Dell Dimension 4600 Upgrading for Photo Editing

By TedB
Dec 25, 2008
Topic Status:
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  1. A couple (or so) questions from a newbie on upgrading a "workhorse" Dell Dimension 4600 for photo editing work (vs purchasing a new desktop unit.)

    I think I've read (not all) but a good number of entires here re DD 4600 upgrading. Hopefully what follows makes sense (I need some help/advice when folks have a bit of time to spare.)

    Specs of my Dimension 4600 include: Intel Pent 4 2.6 GHZ, 1024 DDR Ram @ 400MHz, a 128 DDR Nvidia GF FX 5200 graph card, a 120 ATA Series HD @ 7200 plus a recent add-on 500GB Seagate ATA/100 7200, and 3 drives (floppy + a 16x and 4x dvd drives.)

    1, Phoning Dell a week or so back one of the tech fellows recommended adding a 1GB module of DDR SDRAM, and replacing the Nvidia card with an XTASY Radeon X1300 512M DD2 AGP card.

    2. Also..I'm planning on buying a mid-cost range larger isp panel/greater resolution (say 1900-2000) monitor (24" or 26" sized) to replace/work with my UltraSharp 1901FP monitor. Something similar to a Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP or a Samsung unit.

    3. First Q: will the 4600 upgrade pretty much work for photo editing work (no gaming/very modest video editing) or does it makes sense to start fresh with a (eg) new XPS unit or imac 24 unit? (If the latter, yes, struggle with learning os for a bit.)

    4. Second Q: should i pull the existing RAM/replace it with 3 or 4 GB of RAM; and will the Radeon X1300 card do the job (work with the 4600/eg support higher resolution monitors) or is another card a better choice?

    5. Third Q: re PSU overloading. I noted that Merc14 (back in Nov 2005) mentioned/cautioned re "be careful you don't overload your PSU." Will I come close to overloading/maxing out my power supply with the changes? Help.

    6. Fourth Q: what hardware upgrades are missing ie what am I missing to get the photo editing maximum performance..that is, that the 4600 can handle?

    When someone has the time..thanks up front for your thinking.

    Ted
    (from a snowy Hood Canal today)
  2. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 10,074   +13

    if you plan on more than $300 in upgrades, get a new system with the specs you want.
  3. TedB

    TedB Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Dimension 4600 for photo editing upgrade

    Thanks for the turnaround. I'm pretty much ok with anything under or up to a couple of hundred bucks. The 2GB ram should come in around $75. And a Radeon X1300 512 DDr2 AGP @ a little under $100.

    That said I'm not anywheres up to speed on GCs. Example (I'd like to understand better) here's a note to me from a fellow over at CNET:

    "Not long ago a high end Matrox with dual head for such work sported 8 megabytes for the video ram. So any number more than that is likely tbe be enough. What's more important is the "goodness" of the video DAC and not any 3D chipset for photo work."

    Help.

    In any case I'm planning on purchasing a solid laptop/something I can take into the field [not as dusty as what you're finding--in the mid 70s I traveled a good 60k in a Russian jeep in Afghan shmoozing DCs/clan heads re sites for WB secondary technical schools..which never got built for good and bad reasons//then again in the 80s/90s in the NWFP/NAs/AJK.]

    Something like a (new?) Dell Presision m2400 or m4400. Something to drive a good high res external monitor. My daughter (Fox News field videographer) keeps talking MBP to me..not always though.

