I've had my system for little more than a year now, and it's been working great so far. I am not terribly good with computers so I was hoping to get some help here. My question is what would be the first thing to upgrade if I want to increase performance in games. Are there any obvious bottlenecks in my system? What is the weakest component? Would my CPU be able to keep up with a faster Graphics card? Also been thinking about switching 512 MB x2 for 1024 MB x2 (increasing ram from 2GB to 3GB) but I am not sure how much of an impact that would have on performance.
Also, are there any known issues/problems with upgrading Dell systems? (I've heard different opinions on this already so I am not sure what to believe, some hard facts from people who knows what they are talking about would be very nice).
Hello. I wold say that the first thing that you would want to change is the graphics card. You can grab a 3850Pro/8800GT depending on your buget to help with games. This would be the most logical i believe. As long as your proccessor isn't fragging your FPS.
However if you can afford the overhaul, 2x2GB sticks of RAM are a good idea right now as prices are real cheap. And a new processor wouldn't be bad if you hope to cram in some hours of hardcore gaming.
About dells....well....i have a 'low' end system and they crippled me with upgrade options. This is the reason i made my own system now. However i believe that the higher end systems e.g. XPS' have good upgrade options so i wouldn't see why you couldn't get some nice new components.
you should have a little manual with the computer that lists the motherboard layout and expansion slots. Since you already said that yours has a x16 PCI-E i would assume that you are able to get the graphics upgrade. You have said that you have 4 slots for the memory, so that is a go too. And your E6400 uses the same slot as a E6700, Q6600 too. However you may want to check if the FSB1333 processors are able to work with your motherboard. They should, but i know how dell can be with bioses.
The 7900GS is by far the weakest link for gaming on that rig and the only compontent I would upgrade. It was fine for older games especially without fsaa, but starting with Oblivion and now the new titles like UT3, Crysis, COD4, etc. it is hurting.
2GB of ram is perfect for Win XP, a little low maybe for smoothest Vista performance. And the e6400 is just fine; no need to upgrade that.
Assuming the power supply has a bit to spare, Put in an 8800GT or 8800GTS 512MB card and you turned a mediocer gaming rig into a very nice one. Shoot, even the $160ish HD3850 would typically provide over 100% more performance compared to the 7900GS in new titles. it also uses about the same amount of power so PSU demand wouldn't be an issue.
The ram is fine, use the extra money and put it towards a faster video card. 2gigs is sufficient for just about any game out there provided you are not running an extremely high resolution. As others have said check the sticker on the side of your power supply if there is one and write down the specs you can also find your power supply on dell and get the specs off there. If you have enough horsepower to run it, the new 8800gt would be an excellent choice depending on your budget. Bottom line spend your money on the video card, it will make the biggest difference. The rest of your system is solid and upgrades will only give minimal gains. I agree with Pauldh that the 3850 would be a solid choice as well and maybe a better fit since you have a stock power supply.