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Upgrading an "old" gaming PC - where to start, and where to finish?

By patrowles
Aug 12, 2006
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  1. I use a PC which was fairly state-of-the-art when my wife bought it three years ago. However, I notice that some of the newer games I play (e.g. HL2 and its add-ons, FarCry, F.E.A.R.) are running less smoothly than I would like, even at reduced levels of graphics and performance.

    I am wondering just how much I am missing out on; for instance, how good does HL2's High Dynamic Range look? How much better is the rendering of the water in FarCry with a new top-of-the-line graphics card? I'd like to improve my PC's gaming performance, without spending a fortune and without outstripping my own technical and practical abilities.

    They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and the first thing I did after some research was buy a new graphics card. Problem was, it was a PCI-E card, and my ASUS motherboard only has PCI slots.

    After a little more research (and a refund on the card - thanks, Novatech!), I found that my board has an unused AGP4 slot, but that this wouldn't allow a modern AGP8 card to perform at full capacity. Then I started to think about upgrading my MB to allow a GPU upgrade, but the more I read about it the more I began to wonder whether I would also need to upgrade the PSU, other hardware, add more memory, and even buy a new case, and the more my brain began to hurt.

    So, to cut to the chase, would someone who's been through this, or otherwise knows their stuff, be kind enough to spare a few minutes to look at my current hardware set-up and say, "You need to upgrade component A, B and C; I recommend you get an X, a Y and a Z"?
     
  2. AMDIsTheBest010

    AMDIsTheBest010 TS Rookie Posts: 546

    dont upgrade your mobo unless you've planned on buying another copy of Windows since you OEM version is locked to it. You can buy PCI graphics card. They wont have the speed of PCIx16-the newer cards, but it will still give you much better grafix, i know that both ATI and Nvidia both make regular old PCI slots cards. Plus add some more RAM, preferably 1GB or more. What type of CPU does it have?

    Upgrades:

    A: RAM

    B: Graphics Card

    C: CPU (maybe depends on your current one)

    Components:

    X: Corsair 1GB or more to run more intense games (make you you buy right size and speed)

    Y: PCI slot graphics card, either from ATI or Nvidia at least 128MB dedicated video RAM

    Z: Depends on whether you currently have an Intel or AMD based CPU. If you have an Intel then a P4 with HyperThreading, preferably a Pentium D, AMD then at least and Athlon64 3800+ preferably an Athlon64 X2.

    If all this sounbds like too much, then just buy a new PC. On gatways webste, they have a Pentium D based system with 1GB RAM, Nvidia GE6600 series GPU, and a 19" LCD all for $799.99 EXCLUDING Shipping and Tax.

    ...AMD
     
  3. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,573   +9

    I would suggest any computer without PCIe graphics to be relegated to "un-upgradable" if its to be used as a gaming machine. These days the amount of graphics work required for gaming is way too high for any PCI or AGP slot cards (with the exception of the 7800GS, which is not worth the money.)

    Of course, you can upgrade your RAM so that gaming will be a little smoother (assuming you've got less than 1Gb).

    If you're thinking of getting a new comp, I think you should seriously look into a Core 2 Duo processor. I have a hunch not too soon in the future, especially with the launch of DX10, there may be an increased dependence on CPU for gaming. Just a hunch.

    Either way, I'd recommend to wait till DX10 graphic cards to be released first, even if its just to see the prices of current flagship products plummet :D
     
  4. patrowles

    patrowles TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the replies, folks - not quite what I was hoping for, but I appreciate your input.

    AMDIsTheBest010 - I have a Windows XP disc to reinstall from, so this would not be problem when upgrading the mobo. What I was hoping was that some kind person might look at my current set-up (please see my User Profile - I already have 1GB of RAM and an Nvidia 128MB graphics card!) and recommend actual hardware based on what I'm trying to achieve. I don't see the point of buying a new PC when that would include a monitor (and possibly other peripherals) which I don't see the need to replace.

    CMH - I take your point about waiting for the the launch of DX10 cards, but "un-upgradeable"? What about upgrading my mobo to one with PCIe/AGP8 slots? Wouldn't that give it new lease of life, perhaps along with a new PSU and newer RAM? That is the kind of help I'm looking for - recommendations, as there seems to be so much hardware out there to choose from.
     
  5. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,573   +9

    Lol, getting a new mobo with a new PSU and newer RAM.... thats a brand new PC you've got there :D

    What you'll be reusing would be the casing, the HDD, the optical drives.... Which are relatively cheap items compared to the mobo, RAM and Graphics card.

    Besides, I'm assuming you're running a P4, and that would probably mean you're using a 478pin processor. Which means that if there is a board out there for this processor with a PCIe, its pretty hard to find. I have a 478, and I have been looking.....



    If you really have no use for a second PC and would really want to re-use as many parts as possible, go for an AMD 939. That will allow you to at least reuse the RAM, whereas the others, you'd need new RAM. AMD939 prices are just been slashed dramatically too, so you'd be picking up bargains.
     
  6. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 7,286   +24

    Otherwise, a P4 3.06 HT processor wouldn't be too bad. It would give u a lot of performance gain as compared to ur old 2.4GHz processor and save u from spending unnecessary cash. Plus, since u have an AGP x4 slot on ur mobo u have a wide choice of upgrades open from NVIDIA and ATI. Just depends on how much ur willing to spend and which company u wanna go for. As for most modern AGP cards, they usually say x4\x8 on the box which means they run at both speeds. There really isn't much difference while running at AGP x4 or x8, so I don't think it will degrade the performance of the card very noticeably.
     
  7. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,573   +9

    Most AGP graphic card models are more expensive than their PCIe counterparts. And we're talking a significant percentage.

    I have overclocked my 2.4, 3.0 offers a nice boost, but it is still severely limited by the graphics card. I briefly had an X800XT, and while that was quite a good performer, I wouldn't imagine running Oblivion on that. It even struggled through X3, where it lagged on some maps.


    I realise there has not been any talk on your budget. If you're talking about spending a USD100, new RAM (assuming you've got less than 1gb) will help. For USD200, the best upgrade might be a new graphics card. You might be able to get one of the X800XTs mentioned for that. You can go for the GF6600GT or 6800XT for alot less. If you've got more to spend, the 7800GS is the best AGP card out there now.

    You can add a few more dollars and add a 3.0ghz CPU, but if you're gonna get new RAM, new graphics and new CPU, you might as well go all the way and get a new comp. Like mentioned, depends on your budget.
     
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