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Best bang for buck? CPU from E6600 to Q6600 (or similar) vs. 2gb to 4gb memory upgrade

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May 12, 2014 2:08:13 PM

Hi everyone,

I have a home theater PC currently running a C2D E6600 with 2gb DDR2 ram, running Win7 x64 Home Premium.

I use it mostly for browsing and as a DVR. It's connected to a Silicon Dust HDHR Prime which can record up to 3 HD digital feeds, as well as a HDHR original which can feed in 2 OTA feeds. When the DVR is busy running comskip in the background (a program that automagically finds commercial breaks) while I'm using the computer for other things is really the only time it starts to stutter a bit. CPU usage might hit 70% or so during these times.

As this is an older computer, I'm looking for a performance boost with a small upgrade.

Would I get the most boost from upgrading the E6600 to a quad-core, or swapping out a 1gb stick with a 4gb stick (thus making it 1gb+4gb ram)?

The CPU upgrade could be obtained for ~$50, the memory upgrade for $60-70.
a b à CPUs
May 12, 2014 4:23:46 PM

Yes, this is right up my Alley. Give me a moment to get my coat off
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a b à CPUs
May 12, 2014 4:38:24 PM

O.K.,you need to check the chipset on your old motherboard. Ideally,
check cpu support with your motherboard model/ manufacturer.
Some chipsets could not support 4 threads,(quad core)
Obviously, the performance increase would be near double on the cpu
(2970 vs 1500).
2 gig of ram is not quite enough, but is it 533 ram or 667?
If it is 667 ram, setting the speed to 333 in bios will help with either chip.
You need to find out if the board will run a Kentsfield Q6600, and if it will buy the G0 SLACR stepping model. It runs cooler, enough for stock heat sinks justabout
If the ram has metal heat sinks on, (ala 'performance ram'- hyper X,XMS2.etc, you will likely need to bump the RAM voltage to 1.9 Volts to run the memory at 333. This is standard V on a lot of em and I have never blown one up/
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May 12, 2014 5:08:13 PM

tea urchin said:
O.K.,you need to check the chipset on your old motherboard. Ideally,
check cpu support with your motherboard model/ manufacturer.
Some chipsets could not support 4 threads,(quad core)
Obviously, the performance increase would be near double on the cpu
(2970 vs 1500).
2 gig of ram is not quite enough, but is it 533 ram or 667?
If it is 667 ram, setting the speed to 333 in bios will help with either chip.
You need to find out if the board will run a Kentsfield Q6600, and if it will buy the G0 SLACR stepping model. It runs cooler, enough for stock heat sinks justabout
If the ram has metal heat sinks on, (ala 'performance ram'- hyper X,XMS2.etc, you will likely need to bump the RAM voltage to 1.9 Volts to run the memory at 333. This is standard V on a lot of em and I have never blown one up/


I love it when the coat comes off!

The mobo is an Asrock g31m-Gs. Kind of a weird low end mobo, it was the only LGA775 board available on newegg that could use my RAM and E6600 when my mobo died 6 months ago.

It does support a quad core chip.

My RAM currently is
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
but if I go to 4gb, I'd just pull out both and put in 2 sticks of 2gb. The board supports either 667 or 800 memory.
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a c 99 à CPUs
May 12, 2014 7:20:19 PM

Commercial skipping is pretty intensive on the hard drive primarily if experience with a MythTV DVR is any guide. Having up to five simultaneous HD feeds recording and then trying to commercial detect them is going to be a lot of hard drive activity. I'd look at your hard drive activity first and upgrade that to a newer, faster unit if your Task Manager shows a ton of HDD activity. A swamped HDD will cause a system to be super sluggish.

Next thing I'd look at is memory usage. 2 GB for Windows 7 x64 and a DVR frontend sounds like it might be a little on the low side especially with a DVR program, commercial flagging on multiple streams, and then doing "other things." I'd keep the amount of memory symmetrical between slots to preserve dual-channel operation otherwise performance will suffer. I'd bite the bullet and go 4+4 GB if you're going to keep the system a while.