    Again thanks for the turnaround. Take care, ted
  4. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    That is a fine machine, despite its age. It will hold 4 GB, but will only use 3.5 with WXPP.
    I would sell any PC2700 memory, and put in four modules of DDR PC3200... $31 each at Crucial, or Buffalo (which is great) for $21.99 each at Directron.com. You will see performance boost and stability. For $87.96, less what you sell your old memory, you will have noticeable improvement.
    If you upgrade the video graphics, buy a new power supply that is 400 Watts or more. Be careful to get one which has the power switch and power cable socket in the correct place, ATX 2.00 or higher, and that the dimensions for height, width, and length are the same or smaller. You do NOT need a video graphics card greater than your FSB and your AGP of 8X... so either NVidia or ATI will work... there are not too many good ones left... just do not buy too cheap or too expensive on the price scale.
    Keep your CPU fan and Case fan clean, and you should have no need for other stuff. If you have not replaced the hard drive since new, Now is the time to do that. Seagate EIDE drives have a five year warranty when purchased before the end of the year. They are switching the warranty back to 3 years after Jan 1. Anything you need over 160 GB to 750 to 1.5 TB will work well and consume about the same amount of power. If not a Seagate, then a Western Digital... but NO HITACHI, No Samsung, but Fujitsu is OK.
    Just remember that the Windows XP restore recovery disk will only work for up to 137 GB hard drives. If you call Dell, and are the registered owner for that Service Tag on the Machine... tell them you need to install a new hard drive, they will mail you the WXP Service Pack 2 and two other install discs with upgrades to the files that came with the original machine.
    For international travel, I would look for a Thinkpad T42 or T60 (not T43). They are significantly more rugged for jeep travel and bumpy roads with dust than any of the Dells... But the high end Dells and HP's are OK.
    Good luck. Let us know what you decided and how everything turned out.
  5. TedB

    TedB Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 18

    The four modules of DDR PC3200 makes sense..will do.

    Raybay help on this (the "if part") "If you upgrade the video graphics" and "You do NOT need a video graphics card greater than your FSB and your AGP of 8X... so either NVidia or ATI will work.."

    Installed when I purchased the unit (until right now) is a 128MBDDR Nvidia Getforce FX 5200 graphics card. Ie I haven't purchased the Dell tech guys suggested Radeon X1300 512M DD2 AGP card.

    Q: is the FX 5200 GC good enough as is or do I need to upgrade to the X1300 (or your best suggestion ___________?)

    I understand the power supply issue/thanks for the heads-up. ted
  6. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    I think the nVidia would be fine... Dell recommends the X1300 because it works well with the existing equipment and power supply... and if you shop carefully, you will find a good price on it as well.
    If you have some time, look up some of the old reviews for AGP 8X video graphics cards at www.tomshardware.com.
    Many of the cards reviewed offered better results with 128 than 256 or 512, but not all... and I cannot remember.
  7. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    This is probably illegal to post on this forum, but there is a price for the X1300 on one of the major sites named after an animal as follows:
    ATI Radeon X1300 256MB GDDR2 AGP 8x $39.99 Item #: A177-3102 Compare at: $59.99. At this price, it is a better choice as it has more and faster memory, and for an AGP, it has had a good record of performance and stability.
  8. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 7,281   +24

    Erm raybay, why would it be illegal to post a link to an item on TigerDirect? I link to Newegg, ZipZoomFly and others while specifying builds, so I doubt there's a rule against doing so.
  9. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 10,541   +859

    Video Card, Meh...........

    The extra memory for your Dell would be the biggest improvement.

    Unless you're going to run dual monitors, even onboard graphics are generally sufficient for Photoshop and similar applications. The redraw of the screen (FPS) isn't an issue where still photography is concerned.

    PS & PSE use the most CPU cycles when applying filters. You RAM should also be approximately 3X the largest file size you intend to edit.

    In general a machine will respond to a clean up of startup applications and extra memory with much improved performance.

    PS & PSE both alllow you to specify what percentage of RAM to dedicate to their performance. The more RAM is in the machine, the higher percentage you should allot to them. No, that's not as counterintuitive as it sounds.

    Cutting the running processes to the bone will help you dedicate as many of the CPU's clock cycles as possible to image processing. Do this through "run": "msconfig" .

    32 bit XP limits the amount of RAM available to 1 application to 2GB. Some programs, (notably "Nero") will return "out of memory" errors if more than 2GB is installed.

    Any $400.00 dual core based desktop you could built would be such an improvement it would be scary. Even based in the new E2xxx or E5xxx Pentium dual cores.
  10. TedB

    TedB Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Ok..both the B&T animals should be here by the end of the week/early next. With shipping I'm up to $150. More when they arriveI get on with the switch.

