Souping up the rig - what would be better, CPU or..?



Hello :slight_smile:

As you can see behind my signature link, my rig is fairly new and somewhat up-to-date. But i would like to make it a little faster now, to have additional capabilities (been working an awful lot on virtual machines recently and can never get enough “horsepower”).

Now my budget is somewhat limited, and i have a few possibilities, i would like to ask the hardware-gurus here what would be the bettrer strategy?

  1. My CPU now is a Sempron 2800, the fastest i can get here (Bangkok) for my socket 754 board is a Sempron 3300.

  2. My mainboard has 3 DDR-1 slots, currently filled with 3 512-MB modules. It can hold max 3x 1-GB modules, and those are available.

  3. I can ad max 4x more hard drives, using the S-ATA connectors which are, as of yet, unused.

  4. My graphics card has 128 MB of RAM. I could put in an identical one (ATI x300) with 256 MB.

My goal is to have more hard drive space and generally better performance of the entire system. I will in any circumstances replace the current 40 Gb drive with the other 120 GB and get a 250 GB which will then be used externally as a new backup drive. Therefor i am in fact doubling each partition from 30 to 60 GB, but i’ll lose that drive which i am now using for torrenting. So here’s a few scenarios apart from that, for which i’d need some advise on what would be better?

  1. adding a 40 GB S-ATA drive, use it for page file and torrenting. Also maxing out the RAM to 3 GB, and swapping the graphics card for the 256 MB one.

  2. Adding such S-ATA drive as above, but keeping RAM and graphic, replacing the CPU with the 3300 one.

  3. Adding S-ATA drive as above, replacing CPU and graphics card, keeping RAM at 1.5 GB?

I can not afford, financially, to buy two hard drives, a CPU, a graphics card AND the RAM, otherwise i’d do it all. Also the cooler for the CPU is a b!tch to mount, so if anyhow possible i would like to avoid having to touch that thing at all.

Personally i’d favour scenario 1, because i could have done it in about half an hour and don’t risk damaging something. But how would the performance be?

Please, someone advise me…

(oh, and changing the mainboard is NOT an option - i don’t want to have to go thru yet another Windows-reinstall due to chipset driver issues! Even tough i could then use even faster CPU’s and DDR-2 RAM, i won’t change this mainboard again unless it dies on me).

With kind regards…

your Thanh


Buy more hard drives. Ram will do nothing for you unless you are a big fan of editing photos and movies where large amounts of ram are needed. For Windows XP I find 1-1.5GB of ram the sweet spot. Your CPU and Videocard will do nothing for you unless you use CPU intensive programs or play a lot of videogames. My suggestion, go with the hard drives. Of course a socket 754 AMD64 processor wouldn’t be a bad idea either, from my own experience when I swapped over from Socket A I got about a 30-40% speed increase. Applications run much smoother and faster.


Hello :slight_smile:

Thanks for the reply. I am not on WEindows XP, but on Vista Ultimate, with all the bells and whistles turned on :slight_smile: Plus i do indeed an awful lot of video- and image editing, which is why i was thinkiung about the RAM in first place - i need to do lots of the video stuff under Windows XP, which runs in a virtual machine under Vista, thereby doubling it’s need for RAM. About gaming, i have only one game which i play regular and it benefits from a speedy graphic, but what i have now is sufficient - the game is “Need ForSpeed - Underground”. But i read that Vista would run better in general when a 256 MB graphics card is used…

About the CPU, as far as i know mine Sempron here is actually a 64-Bit version - how to find out? When i mentioned “AMD 64” i meaned “Athlon 64-Bit” :slight_smile: But those are not available here anymore, and i can’t order online for lack of credit card. However todfay i read that precisely mine Sempron, the 2800 socket 754 version, seems to be a terrific overclocker - aparently people have it running at 2.4 GHz (equaling a 3600+) instead of the stock 1.6, using the supplied in-box cooler! So maybe i’ll just overclock mine a bit (2 GHz/3200+ should be enough), throw in the extra RAM and graphic and see how it goes (and that hard drive of course).

