Biggest Bang for Upgrade $

Both of the following systems are used on a home network for general computing, no gaming or graphics intensive applications. There are other systems available if needed for those applications. I plan to keep these systems for as long as I can upgrade them. The case and power supply on System 1 are 10 years old (Hmm, I wonder if the PS is what is causing some of the problems I'm experiencing with this system.), the MoBo, CPU and drive are a few years old. System 2 was bought in April 2009.

System 1 – Hardware upgrade budget $100

I plan to upgrade this system to Windows 7. No need to consider the cost of the software and suggest I use it to upgrade the hardware. Where can I get the biggest bang for my buck – CPU, RAM, or Video Card?

Is $100 worth of hardware going to make a noticeable difference in performance? I know $200 will since you can buy a MoBo, CPU and RAM for that.

Or do I hobble along for a year and save up to put together a $300 system next year at Newegg’s Black Friday sale?

CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Pentium 4 SL6GT 512Kb L2 Cache. I can buy an Intel Pentium 4 3.0 Prescott 3.0GHz 1MB L2 Cache Socket 478 89W Single-Core Processor for $80 from Newegg; I might even be able to find one on eBay for less. It looks like they might go for around $40 there.

MoBo: EliteGroup PT800CE-A

RAM: 1.5GB not sure what type, MoBo supports up to 2GB of DDR400. Cost for 2GB is $50 to $70.

Video Card: MoBo has Radeon 9200 SE. It has an AGP 3.0 slot and 32-bit PCI slots. I have an Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420 AGP in a system I’m going to use for parts. Will it work on this MoBo? Will it increase system performance? Can I find a driver that will work in Windows 7? Will a PCIE video card increase performance more than my other options?

Hard Drive: 80GB 2.5” drive. I’m not sure if it is IDE or SATA. I’m guessing the hard drive is already adequate. Am I right about that?

System 2 – Hardware upgrade budget $100

I plan to upgrade this system to Windows 7. This system is probably OK right now. It sounds like IE9 is going to offload some of the graphics processing from the CPU and I guess other applications will as well. And I’m guessing applications will continue to put greater demands on systems. So if I’m going to upgrade this system in the future where will I get my biggest bang for $100 – CPU, Video Card, RAM or Hard Drive?

CPU: Intel Pentium Dual Core E2200 2.2GHz

MoBo: Akonii P4N7050 1.0

Video: Onboard Nvidia GeForce 7050/nForce 610i. One PCIE x16 and three other PCI slots.

RAM: 1.75GB PC5400 DDR2 667MHz – Not sure why there is such an odd amount of RAM. Could some of it be shared with the graphics? The MoBo can take 2GB of PC6400 DDR2 800MHz which would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $90. Another stick of the PC5400 would be around $50.

Hard Drive: 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache IDE Ultra ATA100. I’m going to add a Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 120GB UDMA/133 7200RPM 2MB IDE from another system to use as a backup drive. Any way I can improve performance with IDE drives? I know that if I had SATA drives I could use RAID 0 to improve performance.
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More about biggest bang upgrade
  1. System one hardly worth the money put into it on upgrades unless really cheap (ebay).
    System 2 still upgradeable. Probably has 256mb ram designated for GPU
  2. Best answer
    Can system 2 take a total of 2GB, or can it take 2GB more than it has already?

    I wouldn't put any more money into system 1, but if you really wanted to, consider the hard drive... if it's got a 2.5" notebook hard drive of that age, it's probably a 4200 RPM drive. Ugh. You're familiar with how SSDs speed up a system... a modern hard drive might double read and write performance. It would certainly help with boot and application load times.

    System 2.. A GPU like a 4670 or GT 240 would be a nice $100 upgrade. If it's between a GPU and more RAM, I'd take a GPU.
  3. System 2 can use up to 4GB of DDR2 800. So I could get a bit faster RAM than is what is in it now, or put in another 2GB for a total of 4.

    I'll keep my eyes out for a drop in prices on RAM. I spotted 4GB of DDR2 800 on Tiger Direct for $56. I'm pretty sure it was a typo but I didn't jump on it and make them honor the price.

    It would be interesting to see a comparison between adding RAM vs a discrete board since both would cost about the same.

    I'm thinking that saving up and replacing System 1 will be the best thing. I'll find out if it can run Windows 7 this weekend when I try to install it. If it can I'll just wait for the sales and put together a new system and sell the parts.
  4. I'm no expert, but would suggest 2nd hand parts/ebay for a quick "try out" upgrade for system 1

    Seem to recall some dirt cheap P4s I was/am considering for an upgrade for an old Celeron 2GHz

    (I know it's UK - but had the links saved...try google products for something similar near u)

    Also see if local/national stockists will do some kind of bundle.
    Again, a local link for ppl in the UK, but search for something similar
  5. Thanks for the suggestions. System 1 died before Christmas so I built a new system using some of the old components but mostly new ones.

    The reason I came back to this thread is I'm trying to figure out where the GeForce 7050 /630i in System 2 falls in the Graphics Card Hierarchy. It wasn't in the chart for the Best Graphics Cards article so I'm searching around to figure out where it fits. The article on the Radeon HD 5450 caught my eye and got me to thinking about graphics card upgrades.

    Even as I type this it is helping find the 7050's spot. Sometimes you just need to talk it out.

    Since I don't do any gaming my guess is that I'm just fine with the GeForce 7050/630i IGP on my board, especially in light of the 2D graphics issue that Tom's discovered with Windows 7.

    On the flip side, it looks like even a $50 graphics card would boost any of my systems up a couple of levels on the Hierarchy Chart. My HTPC has a GeForce 9300 IGP.

    One additional note: Windows 7 is geat! I've been extremely happy with it. The ease of use for the file sharing and other features is outstanding. Microsoft may have finally done something good and right.
  6. Best answer selected by BlueCat57.
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