PC speed-up on the cheap (ie free)


IT professional here, but I have no experience with Overclocking and would like to do some baseline improvements to my pc on the cheap. I have not done much gaming, and that really isn't my focus since I never have the time for it anymore. Mostly running Office apps, web, cd burning, photo editing... nothing hard core enough to justify spending any real money on new hardware.

CPU - AMD Athlon II X4 635 2.9Ghz AM3 CPU with stock fan
GPU - Zotac GeForce 9500 GT 1GB PCIe
RAM - OCZ OCZ3G1333LV4GK Gold 4GB PC10666 1333Mhz
RAM - Kingston 2x2GB generic 1333Mhz RAM that I salvaged from a broken system that works fine (and yes, I know mixing RAM can cause funny stuff, but been stable so far)
Case - Gigabyte X2 ATX Mid Tower Case with 1 120MM case fan ( http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4975064 )
PSU - Rosewill 430W 80 Plus Certified (it may be a 530w, I can't remember since it was migrated out of an older pc. Works fine.)
OS - Win 7 Pro, 64-Bit

(Yeah, I know, the hardware is pretty dated and wasn't that great to begin with. It was all ordered in Sept. 2010 while I was in school and I spent less than $350 on it.

I recently moved the OS to a Samsung 128GB SSD and that gave me a noticeable speed jump, but it's still not quite enough yet. Also have a 500 GB WD HDD for bulk storage.

I've played with OCing a little, but so far have not been able to get it to stay stable without running the CPU way too hot. I know adding an additional case fan will help, but the only place left to mount one would be on the side that comes off or the front of the case. In the front, the only intake area is about 2 inches off the floor on the bottom of the case front. This isn't a huge deal as the computer is on a hardwood floor, but I have a short haired dog that sheds and I'd rather not blow in a bunch of fur (and I don't think I can convince the wife that I need to get the computer off the floor an on to the short filing cabinet next to the computer desk due to the huge freaking printer she wanted for printing photos). I've also run into cases where the computer would be working fine and then just reboot for no apparent reason. I'm assuming that the reboot is either a stability issue or due to CPU burn-out protections on the MB.

On the side of the case (see link) there is a plastic air funnel that comes pretty close to encompassing the entire CPU fan, with only about 20% not aligned with the cone. I doubt that this is doing anything to limit the amount of warmer air the fan pulls in, but it's there in theory to funnel in outside air.

Other than not enough fans, the case gets decent airflow. The wiring is a bit sloppy since the case is kinda cramped. I know binding some of the cables together will help airflow, but I don't know how much.

At stock levels, the computer runs rock solid and I have zero complaints generally. It has done everything I've asked it to do with reasonable ability and doesn't even do to bad on those extremely rare occasions I game (I think the last new game I played was NWN II and the wife will play Sims 3 from time to time). I'd just like to play with it and see if I can squeeze a little more out of the system without buying any new hardware.

Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated!
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  1. Oh, if it matters, I'm running my 23 inch monitor at its max resolution of 1920 x 1080.
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