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first post, questions on upgrading system

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February 6, 2007 11:43:29 AM

Hey folks,
First-timer here, and I appreciate anyone's time and effort to respond. I currently have a Dell 8250 that I bought 7 years ago, and over time it has gotten sluggish with newer software and general build-up of junk on the machine. I'm planning on wiping the system and installing my software to start from scratch and get a little bit of performance back.

It currently only has 512MB RAM and after looking at how much it cost to upgrade the RD RAM that's in it, I'm thinking about putting that money into either building a system from scratch or just buying new.

If I buy new, I can reuse my monitor and speaker system and help cut the budget down to about $1700. If I had a budget of $1500 to build one from scratch, What are the best options out there? I use my machine for

Photoshop
Video editing
Web Design
occasional online gaming

I'm completely new when it comes to researching parts and not familiar with any of the acronyms used to describe the parts :? I'm familiar enough to open the case up and not be afraid to tear stuff up or install new gear but not to the point where I can say "yeah I really need that new xyz to go with my abc...."

any help and recommendations on a setup around that $1500 budget would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
February 6, 2007 12:08:41 PM

I was in the same position as you are about a month ago. It's amazing how much you can learn from reading these forums as well as Tom's reviews and articles. I suggest that you do as much of that as you can. It will be time well spent.

I just built a system that will be used primarily for office applications, internet access and some movie and picture editing. This is what I put together. I am not sure if all of my components would be applicable to your needs, but it's a start. Like I said I barely knew how to spell motherboard a month ago ;-)

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Conroe 1.86GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6300 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16819115005
$187.00

MoBo:GIGABYTE GA-965P-DS3 LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813128012
$125.99

Case: COOLER MASTER Centurion 532 RC-532-SKN1 Black Aluminum bezel, SECC chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811119094
$44.99 (After $5 instant rebate)

Case Fan: COOLER MASTER SAF-S12-E1 120mm Case Fan - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811999072
$7.99

GPU: BFG Tech BFGR76256GTOCE GeForce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail
Model #: BFGR76256GTOCE
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814143049
$142.99 ($50 rebate)

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (Perpendicular Recording) ST3250620AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822148144
$79.99

PSU: FSP Group (Fortron Source) AX450-PN, 12cm FAN, version 2.2, 2 SATA, PCI Express, 450W Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16817104954
$53.99

RAM: CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN2X2048-6400C4 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820145034
$224.00 (After $40.00 Mail-in Rebate)

Floppy/Card Reader: MITSUMI Beige 2.0MB 3.5" Internal USB 2.0 digital card reader and Floppy Drive ,Black Bezel Replacement Included Model FA404M BG - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16821104108
$19.99 (Don't have this one yet - out of stock)

DVD Burner: SAMSUNG 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write, LightScribe Technology Black IDE Model SH-S182M/BEBN - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16827151136
$29.99

DVD ROM: SONY Black IDE DVD-ROM Drive Model DDU1615/B2s - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16827101131
$18.99

1394: SYBA IEEE 1394a FireWire PCI Card with Internal 9-pin Header Model SD-VIA-FW1E1H - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16815124034
$9.99 (my mobo doesn't have 1394 connection so this will bring a 1394 access to the front of my case)

Feel free to ask any question. I will be happy to help you as much as I can and I am sure others on this forum will do the same.

Good luck, David
February 6, 2007 12:17:48 PM

The system he has put together looks pretty good, the cpu and motherboard he has should overclock nicely. Be sure to take his advice on reading through the reviews and forums here, there is a ton of knowledge to be had.
Related resources
February 6, 2007 12:28:01 PM

Thanks Chief and Rage for the quick response. heh, where do I find the reviews and articles on here?

I'm not so sure how much I want/need to overclock any new system I get, it's not something I've considered in the past, rather I would focus on solid stock performance or if it was worth it, a small/modest overclock - more or less to say I've done it and to learn how I guess...I doubt I would notice the difference :) 

Again thanks for the input, and I look forward to other's comments as I get myself educated on the matter :) 
February 6, 2007 2:07:42 PM

Quote:
Thanks Chief and Rage for the quick response. heh, where do I find the reviews and articles on here?

