youtube, the odd browsing etc

currently a few tabs and the whole thing hangs for ages.

Any alternative to just buying a new PC? What's the limiting factor?

New HDD? I was even toying with the idea of the ide-to-sata SSd converters.. more for the operating system than anything else

More ram?


firstly you would definitely require more ram.

4gb is the standard nowadays.

I would say that 8gb is the standard anyone should be running for the resource hungry programs of today, op I don't think there is much you can do, yes you could get upto 3gb of ram but I am assuming you have the x86 win 7 running so anymore ram is pointless unless you go for X64 OS, in that case you want to upgrade everything or basically buy a new one, sorry if this isn't what you want to hear but you could simply do a fresh install as that may help a little , your quite limited as any upgrade is dependent on you motherboard capabilities too

Cheap ssd 120gb From amazon try looking in amazon warehouse .. install operating system on there.. then 4gb min of ram .. check motherboard and see if you can upgrade to 8gb around £30 used from amazon warehouse... all in all should have good set up for around £60 ... only need graphics card for games and movies but just for internet you would be fine with the ram and solid state drive.
Hard Drive 120gb
Ram ddr3
you will have to check what type of Ram though ?
Ram ddr2

P4 is DDR1: throw it out and replace is the *only* feasible option.

Look at nettops such as the gigabyte brix, or Intel NUC range - they'll be more than adequate for the task of watching youtube and browsing.

Depends if it's a socket 775 pentium 4 if so you can probably add a better cpu for a few quid as the board may support a pentium D. But anything more expensive than £40 and you'd be better off picking up a second hand dual core pc on ebay

Download speccy and post a screenshot of the full system specs.
Biggest performance boost is going to be upgrading the ram.
Swapping the HDD for an ssd would make a difference but 200gb+ isn't going to be cheap and it would be best practice to install everything from fresh so a lot of work too.

What I would do is upgrade the ram to 4gb, uninstall any rubbish\junk programme, run ccleaner, malware bytes, av scan then check windows and all the programme are up to date.
If it's still too slow at that point back all the data up, get a 120gb ssd install windows on it, wipe the old disk then copy any data they need back onto it using it for purely media.

Cheaper to buy a second user small factor pc off ebay

I have a similar setup (but with more Ram) which I only use for email and a bit of browsing and mine also became painfully slow after years of use.
I tried various clean-up tools, uninstallers, registry cleaners, etc, but they didn't make much difference so in the end I reformatting the HDD and did a fresh install of Windows.
That made a huge difference, almost back to as-new performance, but it was an awful lot of work, what with making sure you've backed up important files to start with, then reinstalling all your programmes and drivers and getting all the settings back the way you like them. Worthwhile but very time consuming.
I wouldn't spend any money on it, there are plenty of good used PC's on eBay and if you wait for one near to you thats collection only you'll probably pick up a bargain.

A possible cause may be its stuffed with malware, bloatware etc . Do a disc cleanup , run CCleaner , Malwarebytes all free before considering if it needs to be binned or upgraded.

Turn it into a chromebook. HERE

Intel released 3Ghz chips using the Pentium 4 branding between 2002 and 2006 so it's hard to pin down the exact model but even in the best case it's ten years old. Given you you can pick up machines half that age for £50-80 it's not even worth contemplating if it needs more than one upgrade.

Something like youtube stuttering at higher resolutions is likely to be an inadaquate CPU. The whole thing slowing down when you open several tabs will be lack of memory.
Edited by: "EndlessWaves" 3rd Nov 2016

Get rid of windows, install Linux, a lightweight distro like Lubuntu will run fine on this hardware.

I vote install Linux. Done myself on a old laptop.

I vote chuck it, replace with a Raspberry Pi. Laugh if you will, but the Pi does everything and more than any home computer older than 8 years old.

A report with speccy or CPU-Z would be handy, Pentium 4 3GHz spans both S478 and LGA775 models, though in LGA775, it would probably have SATA available.
If it originally came with Windows 7, I would have expected it to be more recent, but if it is just DDR (DDR1) that does date the motherboard to the same era as my old one (LGA775, Intel 915 chipset, DDR(1), SATA & PCI-E) - and that came with XP!
If the RAM is an unbalanced 512MB & 1GB in a system that would be capable of dual channel, than a balanced pair of 2x 1GB, 2x 2GB or a quad 1GB would increase RAM performance.

If it turns out to be a more recent motherboard than it sounds, then that may open the path to a Core2 upgrade - a DDR(1) LGA775 motherboard generally will not support Core2. PS. Actually thinking of building myself a "medium legacy" system in a spare case, with a motherboard off ebay, a CPU off (noo, don't want anyone pinching the one I have my eye on... ok, it's CEX) and the memory being a set of DDR3 that I had to swap in main system due to obstruction of 2nd pair of RAM slots.

If the system is standard enough, then gutting it and using the old case/PSU is another option... I got the spare case as a machine someone was discarding, with a P4 2.8 and the lousiest graphics ever - Intel Extreme 2, and no AGP slot, pretty much tagging it for gutting, PSU a rather weak 250W though.

Find your local Facebook selling page. Sell the P4 (should get about £20). Buy a dual core (about £40). I've sold quite a few at those prices so should be about that. Plus no fees etc

thanks for all the comments guys.

The PC is around 10yrs old.
came with XP - upgraded to 1.5GB of ram (from 512MB) and a fresh install of Win7 in 2011 and actually made a backup image at the time. Restoring the image makes a bit of a difference only now... swapping to an SSD for booting up shouldn't be too difficult... just expensive!

It doesn't stutter with one youtube window but have a few other tabs and it can certainly feel the strain. Even browsing certain sites seem to make it hang, esp if lots of adverts along the edges.
Always amazes me how the same machine felt snappier with 512mb ram and XP all those years ago. Could the OS be too much for this ancient machine? Or are websites just more media rich? Bare minimum software actually installed.

Spec wise:
P4 519 - 3.06Ghz 1MB 533Mhz. 775 LGA socket accoridng to CPUZ
DDR1 ram (pc3200) - x86 system so no more than 3GB ram
Not seen sata connectors

Upgrading processor seems difficult even though it is a 775 socket.
more ram - not convinced this will solve it as its only going to be DDR1 again and max 3GB. Aren't there still netbooks/budget laptops being sold with 2GB of ram! May well be the cheapest thing to try though - replace 512mb with 2GB.

Will look into a dual core unit as would get fater CPU, faster ram, sata etc etc. Any tips and guide prices?
May be even just a motherboard with parts... as the case is quite good with tv card and built in wifi (802.11g wifi card and only analog tuner :s)


Will look into a dual core unit as would get fater CPU, faster ram, sata … Will look into a dual core unit as would get fater CPU, faster ram, sata etc etc. Any tips and guide prices?

Depends on the age, the oldest dual cores are a decade slower than a brand new one and accordingly cheaper.

Generally I'd say around £60 for a Pentium-branded Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge (G620/G2020 etc.) and £80 for the equivalent i3-branded chip (i3-2120 etc.).

I wouldn't touch the older Core 2 Duo machines personally unless you want something for peanuts. They're perfectly functional but you'll only have to replace them sooner.
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