Kind regards…

your Thanh


One thing that will give you a noticable improvement, is to put your Operating System on one of the 10000 rpm drives. Faster spin, faster response. Keep software on one hd, and files on another. Reduces paging and swapping, and the read/write head doesn’t have to go from one end of the disk to the other all the time. If possible, a mild overclock of the FSB only, will give positive results. Just use caution and don’t get carried away.


Well since you said you are running Vista Ultimate Edition, I would recommend more ram over hard drive space. Ram will significantly improve running your applications. I had 2GB of ram and play games on Vista Ultimate, 2GB is not enough and it gets a bit laggy in some games. The sweet spot for Vista is 4GB of ram believe it or not. The demos that Microsoft and many other OEM retailers show to during CES shows are equipped with 4GB of ram. That is why everything runs and looks so smooth, however, 2GB is optimal performance running applications pretty smooth with the exception of gaming. However 4GB is the best performance out of them all because Vista uses superfetch. 2GB is very good if you don’t plan to do much gaming.


A faster processor will definitely improve performance. I suggest getting one of these Click Here I have one and it should overclock to 2.6-2.8 ghz if you motherboard is up to the task. Mine runes at stable at 2.7 ghz.

Another thing I have noticed on the 754 socket motherboards is an apparent performance hit when using more than one stick of RAM. When I replaced two 512 mg sticks with a 1 gb stick the memory performance improved quite a bit. I think it has to do with Socket 754 processors not having dual channel memory capability. My board (Gigabyte 6100/410 NVIDIA) defaulted to a memory bus speed of 333 mhz with two sticks and 400 mhz with one stick. Maybe others here can confirm this. I have noticed this on two 754 based systems here at our house. Unfortunately, you will only be able to do so much with a 754 based motherboard because of its limitations in processor upgrades and their memory controllers. Run some memory benchmarks with one 512 mg stick and with 2 or 3 installed and see if there is a difference in performance. If you don’t have PC3200 or better RAM then you probably won’t see much of a difference.

I know you said that you don’t want to swap out your motherboard but going to a 939 socket board will do wonders and you can reuse all your existing components with the exception of the CPU. It will also let you use two of your 512 mb RAM sticks in dual channel mode and this alone will give you a noticable performance boost. I recently did an upgrade and bought one of these Click Here and an open box motherboard (Biostar TForce 6100/410) at Newegg for $25 (free shipping too!). I reused the existing DDR memory and have the processor overclocked to 3.0 ghz. It has a PR rating of well over 5000 and I spent a whopping total of $75-$80 on the entire upgrade. Throw your old parts on ebay and you’ll likely have a net total of less than $40 in the entire swap. The performance improvement doing this, over what you have now, will be substantial.

Since you are in Bangkok I don’t know how much of this is applicable to you.


Hello :slight_smile:

Thanks for all the replies. Specially to that last post i have to say that unfortunately none of it does apply to me - as i clearly stated, i do not have any credit card and therefor can not order anything online, anywhere, and eBay is no option either for people in Thailand, unfortunately, because they don’t accept any thai bank connections (already tried).

Swapping the mainboard is the greatest hassle i could go thru because i would have to reinstall Windows, and i don’t EVER want to have to do that again, once a system is running perfectly (which takes quite some time to get it there) it is like having your memory wiped out and needing to learn to walk again when you have to reinstall it from scratch. No, i won’t change the board, no-matter-what, as long as it works.

