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Old PC in Need of Upgrade, Suggestions?

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February 12, 2010 7:25:21 AM

I have an old PC that I've customized some, but it's reached the end of it's range as far as upgrades go. My GeForce 8800 GT barely fits, so step one I need a new case, I guess. Here's the question: In order of necessity, which of the following components should I replace first, and with what?

[ ] AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (Brisbane model) 2.5 Ghz dual core (AM2 slot)
[ ] XFX GeForce 8800 GT - 512 MB (PCI-e)
[ ] 4 GB DDR2 667 RAM

My goal is to play as many current/recent games as possible. I'm an avid gamer, and I like to review PC games for my site, but recent titles like NBA 2K10 and Dragon Age Origins are killing my 'puter. I daren't even try to run Mass Effect 2, despite my desire to. I know that a case will probably come first, but what then? I'm working under the assumption that the motherboard is going to be transferred, so that's not on my list of 'needs' as of yet.

Is it more cost effective to buy something from, say ibuypower.com (budget-conscious, here, so high-end rigs are a stretch), or should I pick up parts and keep working on what I have? One problem, to me, is the lack of a second PCI-e slot on my motherboard, negating SLI/Crossfire options. I've added a 700 watt PSU (mainly for the video card), and I think that's enough. The problem is, this is all new to me. I helped my Dad build our two computers prior to this one, but he's left me hanging (as in, 'if you want to add something, that's on you' lol), so I'm flying blind. I'm not sure which part is the weakest link (I'm betting the CPU) so I'm not sure where to begin. Heck, I'm having trouble ascertaining what parts would be a noticeable upgrade. Again, modern games don't run well on my old clunker, and that's my goal. I don't have a set budget as of yet (i'm flexible, so long as we don't start talking four digits a pop).

Any help, from links to parts as options or just simple opinions are welcome. I don't have a timetable either, so I've got time to decide on what to do. Thanks, all.

More about : upgrade suggestions

a b B Homebuilt system
February 12, 2010 11:48:03 AM

Well GTA4 and Dragons Age are CPU intensive games so if your mobo is an AM2+ you might be in luck with a BIOS update and an AthlonII X4 620/630 upgrade perhaps?
February 12, 2010 12:14:09 PM

That sounds good. I'll dig out my information for my board and see what exactly I'm working with, and look into that upgrade.

Question: I know when I upgraded another computer's CPU that I had to reinstall Windows. That was with XP, and going from an Athlon XP 1900+ to an Athlon 64 3200+. Will I have to reinstall Windows when I change the processor here (this computer runs Vista)? If so, I'll probably want to go to Windows 7 while I'm at it. I'd just like to know before hand, if at all possible.
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a b B Homebuilt system
February 12, 2010 4:19:03 PM

Definitely need to know the motherboard model. If its an AM2 then you dont have much of a CPU upgrade path and will need to consider a motherboard/RAM/CPU upgrade to an AM3 motherboard with an Athlon II or Phenom II CPU and DDR3 RAM.

Windows 7 is more efficient than Vista on lower end machines. Its definitely a good upgrade (windows 7 64bit).

An 8800 should let you play even new games like Dragon Age at medium settings (depending on monitor resolution) so a CPU upgrade first makes the most sense.
February 12, 2010 7:53:17 PM

Ok, looking through my paperwork and using a number of online utilities (speccy and cpu-z among them), I'm running an old Pheonix Tech. board. I think I'm going to look in to a new motherboard, for a couple reasons. One, my current one is a micro atx board, and two, I'd like to think about a board with dual GPU flexibility. So, I should be looking for DDR3 RAM? I'll start trying to price a new board, CPU (plus fan/heatsink, obviously) and RAM and see what I find, but again I don't know a whole lot about what would be a significant improvement.

I want to go to Windows 7 for it's improved efficiency, and I figured a general upgrade would be a good time for it. Sounds like it'll be good for me.

My monitor is a little on the small side (a 19 inch widescreen) and I play at a max of 1440x900, if that helps.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 12, 2010 8:20:13 PM

8800 should definitely handle medium settings at that resolution.

