Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Upgrading a Dell Studio 540 (Purchased December 2009)

Last response: in Systems
Share
May 5, 2012 3:17:46 AM

(Feel free to skip down a bit if you don't care about the background)
Hello. For about a year leading up to Christmas of 2009, I worked for various people in my neighborhood doing jobs like picking up dog waste for money until I had saved around $800. I then asked my mom if she would pay for a ~$1000 dollar computer, and so she said, "Ok, give me the $800 and I'll find a good computer for your games." So she, being pretty much clueless about computers (as I was at the time), called up Dell and said she wanted something "good for games." At the time, I thought I got a great deal. She bought me a $1,100 dollar Dell Studio 540 with a monitor and other peripherals and I only had to pay $800!

Looking back, I realize I made a mistake. Here are the specs of my beloved mother's "good for games" computer:

OS: Windows 7 Home Premium SP1
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 @2.93 GHz Codename Wolfdale, 45nm
RAM: 6.00GB Dual Channel DDR2 @399MHz
Motherboard: Dell Inc. 0M017G
GPU: 1024MB Nvidia GeForce GTS 240
Hard Drive: 625GB Samsung
PSU: Liteon, model ps-6351-2, 350W
The case, its specs, and other tidbits can be seen here:
http://www.dell.com/us/dfh/p/studio-desktop/pd
The cooling mechanisms are a fan attached to the back grill, a fan over the processor, and the standard GPU fan.

Now that I have learned more about computers, I have steadily realized how this computer needs upgrades. Today, I use this computer almost exclusively for games. I play pretty intense, modern games like Shogun 2, Anno 2070, and Lord of the Rings Online.

I first started running into problems with this computer in the early summer of 2011. While playing Lord of the Rings Online, which according to System Requirements Lab should be no problem for my computer, my entire computer would crash and I would get a loud buzzing noise. I did some research and concluded that it was an overheating issue, and after some wrestling with Dell's customer service I got some money out of the warranty and they sent a technician who literally sprinted in, popped a replacement GPU in, and sprinted back out. I thought I had triumphed, and indeed the computer has run without a hitch for another year. But now, the issue has resurfaced. I recently returned to LotRO after a break from the game and after a few days my system has begun crashing again.

This time, I did some research. Using the Speccy tool ( http://www.filehippo.com/download_speccy (let me know if it's reliable)) I found out that while my CPU was running at around 40C and my motherboard at 50C, the GPU is idling at 70 degrees celsius. Having done some reading I realise this is very bad. I know understand why LotRO, a pretty graphically intense game, has been causing overheating.

I no longer have a warranty with Dell, so I don't think I can get any more free replacements, and regardless I don't think that would fix the problem. Therefore, my purpose here is to seek advice on potential upgrades. I am also open to the possibility of building a completely new gaming rig, though I definitely want to get the current overheating issue under control before trying to build a completely new computer.

So, to summarize, here's the deal:
1) I have an overheating issue, with my GPU idling at 70C and overheating while playing certain games. The first thing I want to do is get that issue under control. Do I need a cooling system? Should I get an entirely new GPU? If so please direct me to some good models on newegg.

2) Are there any other replacements/upgrades I should consider? As I've done research I think the weakest part besides the GPU is the CPU. Most games now seem to have either an i3, i5, or one of the good AMD's. If you folks think a new CPU is necessary please direct me to some good models I can get.

3) Should I get another 2GBs of RAM? I see a lot of people now have 8GB, and the RAM is pretty inexpensive so I figure what the heck. Let me know if you think it's necessary and give me some recommendations.

Thanks a lot folks. If you can help me get out of this alive I'd appreciate it. I'm very inexperienced with tinkering with computers so I'll need a lot of help. My budget in this endeavor basically should stay in the neighborhood of $250-$300, if it goes much over I'll have to start saving up. If you guys are thinking I need a whole new system I'd prefer to keep it under $1000. If you need any further specifics about my build, I'll do my best to find out, this Speccy tool is pretty handy and has a lot of info for me to access.

Best regards,
SumPrinceps


May 5, 2012 5:09:28 AM

I'm sure you will get a dozen different replies from a dozen different people but I wouldnt spend too much money on your current rig. You'll want to save up to buy a new cpu, motherboard, and gpu. and hard disk. and ram. pretty much a new computer.

to fix the issue at hand of your gpu overheating, make sure the fan is clean and spinning properly. see if its possible to remove the heatsink from the gpu and add thermal paste which will help it cool more adequately. what is the ambient temp inside your computer case? You may need to add or replace an existing fan to help move the hot air out of your pc.
m
0
l
May 5, 2012 3:09:19 PM

Actually this is a nice rig for gaming, E7500 is a good high frequency stock core 2 dual. Good choice for gaming a few years ago.

Your video is much worse than the rest of your system. The high temp on video is probably (1) default setting keeping video card fan quiet and (2) dust layer caked on the video card heatsink.

