Ask the Doctor

Kaya Systems

This month the doctor tackles Windows 7 vs Windows 8, two-system cases, DHCP problems, and more

Upgrade or Toss?

My mother has been using the same Dell Inspiron (P4 2.8GHz) for the past 10 years, and she refuses to upgrade. I've already boosted the RAM from 1GB to 4GB (3.3GB with 32-bit Windows XP), swapped the puny 80GB HDD with a 500GB drive, and tossed in a DVD-RW drive. Then, for Christmas, I got her a 24-inch LCD monitor, but the Dell is so old, the resolution caps at 1024x768.

Should I swap that old Dell with a $400 rig, or try throwing a discrete graphic card on the decade-old board? Any recommendations for a mother who watches a lot of Netflix and DVDs? I want to get her watching Blu-ray, just so she can see the difference.

- Morgan Kuehl

The Doctor Responds:

While it’s possible to get an AGP or PCI graphics card that will enable Blu-ray playback on that old system, you’d be throwing good money after bad, in the Doctor’s estimation. Better to spend $400 or so on a system based on an AMD APU, which will give you great HTPC performance, including Blu-ray and Netflix playback, without the need for a discrete GPU.

Morgan, the PS3 may actually suit your mother's needs.

Hell, the Doc hates to say this, but a PlayStation 3 can play Blu-ray and DVDs and has a Netflix client built in and costs around $250. So if that's all she uses the computer for, you might as well just save some money and get one of those.

Win8 Without Touch

I am getting ready to put together a new PC—the first in a very long time. My current box is a Pentium 4 in a Socket 478 motherboard running XP Pro. Should I install Windows 7 or Windows 8 ? I don't need or want a touchscreen, so does Win8 work well without one?

- Robert Weber

The Doctor Responds:

Windows 8 works fine without a touchscreen. It’s the Doctor’s opinion that a new Windows 8 laptop should have a touchscreen but a desktop doesn’t need one. On a desktop, your hands are much farther from the screen, so the reach-up-and-swipe motion that works fine on a laptop doesn’t work as well on a desktop.

We prefer Windows 8 to Windows 7 provided you use something like the Classic Shell Start menu.

As for which OS to use, the Doctor has to recommend Windows 8. It’s slightly faster than Windows 7 on the same hardware, and if you end up hating the Modern UI interface you can always avoid it and spend most of your time in the desktop (which the Doctor does), or in extreme cases you can use free software like Classic Shell to disable it entirely. In the Doctor’s opinion, the Start interface is fine if you use it as a Start menu and annoying if you try to use it for anything else.

Water-Cooling the HAF

I’m currently running a reasonable system in a Cooler Master HAF X . I want to add an all-in-one liquid-cooling loop like the Thermaltake Water2.0 Pro or Corsair H80. The reason I write is this: The rear fan on the case I have is 140mm; everything else on the case is 200mm or 230mm. I’ve been looking around, and I can’t see any prebuilt water-cooling system that can match these larger fans. I’ve seen some adapters, but the reviews on them say that they’ll hold a case fan, but that’s it. So, I’m hoping that you can either lead me in the direction of a viable solution, show me something in my case that I’ve completely missed (like some holes in the top of the case that are pre-drilled to handle the radiator), or just tell me honestly that I’m hosed, and I’ll drop it.

- Lue

The Doctor Responds:

The rear fan mount area on those HAF series chassis should have a second set of fan-mounting holes that will accommodate 120mm fans. All you need to do is remove the 140mm fan and install the fan/radiator there. Alternately, you ought to be able to use a 240mm radiator, like that on the Corsair H100 or the Thermaltake Water2.0 Extreme, at the top of the case if you remove the stock fan there. You'll see mounting holes for 240mm and 360mm radiators at the top once the fan is removed.

DHCP Drops

I'm using a D-Link Dir-855 router and several months ago I started having problems connecting to websites after being logged in anywhere from 20 minutes to the better part of a day. I can resolve the issue for the short term by dropping my Internet connection via the router web interface and then re-establishing it. Comcast seems to think I need to make changes to my browser configuration due to some problem affecting Windows PCs, but this affects every device on my network including my iPhones when connecting, and for both wireless and wired devices. I thought that it might be a DNS problem for a while, as I can access sites if I use an IP, but then started thinking it was more likely to be a DHCP issue.

