Need advice upgrading Video Card, PS, RAM

Hello. I have an HP Pavilion a61421n PC that I would like to upgrade.

I recently purchased Windows 7 for use on it and two other household computers and thought now might be a good time to upgrade a bit. I am also in the process of installing Photoshop C5 (and learning to use it) so I wanted to beef up for that too. In terms of skill I'm in between a novice and expert. Currently running the latest version of Vista.

There are 3 things I want to upgrade:
MEMORY - I currently have 4 Gb (2x2) and want to go to 8 GB to be able to install Win7 as a 64 bit system (all 3 computers are capable of that). I currently have GSkill F2-6400CL5 2GBNT in the pc and have planned to add the same thing when upgrading but have some questions:

1. to add the same exact memory would be $50. To add identical memory with heat spreaders would be $65, or $15 more. Is that worth it or necessary.

2. I read that for a higher memory system buffered and registered are better but my motherboard ECS MCP61PM-HM will not support that. Is that really that big of a deal?

POWER SUPPLY - the HP came with a Bestech ATX250-12V power supply. I did some research on it and consider myself lucky I have not had issues with it but do want to upgrade due to the poor reliability of this PS and the fact that I plan to upgrade the video card.

1. Are there any specs, other than physical size, that I need to be aware of when buying a power supply? Is there any motherboard specs or CPU specs I have to match up with the PS or be concerned about? I plan to buy a Corsair either the 650TX or the 750TX. Both are probably a bit more than I need but the price is good at NE right now.

2. This Corsair PS I am looking at has the fan on the bottom as opposed to venting out the back like I think most do. Should I be concerned with that? It is the highest rated power supply on NE out of all manufacturers so it must be dependable.

3. As mentioned, I'm amazed the PS that came with the HP is still working, mostly because I rarely shut the pc off. It sits in a cabined built into my desk (no out in the open) so that probable adds to the heat. Years ago I was told it was better to leave the pc on than to turn it off and on daily (not to mention it saves time in the morning). Is that good advice or should I shut the pc off daily?

VIDEO CARD: the HP did not come with an external card. It runs with an on board video card that I know will benefit from an upgrade. One thing to note is that I have never been a gamer so that is not a consideration. I will be streaming much more audio/video in the future and doing graphics work with Photoshop (though I read PS is more dependent on multiple processors than the video card) This is an area I really am clueless about.

1. I have room for a PCIe card in the HP. I have looked at both 512 models and 1Gb models. Right now NE has a EVGA GeForce 210 1Gb, 64 bit, DDR3, HDCP low profile card for $20 which sounds good. Would this be compatible with my MB? I think I read that system ram is independent of video ram (the MB only supports DDR2).

2. There are a ton of terms I am not familiar with while looking at video cards: core clock (520Mhz), shader clock (1238MHz), stream processors (16), DDR (DDR3) and GDDR (???), DirectX (10.1) open GL (has it) and HDMI (one I do know and it does have it). Are these decent specs for my use? Anything I should be concerned with?

3. I have read that Photoshop gains by using NVIDIA, who makes the chip set in the model I listed above. Would appreciate if anyone can confirm.

Thanks very much for your help and advice.
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  1. You might as well get a different kit that is 8GB, if it costs you $50, that's like how much 8GB cost now.
    No need for heat spreaders.

    You don't need anymore than 450w for your system. I suggest this PSU.

    Now normal PSU's don't exactly fit in HP cases, they are kind of proprietary so i'd suggest upgrading cases as well.

    Can you please list all of the specs of the PC. I can't find the PC's specs.
    Please download CPU-Z here.
    Go through each tab and list the parts.
  2. 1. ram

    +1 to azn. but i dont think you need to add more. 4 gb is plenty of ram. i have 4gb on my desktop, and i play all the latest games and use photoshop cs5. very rarly do i use more than 2 gb. (i have two monitors, and on the second i have my vitals constantly showing.) I'd save the $50 and put it toward a video card or something.

