What is limiting my "current" rig? I used to play a lot of video games, but now do not do so. I'm looking for cheap ways to make my computer run just a bit faster, so i'm not sure what should be the first to change.
Core 2 Quad Q6600
4 GB of RAM (i assume DDR2). this is in 4 1GB sticks
3x maxtor 7200 RPM
ATI Radeon 4800 series
I've been trying to run skyrim, which looks good enough for me, however my computer routinely shuts down because of overheating. I'm going to do a big dust/clean off, but I'm afraid that the GPU is getting too hot.
So, what is the easiest and cheapest way for me to make this computer run just a bit faster?
it's probably an overheating problem... there could be issues with the power supply also since it's a dell. dust it out with some compressed air and see if that helps with the stability. any idea what 4800 it is?
a SSD would improve the boot times and access times of programs, generally making the computer 'snappier', but has nothing to do with gaming FPS.
What's your power supply rated to ? I know from experience that Dell usually ship with the bare minimum installed.
Be aware though that going to a much more powerful card (if you did upgrade the gpu) could mean you bottleneck the Q6600. HD5770 seems to be the best companion with a Q6600, however with a 6xxx series card you won't see much more of a frame rate increase but you might be able to enable more effects (more Anti Aliasing etc etc).
My gut says power supply though, if it's messing up when things start getting pretty on screen I think the graphics card isn't getting enough juice. Just my ten cents worth.
might give you an idea as to what you can expect, note that you probably have a 4850 and not a 4870, and that you need to watch the power consumption. although it looks likes the 4870 is hungrier than a 6850 for instance.
As people have said, a newer GPU. What PSU do you have?
Also, 4 GB of RAM is fine (even with only 3 usable). Now Windows 7 professional itself isn't going to limit your RAM. Its whether or not a 32-bit or 64-bit edition that will limit it. Windows 7, of all kinds of it (aside from Basic I think) comes in either 32-bit or 64-bit configurations.
Unless you are doing a ton of multitasking, 3 GB RAM will be fine. I got away with 3 GB of RAM for years. It wasn't until I started doing video and photo editing while doing other things at once that my system hit a wall.
It depends on what resolution your are trying to play at, a 4850/4870 would be powerful enough to play Skyrim at 720p (High settings) but would not be powerful enough to play it at 1080p (High settings).
But it seems like you should upgrade your card because it is overheating (I would suggest a HD 6850 if you want to play Skyrim at High).
But in the end Skyrim is very CPU intensive and to be honest your CPU is just about good enough for High settings, maybe you should consider an upgrade to future-proof your system?
upgrading because it is overheating will not solve the problem the new card will overheat too. Cards generally do not get warmer just because they are older. Get a new card because you want more performance.