I'm not so sure how much I want/need to overclock any new system I get, it's not something I've considered in the past, rather I would focus on solid stock performance or if it was worth it, a small/modest overclock - more or less to say I've done it and to learn how I guess...I doubt I would notice the difference :) 

Again thanks for the input, and I look forward to other's comments as I get myself educated on the matter :) 


You find the articles on the main page http://www.tomshardware.com as well as using the Search option. You can click on "Reviews" on the left hand side of the main page and go from there.

As far as OCing, I personally will look into it a bit later. That's one reason why I got the E6300 rather than E4300. It's better for stock performance.
February 6, 2007 2:24:00 PM

This is entirely up to you, but you can Build a good computer including a new LCD monitor with it for 1500 dollars. I'm speculating your monitor is a CRT though. Thats just my 2 cent. What the poster above has posted for you would be a great build if your on a budget, and leaves room for upgrade in future.
February 6, 2007 3:05:46 PM

Thanks LabaR,
My current system has an 18-19" LCD Dell Monitor - good enough for me to carry it over to any new system so that I can cut that out of the budget. :) 

I tried putting a list together to get an idea of pricing, much of it was carry over from Chief's post, based on reading reviews at newegg.com...there are a few items I'm unsure about though. I've left off most of the basic components like PSU, fans, etc...and just listed items I'd change below...let me know your thoughts, thanks.


CPU - $315
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz, 4M shared L2 Cache LGA 775 Processor

MOTHERBOARD - $126
Gigabyte-P965-DS3
just used this for pricing for now... not sure what the difference is between the P965 & the P965P.....any other solid options out there for me to research and consider?

VIDEO CARD - $400
BFG Tech BFGR88640GTSOCE GeForce 8800GTS 640MB
I know this is pricey right now, and a lot more than what I need, but as I've read it's expected these will go down in the near future? I figure for digital editing and video work, plus the gaming I may do, it'd handle anything I could throw at it for a long time.

HARD DRIVES - $380
I like having two drives, one for my OS and the other for storage/apps. I was thinking of two raptors, one 74GB and one 150GB setup. I'm currently working with a 60GB and a 20GB so these two would suffice easily. perhaps going with 1 large drive, and partitioning would be better?


Based on Chief's setup and the changes I made, my bottom line would be around $1641. I might drop down to a slightly lower CPU to lower my bottom line, then figure out how to overclock it....any recommendations? Since I've owned my current system for 7 years, it's obvious I don't upgrade often, and usually run a system for quite a long time before upgrading.

Thanks again for your feedback.
February 6, 2007 5:42:50 PM

Yeah if i were you i would get 2 identical Hard drives in put them in a raid array, better performance that way. Then jsut set up your partitions . One for the OS and the other for you apps and storage. Just my 0.02
February 6, 2007 5:58:09 PM

Ok, so I'm trying to narrow this group of parts down, seems like the more I read the more questions I have :)  let me know what ya'll think of this, some questionable items are in red..... thanx

MOTHERBOARD - $132
Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 LGA 775

CPU - $222
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 Conroe 2.13GHz 2M shared L2 Cache LGA 775

CASE - $Unknown
Need help finding a quality mid-tower, 18" high or less (space restrictions on my desk)

CASE FAN(S) - depending on what's included with case when chosen

VIDEO CARD - $142
BFG Tech BFGR76256GTOCE GeForce 7600GT 256MB

HARDDRIVE(S) $200 (can you use 2 different type drives like this?)
1) Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3802110A 80GB 7200 RPM 2MB Cache IDE Ultra ATA100 Hard Drive $45
2) Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3500641AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive $149

POWER SUPPLY - $54
FSP Group (Fortron Source) AX450-PN, 12cm FAN, version 2.2, 2 SATA, PCI Express, 450W Power Supply

RAM - $ Unknown
so many options, not sure what to choose. I'm looking for 2GB total

DVD BURNER - $30
SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 18X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2M Cache IDE DVD Burner With LightScribe Technology - OEM

================

So far = $780
Items yet to choose:
- case & any additional fans needed
- ram
- miscellaneous - what else would I need to get that I'm not aware of? like a heat sink or 'arctic thermal compound' or connectors of any sort, etc....
February 6, 2007 6:16:14 PM

I can help with the case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811119023

