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Thinking of upgrading - what can I expect

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January 5, 2010 6:13:34 AM

Hey everyone - first post here =]

I'm looking to upgrade my gaming pc, but I wanted some advice about it. Here is what I have right now:

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ (3.0Ghz)
GPU: XFX Geforce 9800 GTX
RAM: 2 x 1024MB Corsair XMS2 (Dual Channel, DDR2, PC2-6400)
MOBO: ECS GF8200A Black Edition
PSU: 550 Watt Coolmax

With these specs Modern Warfare 2 runs really poorly - even on the "recommended for your hardware" settings (which make the game look terrible) I still get very bad performance. In outdoor and high action parts of the campaign I get around 25 frames per second and it keeps dropping to about 5 frames per second every 30 seconds or so.

My thoughts (although I am by far not an expert, although I've built a few PC's) is that my CPU, my ram, OR both are choking my graphics card. My 9800GTX should not be struggling with this game on medium settings!

When I minimize the game, and fire up task manager I notice that 1.85GB of RAM (out of 2GB) are in use. That's what makes me think I need more RAM. I'm thinking of buying 2GB more for a total of 4GB.

As far as CPU goes, I'm not sure if it's a problem or not. I've heard that for a single graphics card setup, my class of processor would not be bottlenecking at all. On the other hand, when I run 3Dmark06, my system scores around 10,000 - a whopping 4,000 less than systems with a quad core CPU.

So with that said, should I upgrade my RAM, my CPU, or both? And what kind of performance increase can I expect? Would I not really see much improvement because the key component for games is the graphics card, or would I see big improvement due to letting the 9800GTX shine to it's full potential?

On a side note, the motherboard I bought came out before socket AM3, but the website says the board is "AM3 ready". Does that mean that although on the box it says AM2+, it will run a AM3 processor without any limitations?
January 5, 2010 6:56:53 AM

thats strange... I play it smooth at 1024X768 though, but everything else maxed out....no FSAA/AA. on a what guess what?

Pentium 4 630 prescott 3.0ghz
2GB XMS 2
Ati radeon 4830 512mb

There is some patch for amd processors and for modern warfare 2, its supposed to be in the game disc if you browse it........install it and it will work fine......
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January 5, 2010 4:48:01 PM

@thelivingflesh

I looked in the game discs, but I didn't find the patch you mentioned... there is a DX10 installer, and I re-ran that just in case, but it didn't help

@zipzoomflyhigh

I thought it should be running it great, I was starting to get depressed that my hardware is getting so outdated I can't play new games anymore!

Wait... it's the same engine as COD4? I can run that game maxed out with nice amounts of filters (don't remember at the moment) over 60fps consistently!

Hmm... so a CPU upgrade will not do me much good, and RAM should not be an issue - I guess hardware is not what's causing the problem.

In that case my problem is probably drivers, right? Should I post in another section asking about drivers, or should I continue the discussion here in the hardware forum? I don't want to make the mods angry =]

Oh almost forgot to answer your very first question - I'm running it at 1280x1024, which is by no means a high resolution by today's standards.


EDIT: I also looked at the link you sent me - it does support the new processors, but only up to 95 Watts. So for example an AMD Phenom II X4 955 (which is 125 Watts) will not work =[
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 5, 2010 7:59:57 PM

I have an athlon 64 x2 +5600 (OC to 3.2), 4GB DDR2-800 RAM and an ATI 5770. I can play the single player COD:MW demo high settings at 1680x1050. I dont think the CPU is limiting you.

If there is a free trial or demo of MW2 I would be happy to download it and see how well my computer handles it.
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January 5, 2010 9:43:08 PM

i am looking for that patch......try looking in the amd website.....there is some patch as my friend installed it.. are you working with windows 7, ?
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 5, 2010 11:29:08 PM

another 2 gigs wouldnt kill you. If you're planning on using a 64-bit windows, i'd recommend it. Otherwise, that really shouldn't be causing an issue.

If you were to install a new CPU, flash the BIOS first with the latest.
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January 6, 2010 5:15:16 PM

Thanks for the responses everyone!

