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To throw or not to throw a whole life away

Last night I finally watched Seabiscuit. In my view, the best line from the movie is, "You don't throw a whole life away just 'cause it's banged up a little."

I found myself contemplating that line today as I continue to nurse my desktop computer. It now has the oldest parts of all the computers in our household. A FIC AZ-11 motherboard. The first 1 Ghz Athlon processor. Two legacy drives: a 5.25" floppy drive and an LS-120 super disk drive. (When I find a need to recover information from one of my Apple IIe floppies, I boot up my IIe, copy the data to a floppy in a drive connected to an Applied Engineering card, and read the floppy on my desktop PC's legacy drive.)

But the poor thing is banged up. It used to serve double-duty in my household, acting as the Internet server for our home network, and also for my audio and video editing. But it began to fail regularly as a server, so I relieved it of that duty, passing that job on to one of our cast-off computers.

Other things continue to break down. It didn't help when my homemade power junction came apart, causing a short, which melted some wires and sent smoke shooting out of the case. I removed my Zip drive after that. Then my SONY DVD burner began to act up, not always cooperating on a burn. So I added a generic CD burner, which functioned for a while until driver conflicts sent the system into a tizzy and I had to unhook it. My Audigy 2 works great, but I can't use my digital headset with it because that causes crashes. And my LS-120 only rarely reads the 120 MB disks it is supposed to be able to read. As I tried to fix that problem over the last two days, the system kept freezing unexpectedly when I was doing nothing more than browsing the web. Poor, banged-up computer.

So today I decided to see if I could find a newer motherboard in hopes that it might help revive the system. Nothing fancy. Just a Socket A board that takes the old-fashioned 168-pin DIMM memory. I don't need sound, USB2, or Firewire, because I have cards for those.

But my simple board does not exist, unless I want to buy one that is three years old. All the more recent Socket As support DDR memory and insist on giving you surround sound, etc., etc. I did find an interesting-looking microATX board that supported both SDRAM and DDR memory, but the board (a M841LU) was made by PCChips, which has probably the worst reputation in the industry. The board is apparently identical to the ECS K7SOM but without the built-in Duron processor. Our family used to have two computers built with ECS boards, and both failed after about a year.

So, what to do? Take a chance on the cheap PCChips board? Get a fancier board and buy new memory? Or upgrade in a bigger way, with a more modern-speed CPU as well? The decision is complicated by my desire to build a high-end HTPC for our home theatre, and I don't want to spend a fortune on both projects. Also, is it right to throw away my comp's whole life just because it is a little banged up?