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2-stage upgrade, would like advice

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June 14, 2009 8:46:49 AM

I haven't built my own computer before, but a buddy of mine sent me his "old" motherboard and CPU (both are actually new, he received them as warranty replacements but was too impatient to wait, so bought new ones in the meantime). My current computer is starting to show its age, so I'd like to put together a new system, but am currently on a very tight budget. My goal is to spend the minimum right now, but leave room for future upgrades as my cash flow improves. As this will be my first home-build, I'd appreciate any advice.


APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Next few weeks.
BUDGET RANGE: $300-ish right now.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming: Primarily World of Warcraft. Home Office use.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: These are the parts I have on-hand or can scavenge from my current system:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4GHz, 4MB L2, 1066MHz FSB)
CPU Cooler: Intel-supplied cooler
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS4P (P45)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix 1GB DDR2 800MHz (x4) (my buddy believes that one or more of these may be bad)
GPU: BFG GeForce 9800GT (1 GB, Overclocked)
Hard Drive: 80 GB IDE (Seagate, I believe?)
Optical Drives: HP DVD640c (IDE DVD-R/RW) and Sony IDE CD-RW
Sound Card: SoundBlaster Audigy 4
Monitor: Envision G22LWk
Operating System: Windows XP Pro
Other: Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com

OVERCLOCKING: Not at this time, plan to overclock for second stage of upgrades
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not at this time. Possibly down the road.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1680 x 1050

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I live in a pre-1900's house, so dust and lack of central A/C are issues. The computer is also in a corner (and will share space with the older computer), so airflow/cooling are definite concerns.

PLANNED IMMEDIATE PURCHASE: My goal is to get the new system up and running with the minimum amount of cash spent at this time (although I want to ensure future expandability where applicable, so don't want to skimp unneccessarily). These are the items I am considering at this time:
Case: Antec 900, $100. I'm also considering the Cooler Master 690 at $80 since I'd prefer not to have a side viewport and it comes with fan filters. I'm just not sure it'll have enough airflow for my needs. A third option would be the Antec 902 which sounds like it would have less dust issues, but is starting to get pricey at $120.
PSU: Corsair 850TX, $110. This is obviously more power than I need, but it's not much more expensive than the 650W (although non-modular) and allows me to port it to the next build several years down the road. It also has extra-long cables, which will be useful for the bottom-mount cases I'm looking at.
Memory: Mushkin 2 x 2GB DDR2 800MHz, $40. The Crucial memory I was given had bad reviews and I'd rather not deal with the headache of figuring out if/which ones are bad. Also, this allows me to eventually have 8 MB total.
Other: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound, $5.

I'm not certain whether I'd be doing myself any favors by continuing to use my IDE HDD and DVD, although it'd obviously save me some cash right now. Were I to upgrade to SATA now (and would appreciate recommendations on how useful this would be), I'm looking at:
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black (640GB, 7200RPM), $75.
Optical Drive: HP 22x DVD-R, $32.

The total cost would be $255 + shipping, or $362 with the SATA drives (-$20 for the Cooler Master case, +$20 for the 902).

Would there be any benefit in looking at a new OS? That would obviously jack the price up considerably, but I'm not certain how well XP plays with dual cores.

Also, should I be considering a GPU cooler (I'd probably go with the Zalman VF700 for $35) or any additional fans?

Anything else I've forgotten? Please don't assume something obvious, as I'm new to "build your own."

"STAGE TWO" PURCHASE: I'd like to finish upgrading my computer within the next year. At that time, I would like to consider overclocking my CPU (I'm primarily putting it off so that I don't have to spend on a new cooler right now). The additional items I'm considering at this point are:
CPU Cooler: There are three that I'm currently considering: The Scythe SCZP-1000 ($55), the Vigor Monsoon III ($55) or Sunbeam CR-CCTF ($30). The choice will largely depend on how much room is available in the case.
Memory: Mushkin 2 x 2GB DDR2 800MHz, $40. This would put me up to 8 MB.
Hard Drive: Would it be worth it to me to buy a second matching hard drive for RAID, based on my primary usage?
Optical Drive: A SATA CD drive to allow easier disc copying.

LONG TERM UPGRADES: Another year or so down the road, I'll probably start considering a CPU upgrade and/or a GPU upgrade (either a second 9800GT for SLI or a new single-card). I only mention these to explain my PSU choice.

Thanks in advance for any tips or recommendations!