    The PSU issue hasn't been mentioned lately. My read seems to be saying that 250-300W should do/an occasional peak of 320 or so comes within the limits. What am I missing?

    Captian..on the dual monitors. I hadn't planned on that. Although with my existing 1901FP monitor I might be tempted (not really) to see what a pair might offer than one larger 24-26" hi res monitor. If I did connect both would the 4600 go for a visit to Dorthy's Place?

    Also, Capt am I understanding you +~ correctly that installing more than 2 Gb of ram (I have 4 en route) is not worth the grief--ie I should put 2GB away for a rainy day?

    Thanks to all you fellows. Really, I don't know what I would do without you.

    Later: next Q (later) has to do with either an upgrade/or jury-rigging for our Inspirion 4800 to handle a higher res monitor (ie to-be purchased 24-26" monitor. ) No serious work just viewing..if the effort is worth it.

    I still have my eye on the Precision m2500 14"/possibly one of the Lenovo T series.

    Ok..the animals..my guess..should be here by the end of the week/early next. With shipping I'm up to $150. More when they arrive/do the switch.

    The PSU issue hasn't been mentioned lately. My read seems to be saying that 250-300W should do/an occasional peak of 320 or so comes within the limits. What am I missing?

    Captain..on the dual monitors. I hadn't planned on that. Although with my existing 1901FP monitor I might be tempted (not really) to see what a pair might offer than one larger 24-26" hi res monitor. If I did connect both would the 4600 go for a visit to Dorothy's Place?

    Also, Capt am I understanding you +~ correctly that installing more than 2 Gb of ram (I have 4 en route) is not worth the grief--ie I should put 2GB away for a rainy day?

    Thanks to all you fellows. Really, I don't know what I would do without you.

    Later....next Q has to do with either an upgrade/or jury-rigging for our Inspirion 4800 to handle a higher res monitor (ie to-be purchased 24-26" monitor. ) No serious work just viewing..if the effort is worth it. It isn't a must do..not in the least.

    I still have my eye on the Precision m2500 14"/possibly one of the Lenovo T series. ted

    l
  11. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 10,541   +859

    How did you manage to copy and paste the entire post twice?

    I'm sure (reasonably) that you have a 32 bit OS in your machine, Accordingly, the entire 4GB you intend installing won't register anyway. Only about 2.75 to 3.25 will register anyway. Long story, please take my word for it, it's late.

    Vast amounts of memory aren't a cure-all. CPU speed and running processes can do a fair amount to help or hinder progress.

    As I said graphics card issue, to one degree or another doesn't really factor into photo editing. In editing, a separate video card's chief virtue is that it frees up system RAM, rather than sharing it with the onboard GPU. Installing a high end gaming card won't help much, and you'll have to replace the PSU. The rule of thumb is this, games run on the video card, photo and video editing run on the CPU. You should investigate monitor calibration tools/software such as Spyder also.

    Some photoshoppers use twin monitors to place tools pallets on one, and work on the other. Another possibility is one monitor horizontal and another vertical.This would be great to display portrait oriented photos. Something else to consider might be a monitor with a pivot base, in case the money runs out. HP 2207 and 2408 have this capability as well as a couple of lower priced Acers.

    That should keep you in a contemplative state for a while. We'll hear from you soon then?
     
  12. TedB

    TedB Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Capt..I'm not too bright. re the double message post. I pasted-in my reply/didn't double check. Don't beat me up too bad....

