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Machine is 7 Years old. Upgrades worth their salt?

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December 16, 2011 5:25:39 PM

My PC has been diligently working for the past 7 years. It has been reliable and reasonably quick for my sparse usage.

I was wondering what, if any upgrades or tweaks you all could suggest that would really increase the productivity speeds. The machine doesn't "game" much other than a flight simulator that works well as-is. I have recently started playing with GoPro Studio, so video processing has been so so on it. I also use several Adobe design programs for photo editing and web design on occasion.

I'm also interested in figuring out whether or not these parts could be consolidated into a smaller, somewhat more portable case.

Current Specs:
OS: Win7Pro x64

AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE (unlocked 4th-core, 3.4GHz @ 1.42vdc)
Cooler Master Hyper 212+ cooler
Gigabyte GA-MA785GMT-UD2H ver 1.0
Crucial/Micron DDR3 1066 1.5v 2x2gb 7-7-7-21
Sapphire Radeon 5770 1gb
Western Digital VelociRaptor 300 SATA (manufacture date: 2009)
Sony OptiArc 24x DVDRW
Rosewill R102 mATX mid-tower
OCZ Fatal1ty 550 PSU
a b B Homebuilt system
December 16, 2011 5:58:33 PM

You have a good system. I wouldn't spend any more money unless you want to upgrade your ram while prices are cheap. You can sell your old ram and get a 2x4 gb kit for $30-45. But everything else looks good.
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December 16, 2011 6:03:09 PM

what type/speed of ram would be worth going to?

I'm also considering a SSD since my main drive is about 75% full.
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 16, 2011 6:42:19 PM

MEM - DDR3-1600 CL9 is the "cheap" standard. Watch the height of the heat spreaders on the modules. Some taller modules will hit the Hyper 212+... The CORSAIR XMS3 8GB (2x4GB) would work fine.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SSD - Always a good option unless done for adding capacity. The price per GB just isn't there... The SSD will increase boot / load times, but the rest is a wash in a real world scenario (outside video / media editing and other tasks of that type). Look in the used market for a second HD to get by on for now, then pick up a large HD when prices get back to normal down the road.
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October 31, 2013 7:34:50 AM

Am still running the same machine 2 years later from the original post in 2011 when it was a 2 year old system. Now looking at whether or not upgrading for a few bucks here and there might garner any substantial gains.

I also need to install a second hard drive since my main is about 40gigs away from being full.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 31, 2013 7:43:44 AM

using a ssd as a boot drive would make windows feel faster, improve some file transfer speeds in certain situations and improve some programs in terms of speed. if you buy a large enough one you can even use it in the future on your next pc build which will be creeping up on you in a year or two.

unless productivity is a real issue and what you have just is not cutting it anymore i would wait another year and do a rebuild (standard 5 year pc rebuild cycle). if you absolutely must do something then i would only make upgrades you can take to a new system as its not worth investing much into parts you cannot take with you when you roll to a new build.

you mentioned video processing. i'm not expert but some programs can benefit from multiple hard drives. one to run windows and the program, one to act as a source file drive and one to act as a write to drive. in this way all three drives can be running at once increasing productivity. i'm not sure which program this was for though so you may want to look this up.
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October 31, 2013 8:15:34 AM

Thanks for the advice! I've been contemplating swapping in a SSD and moving my vid/music/pic files to an internal slave HDD. I've just been on the fence about investing the $170-$215 for a SSD (Samsung 256GB EVO, Pro or equiv.), rather than investing that in something else.

After doing some poking around, I guess some prudent upgrades to get another few years out of this rig would be in order of priority:

1. storage, I'm nearly maxed out... so, invest in a spare internal HDD, or install a SSD for my main files and make my WD Raptor drive my slave with all the media on it, or buy a cheaper 1TB HDD and leave my Raptor as the main drive. Cost $75-$215

2. GPU: The HD 5770 isn't crap, but it appears it's aged by a few generations. I have a small case, so I'd need something that is compact like my existing card. The Asus GTX 670 Mini comes to mind, but it is a $300 card.

3. Memory: Bump up to 8gig. Either add more of the same sticks, or replace what I have with new. ~$40-$80 I think...

If money was no object, I'd opt for a powerful laptop since I don't spend as much time on my desktop as I used to and would prefer a portable solution instead.
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 2, 2013 5:01:58 PM

A 7790 would do fine in a small case, I have one in a microATX case.

But if you've got a raptor as your only drive I'd actually say that you probably need an SSD AND a large drive. I've been using a 128GB 830 samsung drive and that size has been fine. I also have a 3TB seagate that I got for $130 not long ago.
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April 3, 2014 7:30:15 AM

Any new recommendations?

