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Best tools for figuring out what component is limiting you?

By dark green ยท 16 replies
Mar 21, 2008
  1. It's the modders eternal question...

    Should I spend the afternoon overclocking the CPU, or do I need more RAM, or is my hard drive the real limiter?

    For gaming the formula is usually pretty straightforward: make sure you have enough RAM (usually not a factor), then it's all about the graphics card first and CPU second.

    I use PCMark alot, but I want to learn more from others.

    So: how would you determine what the best place to start upgrading performance is?

    For a twist let's assume that it isn't all about the graphics (so optimize around Office or "typical" use). Or just talk about your favorite Benmarking programs. (Incidentally I DON'T recommend PCMark despite using it. I'm kind of unhappy with it and it isn't free so I don't want others buying it because I mentioned it).
  2. _FAKE_

    _FAKE_ TS Rookie Posts: 116

    You HDD is usually something thats NOT the limiter in performance. The MAIN limiters are the graphics card, CPU, RAM and the motherboard your using.

    Finding out what is the limiter can be as simple as knowing what your components are capable of, and it can be as hard as having to tweak every little setting until you figure out which component is limiting you.

    What is this for exactly. Your own PC. if yes, than please list your PC specs so I can determine what is or could be the limiting component of your PC.
  3. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 9,695   +676

    you can tweak all you please, but the BUSS speed will finally limit all performance.

    do the exercise of pricing your mods and the ask,
    "would I be better off getting a new system with a higher buss speed and new components"?
  4. _FAKE_

    _FAKE_ TS Rookie Posts: 116

    What are you talking about, any decent motherboard can do BUS speeds of up to 500 for Intel before coming unstable and thats more than enough for an awesome overclock. The CPU will likely become the limiting factor before the BUS speeds do.
  5. Computer~freak~

    Computer~freak~ TS Rookie Posts: 157

    ohhhh he got your good on that one jobeard i agree with fake the cpu will become a limiter before the bus speed (of course depending on what cpu were talking about that may change)
  6. pdyckman@comcas

    pdyckman@comcas TS Rookie Posts: 527

    I Didn't read the answers that are listed above. It's just that your comment (question) is so hard to nail down.....I thought that I would give it a shot. I must admit it's the most floating type of request that I've EVER seen. I understand what you are asking. #1. Your Ram memory IS very important in regards to your GPU or your CPU. Your RAM is a big part of anything that requires memory to function. You need to balance out your CPU/GPU /RAM/PSU & come up with a "working machine". Every part relies on all the other parts. I believe that you've got a lot of comparing of hardware to do. And then to weave in the software that will work to your advantage.

    DCBNSB TS Rookie Posts: 63

    Your Hard Disk can be a factor... if you get at least a10,000 RPM drive and make sure its SATA your loading times will be Greatly improved and your Start up programs will only take a cupple seconds to load instead of minutes.

    but you do have to have pretty fast componets to do this...

    make sure your Operating system is on the faster disk like a Western Digital raptor or something.

    i got a E6750 2.66 Ghz @ 3.2 Ghz
    150G WD Raptor 10,000 RPM
    400G WD Caviar 7,500 RPM
    EVGA 8800 GT super Clocked 650 Mhz @ 722Mhz
    EVGA 680i SLI
  8. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    I just love that statement. Especially on a short thread.

    Btw, about the Raptor...

    The new 1TB drives are starting to reach the performance of the Raptor (maybe even surpassing it).

    Besides, if you really wanted to spend money to improve HDD performance, SSDs would be the better way to go. Put $1000 into one of those things, and you'd have to look me in the eye to tell me you can't tell of any performance difference.

    DCBNSB TS Rookie Posts: 63

    lol rite back at you lol.... wish i could afford a SSD isent OCZ the only vendor?
  10. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TS Evangelist Posts: 4,345   +11

    No. I've got three of these in my PC, in RAID-0. I have Vista installed in it, and speed is like this:


    So yes, I definitely agree with previous posters that HDD performance is a factor - but of course it all depends on what kind of performance we're talking about. dark green asked which one is "the real limiter", but didn't specify in what (media encoding, 3D games, file copying, ...).
  11. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    Actually, there are many SSD vendors out there.

    The very unfortunate thing is that only the most expensive SSDs will perform better than a conventional HDD. Mtrax (I think) would be the only vendor that comes to mind.