    The 4 GB of Buffalo ram and the ATI Radeon X1300 PRO 256MB AGP w/DVI/TV-OUT video card have arrived. Can mayabe you or someone give me a walk-though on replacing steps/watch out not to/be carefuls on replacing both...or a link to a video. Thanks in advance.
  13. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    For someone who has not done it before, it is wise to wear non-oily, non-powdered rubber or plastic gloves, but many get by just fine with plastic bags over there hands.
    Use a strong light.
    Pull back (away) the snaps on each end of each module which hold the memory tight. Then lift out the old memory, taking note of where the slot is.
    Ideally, you should use some canned air such as difluoroethan gas or Dust off to clean out and particles that have dropped into the slot. It is worth the $4 to $7 expense
    Then, making sure the snaps are still pulled away from the slot, slide the new module into position with the slot on the bottom aligned with the separation point.
    Once exactly in position, push straight down on the memory module with your thumbs, slowly, carefully, but with constant pressure. If the module is properly aligned, it will snap into place, and the two snaps with close on each end of the module.
    Be sure the snaps are fully in position. When they are, the memory is installed.
    When that first one is done, do the same with the other.
    Then turn on the computer. If they are seated properly, the computer will start. If it doesn't start, you need to remove and reinstall the memory.
  14. TedB

    TedB Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Raybay I'm assuming that I'll find 2 512 cards along side 2 empty card slots. Does it make any difference in the sequence that I install the 4 1GB Ram cards? I'm asking this before I turn this (D4600) off...hopefully I can get it runing again. ted
  15. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    Not really. It is best to install the first module in the slot closest to the processor. If you have dual channel, you install the first two identical modules into the slots that are the same color, or look at the writing on the board. On many boards, you would use slot 1 and 3, then 2 and 4.
    Read through the stuff here:
    http://support.dell.com/support/dow...temID=DIM_P4_4600&os=WW1&osl=en&catid=&impid=

    Maximum Memory: 4096MB
    Slots: 4 (2 banks of 2)
    Standard Memory: 128, 256, or 512MB removable
    Although the memory can be installed one module at a time, the best performance comes from using matched pairs of modules.If your model uses the Pentium 4 with a 800MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) you must use the PC3200 parts. If your system has the Pentium 4 with the 533MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) you can use either the PC2700 or PC3200 parts.

    How much memory your Windows OS will recognize depends on which version of Windows you are running. 32-bit versions of Windows will see (and utilize) only 3GB or 3.5GB. To utilize more memory, install a 64-bit version of your OS. More information about OS memory maximums can be found at http://www.crucial.com/kb/answer.aspx?qid=4251.

    DDR memory with support for DDR PC2700,DDR PC3200 speeds.

    Because DDR memory is backward-compatible, you can safely upgrade your system with any of the guaranteed-compatible DDR speeds listed below, even if your manual calls for PC1600 or PC2100 speeds.

    Adding the maximum amount of memory will improve performance and help extend the useful life of your system as you run increasingly demanding software applications in the future.

    Do you have to install matching pairs?
    Yes. Your system requires that you install memory in pairs.

    Does my computer support dual-channel memory? Yes.

    To benefit from the performance advantages offered by dual-channel systems, you should install memory in identical pairs. Installing a kitted pair is the best way to ensure that your modules are identical, right down to the chip count.

    I do not have the 4600 handy to give you advice. Some boards require Slot 1 and 2 be installed first, and Slot 3 and 4 filled next.
    Others require Slot 1 and 3, and 2 and 4.
    The four slots are marked in some way. You should be able to figger it out with a strong light, if they are not colored differently.
    You won't hurt anything if you don't get the slots right the first time. Just quit and re-do
  16. TedB

    TedB Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Thanks for the turnaround...Re memory and VC install ation I've found this on Ask--is it too generic or ok as is re my D4600?

    http://compreviews.about.com/od/tutorials/ss/DIYDeskMem.htm

    The XP I'm running is 32 bit.--so I'll gain advantage fro 3-3.5 of the Buffalo RAM which is ok.

    Matching pairs: I'm guessing that when I open the unit I'm going to find 4 slots (2 occupied with the 2-512 cards + 2 empty. What does the designation MP and Knitted mean? Eg (1) 2 cards along side one another or facing one another or (maybe?) (2) RAM that was manufactured ("knitted") in pairs that some how complement one another? Help.

