Upgrading my PC - Many questions

Hello, I'm trying to upgrade my PC, but I'm not sure what pieces are compatible with what I currently have. I'm not familiar with computer hardware that much.

I have a Dell Dimension E521 (bought in 2007) running Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit

Here's my current specs:
- AMD Athlon 64 x2 Dual Core Processor 4600+ 2.40 GHz
(I don't know if it's *two* Dual Cores, or *one* Dual Core)

- ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 512mb of GDDR3 RAM
Graphics Bus Capability: PCI Express 2.0
Maximum Bus Setting: PCI Express 2.0 x16
Core Clock in MHz: 750 MHz
Memory Clock in MHz: 873 MHz

- 2 GB of RAM (unsure if DDR3 or what)
- Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit

Where should I spend my money to get the best performance boost out of this computer?

I'm a PC gamer, but I don't game the new releases the second they come out, so I'm not so worried about gaming performance...
I want general day-to-day speed increases for: internet browsing, code compiling, word processing, programs starting up, etc... This is where I want my money to go to. Program startup time is a big concern.

I want my machine to last me another year or two before I get an entirely new one. My budget is roughly around $300 dollars of enhancements.


My idea on what to upgrade:
- RAM to 4gb instead of 2gb (it's only a 32bit system, so it can't handle more than 4gb)
- CPU to ????
- Harddrive with RAID configured two 500gb or higher drives. I want faster file transfers too, if possible.

I've already upgraded the video card about 2 years ago to a ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 512mb of RAM. I'm fine with it for now, and I feel that I don't need to upgrade it until I get a brand new computer in two or three years.


RAM questions:

My motherboard has 4 RAM slots. Only two are being used, with a 1GB stick in each one.

1) Can I just slap in two more 1GB sticks?
2) Does my computer support it? Why are two of the slots one color (black) and two another color (blue)?
3) I have to have each stick of RAM equal in size and the same brand/model/etc... right?
4) Should I get 4 brand new sticks, or match the current 2 in there?
5) Which sticks should I get?


CPU questions:

1) Can my computer handle a better CPU? I don't know this kind of information.
2) Knowing that I already replaced my video card, how hard is it to replace the CPU? Is my current power supply adequate?
3) Will I notice an actual increase in speed if I get a better CPU?
4) Will a quad-core instead of a dual core speed up the day-to-day usage, or will it only help in specialized circumstances?

I'm not looking for something super-top-of-the-line-just-came-out-bajillion-dollars, but I do want a good investment of my money and I understand that means I might need to spend more money to make it really worth it.
What CPU would you recommend I buy?


Hard drive:

1) How do I go about configuring two 500gb or so harddrives in a RAID configuration for data redundancy and read-speed increases?
2) I have two harddrive slots in my PC. Do I need a RAID controller? Which one?
3) Which harddrives should I buy? How do I tell which are more stable or have faster-reads? (I'm buying through NewEgg, but it doesn't always list the read-speeds)


SSD question:

1) Is it possible with my setup to have two harddrives in RAID configuration, and a separate 8 or 16 GB SSD that I can keep my current programming projects on, and my programming compilers/IDEs?
2) Would I actually notice an increase in compiling time?

3) Is it feasible to put such a harddrive in the spot reserved for a CD/DVD reader? I have two such CD/DVD reader slots, and only one is being used.
4) Is there any increased power-usage concerns that I need to worry about for my power supply if I have 3 harddrives in it?


How can I get the most bang for my buck, so to speak? I really appreciate any of your knowledge you are willing to share with me; Thank you.
5 answers Last reply
More about upgrading questions
  1. Best if you list your price and depends how much you spends, we will be able to help but since that computer so old, you should just build a new one as that computer is good for storage server...

    What you should upgrade!
    FM1 MotherBoard: $100
    A8 CPU: $140
    8GB RAM: $53

    Note: IDK if that Video card is worth it because haven't heard it working with the A8 or something lol, a 5670 can increase 70% FPS, either way, the GPU on CPU will do just fine for few games like LoL(A free game) and Frozen Throne(Warcraft III) or probably some better ones without the FPS going under 30FPS like most CPU does(A8 has a built in GPU which should perform better than your VideoCard as it's a 5650 or something close lol)...
  2. Your PC is dated and not worth spending much upgrading, legendkillers idea will not work as the FM1 board will not have any IDE connectors for your drives so thats out.
    RAM This is the only upgrade thats worth it in my opinion
    1 Buy a pair of 1GB sticks in a pair that are the same speed as what you already have
    2 Ther RAM is dual channel so 1 or 2 pairs work best
    3 yes buy a pair together
    4 match the current 2
    5 something like this http://www.ebuyer.com/63623-corsair-2gb-kit-2x1gb-ddr2-533mhz-pc2-4300-memory-non-ecc-unbuffered-cl4-lifetime-warranty-vs2gbkit533d2
    1 slightly but you would have to buy a used one somewhere and it would not be a huge improvement
    I think this makes the rest irrelevant
    Hard drives
    1 2 & 3 If your board supports RAID look in the manual if not you would need a RAID card that would cost as much as a new motherboard that supports it, so just wait for a full upgrade
    Your board does not support the thing I can't remember what its called to stop SSDs slowing down over time so not worth thinking about.

    I suggest any upgrade you do includes a new motherboard and most likely new nearly everything.
  3. Yeah and next time don't buy Dell, build your own.
  4. I don't have experience building my own - I'm a software programmer, not a hardware mage. I don't know what pieces work with what other pieces.

    Are there any up-to-date comparison guides for prices vs performance, or sites that let you digitally "build" a PC, showing you what pieces work with what you've already chosen, and then lists the pieces so you can actually purchase them and assemble them?

    Where/how do I even start with building my own?
  5. Here's a start. If you don't know much about building, deciding what to get, and installing, than watch these three videos from newegg.com on Youtub. The link to the other videos in this series are in the video's description. It isn't to hard, and you could always post back here with the components you picked and people here would make sure they are good price/performance wise and check there compatibility with each other. But the video is pretty thorough with that though.

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