    2. psu

    all psu's will have the same cables and any will work for you. look out for 2 things: size, and wattage. you dont need more than 450watts (see link below). you should check to see that it'll fit in your case.
    regarding the fan, i had the same question before i built my pc, and i found out that the fan inside sucks the air out through the back of the psu. the company moves the fan form the rear to the bottom so they can use a larger fan.

    3. gpu

    basics first- ur gpu has onboard ram independent of the system. the faster the ram, the raster you can send data to the gpu, so faster frame-rates in games. a gpu uses alot of power, so find out if your psu will support it. (using this - - tool i estamted u'll need between 450)
    dont worry about all the tech jargon, just know faster is better. but, if u dont game, then dont spend alot on the card. the 520 is a good card for a photoshop boost
    you said PCIe, is it x4, x8, x16?(hp's website will tell u) these are the different slot sizes and u must know what you have before u buy.

    ram - dont upgrade
    psu -
    gpu - (if u have PCIe-x16)
  3. ^ Dunno bout the PSU. But that's just me.
    Don't even worry about CUDA for the PS5. The 520 would hardly give you a boost. You should save that money and get a better CPU and use the discrete on that. Say it is a i5 2400/i3 2100 both offer great processing power by themselves and wouldn't need CUDA to help it.

    Specially since the 520, you'd need to "hack" Photoshop in order to enable the use of it. Not all cards can use CS5. Most cards above the 470 can use it but most below that aren't Adobe supported.
  4. ^ yah, you really dont need the gpu.
    the psu is good, especially now that u wont get the gpu so you have plenty of wattage overhead with 460w.

    you might want to wait till this dies and just buy a new system then. replacing a psu can be a daunting task.
  5. According to a specs list on ebay it seems like the Bestech ATX250-12V is a normal (but quite short, 140mm) PS/2 ATX PSU, so as long as there is nothing blocking the installation of longer PSUs then it shouldn't be any problem mounting a new one in the current HP case. Apart from ease of installation or lack thereof.

    The CM Elite 460W PSU is not good:
    One of the few occasions where I'd take a Corsair CX.

    This is probably the cheapest reasonable/good quality PSU available on newegg:
    Xigmatek NRP-PC402 400W 80Plus Bronze $35 ($2 shipping)

    If the PSU needs to be 140mm deep, then the Antec Earthwatts Green EA-430D 80Plus Bronze is probably one of the best options below $50:

    Here's a link to the tech specs for the ECS motherboard on HP's website:
  6. ^ My thoughts exactly on the PSU.
    Also an option.
  7. good call with the psu. thanks for back-checking me. ;)
  8. Wow, thanks for the great advice everyone. Aznshinobi, here are the system specs as requested. Have a few more questions after reading the replies, after the specs.


    Aznshinobi - you mentioned just upgrading to 8 Gb of RAM 4Gbx2. My MB won't support that, only 2Gb x 4.

    You also mentioned a new case but the one with the HP is fine. I was mistaken about the PS that is there. It is not the Bestech I listed above, it is a HiPro model HP-D2537F3R, max output 250W, ATX 12V. The HP part number is 5188-2622
    There is actually 2.75" of clearance between the PS and the back of the DVD drive. The Hipro is ATX standard 3.4" H x 5.9" W, while the length is on the short side at 5.5". But with the 2.75" of clearance even if I went to a new PS that was 5.9" or 6.3" long there would still be room I would think.

    David - You had mentioned staying at 4 Gb of RAM but everything I read about Photoshop says it is a memory hog. I'll admit I have never used PS, just purchased CS5 but need to take a course to learn how to use it. But with the memory being fairly cheap that sounded like a good move, especially if the 64 bit Win and PS will use all 8 Gb.

    On the PSU you mentioned 450W. New Egg has a calculator you put all your components into and it spit out 473 which is close. I put in my current system and added a video card I thought I might get.

