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Need ideas for homebuild graphics setup.

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January 27, 2010 3:40:03 AM

Hi all,

It’s my first post to Tom’s Hardware!

I’m a graphic designer. My current PC setup is a mashup of some of my old Gateway PC(2 CD/DVD Drives), and some homebuilt bits including a BIOSTAR: P4M900-M7 FE mobo (4 Gigs of DDR2 Ram but I don’t know how to find out more specifics on the memory) and a Pentium D (940?) processor.. My Graphics adapter is an ATI Fire-GL3600 with 256 mb. I work primarily in Photoshop, Dreamweaver and InDesign and some simple 3d (Sketchup) with mostly medium sized files. My OS is Windows 7 Pro. I have 2 IDE hard disks (250GB, 400GB) and one SATA 500gb). 500 WATT psu.

One would think that the above setup would be fine handling most of what I do, but launch iTunes, a browser, and Photoshop and I find myself under-resourced. When I look at my resource monitor, it shows 4096 MB of installed memory, but all but 1776 of it is available and 287mb is free. (I need to uninstall XP mode).

This seems to be a continual issue with PC’s. Seems every time I improve the hardware, the OS and software get more bloated and once again I’m running into performance issues. The quick fix seems change out the motherboard and CPU to one that could handle more memory but I’m on a couple deadlines and have limited funds so any words of wisdom are deeply appreciated.

My question is this: Off the tops of your heads, can anyone suggest a motherboard/cpu setup that might allow for more memory (16 GB maybe) that won't break my bank. Perhaps one that would retrofit my old memory and processor (or is that a waste?). I've seen some for 70-90 bucks that have 2 slots for 8 Gigs but I would love to get a cheap board with 4 slots and 16 gigs. I welcome all ideas however and if you know of a board (regardless of slot count) that would work for me, please advise. One board that looked promising was an ASUS P5P43TD. Would that be compatible with my existing memory and processor until I can spend some more $$$?

Any other thoughts on the right way to approach this? Also, I've heard snippets about compatibility between different graphics adapters and mobo's like nForce boards won't play with my ATI card, etc. Any thoughts on this matter?

I will continue to research this topic more but I have some big projects running now and need to make a move now. Any advice, general and specific to my situation would be of great help.

So, thankyou, thankyou thankyou in advance, Any and all advice is welcome. Please let me know if you need additional info.

Greg
January 27, 2010 6:53:09 AM

It all depends on what your current ram is for instance if you have
DDR2-667MHZ CLS 5 you could only put another DDR2-667MHZ CLS5 is recommended but not neccsery for them to work.But they do need to be the same MHZ you could also bundel 1024+2048 512+2048 doesn't metter as long as they are the same speed.Also i am not exactly sure which socket Pentium D is but i'd bet 775 so if you are 775 you could grab a nice duel core CPU for 70/80 euro First hand ofcourse.Also there are asus boards which support up to 16 GB for around 50 euro range.
Now i don't know where you are from but here's a website with a good board http://www.alternate.nl/html/product/Moederborden_Socke...
I would recommend Asus or Gigabyte you could also buy Asrock but keep in mind that they are buget motherboards manufactured by asus.
And my personal oppinion on this is that you dont' realy need 16GB ram you could very well get away with 8 which is even to much for it.
For you see what's more important about ram is not the size it's the CLS and the MHZ.
For instance:
If you have DDR2 533Mhz with CLS6 which is 2048 MB
And you buy DDR2 800MHz with CLS4 512MB it would work 4 times better than the onve above so my advice is next time you buy ram don't go for SIZE prefer speed and CLS before size.
I am a PC Tech