I'm now considering:

- replacing the main hard drive with a Samsung mSATA 128gb or 250gb with a SATA:mSATA adapter AND installed an existing, few years old WD Blue 640gig HD for storage.

- replacing the GPU with a GeForce 750 Ti or R7 260X

Eventually I'd like to downsize this system to a mITX. So whatever investments I make now, I hope to carry over to a new motherboard.
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 4, 2014 7:06:25 AM

1) what is wrong with normal sata drives? a samsung 840 evo 250gb sata is only about $140 on BBonline right now. the msata equivalent is $180+ on newegg. having the enclosure around the drive is actually a better thing than a bare open drive where its just the pcb anyways. ssd drives are small so fitting one in a small case isnt an issue. keep in mind the 80% capacity rule to ssd where if you install more than this amount trim doesnt work right and you may reduce the lifespan of your drive. those capacity numbers would be 96gb (120gb dr) and 200gb (250gb dr). i wouldnt recommend a 120 in most cases since it is very easy to fill up but a 250 isnt bad.

2) completely up to you if you want to go this route however you need to know if your video editing will benefit more from doing a gpu upgrade in this manner or if you would be better off doing a cpu + mobo upgrade. my thoughts would be that a cpu upgrade would likely be more beneficial and it would also allow you to migrate to a smaller case now.

3) while definitely small form factor (SFF) mitx has a few limitations. the boards are expensive for the few features they provide; they have less features than matx boards which are a bit bigger but can cost less. mitx cases can be either poor airflow or expensive and there are not a terrible amount of half decent cases in the SFF factor which could be recommended on a tight budget. if you want a gpu you would need to use one of the cases which provides a 90 degree rotated gpu mount (card is parallel to mainboard) which uses a special pci-e card to connect the two. there are a few decent cases which do this and have half decent airflow (but still limited compared with other options) however i cant vouche for the price you would have to have a look around (try on newegg) to see whats available. my personal suggestion would be media center style cases (mini atx towers layed on the side pretty much) which allow for normal hardware mounting, normal video card mounting, support better cooling options and in general are easier to work with. they are larger though so it wouldnt be as big of a reduction in size.

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April 4, 2014 7:26:02 AM

1. I was interested in a mSATA drive due to it's smaller form-factor and potential to be integrated into a on-board mobo slot for compactness. However, bang-for-the-buck-wise, I suppose pretty much any commercially available case I buy is going to have room for a standard size SATA SSD - was looking at the 840 EVO Pro. I will opt for the 250gb capacity.

2. I thought a upgrade rule of thumb of sorts on GPUs, was that moving up 3-4 tiers was usually worthwhile. My existing HD 5770 is I believe 4 tiers below the 750 Ti. However, I see your point about dollar value and where it could be better invested in a newer CPU/Mobo. I've been considering the AMD FX-6300 or a i5-XXXX of some sort. I've been a AMD user for quite a few years since when I originally built this machine, AMD was the best bang for the buck and I was able to get this CPU for ~$120 at the time, unlock the 4th core and OC it pretty well without having to go to extreme cooling methods - it's been stable since it's inception.

3. The want to move to a smaller form-factor is driven by a want to be able to move the PC to the living room and have it be as unobtrusive as possible. If the mATX form-factor does offer more bang for the buck and I can find a compact enclosure that gets me close to or equivalent to the volume/foot-print of a mITX, then I'd be open to going that route. I don't intend to use a full length video card since the HD 5770 and 750 Ti/R7 260X compact cards have plenty of grunt for my usage.

What is daunting is the volume of information out there on cases, mobos and such these days. I guess it's not different than it was several years ago, but man, it's been crazy just trying to sort out potential cases for a mITX design - I think I like the Sugo SG05 with the 450W PSU for it's cost compared to something like the Raven RVZ01.

Any further advice is appreciated - thank you!
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 4, 2014 9:04:51 AM

1) true... however you dont save that much space, cant use direct pci slot in a SFF case, its more expensive and the components arent well protected. i suppose it could get better cooling in a small case though but generally its not an issue. the best bang/buck is definitely the 840evo. there are other brands out there but only intel and samsung stand out for reliability.

2) you also mentioned that you do not play games. yes, generally moving up several tiers would be considered a good upgrade however also of note is what you will be doing on the computer. what you need to research/find out is how much the programs you use for video editing utilize the cpu compared to the gpu. if they are mostly cpu bound then upgrading the cpu will have a huge effect while upgrading the gpu might have no to little effect. this is why i suggested doing the research on it and suggested possibly a cpu/mobo upgrade. currently intel chips completely blow away amd in all areas except one: price. they are faster, cooler, use less power however they also are more expensive.