    I know a PSU in the 650 - 750W range is overkill for my system but I am looking at a few that are on sale for a good price. The Corsair CMPSU 650TX (though a bit old) is the highest rated drive on NE and on sale for $70 including shipping. Another great drive on sale is the Thermaltake TPX775M for $86 including shipping (this one has several awards and is modular). Both have the highest ratings on NE, which I would think is important for a PSU as it could fry a MB too if it went out, so a few more dollars would be money well spent. Also looking at ratings, if a PSU is in the teens or above in percentage of a 1 and 2 rating combined that worries me. Anything less than 10% combined for the two I would consider good. Another thing I considered is that I may well build my own system the next time (probably a few years away still) and could use the PSU I buy now in that, putting the original PSU back in the HP at that point.

    On the GPU you asked what the open slot was that I had - it is PCIE 16.

    Aznshinobi - you mentioned not worrying about CUDA on the graphics card. While I had to look that one up to even see what it meant, would it not be something worth having, for a decent price, should I decide to use it in the future?

    You also mention saving money on the GPU and putting it toward a better CPU. The CPU that is there now is a 2.3 Gb AMD Athlon duel core 4400+. The specs on the MB say it can upgrade to Athlon 64x2 Duel Core up to 5600 (up to 89 watts). Would upgrading to that spec be worth spending the money over what is there now? What would the best CPU be that I could put in that the MB would hold? Other processor upgrades listed for the MB are Athlon 64 less than 4000+ or Sempron less than 4000+

    I notice you also posted on some Photoshop posts. As I mention I know little about PS but want to upgrade my PC (at least as far as makes reasonable sense economically with a box that is a few years old) to be able to handle photo and video processing. The video processing is where I think going to 8 Gb or Ram would help. And I see where PS uses the CPU to do calculations, not the GPU so it would be nice to have a better CPU but with the limits of the MB would there be enough bang for the buck?

    David - you mention not needing a GPU. Why is that? Would a minimal GPU not be better than the onboard one there now? Again, not a gamer, just looking to get a decent GPU to help with PS and very likely much more streaming of audio and video in the future.

    You also mention replacing a PS can be daunting. Why is that? It would seem to be one of the easier upgrades to me. On my pc currently there is power running to the MB (2x) HD (2x) and DVD (1X) for a total of 5 connection, would be 6 if I ad a GPU.

    Silvune 0 thanks for the specs on hard drives and the MB

    Whew, that was a lot of typing and I hope I explained things well.
    I did find what I think is a good buy on a GPU from TigerDirect. It is an EVGA 01G-P3-N988-TR GeForce 9800 GT Video Card for $45. It's rated very highly (though I realize it is an older card) has DVI, HDMI, and VGA, Direct x 10.0, 4.0 shredder (Adobe recommends support for 3.0), CUDA (another Adobe recommendation), 112 stream processors, core clock 550 MHz, shader clock 1375, supports open GL 3.1 (another Adobe recommendation), HDCP, SLI. Needs a min of 400W. What do y'all think? Is this a decent card for my purposes? Sure seems reasonable in price. The one thing I am not sure I understand is that reviews show it takes 2 slots, the size is 4.4" x 9". Is this something to be concerned with should I get it?

    Again, thanks very much for all you help thusfar.
  9. OK.... To dissecting... Well....
    Here is the specs for the mobo.

    PS5 is more CPU reliant than memory. 4GB is actually enough for Photoshop, I'm using 4GB on my normal editing rig, and my laptop is doing fine running it with 3GB. I would actually recommend going 8GB though since you also plan on doing video editing, that is more heavily memory reliant but also CPU reliant. Your board according to Compaq will accept 8GB of ram, just that it has to be 64-bit system and it has to be DDR2, instead of DDR3.

    As for upgrading though, before we can fully help suggest parts. What is your budget? You've probably said it already. But, I didn't see it but could you say it again? I would recommend a full system revamp, that can be done fairly cheaply though.

    Also by the way, you don't need a crazy PSU, the Corsairs are overkill and overpriced (TX/HX/AX) the 430CX V2 is solid for $45 and the other PSUs we recommend should work for a standard current day system.

    Anyways, before we get into the details. Budget?

