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Old 12-26-10, 12:48 PM   #1
WilliamK1974
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Improving the computer I already have

Hey everyone,

Hope y'all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season overall. We had our first White Christmas in several years, but that's a whole 'nother story...

Back around 2004, I bought a desktop computer from a local computer builder that uses a Socket A motherboard and an AMD Athlon XP chip. The graphics card is by NVidea (sp?), but I can't remember all of the details for it.

The original motherboard died awhile back, and I've replaced it with an AOpen AK-77-400N, which is another Socket A board. Looks like this case requires that type of board.I've installed 2GBs of RAM. The board might hold a maximum of 3GB. I'm also running a 200GB hard drive.

Now, how can I update this computer as much as possible? Which CPU, graphics card, etc? I know the easy route would be to buy something newer, but I'm not feeling the need to junk this system just cause it's a little older.

Right now, it's running XUbuntu, and unless there's something else out there that's night and day better, I intend to keep it that way. I don't make huge demands on the system, but right now it seems a little slow. I am open to replacing the motherboard and not closed about the notion of overclocking it a bit.

Any assistance would be appreciated. If you need more information, I'll try to find it. I used to know more about this stuff and am feeling a little rusty.

Thank you,
-Bill
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Old 12-26-10, 01:00 PM   #2
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Your motherboard's bus speed is your bottleneck. It's only 333Mhz.

Get a computer with a Core 2 Duo that has a bus speed of at least 800Mhz and you will see a big difference in speed. Get at least 2 gigs of ram and a 7200rpm harddrive. I recommend using a dedicated graphics card instead of the integrated graphics card(if the motherboard has it).

I have seen a Gateway with Core 2 Duo 1.8, with 500gig harddrive, 2gigs of ram go for about $125 on ebay.

Don't spend any more money on your old machine. Just get a used computer with a Core 2 Duo and you should be good. That's what I am using. I don't do anything intensive either, but it doesn't feel slow at all.

If you want to "futureproof" your computer "investment", get a computer with an i5 or i7 chip, but it will cost you and if you are only doing web browsing and word processing, not worth it, stick with the Core 2 Duo, it is at a sweet spot in terms of price/performance now.

Since you are using Linux as your operating system, I'd recommend asking this question in a Linux forum. Drivers for hardware isn't as universally available as Windose so it's really important to get a computer with hardware that is Linux compatible.

Last edited by 531phile; 12-26-10 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 12-26-10, 02:22 PM   #3
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Upgrading your video card would probably not help unless you're doing 3D-accelerated gaming. For desktop work, a "vanilla" 2004-era card like an nVidia GeForce2MX-ish card would be quite adequate.

2GB of RAM isn't bad. I doubt you're up against the wall on RAM. The motherboard *is* using a VIA chipset, and I've never been pleased with VIA's chipsets from that era, for any CPU.

The CPU might be worth pursuing. What model of AthlonXP is it? While you're checking, also check the memory modules to see what bus speeds they can handle (post the details from their labels, or a macro photo, if you're not sure). If your rig is using a slower AthlonXP and running it on a slower bus speed, then a Barton-core AthlonXP 2500+ might be a good upgrade.

I recently cobbled together an AthlonXP 2500+ on an nForce2-based motherboard to give away as a Christmas present, and one of the most important parts was none of the above... it was the hard drive. Like your AOpen motherboard, this one didn't have any Serial ATA ports for modern-era hard drives. But I had something else up my sleeve: a leftover Maxtor Atlas 15K II, which is a 15000rpm Ultra320 SCSI server drive. That, plus an LSI Logic SCSI card and a cable & terminator, really lit a fire under Ye Olde AthlonXPe. Seek times are about 1/3 that of even a modern ATA drive, other than solid-state models of course. Throughput is very high too, with low "overhead" on the rest of the system. If you want to switch to SCSI, I could try to help you track down some hardware.


In the bigger picture, I don't think I'd bother trying to upgrade any SocketA system, and particularly not one with a VIA chipset. You can get 4GB of DDR3, a modern dual-core CPU and a modern motherboard for pretty cheap, and not be painted into a corner with an obsolete platform.


