Thinking From the Box

More Reasons to Run a Low-end PC

Roger M - 2002.05.22

What is the major advantage of a low-end PC? Cost? Yes, but there is another one: It may save your main PC.

What do I mean by that? I'll give you an example. A few months ago I downloaded a classic DOS game I used to play at the Arcades. They recommended running it in DOS mode, which I did. Right off, the game ran way too fast. It turns out you need another program to slow the computer down for such games on newer computers.

And then I couldn't quit the game, so I had to just exit DOS. That caused my computer to start booting into DOS mode instead of Windows. It took me notable time and effort to get that problem fixed. Then when I did get it to boot into Windows, it took three times longer to boot.

I finally got that fixed, but to this day my computer still flashes "Restarting in DOS mode" for a few seconds at startup. It still works normally otherwise.

I have always been wary of such problems. Even before the above incident, I downloaded an Atari ST emulator. I didn't have any problems, but I uninstalled it after a few hours because I didn't want to to take chances. I need my computer. Just losing it for a day or two would be a hassle, so I prefer not to experiment with it. This is where low-end PCs come in - they're great for experimenting, especially with older programs. Low-end PCs offer at least three big advantages in this area:

  1. They can be your second machine for older games and experimenting. If you should manage to damage the OS due to one of your installations or experiments, you still have your main computer. As such, you will find you're apt to do more experimenting and will likely have more fun.
  2. If you want to run primarily older DOS games and programs, a low-end PC with only DOS as the operating system is the way to go. Having only DOS simplifies things considerably. You won't have any Windows conflicts, and if you do manage to corrupt your system, it is easy enough to reinstall only DOS and leave other programs alone. Remember, there is no registry or such to deal with.
  3. Finally, an older computer often works better with older software and games. You will also find quite a number of cool DOS programs that were never made for Windows. A search of for "DOS programs" will yield a number of handy programs.

So there you have it, a cheap way to save yourself considerable problems and the danger of losing the use of your main computer. With a low-end PC, you will find you're much more apt to have fun experimenting and trying new applications and programs because you won't be worrying about trashing your computer.LEPC

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