    Oh, the 9800 looks good, but @ $75 before rebate I dunno. Kind of expensive since for a little bit more you can get the GTS 450
  10. Well so far I am at $170: $70 for the HD, $50 for the RAM, $45 for the GPU.
    Honestly, I don't want to go a whole lot above that. As you see, this is not the most up to date system so only worth putting so much into it. If it made sense to upgrade the CPU I could see doing that but it looks like my MB limits the CPU that can be used to duel core so could I really get that much more than what's in there now. A quad core would be nice for PS, but unless I'm wrong the board won't support it.

    In terms of a new system, about the only thing I could use from my current system are my hard drives (a 400Gb and a 1Tb drive). Would not think I would want to use DDR2 RAM if I upgraded the board. So I would also need a motherboard, RAM, CPU, case (don't think I could reuse the case the HP is in now), fans (could possibly reuse). Could reuse the SD card reader.

    It looks like the GTS 450 is about $100 on NE and TD was about the same, so double the price of the 9800.
  11. The 9800 is 75$.... Not $50. $50 is after MIR that is not money saved since not all companies honor them.

    As far as budget. How much is your maximum? I would just suggest getting an entire new system. No point on upgrading ram since once you get a new system you can't use the ram you just bought. GPU if you're not playing games. You don't need it. I'm telling you CUDA isn't as useful in PS5 as everyone thinks.
  12. I guess the rebate is a gamble I would be willing to take.

    As for the budget, I might go up another hundred to about $275 if I could get a much better CPU for that. I figure to build even a budget system would take about $500 or about twice what I want to spend.

    On the system I figured $45 case, $45 ram, $100 MB, $100 Video Card, $50 PSU and $150 for a CPU.

    Under normal circumstances I would be all over this, but I've been out of work for quite a while and money is tight. So that's where it makes sense to just upgrade the current box as best I can for now. And that's why I've tried to find parts on sale. I do agree that a new box would be much better, just don't see how I can do one for under $500 that would be a significant step up.
  13. i3 2100
    Asrock H61 $60
    4GB Crucial Ballistix DDR3 1333 $25
    NZXT Beta $40
    Xigmatek 400w $35
    Total: $285
    Re-use your HDD's if they are SATA, they should be. If not.
    Do this combo.
    Seagate 500GB + Lite-On DVD Burner/Drive $53
    Total: $338

    Athlon 4600+ vs i3 2100 (Can't find the 4400+)
    That's like... 2X the performance, probably even more than that.
    As for graphics, the IGP on the i3 2100 (integrated) should be good enough for you. I mean you survived on integrated mb graphics, I think the IGP would be fine.
  14. That has definitely give me something to consider. I'm checking out all the specs now and I'm sure I'll have some questions after I am done.

    Also saw a few things in email this morning:
    Refurbished HP P6727C for $299. AMD Athlon II x4 640 3.0GHz,4Gb DDR3 1333, ATI Radeon 4200 series intigrated graphics, 750G HD, Light SCribe DVD, 15-1 card reader, Wireless LAN, Win 7 HP 64 bit. Cons are no eSata, HDMI, or USB 3.0. Could add the HDMI with a video card - which I think this would need. Also only a 250W PSU which would also need replaced if adding a video card. Still for about $400 might not be a bad option (299+PSU+graphics card).

    Also saw an HP p7-1026b for $399 but includes a 20" monitor (have one of their 20" monitors now, the w2700 which came with the a6142n and have been pleased with it). This deal includes an AMD Phenom II 840T quad core 2.9Ghz processor, ATI Radeon 4200 series integrated graphics, 6 Gb DDR3 1333 RAM (with 2 addtl open slots for more), a 1T HD, super multi DVD (no light scribe), 15-1 card, no wireless lan, and Windows 7 HP 64 bit. Apparently the system is triple/quad core. Like the other HP the PSU is only 250W and would need replaced as well as adding a video card. But for $500 (which might be stretching things with the budget) might not be a bad option (399+PSU+graphics card). The wife could use a new monitor and the additional RAM and HD over the first one I mentioned are worth $100 more.

    Both of them use a Foxconn N-Alvorix-RS880-uATX motherboard, which I believe can be upgraded with a 6 core processor at some point if I wanted.