PS To find what you'r parts are http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html download this install it and let it run as administrator account you will get all current info for you'r PC and it's free.When you discover what your ram Speed CLS is please feel free to enlighten us we might be able to provide more accurate answer than the one above.Good luck to you
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a b V Motherboard
January 27, 2010 12:45:31 PM

hero16 said:
It all depends on what your current ram is for instance if you have
DDR2-667MHZ CLS 5 you could only put another DDR2-667MHZ CLS5 is recommended but not neccsery for them to work.But they do need to be the same MHZ you could also bundel 1024+2048 512+2048 doesn't metter as long as they are the same speed.Also i am not exactly sure which socket Pentium D is but i'd bet 775 so if you are 775 you could grab a nice duel core CPU for 70/80 euro First hand ofcourse.Also there are asus boards which support up to 16 GB for around 50 euro range.
Now i don't know where you are from but here's a website with a good board http://www.alternate.nl/html/product/Moederborden_Socke...
I would recommend Asus or Gigabyte you could also buy Asrock but keep in mind that they are buget motherboards manufactured by asus.
And my personal oppinion on this is that you dont' realy need 16GB ram you could very well get away with 8 which is even to much for it.
For you see what's more important about ram is not the size it's the CLS and the MHZ.
For instance:
If you have DDR2 533Mhz with CLS6 which is 2048 MB
And you buy DDR2 800MHz with CLS4 512MB it would work 4 times better than the onve above so my advice is next time you buy ram don't go for SIZE prefer speed and CLS before size.
I am a PC Tech

PS To find what you'r parts are http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html download this install it and let it run as administrator account you will get all current info for you'r PC and it's free.When you discover what your ram Speed CLS is please feel free to enlighten us we might be able to provide more accurate answer than the one above.Good luck to you


I am very sorry, but the comments about memory speed and size are simply not correct. Memory speed is one of the most insignificant performance affecting things in the entire computer. More important is you have enough memory. After that, increasing memory speed for performance is the very last tweak an enthusiast looks at. Why? Because it makes very little real world difference. And that difference is even smaller on a older system that still uses an onboard memory controller working over a front side bus.

Anyhow, welcome to the original poster!
Your system is getting pretty antiquated. It sounds like you could indeed use more memory, but if you go to the trouble of changing the motherboard, you might as well start over with a new processor and then just add some more memory as well. The old Pentium D might do okay with some mild multi tasking, but when you toss photoshop or any other design program into the mix, you have suddenly added a pretty big load to the old girl.
The Pentium D is going to really struggle running all that. Don't know where the OS and programs are installed, but those old IDE harddrives are not doing any favors either running design programs.
So, start by setting your self a budget, you are going to need a processor, memory and motherboard combo. The good news is, it won't take much money to end with a combo that will be overwhelmingly better than what you have now. A decent budget quad core CPU, motherboard, memory for what you need would likely run around $350. That may be stretching your budget, but if you want to gain performance with what you are doing, it is what I would suggest. Especially since you are running a modern OS.
If you need to go 1 piece at a time, yes that board you have picked out would work fine. Upgrade further as you get the money.
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a b V Motherboard
January 27, 2010 1:24:45 PM

Without a budget it is hard to give advice, but, according to Biostar compatibility list

http://www.biostar.com.tw/app/en/mb/cpu_support.php?S_ID=314

the easiest and cheapest for you would be to drop in a core 2 duo

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115056&cm_re=intel_core_2_duo_e7500-_-19-115-056-_-Product

However I agree with jitpublisher, it might be time to upgrade your system.

To just upgrade mobo and CPU look to something like this

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.315857

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.320283

this might be able to use your old DDR2 ram, to see exactly what ram you currently have installed use CPUZ

http://cpuid.com/cpuz.php

A decent mobo for DDR3 ram (current standard for new mobos) would be

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131609&cm_re=asus_motherboard_am3-_-13-131-609-_-Product
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a b V Motherboard
January 27, 2010 1:34:33 PM

^That is some pretty darn good pricing on those combos, I havent' really researched much since I bought mine. But last spring I paid $300 for my board, memory and processor. (see my specs) And I have been really happy with it.
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January 27, 2010 2:16:28 PM

I would spend a few more $ than you might have anticipated, but my suggestion leaves you WIDE, and I mean WIDE open for a significant upgrade.

Get a Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard. Its the same LGA775 socket as your pentium processor, and this motherboard supports pentium processors. When you have enough to upgrade your processor, this motherboard is all ready for a nice Core 2 Quad processor! It *should* support your ram too. All you'd need is the motherboard and piece by piece you could upgrade your whole setup as time goes on!

