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Upgrading, +ram +video card(s)

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January 30, 2011 8:09:34 PM

I have had an Alienware desktop for a few years now, but now that the warranty ended, I want to open it up and and a few things. I'd like to add another graphics card, or even replace the one in there now with two new ones. I'd also like to upgrade RAM, and anything else you guys think might be necessary.

Any help would be appreciated. I am planning on paying up to $500 to upgrade, but less is preferred.

Here are the stats on the current rig (apologies for the CAPS, this is how Alienware's site lists it):

ASUS 790FX M3A32-MVP DELUXE
PHM,AMD,BOX 9950BE WITH HSF,2.60,512X4,4C,B3,140 WATTS - (AMD Phenom Quad Core)
(4) ELPIDA 1GB DDR2 PC2-6400 U-DIMM 800MHZ CL8 JEDEC STD REV W
SEAGATE 250GB SATA 7200RPM 16MB HDD
LG 20X DUAL-LAYER DVD NON-LIGHT SCRIBE
KILLER NIC K1 6.550"
M3A32-MVP DELUXE INTEGRATED AUDIO
VISIONTEK ATI HD4870 512MB PCI-E
WINDOWS VISTA HOME PREMIUM SP1 COA (recently upgraded to windows 7)
750 WATT OEM ATX PSU

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the next two weeks

USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming -- with my current setup I can play WoW with full settings maxxed -- however, I no longer play WoW, and will be playing RIFT. I can play with High settings, but cannot quite play in Ultra yet, and would love to. (Shadows/lighting are especially trouble areas with my current setup)

CURRENT GPU AND POWER SUPPLY: ATI HD4870 512MB PCI-E & 750 WATT OEM ATX PSU

OTHER RELEVANT SYSTEM SPECS: See above

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: New Egg, but any other suggested website is fine (will be shipping to USA)

PARTS PREFERENCES: N/A

OVERCLOCKING: Honestly I have no experience with overclocking, so whatever is suggested.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1680x1050

I think that is everything -- if you need anything else please let me know. Thanks in advance! :) 
a c 91 U Graphics card
January 30, 2011 8:34:06 PM

how's about a 955 quad if it'll work on your board and a Palit GTX560 2gig card ? I say 2gig because cranking up the settings takes extra ram. I used to game at 16x10 and needed the extra buffer when cranking things up. Not looking back.

$150
$280
$50
------
$480.--
January 30, 2011 8:43:23 PM

Also: If necessary, I am willing to upgrade the monitor, too -- I'd say about a $700-800 budget if I were to include RAM, GPU, & new monitor.
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a c 91 U Graphics card
January 30, 2011 9:00:47 PM

Brother, all I can tell you is monitor after monitor I've been going bigger all the time..... and the bigger the better, believe me. I would however look into the newer 120Hz models...... not T.V.'s but real computer monitors.
January 30, 2011 9:14:51 PM

The first suggestion included an AM3 CPU and your mobo is an AM2+. Now it will physically fit on your mobo, but you'd have to do a BIOS update and that's another journey not suggested for novices. I know there's going to be a bunch of techies going to deny that, but to the novice user's limited computer jargon, it is.

So back to OP, your video card upgrading is VERY limited as especially with the AMD 58XX/59XX/69XX or the Nvidia GTX 4/570 or 4/580 you will be severely bottle necked by that old CPU. If you have absolutely NO intention of upgrading your CPU, this is what I suggest:

1 (ONE) EVGA GTX 560Ti
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130604&cm_re=gtx_560_evga-_-14-130-604-_-Product
(Just to get that bump up to DX11, and an outstanding warranty/support)

G.SKILL 4GB (2x2GB) PC2 6400 DDR2
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231122&cm_re=ddr2_4gb-_-20-231-122-_-Product
(Customer Choice Award Winner, not bad of a price, 4GB is nearly essential these days for any multitasking with Windows 7)

Asus 23.6" Full 1080p HD Monitor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824236052
(I have three of these in my workstation, absolutely beautiful, don't take my word it also has outstanding ratings)

So that comes to be:

