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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-18-2007, 08:40 PM Thread Starter
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Upgrade? Build? Buy? - Help needed

I have looked through a few threads here and you guys seem to know your stuff!

*Short Version
I will be getting hi-speed internet shortly. I anticipate my current PC configuration is not up to the task. Do I upgrade, buy new, or build my own(check long version)

I have a 3.5 year old 'bare bones' Dell Dimension 2400 business PC. I am t hinking I want to upgrade it a little for my upcoming hi-speed internet. I have to be careful though because there is a good chance some of the upgrade stuff I can't transfer to a PC from today...

My unit has:
Pentium P4 at 2.66Ghz
256MB DDR SDRAM at 333Mhz (PC2700)
Integrated Intel 3D AGP graphics
Soundblaster Live! w.5.1 support
40GB 7200rpm hard drive
48X CD-ROM
3.5 floppy
Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
Creative 4 spkr w/sub setup
17" CRT purchased seperately
It has Win XP Pro @ SP1
I added an inexpensive PCI graphics card with 64MB of it's own RAM a while ago so it wouldn't have to use 64MB of the system memory. Nvidia GeForce4 MX 4000

My thoughts:
<Shopping list>
Memory - (1GB would max my MB cap. ) 2x512 ~ $50-60
Video card - PCI board ~$100 for 256MB
HDD 80GB ATA-100 ~$50 (I'm using 31 out of 37GB on stock HD)
Monitor - LCDs are so inexpensive now, it doesn't make sense not to get one... This may be one thing I buy with the intention of transferring to later computer.
If I avoid the monitor, I could do the upgrade for under $200 or half the original cost of the system. I am thinking with the Mem and Vid, I could tid myself over while I build my own.

What do you all think?

*Long Version
I've been using dialup with AOL at home for many years now. Planning on going hi-speed asap. Only choice at my current location is comcast. My PC has been adequate to handle MS office and dialup web browsing. But with the opportunities hi-speed will provide, I think my PC will need a little work

Current PC is a simple Dell Dimension 2400 purchased in early 2004. Here are 2 reviews of the 2400
http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.c...id=1610&page=1
http://reviews.cnet.com/desktops/del...-30430313.html


Here is where I need the help. I can upgrade my current PC, buy a new one, or build my own.
My intended usage will most likely stay pretty much the same. Office suite use, mild internet browsing, etc. But with the expanded possibilities that broadband will give me, it has the potential to change to more than that. I'll never be a hard core gamer, but maybe a little online C&C against 01Intrepid might be fun. So....

- I could dump a bunch of upgrade money into memory, hard drive, burner, LCD monitor - but is it worth it? It's a budget PC and I think my PCs architecture will limit it's longevity. It was a $399 business promo I got from Dell.
I think the PS, HD or another component might have been damaged from a power spike or something a few months ago that locked the PC up. The local pc shop took it apart and put it back together and that seemed to fix it. It has seemed a bit buggy since though.
- I could buy a new PC, but I am not able to dish out that much money right now for a good pc to last me a few years
- While researching upgrade parts, I have been bitten by the 'build your own rig' bug. I know this can end up costing more in the end, with PC manufacturers getting parts in discounted bulk in all. But just like the new purchase route, I don't have a ton of cash to buy all the parts right now.

So with time and financial restraints, I think a mild upgrade is in order. I guess the smart thing to do would be to try and buy things that I can transfer over to my future homebuilt PC. I suspect that my architecture may be too old, and any components added won't transfer to a current day machine. I have also read that for ultimate transferrability, external USB devices, like a burner or HD, are the best way to go.

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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-18-2007, 09:41 PM
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It really depends what you plan to do with it. Your setup is descent for the normal tasks (Word, Photoshop, IM/Chat, Browse the web), but it definetly could use some work. The first two things to take into consideration are the HD and your memory. These two things will slow you down a lot. The hard disk the older it gets, the less it performs. Your processor is adequate for normal tasks, so I dont think that needs upgrading.

So heres my tip:

Definetly upgrade your memory, 256MB is obsolete. The norm now adays is roughly 512 - 1GB. I definetly recommend going up to 1GB (2x512 dual channel), you will instantly feel a change. Then go for the hard disk, keep it at 7200RPM but up yourself into the 80-100GB range. While 40GB might seem enough for you, hard disks now are cheap anyway. You can find a good 120GB HD for about 70$ on newegg.com.

Anything else you upgrade would really be a luxury. I personally demand a lot of power from my PC, so I have a dual core setup with the works. But like I said, if you plan to use it for day to day tasks, stick to whats simple and works. Of course, an LCD would also be a nice idea (More so if youre still using a CRT).

