I currently have a very old and derlict (sp?) compaq.
1.6 Ghz socket 478 intel processor
256MB PC2100 & 256MB PC2700
Geforce FX5500 256MB AGP4x
Some strange stock motherboard with only 100Mhz FSB! Mobo supports up to AGP4x windows xp
Lately I've been playing black and white 2, and have had some problems when my city gets too large with graphics lag. I normall play all games on the lowest graphics settings.
Which of these parts should I consider upgrading? I've been thinking that the processor is way too slow, but maybe the graphics card is the bottleneck? How often is the RAM a bottleneck?
I know, I know, this system stinks. Hopefully, I'll be able to buy a whole new one some day. Budget 250 ... but I will crack under pressure if I'm convinced that a 350 dollar increase will give me more value.
Well I didn't know that intel made socket 754 processors... i take it you mean a pentium 4/celeron 1.6ghz. if its a celeron then ditch it cos its a no-hoper. if its a pentium 4 then the faster the better, as much as the board can take.
get xp for it if you're not already running that.
and get an ATI radeon 9600/9800 256mb card
and i believe that both your memory modules are running at 2100 speed, so take out that PC2100 256MB and get one that is PC2700 so they both run at PC2700
Well I'd say that the whole darn thing is a bottleneck, the CPU is pretty ghetto, you should upgrade that and the vid card plus the pc2700 memory so you will have less lag.
RAM is only a bottleneck when Windows starting hitting your hard drive for virtual memory. Look at the recommended specs for the game. If it asks for more memory than what your motherboard will allow, then you may still have problems.
Your graphics card is probably ok. It isn't that old so its probably already optimized for DirectX 9.
To really get the biggest bank for your buck, you need a machine specialized for running games like an XBox, XBox 360, or PS2.
After going through mutiple PC upgrade cycles, I gave in and purchased an XBox. Now, I never use my PC for gaming because the XBox is so much better for this. If you get a VGA adapter, then you can run games in hi-res that rival PC graphics. The adapter costs about $80.
With the XBox 360 out, a standard XBox + VGA Adapter + Black and White 2 will probably cost less than upgrading your PC. You'll get better frame rates on the XBox.
Biggest performance increase would come from better vid card, but large maps will continue to hurt some from lack of RAM/slow RAM. The 9800Pro would just shift the bottleneck to the RAM/CPU. It really is time for a new build if gaming is a big priority. That being said I have an AMD 1500+, that I upgraded from a GF2 GTS to a 9800 Pro and have been able to extend the systems life a little bit (12 months). It just sucks that I won't be able to use the vid card in my next build, but it will work well as a hand me down in the family. If he can save up to about $600, he should be able to piece together a good build...
Sorry for the late response, I caught the flu and have been vomiting in bed the past few days.
Thanks to everyone for the excellent replies. I think they've helped me gain insight into my situation. Sorry about the '754 pin' error, it was 478. my bad!
There is something strange about this motherboard that makes me think bourgeoisdude is right about the RAM not working on this impossibly slow FSB. It's as if the manufacturer cut all corners to give the motherboard JUST ENOUGH to keep the ship afloat without any extra. I don't think I trust compaq at all now. When I ordered my second PC2700 memory module (I think from 4allmemory.com) I had to return the first one for another because, they explained, that the motherboard was 'special'.
I had been hoping I could find a cheap miracle cure that would boost my computer for maybe another year before I was forced to upgrade. However, it looks like I need to build a new one and leave this one for word processing.
Unfortunately, I don't make alot of money and can't afford a new computer without sacrificing U of A classes (they are effing expensive these days!!!). But I live with the folks, and keep getting job offers that double or triple the measly 7 bucks I make right now, - and if a scholarship comes through, I'll be home free to build a new one.
And what are these VGA adapters that were mentioned? You can play PC games using the xbox hardware? If so, that's truly amazing, tell me more!
Thank you so much everyone for shedding light on my issue and giving me an outside perspective. I'll definitely try to find a way to build anew... and will head to the budget threads right now for research. I do go to newegg alot and shop around, but never buy, and have assembled two computers so far (Although I'm no computer techie) so it shouldn't be too tough to build a new one.