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I'm thinking that it's about time I upgraded my PC a bit. The power, housing, storage are all doing well, so I don't want to have to go through the expense and hassle of migrating to a  completely new rig. Plus I can't be bothered with Windows * - especially when MS are squirming over its lack of success.

 

Ignoring budget for the moment, what information do I need to gather in order to intelligently assess the scope for an upgrade? I am assuming it will have something do with the motherboard and slots...

 


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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It can be a bit puzzling to assemble a new system, especially if your knowledge is a bit old.. mine is getting there.

 

Just the basics.. (Welcome to socket hell..) Obviously the CPU should match the cpu-socket of the motherboard and the memory modules those of the ram sockets. In some cases you would do well to check if a certain new brand of memory is officially supported by the motherboard. Any thoughts or preferences about whether it should be intel or AMD?

 

The layout of the board should also be a matter of concern if you intend to avoid the clutter of cables, need to install custom cooling, improving cooling and airflow. The layout is of slots are also important if you've got a soundcard and a 2-3 slot gfx. Would be really annoying if the gfx overlapped the only PCI slot on the board and so on.  

 

Some modular PSU's got long cables which offers more freedom in relation to a tidy cabling.. If yours is a it short in that regard you'd have to consider that too.

 

How many components are you thinking about upgrading and have you given some thought to custom cooling?

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OK, so my checklist for info in order is:

 

- CPU motherboard socket details

- Memory module RAM socket details

- I've always used Intel and I'm enough of a dumbass not to want to jump ship

 

- The layout of the sockets for additional things like soundcard and gfx. Are there 'stock' layouts I could be alert for?

 

~~

 

I've been planning to upgrade the CPU and maybe the GFX. Budget ideally ca. £300. My rig is nearly three years old, so I'm guessing I can do better without breaking the bank.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I don't think you have to worry about your ram unless you plan to upgrade it too.


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I don't think you have to worry about your ram unless you plan to upgrade it too.

 

Understood.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Yeah. I think I'm in the same boat. My current rig is pretty much 6 years old. I mean, it was state of the bleeding art when I got it (and yeah, expensive as get out), so it's still keeping up. Quad core 2.4Ghz, etc... But principle systems are getting a little worn, so if I get some decent money in I really should think about a complete overhaul..


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janmandens response is more if you're upgrading the entire system I think.

 

If you're only upgrading the CPU, then checking what motherboard you currently have (and what CPU) is a good place to start.

 

but the first question I'd ask is why do you feel the need to upgrade? As in what is it you feel should run better?

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Ram, mobo and processor go together, in the sense that it's very rarely worth upgrading within the same generation of those. The rest may be salvagable depending on your power plant. I'm thinking of getting an i7 when the new line of intel processors come out. This is a good stop to try out different combinations, it will alert you if you are making any obvious mistakes that might turn out costly.

 

https://uk.pcpartpicker.com/parts/case/


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I was assuming that you'd upgrade motherboard as well as CPU, because there are so many new CPU's and intel love to make new sockets.. Besides a lot of things get dusty, old and cranky with age.. But considering your budget it might get a bit too tight to do all three things; cpu, motherboard and a new gfx unless your needs are small.

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If you're going the Intel route, then it's very difficult to upgrade the CPU without having to change motherboard too. Intel seems to change socket with every new generation of CPU's. Highly annoying.

 

AMD is a bit better in this regard as you can usually upgrade two or three generations of CPU's on the same motherboard. Unfortunately, they're being demolished by Intel in the performance races at the moment, but as budget alternatives they're very viable.

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Three years ago we already had Core iX CPUs out for a while, so unless you bought a particularly outdated machine back then, I see little reason to upgrade. So the first question is, what do you have? If it's a Nehalem or later, i.e. not a Core2Duo or Core2Quad, then keep it and just buy a video card and/or SSD. The gains in CPU in absolute performance since 2009 are utterly marginal, <50%, let alone gaming performance which would be a fraction of that.

 

I would also check if your current version of Windows is an OEM copy - those are linked to your motherboard once activated, so upgrading your CPU (and therefore motherboard) may require the purchase of a new copy of Windows.

 

 

EDIT: Just to illustrate how little the CPU matters, Anandtech has recently, somewhat controversially, recommended a cheap AMD APU as the best buy for gaming with a single GPU. Most games are so bottlenecked by graphics such that a $100 budget processor does not meaningfully hinder the experience.

 

Now consider that a Trinity A8 is probably not any faster than what you have, and if you were to get a meaningful upgrade to your CPU, you wouldn't be able to fit a new GPU into the budget.

Edited by Humanoid

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Personally, I would wait for the new generation of Intel processors to come out. Even if you don't want to buy the latest generation, it is sure to cause a pricedrop. As others here have said, if you are interested in gaming, your most pressing upgrade is the GPU. Considering that your current computer is three years old, you can pretty much forget about reusing your RAM. Also, be sure to check the quality of your power supply. You can buy expensive computer parts for everything else but if your PSU is a heap of junk you risk it all going up in smoke one unlucky day.

Edited by JadedWolf

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The biggest difference between older i7 CPU's are actually power draw. My Bloomfield i7 is rated at 130W! Although I still run it on the stock cooler and overclocked from 2.66GHz to 3.2GHz without any problems so I'm guessing those numbers may be slightly inflated.

 

The newest i7 (Ivy Bridge? Don't remember all the bridges..) is faster and is rated at 77W. Quite an improvement in efficiency.


Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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Yes, Ivy Bridge is Intel's current, Haswell is the upcoming generation: 

http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/63710-haswell-countdown/

 

Power efficiency is likely to increase further, CPU performance not so much if at all (not counting the integrated graphics, which is in some models taking a big step towards AMD).