PS. Build it yourself can be cheaper than buying from a retailer. You just have to know how to go about buying your parts, and what to buy. You might not get those horribly bad 1 year warranties, but atleast you know you built it yourself. And in the end, if you can build a computer, odds are you can fix it yourself. Ive done it quite a few times.

PPS. After reading up on your system, here are links to parts I recommend. The memory I used before in a previous system, very reliable and fast. Ive also had experience with the HD drive I provided below.

Memory @ NewEgg.com
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820145439

Hard Disk @ NewEgg.com
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16822148242

I know earlier I said 80-100GB, but you cant beat the price. I also chose that one for its 16MB cache. But you can find smaller sized hard disks, for a smaller price. And if you havent noticed, I have a slight adoration for newegg. They have never let me down, and their service is sharp. If you want future proof, you can buy a SATA to IDE adapter and purchase a SATA version of that HD. Like that in the future, you can just hook it up to a new rig. The memory might be a problem, considering its only PC2700. Most mainstream PC's now adays are DDR2 PC5400 and up. Good luck to you!

Last edited by neuroticdave; 12-18-2007 at 09:57 PM.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-18-2007, 11:00 PM
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Your computer should be fine with the high speed internet as long as you don't need anything serious. You could just wait and build your own it really won't take too long to build one as long as you have the money right now to buy it. The Ram upgrade is probably the biggest of your worries though and since you would be using a new monitor with your new system you can just get that out of the way now so that you don't spend so much later on when you need the money for everything else.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-18-2007, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Dave - Seems like you and I are thinking along the same lines. I discovered newegg years ago while pricing things. While searching for components this past week, I really came to appreciate their search function on the left sidebar.

Is that 16MB cache important because its considered a *large* cache for an IDE hard drive, or is that what the IDE/ATA-100 controller is perfectly suited for?
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-18-2007, 11:17 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to you too MKB - Right now my performance is questionable. I don't know if it is a combination of low memory, hard drive, half dialup, spyware/malware, or the power surge issue I had a few months ago. I get low virtual memory popups quite a bit.
I'm thinking once I get the hi-speed, I can download all the software service packs and get a proper firewall setup, etc and maybe the PC will chug along happily...
For only $50 I am definitely doing the mem upgrade.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 01:23 AM
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I was told that windows allocates a certain amount of the hard drive to "Virtual Memory" which I guess acts kind of like ram so if your disk space is low this will affect your performance. I really don't know much about this but it makes sense to me and a hard drive upgrade will be a good idea since you can always transfer that to the new computer too. New Egg is great I would also check out Tigerdirect.com once in a while they will have a better deal.

One thing that really helped my brothers computer was wiping it clean and reinstalling windows. His is a dell also but it is a little newer than yours and it has a 3GHz P4 but it runs great now. You could always try that once you get the new hard drive and have a chance to save all of your stuff to the new one.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 01:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKB View Post
I was told that windows allocates a certain amount of the hard drive to "Virtual Memory" which I guess acts kind of like ram so if your disk space is low this will affect your performance. I really don't know much about this but it makes sense to me and a hard drive upgrade will be a good idea since you can always transfer that to the new computer too. New Egg is great I would also check out Tigerdirect.com once in a while they will have a better deal.

One thing that really helped my brothers computer was wiping it clean and reinstalling windows. His is a dell also but it is a little newer than yours and it has a 3GHz P4 but it runs great now. You could always try that once you get the new hard drive and have a chance to save all of your stuff to the new one.
Youre right MKB, virtual memory is 'supposed' to speed things up. But that can actually become a bottleneck the older your HD is. Over time, with anything else, they become worn down and slow. But like MKB said, your memory is the biggest concern. It WILL hold your high speed back. Whatll happen is IE (Or w/e browser you use) will try to access a site, and of course it will be quick to respond. Then it will cache a portion of that page to your HD drive. Now on dial-up that isnt a big deal because its very slow to load, so your HD doesnt have to work much. But on high speed, its a different story. It can take a split second to load a page, but if your HD chokes up and has to access virtual memory for help, itll be a vicious cycle.

IE -> Memory -> HD -> Virtual Memory -> HD

PS The HD cache is more like a buffer. The larger the amount, the more the HD can buffer. They only range from about 8 - 32MB, but they do help a bit. Also consider a HD with NCQ or TCQ, which is command queuing. It does exactly what you think it does. It queues a command for the HD while it does something else.

Also, if you do upgrade your HD please oh PLEASE dont transfer any files over without checking them for spyware/adware and viruses. Do a clean install of windows, and make sure anything you throw in there from your old HD is clean. Your computer can choke heavily with all those combined (spyware-adware-viruses-low memory-worn out HD-low virtual memory-dial up).