    PS: late last night/early early this am I snipped open what I thought were the RAM and VC packages. to find a couple of my seed orders. So I have time to puzzle a bit more. Good.
  17. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    That gives you the basics... including a photo of a dual channel board... just do not expect the colors to be the same.
    You can figger out the exact memory you need by going to www.crucial.com, then select Dell, then Dimension, then 4600 for the model. Crucial memory is superb, but more expensive than the Buffalo.
  18. Nereus

    Nereus Newcomer, in training Posts: 19

    Hey Ted, so glad I happened across this thread. I have what appears to be almost the exact same PC as you - a straight Dell Dimension 4600 (although my Dell.com profile calls it a 4600i ..not sure what difference the 'i' makes, if any). 2.66GHz Pentium 4 with 533MHz FSB. Had it since new several years ago and have never had a problem with it. Been considering a new Dell XPS 630 recently, but thought I'd see what I can squeeze out of the trusty 4600 first.

    I completely format and reinstall the o/s maybe once or even twice a year to keep it running clean and uncluttered - XP pro - and recommend it - can make a world of difference having a fresh install, although it's time consuming to do.

    I added a 2nd hard drive last year as well - another WD800BB 80GB 7,200RPM, same as the one that came with the PC originally (I've installed the o/s on the new one and formatted the original drive and made it my secondary now).

    I upgraded the RAM last year to 3GB PC3200 which helped quite a lot, particularly with loading times. I use Photoshop CS on it and that runs pretty well now (set your 2nd drive as a scratch disk in PS if you haven't already), but still have some issues with the FX5200 that came with the PC and some other game software that seems to hiccup a bit with the FX5200. In fact I just ordered a Radeon X1300 512MB DDR AGP graphics card via a third party dealer through Amazon of all places ($57 factory condition but box had been opened) a couple of hours ago, and was still Googling around when I found this thread.

    PLEASE advise how it goes, and any problems incurred, particularly with the new graphics card - mine should be delivered in a few days.

    I am particularly concerned about the PSU - I have whatever came as standard with the Dell Dimension 4600, which I believe is a 250W model. Will this run ok with the Radeon X1300 512MB card, or should I replace the PSU as well? I have an Antec 350W PSU model SL350 available, and am wondering if I can drop that in, or if it would adversely effect other components.. If anyone can answer that, would be much appreciated.

    Sorry, bit of a novel there oops..
  19. MetalX

    MetalX TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,909

    As far as I know, that Antec 350W would be an excellent addition. However, you would probably be fine with the 250W stock PSU. The Radeon X1300 doesn't draw very much power.
  20. Nereus

    Nereus Newcomer, in training Posts: 19

    Thanks MetalX :) I just dropped in the new PSU and nothing burst into flames when I powered up, so that's a good sign. Bit of a bird's nest of wires in there now though - seems Antec are really big on supplying an abundance of connectors, heh. Just waiting for the graphics card now.

    I would still be interested in how swapping out the graphics card went TedB - any issues? Anything I should know? Did you need to uninstall all the old drivers first, or just plug in the new card and power up.. can't wait to use a couple of games I've been sitting on for ages.
  21. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    I suspect you will want to shop carefully for a power supply upgrade to properly drive the Radeon X1300 512MB in that Dell 4600 (there are only the 4600 and 4600C). The Antec 350W might do it, but I would want 400 watts or more in a quality power supply... I do not find the 250W power supply to be adequate.
    If you shop for another, be sure to look at the photo to assure that the power switch and cable socket are both accessible . Most power supplies do not fit the Dell 4600 because of the location of those two items.
  22. MetalX

    MetalX TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,909

    350 watts is more than enough to power that PC. Look at my system, running fine on 460 watts.
  23. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    We merely have to agree to disagree. Our clients have not had your good luck. I would not risk my system to a marginal power supply.
  24. Nereus

    Nereus Newcomer, in training Posts: 19

    ok to post links I have to make 5 or more posts, so this is #3. ignore pls.
  25. Nereus

    Nereus Newcomer, in training Posts: 19

    ignore again pls - to post links I have to make 5 or more posts, so this is #4..
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