Unsure of best upgrade path...

About this time last year I built my first PC, which admittedly was to a pretty low budget and was also an attempt to get a bit more lifespan out of some previous components... It was a good learning experience, though. :)

I mostly use my machine for graphics work (Photoshop/Illustrator) and my current spec does the job fine but I also enjoy gaming a fair amount and am noticing the limitations of my current system (Bioshock and COD4 both run fine but The Witcher and Age of Conan are barely playable...).

So, I think it's upgrade time again but can't quite decide which upgrades will yield the best improvements. Some advice would be much appreciated!

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 1.86ghz Socket 775 FSB800 2MB Cache

MOBO: ASRock 4CoreDual-VSTA PT880 Ultra Socket 775 -- I bought this as it allowed me to get a bit more life out of my previous AGP graphics card, before upgrading to a PCI-e card. The major downside to this, though, is that the board only runs PCI-e cards at x4 rather than the standard x16...

GFX Card: Sapphire HD 2600XT - 256MB - PCI-e

RAM: 2 x Kingston 1GB DDR2 667MHz / PC2-5300 MEMORY

PSU: Hiper 530W Black Type-R Modular PSU - SLI Certified with Active PFC

I'm running XP Professional with SP2 on a 1400 x 900 res widescreen monitor; I have my OS running from an 80gig IDE drive but also have an internal 250gig SATA drive, and an external 250gig drive. (I plan to ditch the IDE drive and have my OS and programs running on the SATA but need to pick up a floppy drive in order to install XP to the SATA...)

My immediate thoughts are that firstly, my weird hybrid mobo is severely bottle-necking my graphics card (due to the x4 vs x16 PCI-e thing); and that secondly, my graphics card isn't all the great in the first place!

Am I right in thinking that my RAM and processor are probably OK for the time being (though CPU could be improved by being overclocked)?

Should I upgrade to a new mobo and graphics card, or a new mobo and CPU, or all three? I'd like to spend no more than £200-£300 ($400-600) ideally but want to buy some kit that is actually going to last longer than a year this time, rather than falling foul of upgrading in small increments again! :heink:

Many thanks in advance for any advice and recommendations!
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  1. For graphic design, PCI-E 0, if it exists, is plenty. Yours is x4. It's overkill. For gaming, x4 is slow. The ideal would be x16. If you're upgrading, get a new mobo. GA-P35-DS3L for example can be had for $90/45 quids. It supports the new 45nm cpus.

    Yup, your cpu & ram are ok for what you do. If your ram chips say D9XXX, it's micron D9 chips, the cream of the crops. It can be overclocked to 1000mhz. YMMV. Otherwise, you can still overclock the cpu with that ram. i.e. 333 x 9 = ~3Ghz. Not on that mobo, though. Either P965, P35, P45, X38 or X48. You can pick up a P965 that supports 45nm at ebay for cheap. i.e. ASUS P5B-E.

    Yup, look for a new mobo & a good gpu. i.e. 8800GT 512, GTS512, etc. The new upgrade can be overclocked & will last at least one more year.
  2. 2nd 100%

    Get a new Mb (a P965 or P35 would be my recomendations) and GPU. Overclock your CPU to 3GHz and you will be smoking.
  3. I playes wicher on my old laptop with ATI 2300hd, I think just a slowed 2400, it was DX10. I did start jumping when it got buisy.

    I'd think a 2600, not held back should be usable with it. I've also heard witcher likes to use 2 gigs, so make sure nothing is running in the background.

    I'd start with a mobo, maybe more ram.

    but if your playing AoC, that $200US for the first year. so $150US for a graphics card certainly isn't out of line. you might want to waite a month to see what the new releases do to the prices of current graphics cards, or maybe a 4850 will be in your price range.
  4. Thanks for the advice all!

    I'm thinking of going for an Asus P5B-E Mobo: http://www.ebuyer.com/product/121112

    and a Point Of View 8800GT 512MB GDDR3 256bit Dual DVI PCI-E: http://www.ebuyer.com/product/135258/

    Does these seem like sound purchases? Thanks again for the help, it is much appreciated. :)
  5. The Mb looks to be one of their value models. It will get your CPU to at least 2.4Ghz, probably 3Ghz or higher. Looks to be a good value choice.

