Really cheap major upgrade advice (<£200)

Ok, so I'm after a bit of advice on upgrading my PC. It's seven and a half years old, so it's pretty amazing that it's still going, but it's slowly grinding to a halt. For your amusement, here are the specs:

Back in July 2002, this cost £1,054.

Since then I've only added another hard drive (232 GB) and I'm using a Samsung 26 inch HD TV (1360 x 768) as a monitor.

I'm after a new CPU, motherboard, graphics card, memory and PSU (likely with a case). For everything else I'll use my old parts and I'll be sticking with Windows XP. I'm just looking to bump the performance up so that doing basic stuff like internet surfing is nice and quick and so I can play some games I've picked up recently (Medieval II Total War, Company of Heroes, Stalker Shadow of Chernobyl, Splinter Cell Double Agent and Jade Empire). I can't even play Braid at the moment!

Given that I'm looking to spend under £200, I'm obviously not looking to the future at all with this upgrade - I'll run it for a few years then buy a whole new PC. Not worried much about upcoming games as I have an Xbox 360 for those, other than maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic.

At first I was thinking of this package from Novatech:
AMD X2 245 - 2GB DDR2 800Mhz - Nvidia MCP61P Motherboard - ATX Tower Case & 400W PSU : £154.99

But I thought I'd try to do better using individual components. All of these are from

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Socket AM3 3.0GHz 2MB L2 Cache Retail Box Processor : £51.07

Asus M2N68-AM SE2 GeForce 7025 Socket AM2+ onboard VGA 6 channel audio mATX Motherboard : £31.42

Crucial 2GB DDR2 800MHz/PC2-6400 Memory Non-ECC Unbuffered CL6 Lifetime Warranty : £33.43

Casecom 6630 Black/Silver Mid Tower Case with 450W 24pin SATA PSU : £21.99

Total = £137.91. That's £17.08 less with a better CPU. The motherboard seems pretty cheap - does it look ok?

Still got the graphics card to go. I'm thinking that the ATI HD 4670 512mb looks like the best option. There's one at for £50.95 which would be fine, but there's a 2 to 4 week dispatch time, which is fairly ridiculous.

I can find it elsewhere for a little more, although I am wondering if the 4650 would be good enough for what I'm doing.
XFXHD 4650 512MB DDR2 VGA HDTV DVI Out PCI-E Graphics Card : £41.45

So, any thoughts on all that? Recommendations, alternatives, things I've overlooked? I've obviously done a bit of research, but it's been quite a while since I looked into all this stuff, so your advice would be greatly appreciated.
17 answers Last reply
More about cheap major upgrade advice 200
  1. Well the motherboard is nvidia, I'd stick with AMD/ATI chipsets. So I'd strongly recommend looking at a 770 chipset or higher.

    In Case + PSU's the PSUs are always PoS units that may well fry everything. You will have a more pleasant experience with a quality unit. I finally got my friend to spend the extra money on one when we redid his system and, imagine that, it no longer crashes.

    The 4670 is probably your best bet. I'd say to look at a 5570 or a 5670 as alternatives because both are good too. Also consider a athlon II x3. If you did this stuff it should hold you pretty good for a while. And no, the 4650 is terrible in comparison.
  2. Thanks for your reply, False_Dmitry_II. These are issues that I've been thinking about.

    While I have read up a bit on CPUs and graphics cards, I haven't found any really useful info on budget motherboards, so I'm still rather in the dark in this area. I noticed in the "Guide to Choosing Parts" thread here that the nVidia motherboards weren't recommended - what's the issue with them? I did look into 770 motherboards, but you're looking at over £50 for one of those, which is significant given I'm trying to keep the cost as low as possible. If the nVidia ones aren't suitable though, I'd go for a 770.

    I am a bit sceptical on the PSUs destroying computers front. If I was building an expensive PC, I'd absolutely go for a quality PSU, but for what I'm doing I'm not that worried about a generic 450W PSU. The CPUs and graphics cards I'm looking at aren't that demanding anyway. Actually I was meaning to ask if I could use my old case. Would a new PSU and motherboard fit in an old "ATX Midi Tower" or have designs changed? If I could use my old case, I would put in a PSU like this - Sumvision 450W 20+4pin SATA Power Supply PSU - Retail Boxed. Would that be better than the generic ones found in the case + PSU packages?

    I'd actually started off looking at an AMD X3, but went back to the X2 after reading about it's better performance in single-threaded applications like most games. It's a close one though. I am wary of the temptation of gradually increasing the spec that I'm after, especially given that I'm sticking with XP (and an old hard drive).
  3. You can reuse your case, just make sure you buy a smaller mobo. You can't fit a full size motherboard in a mid case. Get a mATX mobo and you should be alright.

    Don't get that PSU, there is "sum" thing wrong with it I'm sure. You don't need a great PSU I agree. What is near you thats within the budget from Antec, Corsair, Enermax, PCP&C, and SeaSonic? I'd look to one of Antecs 380-450W PSU or the 400w unit from Corsair.

