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Upgrading advice?

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January 21, 2011 11:36:07 PM

Hi, I have an Alienware computer that's over 2 years old now and I've been doing my best to keep her up to date but I'm currently having a dilemma of what I should upgrade next. Any advice as to what I should replace (and with what) would be greatly accepted. Any reasoning for your thoughts would be even better.

Specs:
ASUS X58 P6T DELUXE MOTHERBOARD
INTEL i7-920 2.66 8MB CPU
VISIONTEK ATI HD4870X2 2GB
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) x4
1 KILOWATT OEM ATX PSU POWER SUPPLY

Any positive input that can be said will be accepted. I do quite a bit of gaming and I am starting to learn computer programming so I need to make sure I am on a reasonable machine. Obviously I am on a budget so don't tell me I need a 12-core server processor or a few 5870x2. The reason I am looking for an upgrade is because I am experiencing a bit of sluggishness in the system which is expected after the use and abuse this machine has been put through over the past 2 years.

Thanks for the help

More about : upgrading advice

January 22, 2011 12:43:56 AM

The fact is, there is no cost effective new build that improves upon your current one--because your current build is a quarter inch from total awesomeness.

There are some minor purchases and tweaks that may drastically improve your performance:

1) RAM: Pull out one of your sticks of RAM. I know it sounds weird, but X58/i7-9XX series are designed from Triple Channel Memory and you're running it in dual channel mode. Use three sticks in the orange or three sticks in black--not both. Alternatively, you can buy two more sticks (preferrably the same ram, but it must have VERY similar performance criteria) and run 6 sticks in tripple channel.

2) HDD: How full is your Hard Drive? It should be no more than 50% full and 30% is better. Also consider migrating to a Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB (Or multiples in RAID configuration. Keep in mind that RAID 0 is risky). Or just delete junk/transfer it to another hard drive. Defragment.

3) Windows: If you've had your computer for 2 years, it's probably time for a clean install of windows. Have you done that recently? Also, are you running Windows 7 64 bit (Home or Pro--Ultimate's a waste of money)? Win 7 is WAY faster than Vista.

4) Overclocking/Bios Setting: You can look up some info on overclocking and it won't take much time at all to get that i7-920 to run at 3.3GHz on stock voltage and cooling. Now you could definitely go faster, but that will take more than 1 hour's research and bios work. If your Bios does not have overclocking settings enabled, check out the ASUS website and download the most recent bios for your motherboard. You can probably just set your base clock from 133MHz to 165 or so and boot up without changing anything--but you may want to change all the Auto Voltages to manually defined and their default levels (because sometimes it auto adjusts too high based on what speed you set). Let me know if you need flashing tips (Hint: do it with USB stick and HP USB tool).
Setting your RAM settings to the values on the stickers on them (1.65V 1600MHz 9-9-9 timings most likely) may speed up the RAM. You can try tigher timings (especially at 1333MHz). Run Memtest86+ to verify RAM stability. Setting your Uncore properly is important to adjusting RAM timings.
Note when overclocking that you want to find your Uncore, CPU, & RAM speeds individually. If you leave your RAM on a default setting, overclocking the CPU will speed up the RAM and if it's too fast for the RAM, it will crash. So typically you want to set all settings to slow and isolate the component you're overclocking individually or you won't know what's causing a crash. Check out Intel's website as well as some overclocking sites to make sure you don't kill your parts with crazy high voltage (0.25V is a huge voltage change).
January 22, 2011 12:49:06 AM

With your setup, you should be pulling 7.4's or higher on every Windows Experience Index except for Hard Drive, which should be a 5.8. If you OC, you'll be getting 7.6's or higher.
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January 22, 2011 12:56:24 AM

Since you're willing to spend the money get a SSD drive and reinstall everything. Also if I read that correctly you have 4 x 4GB memory sticks. Get rid of 1 and use triple channel the way it's supposed to be used.

A fast machine isn't very helpful for learning programming and probably hurts since you no longer care about the performance of code you write. Production code like Mass Effect or SAP might have thousands of files and take hours to compile. A learner might have 1-10 files and compile in 5 seconds.
January 22, 2011 1:52:05 AM

UniqueName said:
Since you're willing to spend the money get a SSD drive and reinstall everything. Also if I read that correctly you have 4 x 4GB memory sticks. Get rid of 1 and use triple channel the way it's supposed to be used.

A fast machine isn't very helpful for learning programming and probably hurts since you no longer care about the performance of code you write. Production code like Mass Effect or SAP might have thousands of files and take hours to compile. A learner might have 1-10 files and compile in 5 seconds.


Good point about the coding. My friend that does a lot of coding does it on his laptop--keeps your programming efficiency in check. And I just said the thing about the triple channel memory (#1 above).

Depending on your budget, an SSD can make a big difference--two in RAID 0 make a bigger difference. Be sure to read reviews to double check the speed of the drive. Sandforce SSDs are good. But some newer ones beat it--although you don't have SATA III 6Gb/s, so that won't matter.
January 22, 2011 3:34:57 PM

Thanks for all the tips I'll look into OC and I'll see what I can manage with the RAM. I have over 2tb of free space on my HDD but I'll also look into how much a decent size one will run me nowadays. Haven't looked at those in a while.

Another concern that I was having was that my 4870x2 is having some problems running newer games on my 1920x1080 resolution. Are there any good alternatives that I should look into that could give me the performance boost I am looking for?
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