$260
$65
$190
_____
$515

And that's pretty much as far high you can go. Your CPU is a severe bottleneck (but not as much as your 1GB of RAM) when you choose to upgrade. You CAN keep it for the long run, as it will unlock it's potential in gaming even more when game engines start to support 4 cores but until then you are facing a CPU bottleneck.
a c 91 U Graphics card
January 30, 2011 9:24:25 PM

That was the question regarding the cpu on that board. Will it work ? I didn't look so not sure if it'll need a BIOS update or not. But ASUS has a program that you can download that'll allow a BIOS update from the desktop. Never had a problem using it. Be worth going to ASUS site and reading up on the processor support list and getting that tool if your board supports it. Easier to get by googling it than from that site.

it does support it. got to move slider at bottom to see what BIOS you need.

http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?modelmenu=2&model=193...
January 30, 2011 9:26:45 PM

How hard is it to upgrade the CPU? And if I were willing to do that, what would you suggest?

When I was picking the computer out a few years ago, I thought I was picking the best CPU they had to offer -- clearly, I hadn't had a clue. I still don't.

Had I known how to do it, I would have just built my own computer -- I know I would have gotten more bang for my buck that way.

And, I have 4gb of RAM, not just 1 -- that was a typo. I meant to put that I have 4 1gb cards.

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a c 91 U Graphics card
January 30, 2011 9:33:52 PM
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Then you have enough ram. To swap out processors...... if you have the right BIOS.......... remove the heat sink and fan assembly. Lift little metal arm ( all the way ) that holds the processor in. Remove processor. Put in clean safe place.
When installing new processor....... AMD has a little golden arrow on the corner of the processor. Mate that up with the arrow indentation on the processor slot ( on motherboard ). Set the processor in .... it should just drop in. Move retaining arm back into position. Use the new heat sink and fan that came with the new processor. It already has new thermal paste on it. Install is reverse of removal. Hook up electrical wire to connection on the board you removed the old one from. Should be clearly marked. That's it. Instructions come with the processor and there's loads of pics and info on the net.
January 30, 2011 9:36:02 PM

swifty_morgan said:
Then you have enough ram. To swap out processors...... if you have the right BIOS.......... remove the heat sink and fan assembly. Lift little metal arm ( all the way ) that holds the processor in. Remove processor. Put in clean safe place.
When installing new processor....... AMD has a little golden arrow on the corner of the processor. Mate that up with the arrow indentation on the processor slot ( on motherboard ). Set the processor in .... it should just drop in. Move retaining arm back into position. Use the new heat sink and fan that came with the new processor. It already has new thermal paste on it. Install is reverse of removal. Hook up electrical wire to connection on the board you removed the old one from. Should be clearly marked. That's it. Instructions come with the processor and there's loads of pics and info on the net.


Thank you for that! Does not sound too bad at all. :) 
a c 91 U Graphics card
January 30, 2011 10:14:54 PM

Now, if you decide to take the plunge, before buying anything, try the BIOS update tool first. Find the right bios from ASUS site so you know which to get............. run the tool, it should give you an option for what BIOS or it will just provide the latest.......... if the BIOS flash goes right machine will act as normal. Then you can go ahead with your purchases. If the update goes bad... ( I'm sure it won't ) then you'll be looking for a new board and new compatible ram for the board. These are the harsh realities. Remember to backup the old bios when it asks.
a b U Graphics card
January 30, 2011 10:15:56 PM

Honestly, if you're willing to spend $700, you might want to consider a completely new rig. An AM3 upgrade to your existing rig would make a difference and is cheaper than my suggestion below. But my suggestion gets you an awesome computer.

i5-2500K Build reusing everything but CPU, mobo, & RAM:
CPU/cooler $237: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
Mobo $144: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM $45: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

$426 total. Then upgrade graphics, case, RAM, & PSU (your existing might be fine) as necessary. I'd buy a Radeon HD 6950 2GB (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) for $290 and unlock it to a 6970, bringing the total to $716--but this card might not fit in your case. So I'd get a new $45 case. And a new Hard Drive (Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB).
January 30, 2011 10:29:47 PM

