After your suggestions and very helpful advice, I ended up with the following:
MSI 790GX-G65 BIOS v 1.4
AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE
Crucial XMS3 1600 MHz DDR3 4GB (2x2)
Coolermaster HAF 922
Coolermaster Hyper 212+
Alongside a christmas gift of the Intel X-25 G2 80GB SSD, and the following from my old Dell:
EVGA GeForce 9800 GT 512 MB
WD Raptor 10K RPM 80 GB HDD
Well, I installed everything per the manuals and the guidance I got on here, including how to properly install the HSF, installed Windows 7 Professional 64 bit, updated the SSD firmware to allow teh TRIM command, and downloaded memtest86+ and Prime 95
Well, I have some stupid questions:
1) with memtest, I booted to the CD I burned, it ran, and when I came back to it it said something like "all tests passed, press esc to reboot" or some such...so...my memory's fine? I'm worried 'cause when I boot up, the PC beeps, the MSI screen comes up, then there is a low pitch beep quickly followed by a higher pitch beep, then a pause, a similar beep a second later, a pause, then 2 similar beeps in quick succession...any ideas as to what that is?
2) Is there a simplified explanation of how to properly flash my BIOS? I need to either do the 1.5, 1.6 or 4.0 for my mobo to allow me to try to unlock the 4th core, but I'm not confident yet that I know what I'm doing with a bootable USB flash drive
3) With Prime 95, I also have coretemp and task manager running, and when I do the torture test, blend, 3 threads, all 3 cores on coretemp show 100%, and task manager shows 100% for CPU (57% RAM). It started around 18° C, and after an hour it goes between 26°C and 27°C...I'm assuming that a) I installed my HSF correctly, and b) my CPU works as intended and c) my cooling pretty much rocks, right? I'm just not confident in everything as this is my first time trying everything out, I guess I just need someone to verify my results.
As long as you get the correct BIOS, it seems to me that it's pretty difficult to mess up. Most of them let you run a program in windows to flash the BIOS. Just don't turn it off in the middle and it should go fine.