In case the link didn't work, it's the CoolerMaster WaveMaster TAC T01 E1C. Have had it for about three years, it's a former Tom's Hardware Editor's Choice Award winner for keeping components cool, it's solid, looks great and fits your specs. Plus, it's just over $100--can't beat it in my opinion and has enough room to fit the 8800's if you end up going there.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 6, 2007 6:34:16 PM

Whoa speed demon, whats with the changes??? The system that was laid out was almost perfect, I'm trying to understand the need for changes. You said yourself that the 7yo system you have now is good, just getting a bit long in the tooth. Do you really need a GTS? You came here talking about needing more ram (more then 512MB), not that you couldn't play X video game. I'd go back to the first system, but make a few tweaks.

Motherboard. Get something like this. If you do Photoshop, video editing, and web design, you are a perfect person to use dual monitors. You have one already, get a SLI/CF motherboard to hold two cards and go to town. Trust me, this is a real life savor. (in case I wasn't clear, you need a SLI/CF motherboard. Don't enable SLI/CF, just get two cards.

Video cards. Speaking of which, if you do this, you'll need another video card. Card number two doesn't need to be fancy. A 7600GS, or a 7300 of some sort would be great.

Sony DVD drive. Friends don't let friends buy sony! Just get another Samsung. Your only trying to save $11 here, just get two burners...

Firewire card. Not needed if you buy that motherboard I linked.

With the changes I listed (motherboard and firewire card) your looking at spending $1002. This leaves almost $500 for the second video card and monitor. Again, for photoshop and webdesign, this is almost a must. Get a good ~20" and a 7600GS to stay under budget.
February 6, 2007 7:03:49 PM

Quote:
If you do Photoshop, video editing, and web design, you are a perfect person to use dual monitors. You have one already, get a SLI/CF motherboard to hold two cards and go to town. Trust me, this is a real life savor. (in case I wasn't clear, you need a SLI/CF motherboard. Don't enable SLI/CF, just get two cards.


Why would he need 2 video cards? The card that I suggested should be perfectly fine for his needs and it support dual monitors.
February 6, 2007 7:10:56 PM

thanks for the feedback 4745454b, and questioning my changes in perspective :)  as for the GTS, I guess it's not something I need RIGHT NOW, so that is why I changed to a lower grade video card. Whatever I end up getting, will be able to support it in the future, so it's not a necessary item right now for that price - I just have to tell myself I don't need it NOW and that I CAN wait until those type of video cards come down a bit. :) 

and your right about 'I didn't come here saying I couldn't play game xyz'....it's not my priority, and I got caught up in latest & greatest - I will have to evaluate my video needs a little more and getter a more accurate choice for that.

Dual monitors - unfortunately space doesn't allow me to.

I upped my storage space simply because of plans to do more video work and will need the space to store projects, resource files, etc.

Pong - thanks for the case recommendation
February 6, 2007 7:13:20 PM

Not sure it's a great idea to mix video cards, I'd probably get two of the same. But with the 8800GTS, is that really necessary?
February 6, 2007 7:18:37 PM

Phendyr, you can always go with one widescreen monitor as opposed to two monitors. That will give you the additional real estate you're seeking without taking up too much space.
February 6, 2007 8:10:12 PM

true, I can always go widescreen, but monitors are easy, and I can always focus on those down the road, I'm more interested in figuring out what guts I need to build a solid system.

heh, all this research has given me a headache :)  Thanks to all who took the time to post and lend me their .02. I'll be back when I have more questions :D 
February 6, 2007 9:30:38 PM

Go for 2 Seagate Sata 7200.10 (perpendicular recording) of 250 Gb or 320 Gb, you won't lose way too much performance compared to raptors, any way Solid State hard drives are coming anytime soon.

You can use 2 different sizes hard drives but you won't be able to have hardware raid, if raid is important to you pick 2 drives of the same size.

Go only with sata hard drives NOT IDE because motherboards based on intel 965 come with only 1 ide usually, so you should use the ide port for the optical drives.

Some options:
RAM184 usd 2 x 1 Gb GSkill DDR2 800

CASE:

30 usd Rosewill
50 usd Cooler Master Centurion 534
February 6, 2007 10:08:44 PM

Or you could just get another Dell machine minus the monitor and once you have it buy and put a graphics card in yourself.

