I wont sit through another crash!

My poor 1.2 Ghz Athlon Thunderbird with 512 MB RAM just wont cut it anymore. I've seen it crash for the last time tonight playing Dungeon Siege II.

I'm ready to upgrade, and I have approximately a $600 budget. Now that Conroe has helped to bring prices down, I'm ready to get in the water.

I already have a case, and will hold on to my old keyboard, mouse, and 15" CRT for now. (At least until I get out of school in May.)

My computer will need to be pretty versatile. I'll use it for school (AutoCAD), I'll work in Photoshop some, and I'll play some games, but not to the level of Elder Scrolls.

I'm open to AMD or Intel routes, and have no experience in overclocking, although it is something that more than likely will interest me in the future, if I can integrate overclockable components into my budget, great, if I can't, no real loss. So here's my plan (with shipping costs and rebates figured in):

MOBO: DFI INFINITY NF ULTRAII-M2 $101.12 on Newegg

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ $159.00 on Newegg

VIDEO: PNY VCG7600GXPB Geforce 7600GT $151.63 on Newegg

RAM: OCZ Gold Series 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM Unbuffered DDR2 533 (PC2 4200) $85.98 on Newegg

POWER: COOLMAX CX-400B ATX v2.01 400W $28.10 on Newegg

I have the option of using an old EIDE 40 GB Hard Drive that I have lying in a drawer (not even sure it works), but I'd like to try to save a few dollars for an inexpensive drive such as this Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s $79.99 on Newegg

I have some major questions that I'm not sure where to find the answers to.

First of all, the RAM and the power supply were nearly random choices. I just tried to make sure that each was rated well on Newegg. Any suggestions there would be appreciated.

Also, which item could I adjust to most directly affect the system's performance? What would happen if I bought more/faster RAM but skimped on the video card? I initially considered going with the cheaper Athlon 64 3500+ for $96 and it's overclocking potential, and applying that extra 60 bucks to the RAM.

I apologize if my post has become too lengthy. I'm trying to input a lot of information into my brain and gain an understanding of just how much effect each component has on the system's overall performance.

I'm a new member to Tom's forumz, but I've enjoyed reading posts for several months. Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read my post and give some pointers to an eager to learn student.
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  1. Suggested Changes:

    Mobo: Asus M2N-E

    Video: eVGA Geforce 7600GT

    RAM: Corsair XMS2 1GB (2 x 512MB) DDR2-800 <---- This MUST be changed! OCZ DDR2 ram and AM2 boards don't play nice together.

    Power Supply: Antec Truepower 430W <--- Never spend less than $50 on a power supply. If you skimp in this area, you'll probably pay the ultimate price later on, and by later on, I mean a few weeks after you get the system up and running. Cheap power supplies never last.
  2. If you must have a cheap PSU, i would suggest this one, over 700 ratings on newegg and it's still a 5 egg item, so it has to be reliable enough for your system since it's not a top end:


    Thermaltake TR2 W0070 ATX 430W Power Supply
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16817153023
  3. Thanks for the suggestions.

    Since this is going to be a cheap upgrade to hold me over for a year or two until I can afford to build the system I'd really like, I really don't want to go over that $600 mark.

    I was afraid the power supply would not be approved. I'll go for the Antec, I really don't want to risk using something unreliable and damaging anything.

    Are there any other good options for RAM that are less expensive than the $154 CORSAIR. I really thought I could get 1 GB of RAM for about $100 without sacrificing too much.

    My goal with this system is to get it up and running, upgrade from the old Socket A that I've been patiently using for the last 5 years, but leave room for me to turn it into a really nice machine in about 2 years. My plan is to buy an inexpensive processor, that is based on either AM2 or Core 2, so when I have more money available/prices are lower I can upgrade to a much faster dual-core processor and 2 gigs of RAM while holding onto my motherboard (and also probably upgrade the video card at this time). So I guess the most important component to me right now is the motherboard. The ASUS mobo suggested does not offer IEEE 1394, while the DFI does. I want to utilize the port on the front of my case to plug in easily to my digital camcorder.
  4. I had that Thermaltake PSU in my old PC and it died on me, will never buy a PSU from them again.

    Its a good plan to go for the Antec, I have the NeoHE in both 430w (old) and 550w (new) and they own.
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