I haven't tried the BIOS update yet, but I wanted to check:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Is this a better CPU? Forgive my ignorance, I really want to make sure before I buy. I looked at the list of CPUs my motherboard supports and it is on it -- I just want to verify.
a c 91 U Graphics card
January 30, 2011 10:36:18 PM

It's not better it's just a little faster. You can change the multiplier in the bios and make the 955 a 965. That's basically it. Same thing, more money...... back to the BIOS.......... check to see what BIOS your board has. Then go to ASUS' site ( link above ) and see if it's the right BIOS already. No sense in doing it if you don't have to.
January 30, 2011 10:36:40 PM

dalauder said:
Honestly, if you're willing to spend $700, you might want to consider a completely new rig. An AM3 upgrade to your existing rig would make a difference and is cheaper than my suggestion below. But my suggestion gets you an awesome computer.

i5-2500K Build reusing everything but CPU, mobo, & RAM:
CPU/cooler $237: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
Mobo $144: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM $45: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

$426 total. Then upgrade graphics, case, RAM, & PSU (your existing might be fine) as necessary. I'd buy a Radeon HD 6950 2GB (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) for $290 and unlock it to a 6970, bringing the total to $716--but this card might not fit in your case. So I'd get a new $45 case. And a new Hard Drive (Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB).


As I said, originally I felt that I should have built my own PC as I knew I would get more for my money -- but I have never done so, and I would be so afraid of messing something up. Your idea is definitely tempting, though -- but it still worries me a bit. Plus, I would want to put a new monitor in the mix, and that definitely ups the cost.

Ugh, decisions, decisions...

Thank you all for the help. I do appreciate it.
January 30, 2011 11:00:06 PM

swifty_morgan said:
It's not better it's just a little faster. You can change the multiplier in the bios and make the 955 a 965. That's basically it. Same thing, more money...... back to the BIOS.......... check to see what BIOS your board has. Then go to ASUS' site ( link above ) and see if it's the right BIOS already. No sense in doing it if you don't have to.


My BIOS was waayyyyy out of date. But, I just updated it to the recent version, and now it should be good to go.
January 31, 2011 12:20:55 AM

Taking all suggestions to heart (thank you!), I am looking at the following:

ASUS VH242H Black 23.6" 5ms HDMI Full 1080P Widescreen LCD Monitor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$179.99

(2) OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3RPR1600C8LV4GK
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$89.98
Note: I am currently sitting at 4gb ram, but I would like to upgrade to 8gb. Is this a problem?

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor HDZ955FBGMBOX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$148.99

HIS H695F2G2M Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$289.99

Grand total: $708.95

But, as dalauder said, the video card may not even fit into my tower. I'll need to measure it before I place an order. Plus, his idea of just building it all into a new tower is tempting -- but as I said, I've never built my own PC so I would be wary of the idea.

Not sure. I definitely don't want to rush into something and then regret it later, like I did with the Alienware. Still kicking myself for that one. My hubby got one, too, and is still convinced that his next PC will be an Alienware, too. I told him my next PC I'll be trying to build myself.
January 31, 2011 12:27:45 AM

You have to make sure your case specifically says it will fit "10' or larger cards" as cases that do always hold that feature around like a trophy.

Also, be careful when choosing a CPU cooler (if you choose to buy a 3rd party one) because I've had many friends who couldn't fit CPU coolers (specifically Cooler Master V6's and Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus's) with those fancy DDR3 modules with above heatsink pipes.

January 31, 2011 12:29:24 AM

Oh, does your Alienware case look like my avatar? Because if it does, then yeah it probably can fit it since it was a full tower.
January 31, 2011 12:34:46 AM

Yep Gamer, it looks exactly like that -- just black. But yeah, it's a hugeee case LOL

Do I need to add a cooler with the setup I posted?
January 31, 2011 12:37:02 AM

If you don't overclock, you'll be fine with the stock coolers.
February 2, 2011 6:19:47 PM

Thank you all for the help. The cpu, gpu and ram arrived today and I installed it without any problems.

I wish I could give you all best answer, but I cannot.

Please know your help was very much appreciated!
February 2, 2011 6:20:19 PM

Best answer selected by imoxy.
a c 271 U Graphics card
February 2, 2011 6:28:56 PM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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