The Dell option will be much cheaper and will come with Vista installed (buying vista seperately will bump the cost right up). You will also save yourself the risk of screwing things up if you build it yourself.
February 7, 2007 1:54:40 AM

I could get another dell, but this time I actually just want to build one :)  partly just to say I did and learned how, and I'm not all that gung-ho to have Vista right away. I'm gettin things pretty close now, and just have a few last questions:

1) what is the perceptable difference between the various RAM versions like:
DDR2 675 (PC2 5400)
DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)

2) Motherboards - Still lost here, just not all that sure which to get.

3) Cases whatcha think of these:
Low End:
COOLER MASTER Centurion 534 RC-534-KKN2 $49.99
Middle Ground:
LIAN LI PC-7B $89.99
High End:
LIAN LI PC-60BPLUSII $129

4) Sound cards
I do listen to a lot of music on my computer, I don't really see myself setting it up as a movie center. Already have a the start of a home theatre system for that.. I do plan on recording audio such as voice overs, for family tree DVDs and the like. Recommendations for that would be appreciated.

5) Miscellaneous items
Do I need to get stuff like a heat sink to put on the CPU? anything else like cables, connectors etc? the little things that I'll find I need after I have everything waiting to go together, etc... :) 


I 'think' after this, I'll have a pretty clear picture of what I'll get. as always, thanks again for your feedback.
February 7, 2007 2:20:06 AM

1. You want to use RAM that will closely match the FSB setting. For the e6400 I would use DDR2-800. If no O/C, use value brand. Crucial or Kingston have good names.
2. I would get one with p965 or 975 chipset. Most MB today have good onboard audio, sounds like you could live with that. Antec and Gigabyte are reccomended alot here.
3. I would choose the middle choice. Lian Li are good cases sounds like what you would look for, not too much bling and solid.
4. see #1
5. If you buy a retail CPU, they give you a stock heat sink. Might! be good enough. In your case and most people building for the first time, do not buy OEM as you will need some of those little extras they give you. After you build 2 or 10 you tend to pile up extras parts.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 7, 2007 4:27:45 AM

Forst.your right. A single 7600GT will support 2 monitors. I had a brain fart, sorry.

Quote:
You want to use RAM that will closely match the FSB setting. For the e6400 I would use DDR2-800. If no O/C, use value brand. Crucial or Kingston have good names.


Why DDR2-800? Stock base frequency of the C2D is 266MHz. This means you need DDR2-533 for a stock system. Getting DDR2-667 will allow you to increase the base frequency to 333MHz without worrying about overclocking your ram. Only worry about getting DDR2-800 if you are trying to reach 400MHz

Quote:
Do I need to get stuff like a heat sink to put on the CPU? anything else like cables, connectors etc? the little things that I'll find I need after I have everything waiting to go together, etc


As long as you buy retail things and not OEM, you should have enough cables. If your trying to build a quiet machine, you might want to get a different heatsink/fan. As long as you don't mind some noise, you'll be ok.

Before you dismiss it, think about the dual monitor setup. Trust me when I say it makes life a lot better. Perhaps you should buy a bigger desk...
February 7, 2007 4:45:24 AM

Quote:
You want to use RAM that will closely match the FSB setting. For the e6400 I would use DDR2-800. If no O/C, use value brand. Crucial or Kingston have good names.


Quote:
Why DDR2-800? Stock base frequency of the C2D is 266MHz. This means you need DDR2-533 for a stock system. Getting DDR2-667 will allow you to increase the base frequency to 333MHz without worrying about overclocking your ram. Only worry about getting DDR2-800 if you are trying to reach 400MHz


What I am trying to say is at stock speeds, 667 will be ok, but for any overclock, you will want DDR2-800. Refer to Tom's Overclocking a Core 2 Duo
a b B Homebuilt system
February 7, 2007 5:10:24 AM

Quote:
What I am trying to say is at stock speeds, 667 will be ok, but for any overclock, you will want DDR2-800. Refer to Tom's Overclocking a Core 2 Duo


Incorrect. As I already stated, you only need DDR2-533 for stock performance. Mild overclocks will be fine with using DDR2-667. If you are going north of 350ish, then you need DDR2-800.