I'm using Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

Here is more info that might give someone an idea of what's wrong with my set up:

1. Overclocking the GPU gives absolutely no improvement in 3Dmark06 OR in games. The stock clocks for my card are: 675/1100/1688 (clock/memory/shader). I overclocked it using RivaTuner to 749/1100/1873 (since I heard oc'ing memory yields almost nothing and is dangerous, I didn't touch it). My 3Dmark06 score stayed about the same (up maybe 20 points, but that doesn't mean anything) and I saw no improvement at all in games either. GPUz shows that the clocks actually changed, and the card does run a bit hotter, but no improvement. I'm completely stumped by this.

2. My 3DMark06 score is only around 10,000. According to you guys (and other sources I found) my CPU is not bottlenecking my GPU, but other people are getting around 14,000 - 19,000 with quad core processors. Would a quad core processor really improve a 3dMark score by such huge amounts?

3. CPUz has some weird bug where it shows I have 2GB of Panasonic RAM (RDRAM) in the first slot, and then 1GB of Corsair in the second, and 1GB of Corsair in the third. The actual set up (which I can see since my case has a clear side =] ) is the two Corsair modules are in slots 1 and 2, and slots 3 and 4 are empty. Windows only detects 2GB of RAM... but it makes me wonder if my PC isn't bugging out because it's trying to use RAM that doesn't exists and gets screwed up or something =]

4. I have the most recent driver for the 9800gtx (195.62). Some people say that older drivers worked better, but I haven't been able to find which driver or if this claim is true.

THANKS!
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 6, 2010 5:54:30 PM

The overclocking of the GPU is less than 10% which is going to be hard to notice in a game.

Comparing your 3dmark06 score to different CPU isnt going to say much. It also doesnt necessarily match the performance profile of a specific game so it doesnt even give a good indicator of game performance. Its biggest value is to compare to similar computers to see if something is wrong.

The wierd RAM thing might be an indicator your bios is having trouble with your RAM. Checking the bios and forcing the RAM settings may help. Moving the RAM to the other two slots or checking to see if it should really be in slots 1&3 instead of 1&2 would be things to look at. If your ram is in wrong, it might be running single channel which would slow it down.
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January 6, 2010 6:13:27 PM

Wait... an OC from 675 to 749 is around 11%, not less than 10%. Unless I'm doing my math wrong (which is (749-657)/675*100).

Either way, overclocking 10% should give some improvement, but it gives absolutely nothing. I picked the same exact spot at the same exact time before and after overclocking -- the first mission in MW2 when you are sitting in the gunner spot waiting for the airstrike on the tall building. I looked at the same exact spot both times, the tip of the roof. I get 25-27 frames per second with or without overclock. Even a 10% overclock should show an improvement of at least a few frames per second, no?

According to the manual, for dual channel the modules should be in DIMM 3 and DIMM 4. On the motherboard I put them where it is labeled "DDR2_3 and DDR2_4" so it looks like they're in the right spot. GPUz sees them in slots 2 and 3 though... I'll go take a look at the BIOS.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 6, 2010 6:37:57 PM

You only overclocked one of the 3 frequencies by 11%, not all 3. Getting a performance increase of about 1FPS is all I would expect, and thats hard to see.

I also saw a Gigbyte motherboard manual where the chart said to put the memory in slots 1/2 or 3/4 and was incorrect, the text said to use 1/3 or 2/4 which was right.

You might try single RAM sticks and/or run memtest on them to be sure one isnt bad.


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January 6, 2010 6:41:23 PM

I overclocked 2 of 3 (clock and shader) but I guess that still wouldn't do much?

Would memtest show if it's running dual channel or not? I'll look into it.

EDIT:
I looked in the BIOS to see what might be wrong with the RAM, but I didn't really find anything. What should I be looking at specifically?
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 6, 2010 7:48:15 PM

Well you're using a 64-bit OS so you should really get at least one more gig of RAM. I tested on my comp with Company of Heroes and got a difference of 20-30 FPS when I only had 2 gigs between being in XP Pro and Windows 7 64 RC.

