My parents in-law have been saying for some time that their PC is slow. I couldnâ€™t really understand why â€“ after all, itâ€™s only a couple of years since I put some memory in it, added a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive and rebuilt in to run Windows XP â€“ I thought that would be fine for a couple of silver surfers to look at and store their digital photos, catch up on e-mail and surf the web.
Oh how wrong I was. It was fine when I set it up, but after a couple of years of Windows updates, plus the installation of various programs bundled by their ISP, bloated security suites and the like, the PC was practically crawling. It wasnâ€™t unresponsive, it just took forever to load a web page, open a document, etc. and I even began to wonder if the Internet connection was failing to deliver the advertised ADSL broadband speeds.
My brother-in-law also complained about it every time he came home from his work overseas so when my wife suggested that he shared the cost of a new computer with us as a 70th birthday present he was more than happy to do so.
This afternoon, Iâ€™m copying over the files, setting up the printer, and doing all the bits and pieces that I couldnâ€™t do at home when I imaged the new PC and decrapified it a couple of weeks back but, just out of curiosity, I ran a speed test on the Internet connection.
Moving the ADSL modem connection from the aging PC (which Windows XP reports as a Pentium II with 412MB of RAM) to the new on (a Dell Inspiron 1525 with a 2.0GHz Core2Duo CPU and 3GB of RAM) boosted the reported connection speed from 1360kbps downstream and 152kbps upstream with a 502ms ping response (averaged over three readings) to 1883kbps downstream and 242kbps upstream with a 34ms ping (again, averaged over three tests). And this was the same ISP, the same phone line, and the same modem, just plugged into a different PC. Who would have thought that the CPU was just to slow to keep up with the network (and, before someone tells me that Linux could handle itâ€¦ ask yourself whether the average grandparent can handle Linux?)
So, next time you wonder if your ISP is delivering the advertised connection speed, it might just be worth taking a look at the PC youâ€™re using to access the connection.
(Now, if one more pensioner tells me how good it would be to set my in-laws up with a wireless network, Iâ€™ll screamâ€¦).