I have a few year old computer I built that has been sitting unused for a couple of years. I'd like to get some opinions on the best use of my money vs performance.
E6600 Core 2 Duo overclocked to around 3 GHz
2 Gig DDR2 RAM
Asus PN5-E SLI motherboard
7600GT graphics card
18" monitor (1280x1024)
I'm looking to start upgrading this thing to get back into gaming. I've been playing on consols for a while but am starting to get the itch to get back into computers. I'll be working what I have up to be able to handle things like Dragon Age Origins. The first thing I'm going to get is a 22" widescreen monitor (1680x1050). I was going to play some older games like Oblivion and NWN 2. I'm thinking what I have should handle that but I'll have to start upgrading the processor, graphics card, and RAM. Where would my money best be spent and in what order? I don't have unlimited funds either. Would I be good sticking with the motherboard and going with a quad core and new graphics card and just adding RAM?
The E6600 is definitely still capable of running most things. I would echo BDdazza's approach. Throw in another 2Gb of RAM (dirt cheap, often makes quite a difference), and swap the card.
If you were to stick with that monitor, no need to get the latest blazing card. You're not going to be playing at the resolutions required. I don't know what region you're in, but you could pick up a 4850 here in the UK for less than £100.
If you do go ahead and get the 22", only a tiny bit extra would bag you the 4870, which runs my 22" at native resolution with no trouble.
If you particularly wanted to go the nvidia route, the GTX260 is roughly comparable, but a little more expensive.
I'm on Win 7 64 bit. If you've not made the jump from Xp yet, I'd recommend it. However, if you have a 64 bit Vista code kicking around, I'd hold on. It's not sufficiently better than Vista with all the latest updates on it, which does get a bit of a bad press.
Future upgrades could be moving to a higher end Quad, but for now, the CPU is fine. I'd upgrade to 4GB and a 4850, and go from there. I see no reason to throw everything out, when $300 in upgrades can resurrect the entire rig again.