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Upgrade to self-build system - advice please

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August 20, 2010 3:52:49 PM

I built my first pc and think its about due an upgrade now as I put it together over 3 years ago.

My current system spec is below, however I'm not really sure which parts to upgrade:
- I'm thinking of changing from XP to Windows 7
- I definitely need a larger HDD - I've got an external drive which holds most of my movies, but probably need an internal HDD with a 200-300GB capacity as well - don't really need any more than this.
- Primary uses of my pc are for gaming (Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2 and similar) and internet.

Budget £200-£400, can go a little higher as well, but planning on buying a new monitor too.

Preferred website for parts: Scan Computers. As I am UK based, I've used them before and prices are very reasonable.

CURRENT SYSTEM SPEC

Motherboard: EVGA nForce 680i SLI

PSU: Etasis ET850 850 Watt

CPU: Intel CoreDuo E6600 2.4Ghz, o/c to 3.11 Ghz

GPU: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX 768Mb

RAM: 2 x 1Gb Corsair DDR2 PC2-6400

HDD: Western Digital Raptor 74Gb
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
August 20, 2010 4:19:02 PM

No idea on the prices over there, but I've got some ideas for an upgrade. It'd help to know what the monitor's resolution is to give the best possible advice.

I'm listing the changes in the order they should be made. Stop once it gets too expensive.

GPU: HD 5770 (lower resolutions) or HD 5850 (1080p). This should eat up a large chuck of the budget, but your current GPU isn't cutting it any more.
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500 GB. Should be fairly cheap. You might not need all the space, but it's a single platter drive, which makes it faster than the Raptor. Use this to store everything.
RAM: Throw another 2 GB of RAM in the build. Look for it on eBay or another source for used parts. DDR2 is dead, so I wouldn't sink much money into it. If you can't find anything for cheap, don't bother wasting money on it.
OS: Windows 7. I'm 90% sure you don't have any budget left for this, and it's completely unnecessary. I'd go with the full retail version so you can move it to a new build.

Honestly, I'd start saving for a new build. The LGA775 socket is extremely dead, as is DDR2 and that GPU certainly isn't good any more. In fact, depending on the prices over there, it's possible you could get a new build for under the budget. Here's what to look at:

CPU: X3 440
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-790XTA-UD4 or ASRock 870 Extreme3 (or any USB 3/SATA III board with 8x/8x Crossfire from Gigabyte, Asus, ASRock or MSI)
RAM: Any non-OCZ 2x2 GB set of DDR3 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7. This will help with overclocking.
GPU: Same as above, but likely the 5770
HDD: Same as above
Case: Use your current one, or if you want a new one, check out the Coolermaster Elite, Antec 300 (or 300 Illusion), Coolermaster Centurion 5 or Coolermaster 690.
PSU: Use your current one.
August 21, 2010 3:30:20 AM

Scan has a 5850 for just under £220.
A Samsung HD502HJ runs £33.
Add a new monitor if you really need to.

The 2GB memory limit is not a killer using XP,
Given the OC >3GHz, your current CPU will work just fine here.
Win 7 64bit will offer DX11, but MadAdmiral is right that you don't really need it.
Wait until you build a new system (with a new mobo and an SSD) to get Win7.
LGA775 is dead in terms of upgrade potential, but has plenty of life left as your
current system.
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August 21, 2010 12:58:05 PM

Thanks for the advice guys, I'll hold off on Windows 7 for now.

I am going to go for a complete new build in just over a year's time, so just want to boost my system a little in the interim to see me through.

The reason for holding off is that I'm going to be looking to buy a house in 9-12 months from now, so want to get that out of the way first before deciding how much to spend, but it would probably be in the region of £1,000 ($1,500).

I'm just a little nervous about spending so much on a GPU that I probably wouldn't re-use in my new build and so would be looking to offload in 12 months' time.

Is there a cheaper alternative for a new GPU that would offer superior performance to the 8800 GTX? Or getting some DDR3 RAM that I could re-use for the new build?
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
August 21, 2010 2:23:45 PM

You wouldn't be able to use DDR3 with your current board, so it doesn't make sense to buy it now. Prices will drop on RAM, so you'd be able to get it cheaper later.

I actually wouldn't worry too much about needing a different GPU in a year. The 5xxx series is only a few months old, and even though ATI's got the 6xxx series slated to come out soon, there isn't any reason to need the newest card. DirectX 11 hasn't become mainstream yet, so there won't be much the new cards will do that the current ones can't.

If your worried about the card being too weak in a year, that's still not likely. Even if it is, you could buy a second one with the new build and get a major power boost. I tend to say that the 5850 will last a good three years by itself, and adding a second one down the road will make the pair last another two to three years on top of that.

I'd personally throw in the biggest single GPU you can afford and plan to carry it over to the next build.
August 21, 2010 8:23:53 PM

Okay, I'm persuaded to just upgrade the HDD and GPU, planning to carry the GPU over to the next build.

If I spend the full budget of £400 ($600) on a GPU, what should I go for? A 2GB HD5850? Which manufacturer is best (XFX, Gigabyte, Sapphire), or are they all much of a muchness?
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
August 21, 2010 9:01:50 PM

I'd just get a 1 GB 5850, possibly a 1 GB 5870. There isn't a huge difference between the different brands of GPU at the moment. XFX is generally preferred because they offer a "double lifetime" warranty in the US. I'm not sure if they give the same thing in other countries.
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