    Need to compare the two AMD CPU's with the i3 and what I am running now.
  15. Athlon 645 (Roughly the 840T) vs 4600+
    645 vs i3 2100

    I'd say either builds would be solid. The build I suggested would allow for a bit more upgrade room since you get a capable PSU early on, a case that can be assured compatibility with most cards and a motherboard that is not BIOS locked.

    Course if HP has changed there ways, that Foxconn board would be w/o the BIOS lock. It's rare though, my prior Pentium 4 HP (luls) was bios locked resulting in the inability to overclock, sad face. Though it's been about 4 years since I've purchased a brand name computer.

    Anyways, either way, you'll be looking at a huge improvement.
  16. None of the HPs I've used allowed overclocking in bios, and (afaik) none of the MBs used had the power going to the CPU to really allow it if the CPU drew more than stock amps. (Tools like SETFSB would possibly allow you to overclock). I would not overclock stock HP motherboard more than the clock speed of the highest supported processor.

    re: AMD Phenom II 840T, Athlon II x4 640 vs. intel i3/i5. IF you plan on moving from photos to video then look closely at video rendering benchmarks. Video rendering takes hours and seems to be CPU not disk related. Having a significant CPU performance difference will make a visible difference in the real world. You should see a visible improvement going from your amd 4400+ to any of the option discussed, not sure if the difference in the options discussed would show up in the real world in photo editing when applying Photoshop filters.
  17. Thanks very much for your help everyone. I finally decided on a course of action - build my own. It's something I have always wanted to do but never have. As I looked at the two HP boxes, I might have been ok with them had all I needed was a better graphics card and upgraded PSU. But when I looked at the specs, the MB was fairly cheap as well and limited what I could expand to in the future. I decided to make this build to be able to upgrade at some point. I had no idea this would be so time consuming. I've spent the better part of the last 5-6 days looking at the options, comparing prices, reading reviews, deciding on AMD vs Intel, etc... I have learned a lot but still have many questions going forward. I'm going to post the build specs I came up with in a separate thread. Again, thanks for everyone's help and hopefully you will chime in with advice on my build.
  18. I'm not a fan of the Xigmatek 400W linked by Az. It's made by HEC and the review I found shows clearly that the 12V ripple EXCEEDS ATX SPECIFICATIONS.
    Not just by a little either. The limit is 120mv and the PSU hits 180mv.

    I have seen this PSU recommended before, probably not just by Az, and it should stop.
    I'm not speaking as a moderator here, but a fellow adviser... I'm not going to ban anyone for recommending parts I disapprove of :lol:

    A better option in that price range would be the ATNG built Rosewill RG430
    Only the 630W version has been properly tested, but because it's the same OEM and the same platform (design) one can expect as good or better performance from the 430.
    RG 630 review

    or the Delta built Antec EA-430D
    There is probably a review somewhere... it's Delta so it's never bad. (actually not much in the review category I could see)

    If you want a high quality Seasonic built PSU in that power range, you'll have to spend more though
  19. Ooo.... That 430w Antec is pretty cheap. Unusual since the thing stays at $60 I just ignore it.
    I was recommending it off this review though.
    Although not a GREAT score, not bad. Though this is the 500w version, it's a JG tested review which I trust more than any other reviewer. Just saying.
  20. Yech. Another HEC unit, that one 119mv ripple on the 12V, 120mv being the ATX spec max. Failed transient overshoot on the 12V too.
    The only PSUs I know of that can be used from HEC are the Cougars, and those are usually not recommended because they have to compete with Corsair and Antec.
    OW scores these things a bit odd. If it doesn't blow up it gets a 7, if it's completely in spec it gets an 8... he needs to adjust his numbers a bit :) [H]ocp would have given the unit a fail and Gabe at Hardware Secrets would have not recommended it.
  21. Ok all, I finally put up the specs at systems>new build forum. Would really appreciate your advice on that.

    You will see I am about $850 for the build, way above the $200 target I started at. And I would really like to get it down a few hundred but do want to build it right to last a while. And it made sense to jump up a bit in budget going from an upgrade to an entirely new build.
  22. Could check out my $850 build. Defiantly a large budget.
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