    As for the GPU, don't get one with DDR2. 4670 or the 9600GT is what you want minimum for gaming. If you will just be surfing/watching then its fine. If you want to do any PC gaming however you'll need the extra speed.
  4. I'm pretty sure he means mid tower and the only things that can't take is E-ATX. Most cases are mid towers. Maybe you thought he meant slim or something?

    I'm not sure where you're getting your info about games, tom's hardware has done plenty of tests and found the triple cores to be far preferable. And they're only a couple megahertz slower depending on the models in question and that's not really enough for it to matter for a single threaded application.

    I said 770 or higher, so 780g 785g 790gx, etc. (sometimes rebates or whatever makes other stuff cheaper) I'm sure you can just look through the list and find what falls under these and what doesn't.

    A PoS PSU won't always fry a case it's just a worst case scenario. It will more likely make it more unstable day-to-day however. I stand by what ... the other guy said (that's so not a name) about brands to look for. It probably doesn't need to be even that good though, for something that should be alright look for one that doesn't have a voltage input switch and has 80+ efficiency. With those it should also have active PFC and whatnot. Something like that should do the trick also.
  5. Hard call , £200 is not much to play with considering you need to build a complete new PC! Can you not up the budget at all!

    Personally I would look at buying someones old system, found a C2D 8500 @3.166ghz Biostar Mobo, 2x2gb ddr2, Sasmsung 1tb Hdd, 512mb 4670, vista premium with licence disk for £250 advertised in Micro Mart classifieds.

    Try build that for £250. Also look at ebay for cheap components, buying second hand here under £200 for complete build will get you more for your money for sure.

    personally, id try save up some more money for a better new build, £450 is sweet spot for what you want to do right now.
  6. Thanks for the advice, guys. I'll have a look into everything that you've said and post again on Friday or Saturday.

    I put Midi Tower in quotation marks as I was quoting it from the picture of the specs I posted above. They do exist - see here, but perhaps it's not a term used everywhere. Looks like the term isn't used consistently either.

    I could up the budget, but it's a case of trying to get what I need for the least amount possible. I really don't know what I'll need in a couple of years (could well be a laptop rather than a desktop), so a bit of a cheap performance bump right now is all I want. Besides, the fact that it's hard makes it interesting!
  7. Seeing as you've limped along with this, why not continue? Can you find a faster CPU anywhere? 1 or 2GBs of DDR1-400 should be pretty cheap. Add in a 4650 and you might be able to play those games you wanted.
  8. Though i live outside the UK i do rig recos just about anywhere so from Ebuyer UK we have
  9. Not a bad rig if he can swing the extra 45pounds. Could also try dropping down to an x2 if it will save him enough.
  10. I see you listed CoH as a game you wanted to be able to play. If you get the DX10 patch, you're going to need some juice. I have a Q6600@3.4 and an 8800GTX, and with detail at max, 1680x1050, I have a hard time breaking 50fps. It's demanding at times. I'd also say +1 for the X3, they DO perform better than duals gaming. It's been shown time and time again. I'd ebay with gusto for a week or so, and get what you need. Use reputable sellers, you'll be just fine, and get most of your components for dirt cheap. Just my two cents.
  11. I totally approve of batuchka's build. That's pretty much exactly all of the changes I was talking about.
  12. Thanks again for the further comments, I really do appreciate the advice. When you've not kept up to date with developments, it's hard to catch up in a short period.

    I spent some time today looking into your recommendations, when it occurred to me to quickly investigate the software side of things. I had it in the back of my mind that DirectX could be a problem as I'm sticking with XP and obviously I found out that I'm stuck with 9.0c.

    A bigger problem that hadn't occurred to me was trying to switch the motherboard and CPU under XP without reinstalling. It looks like it is possible, as per this guide, but it's definitely a worry.
  13. Proceed under the assumption that you will be reinstalling. I've never pulled it off. (at least with windows, doing it in linux just requires booting...)
  14. Its very possible, I do it all the time. If you prep it properly, its very easy to do. Remove the drivers for your LAN, sound, video, etc, and change your harddrive drivers to windows default. It will boot.
  15. I've now found out that because I have an OEM version of XP, I can't change the motherboard (as that counts as a new PC) without buying another copy of XP. Had no idea at all. So the guide I linked to above wouldn't work as I'd be denied a new activation code.

    The only option would be to try a workaround like 474545b suggests. Someone else suggests the same technique at the bottom of this page. I really don't like the risk of that going wrong though. I was hoping that things on the software side would be fairly simple, but it's turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.

    Puts the whole idea of the upgrade in question. I managed to find the manual for my existing motherboard and it can't take more that an XP 2200+, so that's not really an option other than sticking some more RAM in it just to speed it up a little for basic stuff.
  16. Just wanted to give the thread a bump to see if anyone had any thoughts on my last post as at the moment I'm stuck.
  17. Could always find someone with a corporate license for the cheap, found one on my local craigslist for 35.
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