    Almost all 8800GT 512 cards are exactly the same. I am not familiar with British pricing but make sure there are no cheaper cards. Which ever GT you get will be loads better than what you are using now.

    Looks good to me! You should notice quite a difference with your CPU overclocked, an even bigger difference with the new GPU.
  6. Go with DS3L for about 60 pounds. 10 more than P5B-E. The P35 will last a bit longer than P965. The gpu is great. BTW, if you're aiming for 3+ ghz overclock, pick up a Freezer 7 Pro for 15 pounds. Not a bad price.
  7. Awesome, thanks outlw6669 and akhilles -- I will happily swap the P5B-E for a DS3L if that'll have a longer lifespan.

  8. OK, as per the recommendations I picked up:

    new mobo (http://www.ebuyer.com/product/143176)
    graphics card (http://www.ebuyer.com/product/135258)
    and a Freezer 7 pro cooler.

    I removed my old mobo last night, took out the CPU chip, installed it on the new mobo along with the Freezer 7 and plugged all the other stuff back in. I kept my old Grfx Card in there for the time being.

    Went straight into the BIOS on bootup to check temps and everything looked fine and healthy, so I let it boot up into Windows XP. As I was installing the mobo and chipset drivers from the CD, the installer locked up and stopped responding, so I rebooted and it seemed to pick up from where it left off. The ethernet socket, USB sockets, soundcard etc. all started working fine.

    Decided to test out my existing HD 2600XT GPU card, to see how much of an improvement the new mobo gave it and was very pleased! I gave Age of Conan a little spin and the fps improvement was immediately noticable. So far so good.

    I then used an ATI uninstaller program to remove all my GPU drivers, powered down the machine and replaced the 2600XT with the 8800GT (made sure it had a 12V power connector plugged into it) and booted up. It went into Win XP no problems, but then reset itself after making it to the desktop... It booted up fine after that, so I installed the display drivers from the CD.

    On restart I got an immediate BSOD after booting up to the desktop, and it just loops like that. Win XP loads fine, it gets to my desktop (mouse/keyboard etc. all work fine) and then I get the blue screen after only a couple of seconds (far too fast for me to read any of it) and then it re-boots only to do the same thing.

    So, I powered down and put the old 2600XT in there but I am still getting reset back to bootup immediately after getting to the desktop, although no BSOD this time.

    I left it as it was last night and went to bed.

    Are there any obvious indications of what might be the problem? My plan when I get home is to firstly try booting up with just the IDE drive attached (i.e. no SATA drive, or external USB drive), and try each stick of RAM individually and hopefully identify the cause of the problem.

    My IDE drive is only a measly 10Gig but only contains WinXP and a couple of other programs, but after installing the new mobo and GPU drivers I was getting constant 'Running Low on C: disc space' messages.

    Ideally, I'd like to do a fresh install so will use a larger IDE drive or install XP to the SATA drive. I don't have a floppy drive in order to install the SATA drivers when installing XP but I have read that many people are able to install XP to a SATA drive without a floppy now, as the mobo recognises it as an IDE drive.

    Could it be a power issue? My PSU seems to be pretty good (see first post).

    Any advice on what to try or other possibilities would be much appreciated -- sorry for the length of the post!!
  9. Alright, this is a pretty easy one.
    Xp dose not like to have that much hardware changed on it.
    All you need to do is backup everything you want to keep off of you 10Gb Hd, reformat and reinstall. You heard correct about not needing a SATA driver disk. All new motherboards handle this in the BIOS. Windows installer will consider all SATA drives as EIDE drives.
  10. Awesome, cheers again Outlw6669.

    That'll save me from wasting time trying to boot it in different configurations -- I'll just reformat/reinstall straight away.

    This site is fantastic for the quick responses. If we were all in a pub, I'd get a round in. Cheers! :)
  11. Glad to help. Prost!
  12. Well, you should've asked how to migrate to a new mobo before doing so.


    The OS has to be prepped that way before making the switch to a new board. Works for me every time. If you have a lot of stuff on the drive, you might want to hook up the barebone just to copy things off to dvd/usb drives.
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