This could be your problem, but it may not be.
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January 7, 2010 9:48:32 PM

So I ran memtest and I let it sit for a while (it went through everything 7 times) and it found no errors. So memory is not faulty.

I guess, like a few of you suggested, a 64-bit OS running a new game needs more than 2 GB of ram. The only reason I only have 2GB is that getting 4GB is a waste on a 32-bit OS because not all of it gets used (correct?). I'll try to get my hands on at least another 1GB. If that doesn't help... then the ram would probably be a good investment anyway =]
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January 8, 2010 3:34:19 AM

Ok, so I reinstalled COD4 just to see how it would run on this exact setup (I used to play COD4 when I had a 32-bit OS) and you guys won't believe this...

COD4 works BETTER than before! I'm getting between 55 to 160 fps (from open areas to inside buildings). I rarely see it drop below 50. With MW2 I rarely see it go ABOVE 50... so frustrating! And these games are on the same engine? How is that possible with such a huge difference in performance? I don't know if RAM is the issue here... something tells me my drivers don't play nice with MW2.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2010 5:29:44 PM

Have you checked the settings you are using in MW2? Maybe you have AA/AF on in MW2 and off in COD. A couple settings can make a huge performance difference. Anti-aliasing and the fancy DX10 shadowing tend to be performance killers.
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January 8, 2010 7:39:37 PM

I actually have COD4 on max settings - full AA and AF allowed through the game's settings. I have these set lower in MW2, but I'm getting worse results... so confused by this. Would the DX10 shadowing cut my framerate down by almost 3?
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2010 7:53:06 PM

Shouldn't by that much.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2010 7:53:33 PM

I know the DX10 shadowing has been a frame rate killer for WoW players. You could always try turning it off and see.
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January 8, 2010 8:01:58 PM

my solution:

play bf2 instead. :langue: 

for real though, your current setup is more than decent enough to be able to play MW2 on good settings. there has to be a missing link somewhere...
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February 21, 2010 12:25:07 AM

Sorry to revive a dead thread, but I just wanted to submit a quick update on my issue for the benefit of others who might find this threat through google or something.

It turns out that my RAM was holding me back. I bought 4GB (2x2GB) of Corsair XMS2 DHX (side note: the heatsinks on these are enormous!) and all is fine.

Here is some info you guys might find interesting... with 2GB of RAM in high action parts of the game I was getting 25fps with constant drops to about 5 fps or so (in other words completely unplayable) running 1280x1024, 0 AA. When I checked how much RAM was being used while the game was running, it showed 1.85GB out of the 2GB available. So I thought "hey, it's not using all of it, so I guess I have enough RAM"

Turns out I was wrong. After upgrading to 4GB of RAM, in the same exact part of the game, I'm getting around 40fps, and in other less graphics intensive parts I'm getting 60fps or higher. And most importantly no more drops to 5fps every few seconds. And to top it all off, I'm running it completely maxed out now! So I'm running at higher settings and getting MUCH better performance! How is that possible if only 1.85GB was being used? It turns out 2GB of ram is not enough for MW2 at all, and the only reason it was using 1.85GB is because my RAM was almost at full capacity, and I'm guessing the OS did not allow MW2 to take up anymore. I think the reason is that Windows has to reserve some RAM for it's own operation.

So how do I know that MW2 actually needs more than 1.85GB of RAM? After installing 4GB of ram and going to see how much RAM is being used, guess what... it's not 1.85GB anymore, it's 2.88GB! No wonder the game was unplayable if I was over 1GB of RAM short of what it needs...

So I guess what was happening was that MW2 was having a hard time allocating all the textures it was storing in memory, and was constantly removing some from memory to make room for new ones, and then when I would turn and look somewhere, it would have to remove something from memory to make room and load the textures again... and in effect that caused framrerate drops. I might be wrong, I am not completely sure how these things work. That's just my guess =]

In any case, everything is fine now - thanks to all who responded and tried to help!
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