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Help deciding if I should put any money in to upgrading a Dell P4

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February 9, 2010 8:55:58 PM

Not sure if this is the right place... I am just about to order parts for my new build and will be passing on my old PC a Dell Dimension 4600 P4 2.6 GHZ machine with 512MB of ram to my kids. I was initially going to give them my laptop, but decided they would be better off with the desktop.

What can I do to improve performance for the least amount of money? It will only be used for Internet surfing and MS Word. I was thinking the best bet would be RAM, but perhaps a new HD as well as the whole system seems to drag and the HD is loud and seems to take for ever to load anything off of it.
How can I tell if the drive is bad? Even with a fresh OS install, its running faster, but still not what it used to run at.

Current specs

Pentium 4 2.6 GHZ
512MB Ram of DDR PC3200
120GB SATA HD
a b B Homebuilt system
February 9, 2010 9:17:10 PM

You could add another 512MB of memory and a faster hard disk. A very fast system probably would feel sluggish with that old hard disk. Other than that, nothing will make a P4 2.6 feel snappy. A fast hard disk will provide a better improvement than additional memory.
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February 9, 2010 9:27:49 PM

The 4600, I think, is new enough to mount a normal ATX or mATx motherboard in it. It's possible, esp if you have a Fry's nearby, to get a dual core processor and a motherboard for about the price of 2GB of DDR400. Add 2GB of DDR2-800 and you can probably get essentially a new machine for less than $100. hard drives are still pennies per gigabyte so $20-25 can net 250-320GB.
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February 9, 2010 9:32:41 PM

bliq said:
The 4600, I think, is new enough to mount a normal ATX or mATx motherboard in it. It's possible, esp if you have a Fry's nearby, to get a dual core processor and a motherboard for about the price of 2GB of DDR400. Add 2GB of DDR2-800 and you can probably get essentially a new machine for less than $100. hard drives are still pennies per gigabyte so $20-25 can net 250-320GB.


Can you put together a parts and price list (with links) so I can see what this new $125 computer looks like? Thanks
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a b B Homebuilt system
February 9, 2010 9:36:37 PM

I agree; bumping the RAM up to 1GB and replacing the hard drive are about all you can do ... the computer is way too old to make into a "modern" machine, but if all you're using it for is word processing and the Internet, it doesn't really need ot be any better than that.
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February 9, 2010 10:58:17 PM

My first thought would be to get 2G of RAM and let Windows cache the hard drive requests. It will cache a lot and then this system will be as fast as its going to be. It will also allow a couple of programs to run at the same time (or multiple users) without big slowdowns.

The second improvement might be a new hard drive, but Im mixed about that. ITs a toss up between putting in 4G (and using whatever this system will allocate) and a new drive. Again the thinking is get as much data into RAM as possible. But that depends on how many users will use this and what they are doing....
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a b B Homebuilt system
February 10, 2010 1:11:27 AM

vvhocare5 said:
My first thought would be to get 2G of RAM and let Windows cache the hard drive requests. It will cache a lot and then this system will be as fast as its going to be. It will also allow a couple of programs to run at the same time (or multiple users) without big slowdowns.

The second improvement might be a new hard drive, but Im mixed about that. ITs a toss up between putting in 4G (and using whatever this system will allocate) and a new drive. Again the thinking is get as much data into RAM as possible. But that depends on how many users will use this and what they are doing....
I know by experience with a similar system that increasing memory over 1GB doesn't help that much (a P4 2.8 with HT). A faster hard disk often is a better investment. To the OP, what is the peak memory utilization according to Task Manager? Is it close to physical memory size?
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February 10, 2010 2:29:40 AM

The peak is pretty close to the physical memory... I think I am going to pick up some more ram... maybe pick up a 1GB to give it 1.5GB total.... just put some new drivers in with the reload of the OS and the disk access seems better... not great ... but I think with th RAM it should be good enough for what they want to use it for
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February 12, 2010 2:57:03 AM

Best answer selected by cmg27.
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February 23, 2012 1:27:33 AM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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