It's amazing how quickly things advance in technology. What was speedy and cutting edge just a few years ago now seems sluggish and poor value for money, with PCs being one of the worst culprits.

In a bid to amuse ourselves and give us a chance to reminisce, we decided to speed test a PC that had been sent to our labs for testing, some eleven years ago, and was never returned to its rightful owner.

The PC that time forgot!

It's hard to determine exactly when or where this PC came from; our best experts have been able to backdate the unit to January of 1999, when it may have been delivered as part of a budget machine roundup.

After carefully wiping away the dust and grime of time to expose a set of vintage MFPC serial numbers, we did what any sane optimisation-obsessed tester would do: we set this one-of-a-kind 'My Favourite PC' up for a few rounds of hardcore performance testing.

This is where the adventure begins. First we had to install the latest version of our WorldBench 6 testing software, which meant replacing the default Windows 98 with a fresh install of Windows 7 Starter Edition. Reformatting proved to be just the first step down this retro rabbit hole; to get Windows 7 operational, we had to toss out the factory-installed 32MB of 133 SDRAM and slot in a pair of 256MB SDRAM sticks we dug out of an old supply closet.

The old 512MB hard drive was junked in favour of a (comparatively) massive new 160GB hard drive capable of bearing a bare-bones Win7 install and a copy of our benchmarking software. Finally, with the end in sight we hooked up the 100watt power supply and booted into Windows with a BIOS update and a prayer.

NEXT PAGE: Getting WorldBench up and running

  1. The test of time
  2. Getting WorldBench up and running

It's amazing how quickly things advance in technology, with PCs being one of the worst culprits. What seemed speedy and cutting edge just a few years ago, now seems sluggish and poor value for money. We decided to speed test a PC that had been sent to our labs for testing, some eleven years ago, and was never returned to its rightful owner.

Once we got WorldBench 6 up and running, the machine failed 7 of the 10 consumer app tests right from the start. Without a full-sized motherboard, we couldn't even install a 3D graphics card (no PCI or AGP slots), and were forced to rely on an integrated graphics chipset installed during the late 90s as the machine limped through our Adobe Photoshop and video encoding tests.

Here's our results:

For reference, the average budget desktop scores around the 100point mark in WorldBench 6. My Favourite PC scored a five, and even earning that was a gruelling process as the 400MHz processor spent days chugging through Firefox and Microsoft Office tests that normally take 6 to 8 hours on a post-Y2K budget PC. For comparison purposes, here's the same test results from the recently-reviewed Viewsonic VPC 190 a budget all-in-one PC.

So what have we learned from our upgrade experiment?

  • Windows 7 runs exceptionally well on an old machine, an impressive feat given the system hog that was Vista.
  • With a little love, even a decade-old PC can be useful as a dedicated iternet machine for a small business or tech-phobic family member.

See also: 10 great tools to test your PC

  1. How does a long-forgotten machine fare in today's speed tests
  2. Getting WorldBench up and running