More about : stage upgrade advice

June 14, 2009 2:08:09 PM

My thoughts, and bear in mind that RIGHT NOW, this is not a bad system at all.
You are starting with a bad platform to upgrade later, as the socket is a dead end, and in a year DDR2 will be thing of the past as well.
I doubt there is anything wrong with memory, likely the board is not running at the correct voltage. Boot with 1 stick, enter the BIOS and set the voltage to 2.1, exit, install the rest. See what happens. I bet it works fine. You do not need 8 gig, 4 is plenty. Try that first, if it works, spend the money instead on a good cooloer now and crank that E6600 on up.
You don't need RAID either.
June 14, 2009 2:08:26 PM

My thoughts, and bear in mind that RIGHT NOW, this is not a bad system at all.
You are starting with a bad platform to upgrade later, as the socket is a dead end, and in a year DDR2 will be thing of the past as well.
I doubt there is anything wrong with memory, likely the board is not running at the correct voltage. Boot with 1 stick, enter the BIOS and set the voltage to 2.1, exit, install the rest. See what happens. I bet it works fine. You do not need 8 gig, 4 is plenty. Try that first, if it works, spend the money instead on a good cooloer now and crank that E6600 on up.
You don't need RAID either.
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June 14, 2009 3:59:00 PM

I agree, it's not the motherboard and CPU I'd probably choose for myself, but they were free and definitely an upgrade over the old P4 I'm running now. Thanks for the suggestions on the memory, I'll definitely try that and see how it goes.

As for the case, I've decided to go with the 902. The Cooler Master doesn't come with a top fan and I think that'll be important for the corner location my computer will be in. The 902 vs. 900 decision basically came down to the fan filters, which are a big plus for a dusty house that includes a long-haired cat. ;) 

Any thoughts on whether I can get away with keeping my IDE devices for now versus upgrading to SATA-compatable ones? 80 GB is sufficient for my current uses, but I don't really know how much of a performance difference there is between the two.
June 15, 2009 2:17:51 AM

You can probably get away with using the IDE devices, one thing you need to keep in mind though, check your new mobo, and see how many IDE ports it has, many only have 1.

Here's a cheap hard drive with free shipping that should tied you over for a while.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Personally, I went from older IDE devices myself, and when I upgraded a year or 2 ago, and it was a difference in load times and what not imo.
June 15, 2009 1:08:43 PM

cchadwick said:
I agree, it's not the motherboard and CPU I'd probably choose for myself, but they were free and definitely an upgrade over the old P4 I'm running now. Thanks for the suggestions on the memory, I'll definitely try that and see how it goes.

As for the case, I've decided to go with the 902. The Cooler Master doesn't come with a top fan and I think that'll be important for the corner location my computer will be in. The 902 vs. 900 decision basically came down to the fan filters, which are a big plus for a dusty house that includes a long-haired cat. ;) 

Any thoughts on whether I can get away with keeping my IDE devices for now versus upgrading to SATA-compatable ones? 80 GB is sufficient for my current uses, but I don't really know how much of a performance difference there is between the two.


New SATA drives, even inexpensive ones, simply blow away the old IDE drives in transfer speeds.
I would suggest buying at least 1 to move your OS and programs over to, and maybe keep an old IDE plugged in for storage of your music, photos, etc. for now.
June 15, 2009 2:25:26 PM

ohiou_grad_06 said:
Here's a cheap hard drive with free shipping that should tied you over for a while.

I considered that drive as well, but the other drive is only half again as much for twice the storage and slightly better construction and therefore seemed like a better long-term choice. Then again, our refridgerator died last night, so SATA drives may not be a luxury I can afford right now. :(  How big a difference in transfer speeds are we talking? Enough that I'd notice a difference outside of copying files? Would it be a bigger performance upgrade than, say, buying a CPU cooler and overclocking?

I did check the motherboard and it supports a maximum of two PATA/IDE drives (chained, only one port), so I should be good at least with my current hard drive and DVD-RW for now if I wind up having to go that route.

At this point, I'll go ahead and try the memory I have on hand, especially since I'm going for a more expensive case (and will likely be buying one additional fan as well as I'm fairly paranoid about how warm the room will get during the summer). As for the power supply, if I need to cut corners a little bit, how far could I drop the wattage? I'd probably still stick with a Corsair either way, however, as I don't want to wind up with a cheaply-built PSU.
!