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Cheap upgrades to an aging system

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July 16, 2008 1:01:45 AM

Ive got a cheap, old, frankenstein sort of machine that i use for games, mostly oblivion, and i want to give it some upgrades to play oblivion at higher settings.

Frankenstein machine:
Started as an Emachines, then upgraded via a newegg deal with a geforce 6200, ASUS A8R-MX mobo, amd athlon 64 3400+, and an extra 512mb 400mhz ram. The new mobo was never an official release(my first impression of ASUS...) and has almost no online info or support from ASUS. Therefore ill list its important specs for you...

1 pci ex x16
4 ddr 184pin 400mhz slots(max 4 gigs)
1Ghz fsb
northbridge:ATI RS482(A12)
southbridge:ULI M1573
AMD 939 processor slot

I was planning on getting new ram to have either 2gb or 4gb. I was thinking 2gb would work best since most of the games i play dont really need too much ram and im running xp. I was also thinking of finding a 64 x2 processor to go dual core, but id have to find it on some auction site and just hope it would actually work. The prob is the video card. I dont want to buy a video card thinking it would help a bunch, but have it be completely bottlenecked. I was thinking about the geforce 8000 series, or maybe something in the radeon 2000 series. but w/e it is, it should be pci ex x16, not 2.0x16. After that ill have to upgrade the pcu obviously, and i need cheap ideas to keep the case cool. Being an emachines case, it cools poorly, so either i need to drill it and add fans or go with a cheep water cooler. The idea for just upgrading this thing is that in a year im off to college. Good news is that it only has to last a year, after that im off to college. After college ill build a good machine, but for now it would make no sense to do that. So any ideas or suggestions you could give would be great!
July 16, 2008 6:54:56 AM

PCIe 2.0 is backward compatible. its like USB 2.0

are you not going to upgrad your PC at all in school? you could always get the gfx card now, and let it be a little bottlenecked, and the rest of the system later.

I'd look at a 3850 for a gfx card, or a used whatever. toms did an article on the 3850 AGP card, and said it was starting to bottleneck with a single core in new games

if its getting too hot, just leave the case open.

after graphics, I'd get memory. if you want a dual core too, just start fresh.

you should start fresh anyway, you can get a new dual core for less than $50. I hear opteron 165s go for quite a bit more
I bet DDR2 is cheaper then DDR also.

you can get onboard graphics that will blow your 6200 out of the water if thats your performance goal. look at the AMD 780g based mobos ($60 to $105). its the equivalent of the 2400 on board. about what my old laptop was, and I played NWN2 on it just fine, vs. my desktops 6150 OBG (pretty much the same as you have now) that weren't up to it. these mobo should be able to handle AMDs next 2 or 3 generations of CPUs. the nVidai 8200 based mobos are pretty comperable to the 780g. Intel g45 is a bit behind (but not too far) unfirtunatle that socket is at its end.
July 16, 2008 8:50:11 AM

What is your budget?
You are probably going to have to upgrade more than you want coming from an emachine. It is unfortunate but these cheap prebuilt systems have locked BIOS' so you are unable to upgrade your CPU (if you could even find a S939) and massively underpowered PSU's. If you can give a budget, even if it is as low as $300, we can help you find the optimal upgrade path.
Related resources
July 16, 2008 4:32:02 PM

it no longer has an emachine board.

if it still has a realy tiny emachine PSU (my emachine was 150 watt), that will probably need to be upgraded no matter what.

you could do a 780g mobo, dual core and 2 gigs DDR2 for about $150
that system should work with your old PSU. this will also be upgradeale for a while.

if you add a real graphics card, you'll probably need a new PSU.

as far as a new case, just driving around your neiborhood b4 trash pickup might get you an upgrade.
July 16, 2008 9:50:36 PM

I wont be able to take this to college with me, b/c the dorms wont fit a desktop computer, and ill need to have a laptop in classes, so a desktop makes no sense. The video card has features unlocked and overclocked to perform like a 6600. Originally my budget was $1500, and i was gonna build a high end rig, but my parents wont let me. They also wont give me an answer as to how much i can spend, but i think i can get away with $500. I kinda agree now that It would be best to start over completely with just cheap stuff. The emachines psu is 300W, but it doesnt give me many options for plugging things into it. Thanks for the help, looks like it would cost almost as much to do upgrades as it would to start new.
July 17, 2008 6:18:12 AM

then just get a laptop with a decent graphics card now. or a small HTPC to use as a TV.
July 17, 2008 6:02:53 PM

For the Price of your RAM upgrade for your old system you can get a new one together.

