Upgrade Question - Better Graphics Card & More Ram for Win 7

Thanks in advance for your help and thoughts.

My wife and I have a custom built mid tower and a laptop which were on XP and Vista respectively. After some recent hardware failures, I decided to repair the aging mid tower by replacing the motherboard which had failed. Frustrated with XP and Vista not communicating properly, I recently bought Windows 7 for both. I've installed Windows 7 on the mid tower and soon will on the laptop (once I've successfully moved all of our photos, music, iTunes library info, and photo library info).

For the mid tower, I suspected that I might need a graphics card and more ram, but I don't want to keep putting money into the aging mid tower if it won't be "worth it" by making/keeping it a viable computer for our needs for another year or two. I'm not a gamer (though what man who likes computers doesn't like games?!?) and do only a little personal video editing. We mostly use our computers for surfing/email etc. on the web, photo editing, Skyping, word processing and working on spreadsheets. The computer was built by a friend years ago and I have since replaced everything except the ram and the case. If it's not clear already, I'm not trying to build an uber-system. ;)

So... my question is this: What graphics card would you recommend (if any) to maximize or increase system performance without reworking the whole system? Also, would another 2 gb of ram help or would I be putting racing slicks on a Ford Fiesta? If I do add more ram, is it ok if I have 512 x 2 and 1gb x 2?

Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ Toledo 2.2GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket 939 89W Dual-Core Processor - OEM
Motherboard: ASROCK 939A785GMH/128M - AMD 785G/ SB710, VGA + PCIe x16, DDR 400, SATA II RAID, USB2.0, GLAN, 8ch audio
Ram: 1GB (2x512) DDR 400
Hard Drive: Seagate 320 GB 7200rpm and 120 GB 7200rpm
Graphics Card: Onboard
Sound Card: Onboard
Power Supply: Thermaltake TR2-430W
Case: Antec Sonata ATX Mid Tower

One further complication is that I live in Prague and can't shop at NewEgg - though I still use it to read reviews and to shop for what I might want to buy here. Sorry for the long post and thanks again for your help! :)
4 answers Last reply
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  1. The onboard video would be fine for your application if you had a descent platform. Your biggest limitation is to have locked yourself into the long dead 939 technology with it's associated DDR1 memory. While I would hope you could go to at least AM2+ and DDR2, (AM3 and DDR3 would be better), I understand your resources might be limited. Get as much memory as you can stuff in there. Try to find a faster CPU. A new GPU should be on the bottom of the list.
  2. quick and dirty, another gig of ram would help. Looks like you should have room to drop in another 2x512MB set. Not sure the cost of RAM over the pond, but it shouldn't be too expensive. The motherboard has the HD 4200 integrated with 128MB ram, so that is really ok for what you are doing.

    Longterm, you are looking for a new motherboard, CPU & Ram. The case, hard drives & OS will all work ok for now. If you can save your euros, the new Intel i5 processors have pretty decent integrated graphics, so you wouldn't have to buy a GPU at that point unless you start gaming.
  3. Holy crap...ASRock and their weird motherboards. Why on God's green Earth would they make a 785G chipset with a 939 socket? That has got to be the weirdest board ever. It would make sense if they paired it with something modern (like Biostar's 478 boards with DDR2 and PCIe), but....this one's pointless. If you had a 939 laying around, this gives you nothing but the equivalent of a $40 939Dual-Sata2 and an $10 HD4350.

    Another 1Gb, preferably 2Gb, of memory would do wonders and DDR is fairly cheap these days. A video card wouldn't do anything unless you plan to start playing games. And, to singingigo's point, you can get an i3 with integrated graphics that would be faster (processor wise) than the 939 x2s - no i5 needed. At least not for what you're using it for.
  4. Thanks everyone! I'm glad that I know a graphics card won't really help before sinking money into it. I guess I'll just grab some ram and see what that does for me. I know I've kinda wobbled into my current state with an upgrade here and there - so I guess I'll milk it a bit more before a major upgrade or new computer purchase. Thanks again!
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