Need some advice on upgrading computer. Please help!

Hello. After researching for the best PC forums on google, I found that tomshardware is the best place to seek help and advice. I'm glad I joined!

This is quite a long post, but please bare with me.

I have an old computer which I bought 4 years ago. Instead of buying a new computer, I decided to upgrade it and I found some excellent deals where I can get a good processor and GPU for less than $80. My computer's current setup is as follows:

This link gives detailed information about it:
PROCESSOR: AMD Sempron 3100+ (1.8Ghz with 256kb L2 cache) Socket 754
RAM: 1.5GB
GRAPHICS CARD: Radeon 9550, but I recently purchased a Radeon HD 2600XT AGP for a dirt cheap price of $38

I would like to upgrade my processor as well, but I'm having a hard deciding on which. The link I provided says the following about my motherboard:

Maximum approved processor:
Socket 754
Supports the following processors:
AMD Athlon 64 3700 processor (Clawhammer, 2.4 GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 3400 processor (Newcastle, 2.4 GHz)
AMD Sempron

I would really appreciate it if you can answer the following questions:

1) I "might" upgrade my Sempron to an Athlon 64 3400+ (ClawHammer, 2.2Ghz with 1MB L2 cache). This processor is not listed on the list, but it is a socket 754. Will I still be able to use it?

2) Will my motherboard take any processor as long as it's socket 754?

3) Will it take socket 754 laptop processors?

4) Which processor is more powerful: The Athlon 64 3400+ (2.2Ghz with 1MB L2 cache) or the Athlon 64 3400+ (2.4Ghz with 512kb L2 cache)?

5) Will I need to upgrade my current CPU fan and heatsink considering that my Sempron and all the Athlon 64 processors are made in 130Nm with the only difference being that the Sempron's voltage is 1.40 V and consumes only 62 W, while the Athlon 64's voltage is 1.50 V and consumes 89 W. Isn't that a pretty big difference? Wouldn't that make much more heat?

6) Are the Athlon 64 processors (mainly the 3400+ and 3700+) a big step up from the Sempron?

7) I'm not looking to play the newest and highest-end PC games. I only hope to be able to play Battlefield 2 and Half-Life 2 on MAX settings. With the new HD 2600XT I just purchase combined with either an Athlon 64 3400+ or a 3700+, will be able to do so?

Last but not least, thank you so much for reading this far. I hope you can answer all my questions!

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  1. If your only concern is max settings, what resolution will you be playing at?

    I'm not sure you'll be able to max out Half-Life 2 and have a high framerate at a high resolution with that system. You'll certainly be able to play the game--Source engine is pretty forgiving--but how well I'm not sure. Dunno about the Battlefield 2 engine.
    In buying a new processor, if you do not wish to upgrade your motherboard, then it's best to go with what that webpage says about possible upgrades. If it's a custom-made-for-HP motherboard, don't count on support for anything beyond what's stated. Motherboards need to have support for particular processors in their BIOS... BIOS updates on older boards let them accept CPUs introduced after the motherboard. HP probably doesn't enable support for new processors because they do not expect you to upgrade the system. And I don't think you'll be able to use laptop processors with this motherboard.
    I don't have the answers for all your questions, but I hope that helps some.

    Also, what's your price range?
  2. tortnotes said:
    If your only concern is max settings, what resolution will you be playing at?

    Also, what's your price range?

    The resolution will be somewhere around 1024 by 768 or 1152 by 864 at most

    And I'm trying to keep everything under $80 and so far I've been successful. I purchased an HD 2600XT for $38 and I plan on getting an Athlon 64 processor for $40, maybe less.

    With these two upgrades I know I'll be personally set for the next year or two until I get a brand new computer
  3. For that motherboard, I would say Athlon is your best bet. However, you can also pick up a socket am3+ as rock motherboard for $50 if you save up a bit more. Then get a phenom ii x4 965 and you'll be set. :) And save up a bit more and you could get a second 2600 and run them in crossfire. But in your current budget I would just suggest finding the highest clocked Athlon 64 in your budget. Another thing you could do is invest in a good CPU cooler and overclock that Athlon.

    Hope this helped. Also, just want to mention that I am very skilled in choosing parts for different budgets, so feel free to PM me if you would like to talk more.
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