How would you recommend upgrading my old system? I'd like the most cost effective way to get a little more performance on 3D games. The system does alright but I'm starting to see bad framerates in games like Dragon Age Origins. I'm guessing the 8600GTS is the bottleneck?
The monitor's resolution is the main factor in choosing a GPU. Without knowing that, we can't tell you what's overkill. The 5xxx series aren't actually that much faster than the high end 4xxx series cards. The 5770 is about the same as the 4870. The 5xxx series just has DirectX 11 support and some other enhancements.
Yes, you would need an aftermarket CPU cooler.
All of that said, you're probably looking at saving up for a new system. If the system is 3 years old, you bought it at exactly the wrong time. Intel moved off to new sockets and DDR3 came in. I'd either live with what you have for as long as possible while you save up for a good system (probably need $800 for an AMD/HD 5770 build or $1,000 for an i5/5770 or AMD/5850 build, depending on what you can use from this one).
If you absolutely can't live with your system, spend the $90 on another 8800 GTS to tide you over until you buy a new system.
Thanks. Will there be any issue with that PSU if I add another video card and/or overclock the CPU?
I am actually building a new system, but I'm keeping this one around because I want a reasonably good gaming machine for my wife too. I thought I'd just see if there were any relatively cheap upgrades that could be done to make her less jealous.
As far as monitor resolution, it's using a 1680x1050.
'twere me I'd ditch the 8600, get a 4850, mildly overclock the cpu and move on. Probably be ok with the cooler for a small oc, just check temps and throw a cooler on if needed. As far as PSU, one 4850 would be fine. Throwing any more money at it wouldn't make sense, but a 4850 would be a huge upgrade from an 8600GTS.
You will have problems with that PSU if you want to overclock and add a second card. You simply don't have enough power for a second card. If you wanted to do both, you'll need at least a 700W or 750W unit.
If you got a 4850, it would just be obsolete in a year. The 5770 would be able to handle everything at that resolution, and it's future proof with DirectX 11 support.
So zach agrees with me. It's such a large difference right now that the fact that it will be obsolete later is largely irrelevant. You can get quite a bit more use out of it that way before revisiting upgrading.
I see what you are saying madadmiral, but a year from now the chances that a 5770 will be the best deal for around a hundred are slim to none. Its good in theory, but my experience is if you spring for the 5770 now, in a year when you upgrade the whole system you end up buying whatever is the lasest and greatest anyway. The benefit from a 4850 to a 5770 at 1680x1050 with an e6600 vs the difference between a 5770 vs whatever is best at around budget then with more than likely a quad of some sort. Not saying either way is better than the other, just clarifying my line of thought
Two other things. One with an upgrade like that giving such a marked improvement there are alot of people who would leave it like that until what's happening now happens again. i.e. performance is once again no where near where it would be preferable. This would take another 2 years or so. And lastly he said that he wanted to keep this one around for his wife since he'd be building one specifically for himself later. There is absolutely no point in this case to buy a card that far exceeds the CPU, as they will likely be paired for quite awhile with that in mind. Might as well do what me and zach are saying since it serves its purpose much more cleanly that way.
We're saying to OC that CPU a little to make sure that it isn't limiting the graphics already as is, even just going to a 4770 or 4850 (or 4830 I guess, depending on which of these is cheaper.)