My network skills are tapped out at this point. Are there any techniques for determining an actual cause of the problem? If I understand what I've read, my Dir-855 handles the DHCP duties. Could it have gone bad? I don't want to have to replace the router if I don't have to, but this problem is annoying.

- Michael K. Craghead

The Doctor Responds:

It does sound like a DHCP issue. You’ve mentioned that you already know how to log in to your router’s web configuration panel, so do that and go to the configuration panel. Go to Network Settings and then DHCP settings and make sure that you have the DHCP server setting enabled and that you have enough IP addresses reserved for devices. Set the range to be something like through

Right under that you should see the option to set your DHCP lease time in minutes. Set this for a large number, like 10,000 minutes (if available). This is just short of a week. See if that helps. You can also try setting static IP addresses for each device by using the DHCP Reservation list.

You did mention that you can still get to websites via the IP address. You could try changing your DNS servers from the ISP’s to Google or OpenDNS to see if that improves the situation. Go back to Settings and write down the DNS addresses you see under Primary DNS and Secondary DNS Server so you can change them back if necessary. Google’s DNS servers are and and OpenDNS’s are and Pick a pair and see if that resolves the issue.

SSD or HDD for Me?

I’m about to purchase a new desktop based on what Maximum PC has taught me over the years, but can’t decide between SSD and HDD. I primarily use my desktop for email and Internet use. However, I’ll also use it to edit HD video and create DVDs/Blu-rays.

I hear SSDs are less desirable for video editing since they run low on program/erase cycles over time. But won’t I be fine if the OS is on the SSD and data is kept on a second (HDD) drive? In other words, will the video editing software go easy on the SSD since all the data is elsewhere? Also, does video editing require a robust video card, or can I get by with an entry-level card?

- Ian

The Doctor Responds:

You should be perfectly fine running an SSD in your box and the Doctor recommends it based on your computing needs. There’s really no reason to lock yourself out of the joy of an SSD today. You shouldn’t worry about the program/erase cycles on a modern SSD, as you will likely toss out the drive or retire it before you ever wear it out. As for getting a beefy GPU for video editing, the Doctor would recommend a good GPU for any machine that will do more than light-duty video editing—just make sure you get a card that your video editor will support. You should be able to get this information by checking out the recommended hardware for the video editor you are using. These days, it tends to be Nvidia cards that support CUDA . If your video editor does not (even consumer video editors do these days), then you can go with integrated or a low-end GPU.

Received via Fax

I have two PCs, one running Windows XP and the other Windows 7. This also means I have two cases and they both take up room under the desk. I want to know if there are any cases that will hold two OSes with MB (and associated components). Both have two SATA HDDs and two DVD writers. I can give up two writers but need all four HDDs.

I keep XP because it is the only OS that will run Symantec’s WinFax. I had tried running it in WinXP mode with VMware but VMware doesn't see my modem (important for faxing). Windows Fax and Scan is very limited for what I need a faxing suite to do.

I plan to keep XP as long as possible, so a case holding two of everything is needed. I don't mind upgrading the XP's motherboard to a mini/micro just as long as it can handle two 1.5TB SATA hard drives and one DVD writer.

My other option, which is probably just a dream, would be a way to use the XP HDD and the Win7 HDD in the same case and just switch back and forth. They would need to be running at the same time, so it would be like booting into two different PCs, just all in the case controlled by one motherboard. Any ideas?

- Cassandra

The Azza Fusion 4000 has room for an XL-ATX motherboard on the bottom and a Mini-ITX rig on top, perfect for your multiboxing needs.

The Doctor Responds:

The Doctor understands, running a fax-spamming business takes work. Just kidding. Since you basically need two PCs in one, check out the Azza Fusion 4000 . The case lets you run a full-size system down below and a second Mini-ITX system up top. It should have the room you need for the hard drives, too. The only real problem is that you may not get it under your desk because it’s so tall, so you might have to put it next to your desk, instead.

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