Yes you want an AM3 motherboard with DDR3 RAM. Look at a Gigabyte MA770T-UD3P as a baseline model. Minimally an Athlon II x3 CPU. If you want to overclock then $30 for a Coolermaster Hyper 212 plus is a good value.
February 12, 2010 8:25:09 PM

Thanks. I have one more question; should I stay AMD or would it be worth moving to Intel? Is there a price/performance difference, and is it more trouble then it's worth?
a b B Homebuilt system
February 12, 2010 8:31:29 PM

Intel is better, newer designs, more efficient and more expensive. If you want to spend around $1000 for your computer (cpu/ram/mobo/case/psu/gpu) then intel is an option. Below that you sacrifice too much GPU to make it a good gaming system.

An 8800 is a weak graphics card compared to an intel i5 750 CPU, which is as fast as it gets for most gaming situations. You could go that route now, then spend $300-$400 on a graphics card that can keep up with that CPU later.
February 12, 2010 8:52:31 PM

Ok, for right now I've priced a case, cpu w/ fan, ram, and windows 7 (staying the cheaper AMD course), and on newegg.com it comes to almost $500. Here's the way it would look:

GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - $85
AMD Athlon II X4 620 Propus 2.6GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Processor - $99
Patriot Gaming Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory - $97
APEVIA X-ALIEN MX-ALIEN-BK/500 Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - $100
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade - Retail - $110

I'm trying to figure out if the parts go together or not. Is that the right RAM? I'm also assuming (bad idea, I know lol) that I could run an upgrade to Windows 7 rather then a full copy. I'm using Vista Home Premium, so I guessed that I could upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. Is that accurate, or would I need a full version? Lastly, would that CPU put me right back where I am now?

I've got a lot of questions, I guess.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 12, 2010 9:16:12 PM

The Power Supply is an important part of the system. Good power supplies give consistent power as the load increases and decreases. Bad power supplies fluctuate causing lockups, blue screens and occasionally even fry other internal components.

I would stick with well known quality PSUs or models you can find good professional (not newegg) reviews of. Jonnyguru.com is one of the best PSU review sites.

For that reason I would not touch that Apevia case with built in PSU. Built in PSUs are generally the cheapest junk possible.

Check the power reqs on your 8800 GT, I think it might be 550W recommended.

Antec 200 $40
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $40
Antec Earthwatts 650 $80
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec 300 Illusion plus Antec Earthwatts 650 PSU $122
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
February 12, 2010 9:25:51 PM

I've got a PSU already, an OCZ StealthXStreme 500W, I believe. I bought it a while back (much more recently then the rest of the computer, not counting the GPU). Is that good enough, or does that also need replaced?

The PSU in the case I was going to get wasn't going to be used, it was just something that came with the case.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 12, 2010 9:57:04 PM

OCZ Stealthstream is OK. If its working on your old system it should work on a new one (at least if you dont do heavy overclocking, which increases the wattage used).

ASRock will be ASUS's cheaper line. I dont have much experience with them but I know alot of people rank them down with ECS as cheap and iffy.
February 12, 2010 11:13:32 PM

actually, asrock IS asus's cheapper line, but asrock is soon going to seperate from asus since they are going to release things like ereaders and such that asus has
February 12, 2010 11:29:16 PM

Ok, as it stands, I'm looking at the lineup I posted earlier, swapping pdxgfx's suggested CPU in for the one I had before. I like the ASRock motherboard, but I'm worried about the concept of a 16x PCI-e slot and a 4x PCI-e slot... why is one rated less then half of the speed of the other? Is that normal? Also, the ASRock supports Crossfire and I'm running an nVidia card right now, so I couldn't expand to an SLI setup on it if I wanted to (that is correct, isn't it?). I do like the price of the ASRock board better, though. I just don't want to run into a scenario like my last computer which used a $25 PCChips motherboard that died in less then a year.

My PSU runs fine right now, and I'm not going to be overclocking (don't trust myself not to fry everything).

I'm now up to a little over $530, all told (as the prices stand tonight).
a b B Homebuilt system
February 13, 2010 12:32:55 AM

ubernoobie said:
actually, asrock IS asus's cheapper line, but asrock is soon going to seperate from asus since they are going to release things like ereaders and such that asus has

The split is already underway. The ASRock splitoff company thinks its going to make ASRock into another respected brand like ASUS and Gigabyte. They have some history to overcome.
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