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Advice on system upgrade (upgrade or buy new)...with details

Last response: in Systems
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January 23, 2010 1:55:26 AM

So, I am trying to decide on upgrading my existing system vs buying a new box.


Present System:
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Windows XP 32 Bit
Case: Antec Sonata II w/450W Power Supply
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 2.13 GHz 2MB (overclocked to 2.4 GHz)
RAM: 4GB OCZ PC2-6400 800 MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P5B (apparently limited to 8GB RAM, from what I read)
Video Card: GeForce 7900GS OC 256 MB
Various Hard Drives

Usage
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Primary:
Development (MS Visual Studio, SQL Server, etc)
LOTS of browser windows open (Firefox eating 3GB is not unusual at all, I never close tabs)
Secondary:
Video Transcoding
VMWare (running Windows Server 2008 + Sharepoint)

What I know for sure
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I want lots of RAM, 12 to 16 GB with *room for upside in the future* (looks like I'm screwed with my existing motherboard?)
I'm going to go SSD for my boot drive (haven't read whats best for ~2 months, so might just go Intel to be safe, suggestions?)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64Bit
I am going to be doing *some* virtual machine stuff, preferably VMWare, but nothing heavy duty, I just need to run Windows Server 2008 with Sharepoint on it for learning purposes.
I don't do any gaming
I am probably going to overclock the CPU


So, my general question is, does anyone have any recommendations from a price/performance perspective?
Best bang for buck, I could probably just go SSD boot, 64 Bit windows, and go to 8GB RAM (assuming thats all my motherboard supports, I don't know 100%), and I'd likely be relatively happy.
If I go for a totally new box, I could drop the VMWare requirement and use my old box for that, and get rid of all these legacy issues.

I really don't *need* any fantastic processor performance above what I have now, but I'm not particularly budget constrained either.
If my present motherboard truly limits me to 8GB of RAM (so it seems, but I don't know for sure), I think I almost have to upgrade at this point (unless putting swap on SSD cures that).
But, is now is an ok time to upgrade? From a motherboard perspective, if I go Intel i7 now, do I have a decent CPU and memory upgrade path (up to 32 GB), even though I may not be getting the best bang for the buck (I'm ok with that....I'd like to see videos transcoding twice as fast, even though I really don't *need* it.) I'd just like for once be able to upgrade without having to pull everything out.

So hopefully I've given enough information. Basically, the decision is between:
1. Bumping my existing sytem to SSD boot, 8GB RAM, Windows 7-64 Bit
2. New motherboard, processor, memory in this system (same power supply, if it is enough), and essentially throw the existing in the garbage (or sell for next to nothing)
3. Buy a new box, relegate old one to a server for Sharepoint

For both options 2 & 3, I'd like for once to buy something with a realistic upgrade path....when I bought my existing system, they assured me I had this, but I wasn't aware of the 8GB limit....maybe at the time, that was considered reasonable.

Thanks for any help....
January 23, 2010 2:23:57 AM

I'd consider/recommend:
* q8300/q8400 CPU for your computing needs (quad cores for ~$160/$170 respectively)
* At least 4 gb's or DDR2 800 mHz RAM (2 x 2 gb's), maybe even the 8 gb's (your mobo limit).
* If you go with SSD than consider getting at least a 60-120 gb sized drive. You will want to have enough room for your OS (Win7) and your applications on the SSD, so the bigger SSD you can afford the better. And also have a larger "scratch" drive for your data that you work with.
* Your PSU should be generally fine with the upgrades, but since it's probably about 3+ yrs. old, I'd consider getting a new one. Antec still makes good PSU's, so I'd consider anything in the 400-500w range is plenty for your needs.
* Your GPU is old, but will do a good job. You can keep it until it dies, or you can upgrade to at least a 5670 (no PCI-e power needed!). You can get a lower GPU, but the 5670 will give you plenty of GPU power and doesn't cost too much either (~$100).

The other option is to upgrade to a whole new system, which isn't a bad idea either.
Options to consider with a new build:

CPU
* AMD Athlon II x4 620 at the least (~$100)
* AMD Phenom II x4 955 (~$160) if you want more power. (AM3 based CPU)
* Intel i5 750 (~$200) if you want better performance. (s1156 based CPU)
* Intel i7 920 (~$280) if you want one of the best performance you can get. (s1366 based CPU)

Mobo
* ~$80-125 for AMD AM3 based mobo's
* ~$100-150 for Intel s1156 based mobo's (i5 750)
* ~$170-275 for Intel s1366 based mobo's (i7 920)

RAM
* ~$100 for 4 gb's of DDR3
* ~$150 - $175 for 6 gb's DDR3 for triple channel support on s1366 (i7 920) based mobo's
* ~$200-$250 for 8 gb's DDR3

You can decide what you want to do, but upgrading will work. I'd consider building a newer system, if you can afford it.
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