I recently upgraded some family members and some friends that had virtually no money for upgrades to ASRock 4coredual SATA2 boards that support DDR1, DDR2, AGP 8X and PCI-E 16X@4x mode support and added a Intel Allendale E2160 proc (BSEL modded to 2.7Ghz) and 2GB DDR2 PC6400 RAM(running at boards max of 667Mhz). All for $160 from NewEgg. This upgrade allowed me to use their old RAM and video card if needed and still see the blistering speed jump in the proc tech from their AMD64s.

Also it leaves you with a good upgrade path.

I would suggest adding a Radeon HD 4850 PCI-E for video at your leasure after the upgrade I mentioned above to awesome 3D video accelleration.

Motherboard (ASRock 4CoreDual SATA2): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... / $39.00 Open Box (MB Only) and $59.00 Retail Box (Added Cables and I/O Shield)
Motherboard Review: http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=3024&p=1

CPU (Intel Dual Core E2160): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... / $67.99 (better overclocker that E2180 and larger stock heatsink)

RAM (OCZ ATI CrossFire 2GB): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... / $45.99 but $25.99 after $20.00 mail-in rebate.

Video Card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... / $179.99 but $149.00 after $30.00 mail-in rebate.
Video Card Review: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-4850,1957...

Here is the BSEL Mod info to overclock your CPU on the cheap motherboard, I have done this on several upgrades I have done. (It works Great!!)
CPU Voltage MOD: http://sg.vr-zone.com/?i=3904
CPU FSB MOD: http://www.techspot.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/188...
(This will bring the E2160 to 1066 FSB from 800 and Overvolt the CPU to 1.4v.)

You can test stability and temp by running Orthos and monitor the CPU temp to make sure it stays under 60c using Intel Thermal Analysis Tool. To make sure you have a stable system. You should be able to get the CPU to go from 1.8Ghz to 2.7 no prob with 3.2Ghz Max. Google overclocking E2160.

This comes to a total of:

System Upgrade: $152.98 and after rebates $102.98
Video Upgrade: $179.99 and after rebate $149.99

It's so cheap to upgrade these days, it's time to throw away the old and get the new.

The DDR RAM upgrade you are talking about to just get 2GB DDR1 is around $150.00 so id say upgrade the whole thing.

One day when you are ready for a new better motherboard you can splurge and all the above parts will perform even better.
July 18, 2008 5:02:47 PM

Thanks for the build idea TGA_Gunnman, but im gonna have to look at a new case also now. My case is obviously built for a micro atx board if you see how tightly my mobo fits in it, and looking at only micro atx boards doesnt give me many options. I will also be upgrading the psu, and idk if i could fit the disk drives in a new case(theyre specially designed for emachines and have that curved plastic thing on the outside of them that only fits their cases). I might be able to break the plastic off, but idk how that would work. Oh well, i could get a better dvd drive under $30.
July 18, 2008 7:41:55 PM

Near complete, high quality system for $500 you say?
Sounds fun, let me see what I can do...

Corsair 550VX PSU $79.99 after $10 MIR
ATX Case $17.99
Gigabyte P35-DS3L $84.99
E2180 $69.99
AC Freezer 7 Pro $31.99
2Gb DDR2 800 4-4-4-15 $25.99 after $20 MIR
4850 $149.99 after $30 MIR

Total: $520.93
Total after MIR's: $460.93

If you can afford a little more before the MIR's come back, I would recommend upgrading to a better case. I hear many good things about the Antec 900 but you would be looking at $119.99 for that bad boy. Another set of the DDR2 would not hurt either but can be left for when you have some more cash.

At stock this system will far outperform your current system. It's real strengths can be shown through overclocking the E2180. You can get 3.0Ghz out of it no problems. With a little more work you can get it even higher.
July 19, 2008 2:45:47 AM

dang gotta start over cuz my cpu crashed in the middle of my response... Ive got $1450 to work with, but can only spend $500 ish. I like what you came up with, but might go with a rosewill cooler that has a combo deal with the processor. It's not too bug and has over 80% of the reviews with 5 eggs, good enough for me. I could work with that case i guess, id just have to mess around with additional fans added in various places to max air flow. Idk if id need more ram, thats a huge upgrade over what i have now and it should run oblivion without the almost constant loading twitches. Can anyone confirm 2gigs are enough? maybe i could find 3gigs of the same sticks to work together? I havent switched and swapped different ram combos since i had my first computer, and i had no idea what i was doing, other than the more ram the better(not really true always). I might look into an ultra cheap sata hdd and dvd burner, but i know what to look for with that stuff.