I didn't understand why you linked to that page. To help prove my point, I link to this article. Click on that first picture. What are the differences in X benchmark between DDR2-667/800? 800MHz ram scores an extra .7FPS in farcry, while superpie gets done an extra .16seconds faster. The difference between DDR2-667 and DDR2-800 is very little. This is why I tell people who aren't OCing or OCing just a little to not worry about getting DDR2-800 ram. It simply isn't needed.
February 7, 2007 9:46:38 AM

OK I see what you are saying and what you're not saying. The speeds were close in game tests. The speed differences were wider in the Sandra tests. You talk about not overclocking but I would say changing the memory timing and voltage is overclocking. It probably does not matter which processor they used, but if the CPU was running at stock, they used a x6800. All of the tests were done using the same DDR2-800 RAM just by changing settings (overclocking). Yes you are right the differences are very small in game tests.
February 7, 2007 1:55:12 PM

one more ram question - on the motherboard specs it states:

Only DDR2-800 memory supporting JEDEC approved 1.8V operation with timings of 5-5-5 or 6-6-6 is supported on Intel Desktop Boards based on Intel 965 Express Chipsets.

So does that mean that only ram such as
G.Skill will work, or would something like Corsair XMS work as well?
a b B Homebuilt system
February 7, 2007 3:06:41 PM

The Gskill should be fine, but the XMS2 might not work. Heres the issue. When a motherboard is shipped, its told to use SPD settings when it boots. The problem is it doesn't know what RAM will be used. It knows DDR2 is coming, but doesn't know WHAT DDR2. The specs for DDR2 say you should use 1.8V. The motherboard will only supply this so that it doesn't fry the ram. The problem comes from useing ram like the XMS2, which requires 2.1V to be used when running DDR2-800. I've heard of people buying a cheap stick of ram to boot the system, then change the SPD settings to manual, and select the timings they want. If your staying with DDR2-800 ram, then you might want to consider this. Better timings, still supports 1.8V, and not too much more expensive.
February 8, 2007 1:55:31 PM

Thanks 474545b for that explanation. Let's try this rundown of parts and see if there's any issues...questions in bold red.

CASE - LIAN LI PC-7B plus II $90
This case has a front panel with a IEEE 1394 port...I take it there are some cables to connect these ports up to the mobo or something? (man I'm a newb)


Motherboard - GIGABYTE GA-965P-DS3 LGA 775 $127

RAM, 2GB - G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800, 1.8-2.0v $185
(1.8v reqs with 5-5-5 timings, so MoBo recognizes it)
would this be reliable RAM or should I buy higher end memory, and a cheap 1.8v stick to launch the sytem? if yes, how much of a cheap stick do I need? 512MB, 1GB, etc??

CPU - Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 Conroe 2.13GHz - $212

PSU - FSP Group (Fortron Source) AX450-PN, 12cm FAN, version 2.2, 2 SATA, PCI Express, 450W Power Supply $55

Hard drives
WD 320GB SATA drive, $100
WD 80GB SATA drive, $44

Video Card - BFG Tech BFGR76256GTOCE GeForce 7600GT 256MB $143

DVD Burner - HP $53

DVD ROM - LITE-ON $18
============================================
TOTAL: $1027

Questions:
1) See Memory question above - should I buy ram to match mobo, or better ram + cheap voltage-matching stick to launch system? if I get the cheap stick, how much is needed to launch the system and correct the settings?

2) Audio - the mobo has an audio chipset, is it good? can I add a soundcard w/o conflict? if I add one, any recommendations?

3) Speakers - would I be able to carry over my altec lansing speakers from my existing dell?
February 8, 2007 5:37:18 PM

bump back up for a final feedback on the list above.....thanks.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 8, 2007 7:48:40 PM

Looks good, but you'll need another motherboard to use that front firewire port. The motherboard you picked doesn't have firewire at all. Other then that, everything you listed should work together. There are some things I would change like not getting the DVD reader and going down to a 6300, but these are personal preferences, not deal breakers.
February 9, 2007 11:47:48 AM

Agree with you 100% on this the e6400 is just a higher clocked e6300. The e6300 will be a good choice and save a little bit of cash too.
!