Oh and MKB has a point, its good to periodically clean install windows. I actually have a nack of doing it anytime I buy a retail PC. It gets rid of all the added junk I dont need.

Any other questions, feel free to ask. Im a bit of a computer nerd. ;)

Last edited by neuroticdave; 12-19-2007 at 02:05 AM.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 02:12 AM
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Just to let u know because I saw something in ur first post " 100$ for 256MB video card " more memory isn't always better. It's like having a p1 with 1gb of ram. It won't help it. Do you only have PCI ? If so, I think you are a little stuck.. if you had/have AGP or PCI-e I would suggest getting at least a 6600GT(doesn't matter if it only has 128MB of GDDR3).
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 08:06 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by intrepid.luvah View Post
Just to let u know because I saw something in ur first post " 100$ for 256MB video card " more memory isn't always better. It's like having a p1 with 1gb of ram. It won't help it. Do you only have PCI ? If so, I think you are a little stuck.. if you had/have AGP or PCI-e I would suggest getting at least a 6600GT(doesn't matter if it only has 128MB of GDDR3).
Well luvah, the mobo is a low end 'business' board with lots of integrated components. There is no AGP port or PCI-e capability
- I can use on-board integrated Intel 3D AGP graphics which will use/allocate up to 64MB of system memory.
- Or I can get a PCI video card which come with up to 256MB GDDR2 memory

This is one of the top 3 cards I am considering.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...Tek-_-14129062

I wouldn't think that the integrated AGP with 64MB is *better* than a PCI board with 256MB. I guess that is the question as I am thinking this the second most important upgrade. I really want the res/color/refresh improvements that a new vid-card will give me.

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Last edited by sc.intrepid; 12-19-2007 at 08:07 AM. Reason: typo
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 12:04 PM
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While I do admit that now adays graphics are dirt cheap (I can build a loaded gaming PC with about 1050$), I just dont see a justification for you to upgrade that. It seems all you really want it for is day to day uses. I think youre fine with what you have for what you do. Now if you were going to game or do graphic editing, then I could justify it. I would recommend soem products though if you do want to get into that too.

And luvah is right, more memory on a graphic card does nothing. BUT you did go from onboard to a GF4, so it was worth it. That takes the load off your CPU and memory to work on everything else, and the graphics gets put on the card directly.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neuroticdave View Post
And luvah is right, more memory on a graphic card does nothing. BUT you did go from onboard to a GF4, so it was worth it. That takes the load off your CPU and memory to work on everything else, and the graphics gets put on the card directly.
Actually graphics memory is very important. It dictates how high a resolution you can use at a comfortable framerate. But if you're not gaming or rendering, you could get away with 128MB. I'd suggest this card. Really the only thing you'll need to upgrade to better use that high-speed connection is your Ethernet card. Get a gigabit (100/1000) card. If you really want better performance, buying (or building) a newer computer would be the way to go. And if you build it yourself, you can guarantee it will be upgradeable in the future.
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 01:03 PM Thread Starter
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I looked at that diamond card, and my 250w PS is not powerful enough. The 256 visiontek card will work with my PS
Quote:
Originally Posted by Starnerf View Post
Actually graphics memory is very important. It dictates how high a resolution you can use at a comfortable framerate. But if you're not gaming or rendering, you could get away with 128MB. I'd suggest this card. Really the only thing you'll need to upgrade to better use that high-speed connection is your Ethernet card. Get a gigabit (100/1000) card. If you really want better performance, buying (or building) a newer computer would be the way to go. And if you build it yourself, you can guarantee it will be upgradeable in the future.
My integrated resolution and color were kinda weak- 1024x768 max. The 64meg PCI card helped out quite a bit. The issue I have is this:
The pci bus shares its 133mb/sec bandwidth across the 3 PCI slots. My soundblaster card is PCI so that and any video card will share. AGP is supposed to have about 16 times more bandwidth than PCI so I would think that video performance would be slightly better with the onboard graphics - it wouldn't get funneled down to the shared 133mb/sec throughput. This is assuming 64megs on the video card compared with 64megs borrowed from system mem by the onboard.

IDK I will probably just get some memory, do a clean hd install and see how highspeed+new memory+on board graphics does. Then consider PCI video card and the hard drive situation

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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 05:13 PM
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Any video card made within the past 7 or 8 years will be better than an integrated chip. But if you don't want to get a new card, getting more ram will definitely speed up your computer. and if your integrated chip has been fine for you so far, then there's no reason to assume it won't be for the near future.
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