3) were you planning on hooking it up to the television (where something matching your other components would be ideal) or just in a corner so you wanted a small case which didnt stand out as much as a typical tower? as far as sff cases please see the below for different ideas. i will work in order of smallest to largest cases.

first there is a box for just a motherboard and drive. this is the absolute smallest case for mitx however is not suitable for your needs


next we have the slimline models with no fans. this is the smallest you can get while still having a video card however are rather pricey and are normally custom built (basically you are buying a whole computer) however the hdplex cases might be for consumer purchase. the prices are crazy but it does include custom blocks for heatsinks. not likely that you want to spend this much and they need special power suppplies and cards so its generally not worthwhile for most.


next we have thin slimline vertical and slimline horizontals. you can buy the case and build your own with existing parts. if you have a video card you need one with the special mount for a video card parallel to the mb. video cards you use would need to be single slot height though in most cases (slimline video cards only). space is also at a premium and often have limited support for many hard drives and other such add-ins. they typically come with special power supplies as well in most cases.


if you dont mind a bit of a larger box you can start getting into a half decent case with the cube style cases. they support many normal atx sized power supplies (as long as they arent long), normal 2 slot video cards, more than one hard drive, and in some cases half decent cpu coolers. shown is the coolermaster elite 120 which is suprisingly compact for the full sized hardware it contains.


next up we have the mini tower cases. these are nice because they support more cooling options, drives, cards, etcetera however are a bit larger


up next are media center cases. generally they are available in the previous sizes however the ones i will be suggesting are the ones which are similar to mini towers laying down on the side. they are a similar size to receiver units for speakers and have lots of upgrade options because of the fairly decent size. the smaller versions (dvd player size) have the limitations of the other sizes discussed prior.


next up are the small tower cases. they are smaller than your current desktop likely but are more similar than dissimilar.


generally i dont like the idea of using any psu which comes with a case. typically they are junk in all but the expensive cases. they also have limited upgrade paths and limited wattage. if you want to make use of most of your current hardware i would only suggest cube, mini tower and media center cases. perhaps the best would be something like the coolermaster elite 120 (or newer model) or the corsair 250d.

i would also like to note that i prefer matx over mitx due to the expanded options but its also a larger platform requiring a bit of a larger case. your choice. if you only intend to use a single gpu and keep the system fairly light on what you hook up internal (just a gpu, two hdds and a few fans)then its fine to go that route however if you want to upgrade in the future to something more then it might be worth matx.

also of note is that you do not want to overclock in any case smaller than a cube. its also suggested that you run a different cooler than stock if overclocking. something like the coolermaster 120 or corsair 250d would be fine for overclocking a bit though.
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April 4, 2014 1:29:22 PM

I REALLY appreciate your in-depth recommendations!

1. Yes on the 840 EVO Pro. Will do that ASAP.

2. I run a Phoenix 5 flight simulator that is pretty graphics intensive and occasionally play GOW1. That's about it. I typically get about 60 FPS in the sim. I'll see if I can figure out what kind of CPU usage is occurring with my usage.

3. Yes, would like to hook up to my HD TV via HDMI. It's a 51" plasma. Optimally, I'd like the system to be small enough to bring into the living room and easily hook-up, and be easily relocated back up to the "office". My current mobo doesn't have a HDMI out. Instead, I bought a DVI-E to HDMI adapter cable to hook connect it to my TV.

I've been building PCs since 1996. My builds tend to last 5-8 years before I make a mobo/CPU change. As it is right now, if I just updated the hard drive to a SSD and popped in my relatively new 640gig WD storage drive, it would probably hold me over for an undetermined amount of time or until either the mobo or CPU fails- whenever that is.

While upgrading the mobo/CPU to a i5 of AMD FX-6300 now would be great, I feel like the best bang for the buck would be in making the computer more portable. However, another nod to upgrading the mobo is that my current mobo doesn't have WiFi and I don't have a CAT5 run to my living room.