It has 4 RAM slots, supporting 16 GB max, and the type of RAM supported is an unusually wide range, so I would bet your RAM would work. You really need to find out if its 533, 667, 800, 1066, speed etc. Usually if you take your ram out and look on the sticker on it, would say somewhere. Just knowing its DDR2 leaves that question open for others who wish to provide you with accurate advice.

This GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard supports the following processors
- Core 2 Quad
- Core 2 Extreme
- Core 2 Duo
- Pentium Extreme
- Pentium D
- Pentium 4 Extreme
- Pentium 4

This GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard supports the following RAM

DDR2 1366+
DDR2 1066
DDR2 800
DDR2 667

This GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard has the following expansion slots
2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 (ATI Crossfire)
3 PCI Express x1
2 PCI Slots

This GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard allows for significant overclocking, even for the beginner, and my favorite aspect of this board, its one of the most MAC OSX compatible motherboards that exists. I can walk you through an OSX install in a matter of 1 hour, and have you dual booting windows 7 and Mac OSX.

Cost = $130
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Rest of your components will work fine, your ATI graphics card is perfect for what your trying to do. Then when you have enough to upgrade further, get yourself a nice Quad Core processor, the cheapest being $150
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a b V Motherboard
January 27, 2010 3:14:56 PM

muchlife said:
I would spend a few more $ than you might have anticipated, but my suggestion leaves you WIDE, and I mean WIDE open for a significant upgrade.

Get a Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard. Its the same LGA775 socket as your pentium processor, and this motherboard supports pentium processors. When you have enough to upgrade your processor, this motherboard is all ready for a nice Core 2 Quad processor! It *should* support your ram too. All you'd need is the motherboard and piece by piece you could upgrade your whole setup as time goes on!

..

This GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard allows for significant overclocking, even for the beginner, and my favorite aspect of this board, its one of the most MAC OSX compatible motherboards that exists. I can walk you through an OSX install in a matter of 1 hour, and have you dual booting windows 7 and Mac OSX.

Cost = $130
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Rest of your components will work fine, your ATI graphics card is perfect for what your trying to do. Then when you have enough to upgrade further, get yourself a nice Quad Core processor, the cheapest being $150


That is a great motherboard, no doubt about it, but it is building on a technology that is being phased out, so I would disagree on it leaving him WIDE WIDE open for significant upgrades.

Also, it is seemingly his Pentium D that is currently holding him back, so just upgrading to another motherboard will leave him in the same position he is in now.

Anyway, without a budget it is impossible to accurately address his needs.

While I agree that a P45 motherboard and a core 2 quad would be a major upgrade, price/performance for his intended purpose seem to me, to make that combo overkill.
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January 27, 2010 3:51:07 PM

to go from a pentium D, to being able to upgrade to a Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Extreme or Core 2 Quad is a wide open upgrade possibility in my opinion. Obviously wide open is open to interpretation, and going with a core i5 or core i7 would be more overkill than a core 2 quad which is the reason i wouldnt suggest the newest of the newest technology. The GA-EP45-UD3P would work great with a core 2 duo for graphics and webdesign, while haveing music and several browsers open for testing, however the core 2 quad would remove the need for another upgrade in processor 2-4 years from now. so long as you want to upgrade a little bit at a time, staying on the 775 socket with core 2 series is your best bet. in order for him to upgrade to the 1156 socket he'd have to get new ram, new processor, and new motherboard as opposed to just a new motherboard and more ram at the moment, upgrading the processor in the future. the pentium D is only holding back for the time being, unless you can overclock it, which can easily be done to the D 940 on a higher end gigabyte board. while not solving resource issues permenantly it would certianly help with temporarily waiting to save up more upgrade cash for the new processor
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January 28, 2010 2:17:12 PM

Thank you all for your advice and recommendations. All the suggestions had info that will be useful in my decision. It sounds like spending a little more $$$ on the mobo makes sense and adding more RAM later when I have a few more bucks in my pocket. (sheesh, this economy stinks!) And that Gigabyte board sounds like the one!

I will report in once I make the purchase and get this thing up and running.

Hope to do this in the next week. Thanks Again.

Greg
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