As for the pricing, it looks to me like you didnt add in shipping, but idc. I guess i could go up to a $50 case with this, if anyone can recomend one for good ventilation, looks, noise, and dust prevention dont matter to me. I can always get one of those canned air things if i need to get rid of the dust... Im look up cases myself now i guess.

p.s.-this isnt really related to this thread but i dont wanna bother making a new one, does anyone know why an amd 64 athlon 3400+ would randomly peg out at 100% usage and not recover? Whenever it does that the computer practically freezes and i have to manually power down. Im thinking a virus or the fact that its old and dieing is causing it.

edit-its doing it again now, i got the task manager open and its showing none of the process as taking up all its power. But, it does this wierd thing where the 100% is jumping from one random process to another... What in the world does this mean? Gotta reboot again...
July 19, 2008 7:50:32 PM

COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW Black Aluminum Bezel
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I'm liking this case, prob gonna go with that if i buy online.

With the mobo, how much of a bottleneck will it be to not have pci ex 2.0X16 with one radeon hd 4850? If its a problem then what type of intel mobo will support 2.0X16?
July 20, 2008 4:28:11 PM

just get a new case. if you don't want to, you can take out the curved front emachine CD drive and put in whatever, it just looks a little off.

as to your freezing problem, sound like a virus, or you just need to do a clear out the HDD and reinstall windows. little bug keep on happening, and eventualy build up to the point were they cause real problems.

I'm running a 4850 in PCIe 1.0. from eilier reading, its probaable a 10% penalty tops. I think its more of a problem when crossfireing.
July 20, 2008 10:18:31 PM

a 10% hit isnt too bad, i kinda figured it was only a problem with crossfire cuz thats double the info going through the board at once. The only "cheap" mobo's i know of with pcie 2.0 use amd, which i cant get nearly as good of an overclock compared to the intel processor. Thanks a bunch guys, can anyone confirm that Oblivion doesnt need 4gb ddr2 to run flawlessly? Ill ask around other places too.
July 21, 2008 7:04:06 AM

most games use 2gigs tops. it all the background processes that hog up a little here a little there...
July 21, 2008 2:47:09 PM

Ill prob go with 4 Gb cuz then I can change the settings to load more stuff at once, making it look better and stuff. Plus, its only $25 for 2Gb of the stuff... My only concern is that this memory is not listed on Gigabytes site as compatible with this mobo. So im guessing it should still work, but theres just no guarantee that it will?
July 21, 2008 2:55:53 PM

i sea said:
With the mobo, how much of a bottleneck will it be to not have pci ex 2.0X16 with one radeon hd 4850? If its a problem then what type of intel mobo will support 2.0X16?


You should see no real performance hit. Tom's did a test on bandwith limitations of PCIe 2.0, Here. Using a 9800GX2, which requires more bandwidth than a 4850, it shows almost no performance drop at PCIe 2.0 8x speeds. As PCIe 2.0 doubles PCIe 1.1's bandwidth, the results for 8x is what you should expect to see.

Yeah, 2Gb should be fine for now. If you have the cash, though, get 4Gb. More RAM never hurt anyone. No problems with compatibility. Gigabyte would never be able to test every stick for all of their Mb's. Just make sure and set the timings and voltage to spec in the BIOS.
July 21, 2008 3:34:36 PM

I only found 2 of the recomended ram sticks on newegg and they were twice the price of the previously listed stuff...

So, heres what ive got together so far...

CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W ATX12V V2.2 Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-EP35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Intel Pentium E2180 Allendale 2.0GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

2X OCZ ATI CrossFire 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW Black Aluminum Bezel
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS EAH4850/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

That comes to like $585 when all the rebates are in(including shipping), and i should be able to get away with that. I decided on the asus radeon 4850 because it comes with a program for controlling its fan and the rebate process on the $150 card was reportedly a nightmare. The case might be the only thing ill get from a store(cuz the shipping costs around $20 for a $50 case). Thanks to outlw6669 for coming up with most of the parts, i looked them all up individually and they seem to be good quality for their prices. I think it should all work together/fit in the case, so unless anyone has any suggestions i think im ready to start ordering soon.

edit-forgot to mention im keeping my disk drives and hard drive. I'd rather have sata drives, but for now these things still work.
July 21, 2008 9:19:18 PM

Looks good to me.