All in all, maybe I should just figure out the most affordable way to make the computer slightly smaller, WiFi enabled, and install new hard drives and if a new mobo is the answer then HDMI out will come, and a new CPU. If a new case warrants a new cooler, I'd address that after I have the new case in hand.
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 4, 2014 2:23:03 PM

2) well if you are running at 59/60fps then it might be capped (meaning your current card may be capable of more than 60fps but is being capped so that it coincides with the 60hz refresh rate of your monitor. if it didnt you could get screen tearing). funny you mention it since i have a copy of pheonix flight sim myself. i'm running r/c 4 though. i bought it to train myself how to fly a heli.... although i really never finished building it (no funds to really finish it right now... i have a trex450 kit but no batteries or charger and its still half built). awesome program though and i can say that its not really all that demanding with graphics.

screen tearing:


3) i use a dvi to hdmi cable for my own system since my system predates hdmi out. it doesnt matter if your motherboard supports hdmi out as you would not want to be using it anyways. unless you are running something truley prehistoric then your video card supports sound out via dvi.

as far as if you are ready for an upgrade or not is completely up to you however there is only so much you can do with an atx sized board and its going to be a rather big box so any new case wouldnt be much more portable than your current one. if you want portability you would need to uprade now not later.

again, if you want portability that means bucking up and getting matx or mitx. while i agree if you are happy with your current hardware that upgrading right now isnt really required there is only so much you can do with that motherboard. you might be able to find a flat wide case like a dvd player and maybe even one with a 90 degree mount for a video card however as for wifi you would need an external card. either that or you would need to buck up and get a media center case which isnt really what i would want to lug between two rooms.

technically there are matx motherboards for your am3 cpu and some are supposed to be am3+ (the newer socket) friendly and that would solve your issue of wanting to keep it as cheap as possible (just use your current cpu, ram and cooler) however... its better to just have an am3+ motherboard for the new chips if you went that route and if you wanted intel then it wouldnt help in the least. also of note is that if you bought one of those boards its also old technology and you are going to be wasting some cash on old tech instead of putting it towards an upgrade. your choice though.

if you went with the fx6300 route... you could pick up a motherboard for about $50, the chip for about $100 ram for about $72 (if you went with 8gb on sale) that ssd you want and whatever case cost (lets say $50) so in total about $272 (not counting that ssd) which gets you wifi, usb3.0, a newer chip, small form factor to lug around and snappy performance from the ssd.

if you bought an outdated motherboard in matx form factor you could spend about $50 for a motherboard and $50 for a case for $100 (though i suppose you could do it for $70-80 depending on what you buy) total plus whatever you will spend on the ssd. thats a fairly cheap fix but the motherboard isnt going to support a replacement chip too well and you would end up buying a new board in the future if you needed to upgrade. the case you could probably still use/keep at that time so its only about $30-50 lost but if you can get another 2-3 years out of your current cpu & ram hardware perhaps its not a total waste.

if you want to keep it low cost you would want a mini tower or cube like the elite 120 or 250d cases (or similar designs which fit matx if you went that route instead of a complete mitx overhaul since mitx may not be available in am3 socket for a decent price and even the am3+ options are rather sucky) since they allow you to re-use everything but your motherboard form factor.
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April 5, 2014 8:43:59 AM

ironically i am a RC heli pilot and product reviewer. have had nearly 40 RC helis since I got into the hobby in 2005. if you would like any assistance with the Trex 450, hit me up.

as for my computer, it's currently a mATX mobo, just pre-dates on-board WiFi, USB 3 or SATA 6, among other things.

I will go for a EVO 840 250gig drive since it's better cost vs. performance wise compared to the Pro version.

Maybe I can find a more compact case for my existing board and/or just start budgeting for a whole new mobo+cpu+RAM and go from there once I have a few hundred bucks more to play with.
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 5, 2014 10:14:54 AM

well... if your motherboard is currently mATX size you could look for a smallish mATX sized case and then when the time comes for you upgrade you can just buy a mATX (not mITX) sized board at that time. mATX is more full featured anyways (but is a bit larger in size). i was under the impression that you had a full ATX motherboard (i must have overlooked this).

i've given you a few case styles to look at though cube options are likely the best however wont be too much smaller than what you have now. slim cases might work but i listed a few cons of those in other posts. its your call really what you want to do. if space is a huge concern mITX gets you smaller but it requires an upgade now not later. if you just buy a slightly smaller mATX case you wont shrink down the case too much. if i had to guess perhaps 50-66% of the size you have now at the smallest if that.

as for what i have for rc helis...

i bought a spektrum dx7s transmitter since it seemed like a decent one at the time.
i picked up a copy of r/c 4 to teach me how to fly. it comes with some dongle for me to connect my controller with.
i bought the trex 450 pro flybarless since it was the same price as the flybar model and i thought it would be more durable despite the fact that it wasnt marketed for first time flyers.
i have a small blade mcp-x that i bought used on an rc heli forum which i could use to practice since its durable due to the lightweight nature and parts are cheap.

i had the 450 half assembled before i put it into a drawer where its sat from then on. i can probably manage the assembly however actually tuning and balancing it out i'd want someone else to do.