    Of course, we've got the Gigabyte iRAM, which IMO is in a class of its own. It is an SSD alright, however, the type of SSD used is different. The SSDs which are being marketed as laptop storage media are made from flash memory, whereas the Gigabyte iRAM's storage is based on Dynamic memory (DRAM, surprised?). Also, Gigabyte's iRAM isn't the only product in its class, a short google would show you that there are a few others (there's one with a pretty cheesy name, but I can't remember the name).

    Again, like Mictlantecuhtli said, it depends on what kind of performance we're talking about. However, if you're gonna ask the slowest component in the computer, the HDD would be it, crawling at a burst read speed of about 120mb/s (hmmm... do we want to count in FDDs, or other accessories like USB sticks? :D)
  12. Savage1701

    Savage1701 TS Enthusiast Posts: 153

    Regarding CMH's comments about the i-RAM - I've got a bunch of these. I use them with a UPS on old Motherboards that work as glorified PCI power supplies feeding my main systems. The main systems use them for pagefiles, video editing, IE and FF caches, etc. They are spooky fast for this sort of thing. Instant cursor response, faster load times, faster program response times, etc. I have raided them successfully. I have loaded XP Pro onto them for fun and enjoyed the 5-7 second boot times. To me these drives are the way to go rather than chasing processors, and all the upgrades they can entail, etc. For instance, I have an old D850 system that is about as snappy as my newest E8400 based system, especially for day to day things, to to i-RAM's being used for pagefiles, caches, etc. I would also look at SuperSpeed's RAM cache utility. Take your system up to 4 GIGS of RAM and allocate about 256MB each to your main and secondary drive and you will be impressed. I am suspicious of flash-based SSD's. And it's sad, because RAM is cheap enough to make a decent-slzed system drive. Just an FWIW.
  13. dark green

    dark green TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Somehow I thought nobody was replying to this, I didn't get the email notifications I expected. I guess I probably missed the one notice in my spam box....


    Sorry I wasn't more specific, I was really hoping to build a list of tools people could use and rules of thumb like comparisons between HDD data rate and memory or CPU to know when one might be more important than the other.

    I run windows XP
    Intel Core 2 6600 @2.4GHz
    2 GB RAM (DDR2, PC6400, Dual OCZ, 800MHZ)
    Main board Asus P5W DH DLX (so I could overclock that memory if I wanted)
    SATA 7200RPM drives with 16 & 32MB buffers
    2 ATI - based graphic cards
    3 monitors

    Usage is almost entirely for office productivity applications

    This is a home business system so I have a budget, so if water cooling and overclocking would do the trick I could do that, ditto SSD (although I hate to buy while the prices are still dropping so fast and people mentioned how only a few of them actually run sufficiently fast).

    My problem is that I just don't know what will actually help significantly. I also want to aim for upward mobility so I can use whatever improvements in my next system as well (a good water cooler should work for multiple hardware cycles after all).
  14. _FAKE_

    _FAKE_ TS Rookie Posts: 116

    I said that its "usually" not the limiting factor I didn't say its "not" the limiting factor. I got a 150Gb Raptor myself and I also got a WD640 which is almost twice as fast but its seek time is worse. I have my windows and game son the Raptor and everything else (programs, downloads, movies, music etc etc) all on the WD640 and I've played around with a few different HDDs and I can honestly tell you that the loading between the Raptor and WD640 is mute, you can't really notice the difference. The only thing I can see the Raptor having over the WD640 is seek times so when I open up a program it opens faster but loads at the same speed.

    But I really can't wait till September for my next PC build. My new specs will be.
    * C2D E8400 3.0GHz @ 4GHz
    * ATI HD4870X2
    * 4GB Corsair Dominators DDR2 1066 (with Dominator Airflow Fan)
    * Gigabyte GA-X48-DS4
    * Thermalright Ultra Extreme (with two Noctua fans in push-pull configuration)
    * CM690 (with dremel mods)
    * 150GB Raptor (already have it)(For boot drive and games drive)
    * WD 640GB (already have it)(for everything else)

    Its going to run rings around my current gaming rig.
  15. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Posts: 341   +13

    "Take your system up to 4 GIGS of RAM and allocate about 256MB each to your main and secondary drive and you will be impressed"

    Savage90125: can you post a link or info on how to do this? thx.
  16. dark green

    dark green TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I second that. Please more info on what you're talking about.
  17. DCBNSB

    DCBNSB TS Rookie Posts: 63

    well the raptor is only 1.5 g/s transfer via SATA, your WD 640 is probably at 3. That could bring there loading times similar.

    Nice Spec.s BTW
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