Help for upgrading computer - video card, hard drive, memory

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Tom_Mack, Nov 7, 2002.

  1. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    I just bought a used Compaq AMD 1.3 mhz computer for $200. The problem is that the hard drive is dead, and the video/sound is the cheap integrated kind. The video doesn't even work with windows ME. This is all an upgrade from my Dell PII 400, Creative labs TNT 16meg video, and slow hard drive.

    Now I stuck the drive from my old dell in the Compaq, and also am using the TNT 16 meg video card. I can tell that these are bottlenecks in the potential of this machine. Everything slows down a great deal when the HD is in use and I know the video can be faster. Here is what I am considering:

    1.Upgrade the video card to either a GeForce Ti 4200 or possibly an ATI Radeon 7500. Will the graphics speed be noticable in games/photoshop?

    2.Upgrade hard drive to Western Digital 7200RPM 60 Gig drive. Should there be a notiable difference from a 5400RPM drive from 4 years ago?

    3.Upgrade memory from 256megs to 512megs.

    4.Disable the integrated sound and use my old Soundblaster Live. Is there a speed difference between the Live and the Audigy? Or just features/sound quality difference?

    Any other not too expensive upgrade to help things? My main processor workout uses for the system will be games and photoshop? Most other uses won't tax the system too much.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Thomas_Jones

    Thomas_Jones Auditioning

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    The item that will make the most difference will be a new video card, especially for gaming. Check sites like www.pricewatch.com to find an inexpensive but quality card. The two you mentioned are great, and yes, either will give you the boost in performance you are looking for.
    After the video card, a new hard drive would be a good investment. Some more RAM might do you some good, but only after you've taken care of the other areas. RAM can be had at ridiculously low prices these days, so check around.
    Also, disable the onboard sound and use the Soundblaster. This will free up the processor to some extent. There isn't a speed difference between the Live and Audigy, but you might want a card that offers digital out, check other forums for ideas on this.
    A few other tweaks: Make sure DMA is enabled on your drives, check Windows virtual memory settings, download the latest drivers (especially motherboard and sound card drivers), defrag your hard drive and keep it clean, and disable any background programs that might be running that you don't need.
    Good luck. And enjoy.
    P.S. Are you sure the other hard drive is dead? Sometimes errors can be corrected by reformating the drive and then reinstalling your operating system.
     
  3. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the tips!

    The old hard drive is definately dead! I ran scandisk and norton disk doctor on it and was told after running for 6 hours each (!) that 8 of the first ten blocks were bad.... thats as far as it got! I ran the disk utility that came with the drive and after 10 seconds the results came back as "recommend: replace drive".


    I'm pretty sure that I will be getting a GeForce 4200 ti and Western Digital 80 Gig 7200rpm "Special Edition" drive. I'll be sure to use the SBlaster Live instead of the internal audio.

    Also the new computer has a network card (my old system didn't). Will the network connection be faster than a USB connection for my cable modem?

    Thanks again!
     
  4. Robert_Gaither

    Robert_Gaither Screenwriter

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    I'm gonna have to disagree with Thomas about the part of getting the video card first (though still it will make it's impact felt), the things I would consider upgrading and in order:

    1) memory: the reason is that it is a resource that your entire computer can use (especially if the MB is integrated) between the hardware, all the background software (this includes all the nasty spyware that your computer will pick up just cruising the net), and active programs you will use this will help tremendously. Upgrade if you can but double check to see if it is truly possible (my neighbor has a HP that puts a limitation of 128 mb ram per slot so don't waste money where it can't help).

    2) IDE controller: most cheap integrated computers don't use a fast IDE controller card and your transfer rate should definitely be improved with one. The rpm of a drive may help it seek information (due to lower latency) but not necessarily to transfer that information.

    3) Video Card: though this might not help as much if your computer lacks the appropriate transfer speed on the AGP slot or if your computer doesn't have the "AGP to CPU controller" setup correctly (My Computer/System Properties/Hardware Manager/Device Manager/System Devices/processor to AGP controller). Also some MB have a heck of a time of the user being able to disable the on-board drivers so beware.
     
  5. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    The nForce-based motherboards with onboard audio have better CPU usage (and IMHO better audio quality) than most Soundblaster-based soundcards. CPU usage is in the low 5-10% range with 64 3D audio voices, compared to 20% or more with the Soundblaster Live (and even Audigy cards, depending on the game).

    The Asus A7N-VM is a very nice motherboard, and pretty darn cheap ($80-90 US roughly). I think it has builtin Geforce 4 MX video, audio, and LAN.

    Anyways, I think the motherboards that have the latest CMedia chip for onboard audio have better performance than the Soundblaster Live! card, but of course not as good as the more recent soundcards out there.

    Compatibility with some games may be a problem with the CMedia audio though.
     
  6. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks again for all the tips.

    I upgraded the following:

    1. Creative TNT 16 meg video card to
    PNY GeForce Ti 4200 64 meg video

    2. 256 meg ram to 348 meg ram

    3. Old 20 gig IBM 5400rpm hard drive to
    Western Digital 80 gig 7200rpm Special edition with
    8 meg cache

    4. Disabled on-board audio and added Soundblaster Live.


    The difference is incredible! Video is very smooth and the drive is very quick! I was surprised how quiet the new hard drive is! Now if I could just quiet down the system fan.....

    Max, thanks for the info on CPU usage of the audio boards, but it came down to the on-board audio sounding bad compared to the SB Live.

    Thanks again for the help!
     
  7. MikeAlletto

    MikeAlletto Cinematographer

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  8. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    I can't wait to do the same upgrades to my computer. I want to tackle the video first (NVidia w 32MbRam to a ATI Radeon w 128Mb RAM), then the memory (256Mb to 512Mb), and then finally, maybe a new faster DVD drive.
     

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