Upgrading an old PC

Hello all,

I am trying to be frugal with upgrading my PC, so I would like to ask for help.

The thing is old - from 2003 (not a typo) - and very well maintained. For productivity purposes, I upgraded to Win7, and it runs with a Score of 1.0. However, that would be fine, but Photoshop CS4 crashes - Lightroom still works fine.

I am trying to upgrade the computer, and my dilemma is between maxing out the current motherboard and CPU, or gutting it, and replacing the MB and CPU. The reason I am considering the second option is that everything about this old MB is outdated. The Video card interface is AGP, the memory is 184pin, the power source is 20 pin.

My usage is:
1) Web + Office
2) on Remote Desktop (so basically Web)
3) communicate with Win7 Netbook to fetch work documents
4) play music (iTunes / Zune SW) and Video (VLC player)
5) allow me to edit photos and create images in Adobe CS4 (PS and LR)
6) I am routing all this to a 1080p LCD.

The current setup is as follows

(a Compaq Presario S6000Z)
AMD Athlon XP2700+
1.5 GB SODIMM DDR 333 RAM (the mother board can take 2GB max)
Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 (AGP 8x) <-- the reason for the 1.0 experience score

I could replace the video card with ATI Radeon HD 3650 (LINK) and max out the memory to 2GB. This would cost $100

On the other hand I could refurbish the whole thing and get the following:
An AMD AM3 mother board with integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 (LINK)
AMD Athlon II X2 240 (LINK)
2 x 1GB DDR3 1333 RAM (LINK)
and a new power source (LINK)

Total = $203
I would keep my DVD reader and 160GB SATA HDD. (is the 350W power source powerful enough? I have a 250W one now with the old MB and CPU.

My questions are
1) what are my chances I can get away with only updating the Video card OR RAM (one or the other) and have Photoshop run. If I can get this thing running for 2-3 more years for $50 investment, I will.
1A) in such case where should I spend my money? Video Card, or RAM?

2) IF I need both RAM and Video Card, should I just save up and spring up for the full refurbish?

I am leaning to the refurbish, because everything I would buy for the current motherboard is unusable once I upgrade it. If I had the 240pin memory and PCI Express on this MB, I would just max it out and then transfer the components over to the new one, but I am throwing money at orphaned technology .. it seems.

The refurbish is also attractive because for a reasonable $$, I would move my PC from 7 years-old to .. .. um .. 3 years-old?

Am I thinking about this right?

3) anyone could please look at the configuration I have selected for the refurbish? do those components work together? Am I missing something? I will continue using my 160GB SATA HDD and later add a second one, but that is not critical.

4) Is this an overkill for my Use? I am looking to be frugal. I am not a gamer, but I am looking to get hte best return on my money - something that I can easily upgrade going forward.
4A Relatedly, anyone can suggest a better setup for $200? A similar setup for less? I am not married to AMD, but I saw good reviews for the Athlon II X2 240 CPU, so I decided to go with it.

Thanks a lot. I expect this to be a process. I am not rushing out to buy stuff. I am close to my desired setup. This is my main PC which now seamlessly works with my Netbook which has all my work documents (through Win7 homegroup). The only thing it needs is to let me edit images and photos in Photoshop. That is all that i require that this setup currently does not deliver. And occasional slugishness is not a deal breaker. My main concern is about not throwing money away; investing it into upgrades is perfectly what I want to do.
9 answers Last reply
More about upgrading
  1. 1. Not likely, that likes some CPUs, then RAM. (CS4)

    2. Uh, the stuff you mentioned is pretty new, just low-budget. If you can, I'd go for a triple-core.

    3. Seems okay. You may have a problem with only having the one PATA plug on the motherboard, and having to share that between hard drive and optical drive could be difficult. (besides a new hard drive would be much faster if you could get a samsung spinpoint f3, for like $50, but this could be upgraded to later. Just make sure if/when it happens to make it the system drive.)

    4. Nope, and going intel would be worse per $.

    You may wanna continue running 32-bit if you're gonna have 2 gigs of RAM. Just something to consider.
  2. I'd check out that CM PSU as well. 460W for $30 doesn't seem right. Look for some reviews. I'd upgrade if possible.
  3. False_dmitry_ii


    Yes planning on sticking with 32-bit until I add more RAM. I am currently 80% satisfied with my current setup (until 2 months ago the PC had only 512MB RAM - THAT was slow!). I have a feeling this new setup would blow my pants off compared to what I am running now.

    I am currently running off of THIS mother board :

    I know the HDD is on SATA. Not sure what the CDRW (currently not working) and the DVD-ROM are plugged into. I do not plan on upgrading those right now. I have little need for burning CD's or DVD's at the moment - if that changes, I'll deal with it later.

    I have been checkign the user reviews- they are quite damn positive .. will look further. It is definitely tempting.

    I do want to confirm, are you both advocating the refurb over simple cheap fixes?

    To expand (I always do this):

    5 Any pointers / guides to upgrading?
    Besides popping in more memory and once replacing a laptop hard-drive, I do not have experience upgrading. Any good guide with visuals - what to look for etc? Plugging in the PSU seems especially daunting, but I am hoping, I can just very very deliberately mark the how the current one is plugged in.

    6 Finally: I should be fine with the onboard ATI Radeon HD 4200 for now, right?

  4. I didn't mean user reviews. I meant a real one from HardOCP, Jonnyguru, etc.
  5. Actually I meant to say


    This or similar would be much better. I just forgot to mention it.

    Some others:

    yeah the "refurb"

    5. Just google tutorials where appropriate. I think there're some things on this site somewhere too..

    6. Yeah. Since you aren't gaming I don't think you'd need to add a real card. If you might, go with one of the beefier PSU's.
  6. Thanks ... changed the PSU.

    I did more research on the build process and have a few questions
    7) If I am buying the Athlon in retail packaging. Do I need to by thermal paste?

    8) how will my first bootup look like with the old HDD (with OS installed) present in the system? Will i H ave to reinstall the OS for the new configuration? thanks

  7. go with ur second option. new onboard graphics are actually pretty good
  8. 7. No, the heatsink already has a thermal pad on it. It isn't great or anything, but it should suffice for you.

    8. You will most likely have to reinstall.
  9. 8. You probably do not need to reinstall, especially with Windows 7. It's much better about detecting drivers automatically. You will have to re-activate it, though.
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