I just recently cleaned up the inards of my Dell Dimension 8400 with a can of air. Cleared out the back and front grills, blew dust out of the HSF, the PSU, the Mobo, and everywhere else I could stick the little straw thingy. I also removed a dial-up NIC card and Firewire card (since they're useless to me now) and replaced my GeForce 6800 with a GeForce 7600GT from EVGA.
Everything seems to be detected properly and everything seems to work fine, except for one weird thing.
See, the general graphical looks and performance both improved from the 7600GT. I've played Supreme Commander and FEAR so far and both look and play much smoother now and allow for higher settings. The problem is, though, that there's this odd stutter when I play. In the FEAR test scene, this doesn't happen, but in actual gameplay it does. At first I wasn't sure what this stutter was and why it was happening, but then I played Supreme Commander and noticed something. When my ACU in SupCom makes things, it freezes for a second, then makes the thing smoothly and beautifully, then just before making another thing, it freezes again and then makes it smooth.
I think the problem here is that in the games when new elements are being introduced (i.e. a new building, bullets, fire, etc.) it's slowing down. I don't think this is a GPU problem though because when the game is not stuttering like this, it's running beautifully. So I have to conclude that this is either a memory, driver or CPU problem.
Here's my current config.
Windows XP Home SP2
Intel P4 3.4GHz w/ HT (stock speed)
1 GB DDR-533 RAM (unknown brand or latency)
160 GB HDD (unknown brand or cache)
EVGA GeForce 7600GT (stock speed)
I also noticed a few other things. After I uninstalled, cleaned up and then reinstalled Nvidia drivers to make the 7600GT work, Windows was saying that I had a device without drivers installed (which I thought was wrong) and it turned out that my monitor's drivers somehow got uninstalled along with Nvidia's, so I reinstalled those. Also I noticed that my page file (which I set to 2 GB minimum, 4GB maximum) was being used a lot. I think it was around 1 - 1.25 GB of it being used.
So far I've installed the monitor drivers, ran a few malware scanners and the defragger, and now I'm gonna restart to see if things have improved. If not, I guess I got a problem on my hands.