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Personally, I would wait for the new generation of Intel processors to come out. Even if you don't want to buy the latest generation, it is sure to cause a pricedrop. As others here have said, if you are interested in gaming, your most pressing upgrade is the GPU. Considering that your current computer is three years old, you can pretty much forget about reusing your RAM. Also, be sure to check the quality of your power supply. You can buy expensive computer parts for everything else but if your PSU is a heap of junk you risk it all going up in smoke one unlucky day.

Intel don't typically drop prices of their previous gen, and although retailers might do so of their own initiative, it's probably a bonus rather than something to expect to happen. They just tend to quietly phase them out without fanfare.

 

And the RAM should be fine really - technically Intel has lowered the maximum supported voltage for DDR3 on their platforms (since Sandy I believe) to 1.575V (1.5V standard with 5% tolerance), true, but even the 1.65V requirement commonly seen in 'performance' RAM back in the day ought to easily run at the standard 1.5V, perhaps with frequency/timings set to the default rather than the XMP profile. Low voltage DDR is hardly a new thing, my 3.5 year old Lynnfield system was built with 1.35V DDR3.

 

It's a shame that memory prices have spiked lately, since the start of the year. It also seems that Samsung have stopped production of their 1.25V "magic" RAM, which was not only a bargain, but outperformed just about all of the stupid blinged-up "enthusiast" RAM around these days. (I particularly loathe the trend of massively tall heatspreaders)

Edited by Humanoid

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(I particularly loathe the trend of massively tall heatspreaders)

Since I use the Bloomfield i7, I have three memory lanes to fill. That's 6 slots of memory modules..

 

My computer looks like a ****ing porcupine on the inside.


Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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OK, so, my current spec is (partial info I know):

 

Intel Core i7 920@ 2.67 ghz

 

Installed RAM is 6 gig.

 

64 bit OS Windows 7 pro.

 

Nvidia GTX 470


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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You're still good, just OC your cpu and upgrade your video card



 

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I have an:

 

Intel Core 2 Duo E6300

Radeon HD 3800 (half dead, prone to overheating)

Intel motherboard EG965WH or something

2 Gigs Ram

 

Can I do anything to upgrade this or do I have to buy a new one from scratch?

 

Worst part is that this PC is still good for all the multiplatform and console ports we get, but newer PC based games won't run well on it.

Edited by Drowsy Emperor

И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска, 
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
Све је свето и честито било
И миломе Богу приступачно.

 

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Difficult to advice an upgrade path without switching out everything. It's just not worth spending any serious cash on upgrading old equipment.

 

But.. for speculation (if you have access to some second hand market with extremely low prices):

 

CPU: Intel QX 9770 (3.2 GHz, 12M L2 Cache, 1600MHz FSB, LGA775)

RAM: Corsair TWIN2X PC6400C5DHX DDR2 2GB x 4 (2GB XMS2-6400 dimm's, CL5-5-5-18, 800MHz, DHX)

GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD 7850 1GB GDDR5 (in Sweden it includes BioShock: Infinite, Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon for less than $200)

 

Because you were so vague about which motherboard you have (the most important part of a computer), this setup might not even work, as not all motherboards supported the extreme editions (or even quad versions) of CPU's. But this is the closest you would get to a modern system without replacing everything. It would actually run everything on the market without a hitch at 1920x1080. Especially the 7850 is exceptional performance for the money.

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Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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OK, so, my current spec is (partial info I know):

 

Intel Core i7 920@ 2.67 ghz

 

Installed RAM is 6 gig.

 

64 bit OS Windows 7 pro.

 

Nvidia GTX 470

 

You're set. Just upgrade your GPU to a GTX 660 or above (or Radeon 7950 or above).


Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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Btw, the biggest performance step you can take right now is to install an SSD, if you're booting from a standard hard drive. It really makes a huge difference in how your computer feels.


Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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The net is flooded with reports of SSD unreliablity + they cost an arm and a leg per gig.

 

Is it really worth it, considering that even average hardware outstrips the demands of most games now?


И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска, 
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
Све је свето и честито било
И миломе Богу приступачно.

 

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While an SSD is technically a storage device, in terms of impact it's actually better to consider it a performance device. For desktops, their capacity is mostly immaterial, since you'll almost always be running a traditional spindle drive alongside - so psychologically it's more "I've bought this thing, and now my OS and applications respond instantly". I maintain it's the single largest performance upgrade anyone can make to their machine.

 

Unless you happen to pick a model that's known to be unreliable (*cough* OCZ), then I believe that statistics actually show SSDs to have both greater reliability and greater average lifespan than a typical spindle drive.

 


 

As for the rest of system advice, mk's covered it all really.

 

Wals, buy a new video card if you feel the need for a performance boost, though a 470 is still plenty unless gaming at more than 1080p. I'd move the target up to a 670 or 7950 though, not confident that any less is a sufficiently large upgrade.

 

Drowsy, any individual component upgrade you buy you'll only get a fraction of its actual potential out of, due to bottlenecking - however if your video card is truly dying then buying one now and transferring it to a new board+cpu in the future is a plenty viable and forward-looking move: just don't expect much actual immediate improvement until the project is complete (besides the stability of not having overheating parts). Seconding the 7850 suggestion here.

Edited by Humanoid
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Alternate suggestion however: The HD38x0 is slightly slower than AMD's current best integrated graphics. You could buy a basic FM2 motherboard and a Trinity (or Richland when it comes one next month) APU for about $200 all up. That'd be a passable (and stable!) all-round upgrade, then when you can, buy a video card down the line and you'd have a competitive system that'd play anything. The more I think of it, the more I like this idea. Recommended APU model is A10-5700, or A10-6700 next month.

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