I have a 3 year old Dell XPS 420.
Core Duo CPU E6850 3.00 GHZ, 2.99 GHz
4 GB RAM
NVIDIA geForce GT 430
I have it set up for dual boot, Vista and Windows XP, both 32 bit.
I use it mostly for gaming and internet. I play the Total War Series and Mount & Blade series, they have pretty decent demands on the machine.
I feel like my performance is spiraling down and was considering a new rig.....but also thought that maybe cleaning this one up, installing Windows 7 Pro and going to 8 GB of RAM would be cheaper and carry me for another year or two.......job situation isn't too good right now, so cash is tight.
I have never built my own computer, but I have installed new RAM, new video card, new HDD, CD/DVD......I'm pretty handy.....but not sure I'm up to a home build.
Upgrade to strong video. If it's good enough you are done. If not reuse the video in your new build.
I couldn't find specs on your system, some random web entry talked about "stock 375w dell psu". With that PSU and your 65 watt max CPU you have about 150-200 watts available for video. Use this article http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car... , find a video card at your price point. Keep the power consumption under 150 and your current PSU will definately work. I like the ati HD 5770/6770 at 108 watts. You can find it for $100 ($80 w/ rebate) here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... The article above will give you lost more options, however after a 430 you will be really happy with the 6770.
The 6770 crushes a 430. You will suddenly be able to game.
I think with addition of video you will be happy with your system for another year or three. the dual core E6850 is not a slow CPU, 4gb memory (3.3? gb usable with your 32-bit OS) is plenty. Maybe add a gaming mouse if you don't have one.
I like win7 a lot, but would not spend the $100 to get it over vista and xp.
makes sense. VISTA has a great performance monitor. If you go into task manager and go to the performance tab there is a button called 'resource monitor'. launch it.
The memory tab in resource monitor will tell you if you are suffering from too little memory. Run resource monitor in the background. Play the game. Jump to resource monitor using windows key. Look at the hard-faults column in the memory page. Mostly 0?, you are fine. Note that resource monitor takes memory too, so when you play without monitor in the background you have a little more headroom than resource monitor shows.
P.S. don't use the CPU tab to see if you are running out of CPU. Many games spin the CPU to 100% checking for things. They might check 100 times before they need to do something. A faster cpu would just check 500 times before finding the same thing to do -- that doesn't make the game play better. A good check for running out of CPU is to set video quality lower and see if the game is less sluggish. If so then CPU was not holding you back. If no change between high video and low vide then CPU is bottlenecking you.
Again, good advice. I believe I should follow your recommendations and then lurk around these forums and soak up the knowledge that is being shared. You all seem to have forgotten more than I know!