I'd look to upgrade the CPU last. Your CPU should still give smooth performance even at 70% usage. 99%, no, but 70% should be fine. I'd try to overclock it slightly to see if that helps with the slowness if you want a quick and dirty, reversible way to find if the CPU is the culprit. Bump the FSB up from 266 MHz (1066) to 333 MHz (1333) to bump your CPU from 2.40 to 3.00 GHz. 3.00 GHz is usually quite attainable on even an early B2 E6600 and that's enough of a boost to tell you if the CPU is the issue. If it is the issue, go get that Q6600 or a fast dual-core like an E8600 and you should be fine.

Personally I'd bet it's HDD performance. An HDD made in the same generation as the E6600 is going to struggle with recording and commercial flagging of five ~2-2.5 MB/sec streams while doing random I/O for Web browsing. I know this because I do things like editing and transcoding multiple 28 Mbps AVCHD files from my camcorder at one time on my 12-core workstation. Working with multiple streams at once hits the HDD much harder than you'd think.
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May 12, 2014 8:23:11 PM

MU_Engineer said:
Commercial skipping is pretty intensive on the hard drive primarily if experience with a MythTV DVR is any guide. Having up to five simultaneous HD feeds recording and then trying to commercial detect them is going to be a lot of hard drive activity. I'd look at your hard drive activity first and upgrade that to a newer, faster unit if your Task Manager shows a ton of HDD activity. A swamped HDD will cause a system to be super sluggish.

Next thing I'd look at is memory usage. 2 GB for Windows 7 x64 and a DVR frontend sounds like it might be a little on the low side especially with a DVR program, commercial flagging on multiple streams, and then doing "other things." I'd keep the amount of memory symmetrical between slots to preserve dual-channel operation otherwise performance will suffer. I'd bite the bullet and go 4+4 GB if you're going to keep the system a while.

I'd look to upgrade the CPU last. Your CPU should still give smooth performance even at 70% usage. 99%, no, but 70% should be fine. I'd try to overclock it slightly to see if that helps with the slowness if you want a quick and dirty, reversible way to find if the CPU is the culprit. Bump the FSB up from 266 MHz (1066) to 333 MHz (1333) to bump your CPU from 2.40 to 3.00 GHz. 3.00 GHz is usually quite attainable on even an early B2 E6600 and that's enough of a boost to tell you if the CPU is the issue. If it is the issue, go get that Q6600 or a fast dual-core like an E8600 and you should be fine.

Personally I'd bet it's HDD performance. An HDD made in the same generation as the E6600 is going to struggle with recording and commercial flagging of five ~2-2.5 MB/sec streams while doing random I/O for Web browsing. I know this because I do things like editing and transcoding multiple 28 Mbps AVCHD files from my camcorder at one time on my 12-core workstation. Working with multiple streams at once hits the HDD much harder than you'd think.


I agree. You mobo supports 8 gb or RAM, which can be found for 67-80 bucks. Don't know how much the Q6660 is. 70% doesn't really impact performance.
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May 12, 2014 9:06:38 PM

MU_Engineer said:
Commercial skipping is pretty intensive on the hard drive primarily if experience with a MythTV DVR is any guide. Having up to five simultaneous HD feeds recording and then trying to commercial detect them is going to be a lot of hard drive activity. I'd look at your hard drive activity first and upgrade that to a newer, faster unit if your Task Manager shows a ton of HDD activity. A swamped HDD will cause a system to be super sluggish.

Next thing I'd look at is memory usage. 2 GB for Windows 7 x64 and a DVR frontend sounds like it might be a little on the low side especially with a DVR program, commercial flagging on multiple streams, and then doing "other things." I'd keep the amount of memory symmetrical between slots to preserve dual-channel operation otherwise performance will suffer. I'd bite the bullet and go 4+4 GB if you're going to keep the system a while.

I'd look to upgrade the CPU last. Your CPU should still give smooth performance even at 70% usage. 99%, no, but 70% should be fine. I'd try to overclock it slightly to see if that helps with the slowness if you want a quick and dirty, reversible way to find if the CPU is the culprit. Bump the FSB up from 266 MHz (1066) to 333 MHz (1333) to bump your CPU from 2.40 to 3.00 GHz. 3.00 GHz is usually quite attainable on even an early B2 E6600 and that's enough of a boost to tell you if the CPU is the issue. If it is the issue, go get that Q6600 or a fast dual-core like an E8600 and you should be fine.