You have plenty of memory, and the power supply is good enough for a low/mid graphics card a good bit better than your current card.

Suggest you buy an HD7770 for $130. That will give you a big boost in video at only 80W, a small 10W increase over the gt240. http://www.hwcompare.com/11948/geforce-gt-240-gddr5-vs-...

Replacing video card is easy. (1) buy a can of compressed air from staples or office depot for $7. (2) unplug and Open case. (3) blow out all the dust. Don't use vacuum cleaner inside case. (4) find a free power connector for new card. There are a bunch just hanging in your case. They may be the right kind to plug in your video card (you need 6 pin PCIe) or they may be 4 pin molex. Adapters to go from molex to PCIe are $5, and are often included with video card. If you need one buy a video card that comes with one, like this card http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You will be very pleased with how your system games after yuo upgrade video. Your CPU can keep up.

EDIT: lol, forgot what you really wanted "1) I have an overheating issue, with my GPU idling at 70C and overheating while playing certain games. The first thing I want to do is get that issue under control. " Buy a can of compressed air at an office supply store. Unplug PC, open case. touch the silver metal power supply to ground yourself. remove the one screw that holds your video card in case and remove the cable from the video card that goes to monitor. Remove card -- note there is a hidden catch on the bottom of the card on the PCIe slot end that is away from the side where the video cable attaches. Release that and pull up uniformly, if it doesn't come up you haven't released the catch. Use the compressed air to blow the dust out of the card heatsink. (Do not remove heatsink or you'll need to apply new thermal paste when you put it back on). touch silver metal power supply again to ground yourself. replace card, replace screw. plug in video. now you are good physically.

DOWNLOAD EVGA precision graphics tool. (google it). It will work with your nvidia card. Create a gaming fan profile that runs at a much faster fan speed. Now you can keep the gt240 cool while gaming. by flipping between the normal profile and the high fan speed profile you can be quiet except while gaming. Bonus -- EVGA precision has nice, simple overclocking options. Google overclocking GT240. Do not play with voltages, but do increase frequencies and get a bit more performance out of the gt240 before you replace it. (aside I have a summer and winter profile for my card, the room temp makes a big difference). (aside 2 I'd skip fixing up the GT240 and go buy the HD7770, however $130+ might be out of your current budget.)
m
0
l
Related resources
May 5, 2012 4:58:28 PM

Thanks guys. What I am thinking right now is that while I look around for a new card, I'll clean out the current one and try to get it to at least 50-60C (much better than my current ~70C). Then I'll get a new video card to replace the current one, and at the same time begin saving to build a brand new, upgradable ~$1000 PC. I think I'll save the current GT240 so that when I get the new PC, I can take out the GPU I'm about to buy and put the GT240 so my Studio 540 is still a functioning system.

Do you guys think I should get a card from the $100-150 bracket or move up to the next bracket? I would like this card to be good for max-settings gaming for at least the next two years. The HD7770 looks good but if it's going to be outdated in a few years I'd rather just spend the extra hundred bucks.
m
0
l
May 5, 2012 5:17:00 PM

My guess, the HD7770 would be current until past the next gen of gaming consoles, so 3-5 years. HD7770 is better than what's planned for the next gen consoles, so games ported to PC will run well on it.

If you step to a strong card (never bad) then you need to get a QUALITY power supply to power the stronger card. The neat part of the HD7770 is it is stronger than my 200w GTX260 and yet only draws 80w so it can work with your current power supply.

A good new 400w power supply to run a higher powered video card is only $40-50(e.g. antec earthwatts). A bad 400w power supply is also $40-50 but will be a system stability killer. There are no rules for rating power supplies, and you can't tell without a good review. http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/410

Good plan to save the gt240. your new card comes in an anti-static package. This is important. Save the package (bag or blister pack) and store the gt240 in it. Safely storing memory or video cards required protection from stray voltage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antistatic_bag

edit: Your current 350w PSU is a fine PSU. You can stick up to a 150W card in your PC without problems. To find power use by a crd (roughly) google the card name and TDP. For example google HD7770 and TDP and you see 80w.
m
0
l
May 5, 2012 5:29:11 PM

I'll have to think a bit on what card I want to get. We'll see I guess.

As for the current card, I already got the EVGA tool and it works great. I have the fan speed set to 100% and it cooled the GPU way down pretty rapidly. I have yet to test it in game though. Hopefully it still holds up. If it doesn't, I'll look down below and clean it out, though frankly I'm not so certain that's the issue. I looked just yesterday to see what model my PSU was and there wasn't a dustbunny in sight down there. It could be it is hiding beneath the GPU fans as you have both said though.
m
0
l
May 5, 2012 5:41:08 PM

Google CPUID HWMonitor

It's a neat tool. And it records max/min temps for GPUs and CPUs. You can use it to see how hot you got while gaming.