i used to fly the little one around a bit however i always had an issue getting a neutral balance position on it. it always seemed to change in flight no matter how i adjusted it out on the controller. it also seemed to get different rotation as the battery went down (it spun around instead of staying true straight forward) despite adjustments. perhaps a con of eletric motor tailrotors which is not an issue with shaft driven?

not sure what i want to do with the hobby at this point. i honestly dont have the cash to get a charger and batteries right now. i have the time to finish the assembly but not the motivation right now. i've thought about finishing it and eventually flying but at other times i have thought about selling it off for some cash since as i said i really dont have too much money to be putting out for things at the moment. if i did it would probably be a package deal for everything but i'd lose my ass on it likely and that doesnt appeal to me. oh the woes of having too many hobbies.

enough of my ranting about rc... if you had any other specific questions about cases or the build just holler.

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April 11, 2014 6:02:03 AM

I bought a Silverstone Sugo SG09 for $75 to swap my existing components into. I think it will be a good, compact case to contain future upgrades (is compatible with mITX too).

I'll be swapping out my VelociRaptor main drive for a EVO 840 SSD at some point in the next month or so.

I'll plan to change my mb/cpu and ram to a 4th gen i5 setup, just need to figure out what mb to go with.

As for your RC - very cool! The DX7s is still a great radio, though I have the latest talking DX9, it's a fantastic radio - I used to be a Futaba guy, but am loving the Spektrum programming.

The Trex Pro 450 FBL is a great model, and I hope you get it flying. Just keep practicing when you can and/or find some local RC heli peeps and they'll help you out.

Thanks again for the suggestions on what to do with my system.

Next question will be trying to figure out what to do with a very old Pentium system mobo/cpu/hs and ram that have been out of a case for a few years due to possibly a motherboard failure. I'm not sure where old computer parts should go to die or if they're worth anything.
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 11, 2014 6:40:36 AM

that sugo case doesnt look bad at all. perhaps not what i would have picked for myself but it looks small and it looks to have some impressive cooling for being so small.

the dx7s was all i was comfortable spending at the time. even the 450fbl was hard to convince myself into buying. we are talking about quite a bit of change here (although i realize most rcers spent much much more). i really would like to get it flying but definitely need to find a local group to help program/assemble since i cant seem to get it balanced right.

one a humorous side note... i'm able to do barrel rolls and forward flips in the r/c4 program by using the collective pitch settings aerobatic fliers uses (100/0/-100 instead of like 80/30/-20 which is the default i think... its been awhile since i used the controller) as well as the some basic flight. i still screw up flight enough that i wouldnt risk actual flight without training wheels on the heli. i wouldnt risk aerobatics with an actual heli probably (my fear is that i will destroy it and that would be expensive) and i'd just use it for some basic flight. which brings the question to bear: why pay so much for basic flight.

i had a blade cx2 which is what i started out with and it was pretty fun however it had this irritating condition where it developed a spin relative to the battery level. i constantly had to adjust trim to maximum and even then it still spun when the battery was getting low. so i pawned it off to get something else.

if you're a computer nerd you could frame the motherboard and call it wall art :rofl: 

chances are that the components are practically worthless although if the ram was functional someone with an old system might give you a few bucks however thats not really worth your time. that leaves the disposal option as the only real way to go. you could look for a local company which recycles old computer parts http://www.computerhope.com/disposal.htm but to be honest i've always just sent the metal parts to the scrapyard (put it in the bucket with the rest of the scrap to go) and trashed any pcbs/plastic. i probably should send it to a recycling center but i dont have any center local which does electronics.
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April 15, 2014 6:31:17 AM

Just to update the thread for others' info I:

- bought a Sugo SG09 case since it's the smallest case I could find for the mATX platform that doesn't require me to reinvent my CPU's cooling situation. I suppose I could have gone to liquid cooling or some kind of low profile cooler, but I don't want to risk sacrificing the over-clock I've been steadily running since 2009.

- buy and install a Samsung EVO 840 250gb boot drive to replace my WD VelociRaptor 300 (will sell this)

- buy and install either a WD Blue 1TB 2.5" or Black 750GB 2.5" storage drive and sell my 2009 WD Blue 250gig drive

- buy and install a Sony Opti-Arc AD-7800H slim ODD

- when and if my existing CPU and/or mobo die, I'll then decide if I'm going to go to a mITX platform and look at what are the best hardware combos at that time. If my stuff died today, I'd opt for a i5/Z87-ITX system and get a Sugo SG05 case, but I don't feel like spending 50% more on the smaller form factor just because it's smaller. So, if the budget didn't allow, I'd just stick with mATX and go from there.

Thanks to SSDDX and everyone else for the guidance!
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