Optional Equipment

bulletTape Backup Devices
bulletAudio Adapters (Sound Cards)
bulletCD-ROM Drives
bulletOther Devices

There is an abundance of optional equipment available for your computer.

Amongst the most popular of these devises are Tape Backup Devices, Audio Adapters, and CD-ROM drives. Most of these items are easily installed when the manufacturer's directions are followed. Most of these companies are still in business because they have made the installation of their hardware more easy, more complete, and more compatible than ever before. Plug-N-Play and Windows95 compatible are both things definitely to look for.


Tape Backup Devices:
 
Positives: Being able to backup your valuable information. Cost is cheap compared to virtually any other form of backup. The backup's can be automated and done unattended in most cases (if the tapes will hold all the data).

Negatives: Can't easily change what is on the tapes. Write to the tapes, you can not read from the tapes without special software. The data is generally compressed, thus requiring special software to read and access.

Procedures: These are the minimum requirements I recommend. Make a FULL backup of everything and put it in a safe place, outside of the building your computer is located. Next, have an odd and even tape, used for the daily backup of data - the odd tape is used on odd days, and the even tape for even days. Then, have an odd and even monthly backup set, which is rotated at the end of each month. If this is done correctly and faithfully, you will never lose more than one or two days of information.

Cautions: Make sure that the tapes are working. Don't ever lose the software to run the tape backup software. For Windows95 and newer, there is a hidden registry file which is sometimes a major problem, often requiring re-installation of Windows95 or greater if there is a major problem.

Considerations: I don't suggest tape backup systems, unless you require backing up MORE than 2 Gigabytes of information and data. With the cost and advantages of adding an additional hard drive, Jazz drive, or SysJet - a tape backup isn't as powerful or cost effective as they once were. Furthermore, these other options are faster and can be used just like a hard disk drive.

Quality Brands: I personally have, use, and have found benefit from Conner, and BackPack drives. Colorado and HP make solid, but proprietary devices. The Iomega Ditto is new and supposedly one of the fastest in existence. The Exabyte brand is expensive, fast, and also NOT generally supported in the Windows95 environment.

News Worthy: I recently installed the new 3.2 Gig HP/Colorado (the same company now) - and am starting testing on these drives. The up side, installation was very quick and easy... all parts are included. Down side, if your system isn't running the latest and greatest version of floppy controller the drive MAY NOT WORK without a special add-on card (the FC-20). A normal floppy drive controller is capable of 1MB per second max transfer; the FC-20 doubles the capability, but requires an ISA slot and an EXTRA power connector (two total - one for the drive and one for the card). I installed this HP3000 on three different systems - each with the FC-20 high speed add-on card. On one system the backup speed was 8-10 MB per minute, the other was 3 to 5 MB per minute, and the last one was 10 to 16 MB per minute - there doesn't seem to be a lot of consistency, and everything depends on the quality of the components. Each of the three systems took about 10 minutes for the installation of the hardware and basic software... and 45 to 60 minutes for the first full system backup and compare, and the two (floppy) emergency recovery disks.


Audio Adapters (Sound Cards):

Look for the PNP (Plug-N-Play) as well as the Windows95 and greater compatibility. Creative Labs (Sound Blaster) is the ipso facto "standard" in the sound card world. The drivers are built into most Microsoft Operating Systems. For the notebooks, the ESS series has become the "standard" and also has many drivers readily available.

There are many sound cards out that are as good or better, but you must be careful about the drivers... future upgradability and use. What is the card compatible with? Sound Blaster has been a standard in the Industry for nearly 10 years... 99.9% of the games, videos, and multimedia programs in the world are Sound Blaster compatible and require very specific settings.

Positives: Every video, interactive training, and multimedia program is greatly enhanced with sound, and often requires sound. It is a great benefit, even if you only you head phones for the privacy issues.

Negatives: To run DOS based programs, generally IRQ 5, DMA 5,  and address A220 is required. Many PNP devices, other than the SoundBlaster, do not take this into account. This is the number one problem in running DOS based games under Windows95. Many games that state Windows95 compatibility are still DOS games, which shell (invisibly) out to DOS.


CD-ROM Drives:

I suggest 8x or better. The 4x will work in most cases, and is definitely better than nothing. First, odds are you have a CD ROM drive now. If you don't, you should get one. Over 80% of the worlds software is distributed on CD today, the remaining 20% is split between floppy disks and direct "modem" distribution from BBS' or the Internet.

Unless you are COPYING the data on the disc, working with large files, etc. a 12x is the fastest that anyone really needs. The hype for the 24x drives is greatly over stated. I personally only have one drive faster than a 16x, used for development purposes.

As programs continue to get bigger and require more hard drive space, more RAM, and other such resources I am sure that having a faster drive will be of benefit. I would suggest budgeting no more than $100 to $150 dollars for a CD ROM drive... and to get the fastest and best you can for the amount you have set. On occasions, "close-outs" of 12 or 16x drives are available... I have seen 4x drives for as little as $38.
 
Considerations: Try to get a drive that is PNP, and will be supported for a good long time. If the drive is IDE, you need to make sure that the drive is 32 bit and has the appropriate drivers, otherwise it can drastically slow down your hard disk drive (if on the same cable). Also, stay away from drives that require a "caddy." This is an extra expense and hassle.

Problems: Try to stay away from proprietary drive types. The easiest way to spot them, although by far not the best, is where does the ribbon cable on the drive plug in? If it is the same place as your hard drives, great! If it is to a "normal" SCSI or SCSI-2 controller, that is more expensive and even better. If it is to the sound card, be darn careful!!! If the drive plugs into the sound card you have at least a 50/50 chance of it being proprietary, which is very bad! If the drive goes bad, finding a replacement maybe difficult. If the sound card goes bad, it could take out the CD drive also. Changing the setting for the card might be physical jumpers on the card, or software settings (through proprietary software drivers - which is fine, if you never lose or misplace them).

Brands: Toshiba, Teac, Mitsumi, and Panasonic have all proven to be solid drives over the years.


Other Devices:

I will add more information about the various other devices as users request such information. There are so many different types, and over the years the information has just accumulated. Ask, and I will try to get you, and future versions of these documents, the answers.

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