Really glad you chose the Freezer 7 over the rosewell one. Their products are some of the worst quality ones out there.

All 48x0's are reference designs right now so there is no difference other than the price and bundle between them. The ASUS fan controller will be very useful. I would recommend turning it to 40%. Anything higher gets really loud and it will still provide decent cooling.

Best of luck with your build.
If you run into any snags, just drop a post!
July 22, 2008 3:15:04 AM

1st snag, can only get one rebate if i get 2 sets of the ram. Ive got 2 options i guess, find another type for the same deal, or purchase them from 2 addresses and credit cards. I did find this deal tho, must be recent cuz its better than the one ive got above.

OCZ Platinum Revision 2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$19.49 after mail in rebates

This is technically a different product, right? And it should work correctly if i pair up the same sticks next to eachother, ive done this b4 kinda. Can anyone tell me if this will work with the 2 different types? I'm asking both rebate wise, compatability wise, and ability to change the timings to the best settings. Ive never adjusted timings so idk what i have to do to get it to work, but it cant be too hard to look some guides up online. Shouldnt have any issues with the other rebates as im only buying 1 of the other items.

edit-just found my hdd's product number from speed fan. Turns out its a seagate! I was pretty confused when i saw that considering how cheap emachines is.... Oh well, ill take it as a sign that i should keep it since its of a reputable brand and quality.
July 22, 2008 7:05:11 AM

Yes, you can use those two sets together. The timings, speeds and voltage limits are the same between them. Not sure about the rebates but, as it is two diffrent procucts, it should be fine.
July 26, 2008 8:32:01 PM

Sounds good , i sea.

You ought to love the new system.

I just read up on the E1200 Celeron as well and it is capable or running at 3.2 Ghz overclock, it's the same tech as the E2000s and the E4000s (512cache vs 1mb cache) and overclocks like a beast with the same BSEL mod layouts of its parents. But you wont need BSEL with that P35 Chipset board. It may save you some bucks.

RAM wise 4 GB is ok but 2 GB is fine for todays games, you wont see much differance. To see all the memory you will need to install the 64bit versions of your O/S. Win XP 32bit can only see about 3.25 GB RAM and 64bit XP is buggy as hell. The better solution is Vista 64bit which runs alot better after the SP1 update but you may run into issues with driver support and application support. Depending on what you are doing. So if your on a budget going to 2GB is good. But 4GB is just so cheap and it's just cool to have.

I just upgraded myself and added:

DFI Lanparty LT X48-T2R Openbox Motherboard (UT and LT boards are the best overclocker on the market including their P35 and X38 series) $189.00
(I went with X48 so when I add another ATI card in crossfire I will be running at 16 lanes vs P35 4x lanes or X38 and P45s 8x lanes.)
Diamond ATI HD 4870 Video Card $274.00
2 x 1GB OCZ Reaper PC2-9200 $65.00
Intel E7200 2.53 (Running at 4.25Ghz) $129.00

I added that to what I already had:

Zalman Fatality Chanp1on Series Case $325.00
Zalman Reserator1 Watercooling $250.00
Plextor 22x DVD+-RW $50.00
Adaptec 2200S Ultra 320 SCSI RAID Controller $750.00
4x 18GB Seagate Cheetah 15000RPM Ultra320 SCSI RAID-0 $800.00 (Vista 64bit)
4x 32GB WD Raptor RAID-0 $400.00 (XP 32bit)
750 WATT Corsair PSU (probably going to 1200WATT PC Power and Cooling when I hit crossfire)

I might end up adding 2 or 4 more GB of RAM soon and when I go crossfir I think I will get a HD4870 X2 to go at 3 way crossfire-x.

The new parts replaced E6400, GA-P35-DS3P rev2, OCZ Reaper PC2-6400 and XFX GeForce 8800GTX XXX.

I had that rid for almost 2 years and I saw a big performance jump going to the upgrade.

Life is good these days with the low prices and tweakable tech, hope it keeps up.
!