Personally I'd bet it's HDD performance. An HDD made in the same generation as the E6600 is going to struggle with recording and commercial flagging of five ~2-2.5 MB/sec streams while doing random I/O for Web browsing. I know this because I do things like editing and transcoding multiple 28 Mbps AVCHD files from my camcorder at one time on my 12-core workstation. Working with multiple streams at once hits the HDD much harder than you'd think.


Thanks for the commentary!

I listed the 5 HD video sources, but in reality only 2 and rarely 3 are going at the same time. I like TV but not *that* much! The comskip program I've limited to run only 1 job at a time which helps keep the load manageable.

The HTPC has become somewhat of a frankenstein of older yet still reliable HDs, with 2 SATA drives and 2 PATA drives, in addition to a 4tb USB drive which gets most of the digital recordings.

While the video files have certainly taken a leap in requirements for space and processing power once everything went from analog to HD, I don't anticipate any major changes in my cable technology (CableCard) that this system can't handle for the near future. I think I'll go with the memory upgrade as my first step. Maybe a SSD for my boot drive in the future.

@XxD34ThxX Do you know where I can get 2 x 4gb of DDR2 at those prices? Places I've looked at have it at around $180!
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a b à CPUs
May 12, 2014 9:29:43 PM

OP, he's talking about normal RAM, not SDRAM.
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a c 99 à CPUs
May 13, 2014 7:15:53 AM

waylo said:


Thanks for the commentary!

I listed the 5 HD video sources, but in reality only 2 and rarely 3 are going at the same time. I like TV but not *that* much! The comskip program I've limited to run only 1 job at a time which helps keep the load manageable.

The HTPC has become somewhat of a frankenstein of older yet still reliable HDs, with 2 SATA drives and 2 PATA drives, in addition to a 4tb USB drive which gets most of the digital recordings.

While the video files have certainly taken a leap in requirements for space and processing power once everything went from analog to HD, I don't anticipate any major changes in my cable technology (CableCard) that this system can't handle for the near future. I think I'll go with the memory upgrade as my first step. Maybe a SSD for my boot drive in the future.

@XxD34ThxX Do you know where I can get 2 x 4gb of DDR2 at those prices? Places I've looked at have it at around $180!


A few thoughts:

1. The PATA and USB hard drives may very well be limiting your performance. PATA HDDs haven't been made for close to 10 years now and are much, much slower than anything new today. The USB connection to that new 4 TB hard drive also very likely limits bandwidth as I'll strongly bet it's running at USB 2.0 which tops out in the low-20s MB/sec and has pretty high latency to boot. I'd take the drive out of the external enclosure, install it in your computer, and connect it directly via its SATA connector to your computer and get rid of the old PATA stuff if I were in your shoes.

2. Two 4 GB memory DDR2-667 modules cost $120 or so on the used market. New, they're about twice that. Be VERY careful if you go looking for used 4 GB DDR2 memory modules on eBay as most everything that size is going to be FB-DIMM server memory or registered ECC server memory which will not work in your system. You need unbuffered non-ECC desktop memory. Something like this Crucial memory would be what you are looking for. 4 GB desktop DDR2 modules unfortunately aren't cheap as they're the largest ever made and they weren't really all that popular when DDR2 was still current-generation technology. Most people were on Windows XP 32-bit or Vista 32-bit then and anything more than 4 GB (2x2 GB) was wasted memory.

3. A Q6600 or Q6700 is about $50 on eBay. The faster 45 nm Q9x50 units start at about $90 for a Q9450 (which is barely any bit faster than a Q6700) and go well on upwards from there. I'd get a Q6700 if you really wanted to upgrade the CPU as they are essentially the same price as a Q6600 and are another 267 MHz faster.
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June 4, 2014 11:38:46 PM

Just as a final follow-up, I ended up buying 2 x 2gb PC2-6400 DDR2 800mhz RAM on ebay for $35. Thank you for the small history lesson, I found it completely true that there were very few 4gb pieces out there, much less for affordable prices.

For a system that's 6-7 years old, it runs a bit more smoothly now! Physical memory usage in the task manager has dropped from ~85% to ~40-50%, as would be expected.
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