Edit: And there's nothing wrong with hanging with the GT240 for a while and playing with overclocking. Try some of the higher graphic settings in games and see if they look enough different to you to make upgrading make sense. GT240 is not a bad card.
m
0
l
March 14, 2014 10:14:48 PM

sumprinceps said:
(Feel free to skip down a bit if you don't care about the background)
Hello. For about a year leading up to Christmas of 2009, I worked for various people in my neighborhood doing jobs like picking up dog waste for money until I had saved around $800. I then asked my mom if she would pay for a ~$1000 dollar computer, and so she said, "Ok, give me the $800 and I'll find a good computer for your games." So she, being pretty much clueless about computers (as I was at the time), called up Dell and said she wanted something "good for games." At the time, I thought I got a great deal. She bought me a $1,100 dollar Dell Studio 540 with a monitor and other peripherals and I only had to pay $800!

Looking back, I realize I made a mistake. Here are the specs of my beloved mother's "good for games" computer:A
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium SP1
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 @2.93 GHz Codename Wolfdale, 45nm
RAM: 6.00GB Dual Channel DDR2 @399MHz
Motherboard: Dell Inc. 0M017G
GPU: 1024MB Nvidia GeForce GTS 240
Hard Drive: 625GB Samsung
PSU: Liteon, model ps-6351-2, 350W
The case, its specs, and other tidbits can be seen here:
http://www.dell.com/us/dfh/p/studio-desktop/pd
The cooling mechanisms are a fan attached to the back grill, a fan over the processor, and the standard GPU fan.

Now that I have learned more about computers, I have steadily realized how this computer needs upgrades. Today, I use this computer almost exclusively for games. I play pretty intense, modern games like Shogun 2, Anno 2070, and Lord of the Rings Online.

I first started running into problems with this computer in the early summer of 2011. While playing Lord of the Rings Online, which according to System Requirements Lab should be no problem for my computer, my entire computer would crash and I would get a loud buzzing noise. I did some research and concluded that it was an overheating issue, and after some wrestling with Dell's customer service I got some money out of the warranty and they sent a technician who literally sprinted in, popped a replacement GPU in, and sprinted back out. I thought I had triumphed, and indeed the computer has run without a hitch for another year. But now, the issue has resurfaced. I recently returned to LotRO after a break from the game and after a few days my system has begun crashing again.

This time, I did some research. Using the Speccy tool ( http://www.filehippo.com/download_speccy (let me know if it's reliable)) I found out that while my CPU was running at around 40C and my motherboard at 50C, the GPU is idling at 70 degrees celsius. Having done some reading I realise this is very bad. I know understand why LotRO, a pretty graphically intense game, has been causing overheating.

I no longer have a warranty with Dell, so I don't think I can get any more free replacements, and regardless I don't think that would fix the problem. Therefore, my purpose here is to seek advice on potential upgrades. I am also open to the possibility of building a completely new gaming rig, though I definitely want to get the current overheating issue under control before trying to build a completely new computer.

So, to summarize, here's the deal:
1) I have an overheating issue, with my GPU idling at 70C and overheating while playing certain games. The first thing I want to do is get that issue under control. Do I need a cooling system? Should I get an entirely new GPU? If so please direct me to some good models on newegg.

2) Are there any other replacements/upgrades I should consider? As I've done research I think the weakest part besides the GPU is the CPU. Most games now seem to have either an i3, i5, or one of the good AMD's. If you folks think a new CPU is necessary please direct me to some good models I can get.

3) Should I get another 2GBs of RAM? I see a lot of people now have 8GB, and the RAM is pretty inexpensive so I figure what the heck. Let me know if you think it's necessary and give me some recommendations.

Thanks a lot folks. If you can help me get out of this alive I'd appreciate it. I'm very inexperienced with tinkering with computers so I'll need a lot of help. My budget in this endeavor basically should stay in the neighborhood of $250-$300, if it goes much over I'll have to start saving up. If you guys are thinking I need a whole new system I'd prefer to keep it under $1000. If you need any further specifics about my build, I'll do my best to find out, this Speccy tool is pretty handy and has a lot of info for me to access.

Best regards,
SumPrinceps




m
0
l
March 14, 2014 10:19:51 PM

ARE YOU KIDDING ME, YOU GOT A KICK ASS SYSTEM THAT ONLY NEEDS A FEW TWEAKS ON YOUR PART, SEARCH EVERYTHING FIRST, AND DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING THRU VENDORS FIRST, THEN BUY UPGRADES, I JUST BUILT THIS SYSTEM FOR MY WIFE WITH 7 64BIT AND SHE COULD'NT BE HAPPIER, SHE IS AS GIDDY AS A SCHOOL GIRL ON VALENTINES DAY! GOOD LUCK, NEVER POINT FINGERS. BUT ALWAYS FIND A SOLUTION!!! https://www.google.com/ GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS!!!
m
0
l
!