Sample:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16819103688 Dual-core Athlon II @ 2.8GHz. Not the ultimate, but good value.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813157199 Asrock 880G motherboard with good onboard video. MicroATX form factor, fits ATX or MicroATX cases.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820134718 2 x 2GB Kingston DDR3 memory

and you can pick your choice of a SATA drive (preferably with a healthy amount of cache memory) or a SSD, depending on your capacity requirements. edit: and I forgot to mention that you'll need a modern power supply. If you're using the onboard video or a fairly mainstream add-in card, then something like this will suffice.

The AMD 880G chipset has Linux drivers available from AMD.com so no worries there (famous last words ).

Last edited by mechBgon; 12-26-10 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 12-26-10, 03:35 PM   #4
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Not sure what CPU's this motherboard will support but you could check the manual. I suspect there isn't a significant improvement you can make without changing motherboards.

Now if you decide to change motherboards you would have to buy a motherboard, cpu, and ram. Now you're talking about something like $200 for a motherboard, ram, and AMD Athlon II X3 445 CPU. You might find a good motherboard with onboard video, or if you are doing a lot of gaming then you need a good gaming car. If your computer is that old then you should upgrade the hard drive too. Just replacing motherboard, your original power supply might be good, but if you go with a high powered graphics card then your power supply might not have enough capacity. Now all you have left of your previous computer is the case and optical drive, so you are better off to buy the parts and build an all new computer, then keep the old one for a spare or give it to a family member.

Here is a link to an article outlining the parts for a good budget gaming computer:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...i-x3,2811.html
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Old 12-26-10, 03:44 PM   #5
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Really the biggest problem is that your going to be stuck on an IDE Hard drive setup and not rally find much of anything for that. You will spend LESS money buying an inexpensive newer computer (400 dollar range) than a Hard drive, memory and graphics card.. This is what I do for a living.
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Old 12-26-10, 04:20 PM   #6
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Don't plug any money into an old computer. Save up for a new computer. It'll cost you less money and frustration in the long run.
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Old 12-26-10, 04:35 PM   #7
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While I have built every personal computer since my 286 machine, scavenging some parts, like drives, it is cheaper just to buy new.

That said, I don't know how well (or if) works with Xubuntu, but noticed both my desktop and laptop were sluggish. The upgrade was "free" as I downloaded the free version of Advanced System Care (and a competing freeware product on the laptop). Both of them cleaned out all the crap that had built up over the years and both machines running faster. Notably quicker boots and program responsiveness.
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Old 12-26-10, 06:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by X-LinkedRider View Post
Really the biggest problem is that your going to be stuck on an IDE Hard drive setup and not rally find much of anything for that. You will spend LESS money buying an inexpensive newer computer (400 dollar range) than a Hard drive, memory and graphics card.. This is what I do for a living.
Well...

7200rpm SATA hard drive with 32MB cache: $60
4GB of DDR3: $45
880G-based motherboard with onboard Radeon HD4250 video and DVI output: $60
Power supply for above: $30

Throw in that $57 Athlon II dual-core, or even a $99 quad-core, and it's still well shy of $400, and has some expandability, e.g. any high-end video card and requisite power supply. If the OP wants other features, such as onboard Firewire, an HDMI output, or an additional pair of memory slots, there's plenty of other boards with 785G and 880G in various configurations for under $70. I have three myself, all 785G, and they're mechBgon-approved System #4 is the gamer, typical mid-range E8400/GTX460 setup.
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Old 12-27-10, 12:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 531phile View Post
Since you are using Linux as your operating system, I'd recommend asking this question in a Linux forum. Drivers for hardware isn't as universally available as Windose so it's really important to get a computer with hardware that is Linux compatible.
Ubuntu Forums is where you want to be. Excellent source of information.
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Old 12-27-10, 01:10 PM   #10
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Don't plug any money into an old computer. Save up for a new computer. It'll cost you less money and frustration in the long run.
+1
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Old 12-27-10, 01:38 PM   #11
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