My board has 3 RAM slots which take DDR-1 modules, and the largest are 1 GB modules. Therefor at 3.0 GB is end of story, it can 't hold more. I have just installed the latest version ofSystem Diagnose which told me that my RAM runs at 200 MHz, which i think is low - isn’t it supposed to be 400? They are DDR-400 Modules, that’s for sure (or is that DDR=DOUBLE data rate, i.e. 200 MHz FSB = 400 MHz, and SystemDiagnose shows the FSB? Sorry, i’ve never had DDR memory before and it’s confusing with it’s gazillion types!) At least i know now that my CPU is indeed 64-Bit. I will just ramp it up from 1.6 to 2.0 GHz, i can’t go too high because my ambient temperature is quite hot (now close to 40 degrees Celsius during daytime) and as of yet i run max 45 degrees CPU temps when using it fully, i.e. when convertiung videos. I guess when o/ced i will hit 50, but i read that this CPU can run stable at 85, so i don’t need to worry, the Sempron seems to be a very good chip indeed.

About gaming, there is a single game on my machine, and i like that one - it’s an older one and it runs fine withj my current setup, so i don’t worry about that either - i’m not much a gamer. But if i could get those video conversions done faster, i’d apreciate that (particular when running two simultaneusly in virtual machines plus a third in Vista itself).

Kind regards…

your Thanh


If your memory is running at 200 mhz then it is operating at PC3200 speed (i.e. 400 mhz). IMO, it looks like about the only easy path to take is a processor upgrade. If you can find the one I linked to earlier it will likely overclock very well but, IMO, you will only see marginal perceived improvements in performance even if you get it running at 2.6 ghz. Another area to look at is getting memory with very aggressive timing specifications if your motherboard will let you take advantage of them. Memory performance comes from more than just its mhz rating.

You are running into the typical problems of updating obsolete technology (i.e. a Socket 754 motherboard). Every time I tried updating old technology it was never money well spent. If I had waited a few more months I could have just spend a little more and got much more performance for my money. New technology is always coming down in price. My advice is to save your money for another 4-6 months and then upgrade to an AM2 based motherboard/CPU and DDR2 RAM. By then prices will be very cheap. Heck, Newegg has the 65nm Brisbane core Athlon 64 X2 CPUs (they overclock like a champ) for $60 right now! In six months I bet you can get an AM2 motherboard, X2 CPU and one gig of DDR2 PC6400 RAM for less than $150. Overclock the CPU and this setup will blow away your current system for relatively little money. Just be patient for a little while longer.


I’ve got a 74GB Western Digital Raptor SATA-1 (10K RPM) drive. I’ve gotta tell ya, they’re nothing special. Sure, my games load up a bit faster, but it’s not worth paying more than double the $/GB for a 10K RPM HDD.


Hello again :slight_smile:

Thanks for both replies. I apreciate the input, however even if newegg would sell the chip at 5.55 us$ i would not be able to get my hands on it, unless YOU would pick one up for me and send it to me :slight_smile: I have no credit card, fullstop - and those online stores take no other payments. For me, i can get CPU’s or other parts that are on the shelves in the local stores, what’s not there, is not available for me. Apart from that, the Sempron 3300 cost here 2.050 Baht, which is 58 us$, also not too expensive. But why buy it when i get the current one to run at that same speed just by overclocking it…?

About the hard drives, amazingly here the prices for IDE and S-ATA drives are 100% identical - for example a Seagate 500 GB costs 7.500 Baht (roughly 215 us$) for both versions, S-ATA or IDE. Same goes for an 80 GB version, both S-ATA and IDE go for some 2.400 Baht (68 us$). I am looking for asmaller one as i want to really use it for only page file and torrenting (i want torrenting off my main drive to relieve it from the permanent stress, and the page file on a different physical disk also speeds up the system). I would go for another IDE one but i am out of channels, there are four on my board and another four S-ATA, which are not yet used. So i’ll take one such, if i can find a 20 or 40 GB it’s fine. Putting the OS on one such drive would be an option, but then i need to reinstall it again too, which is exactly what i want to prevent… Vista has some new bootsector stuff which doesn’t exactly make it easy to just “copy everything from one drive to another, fix the bootsector and ready”.

I think i’ve found my route - i will overclock the CPU, max out the RAM and get the graphics card and S-ATA drive and then see how it goes :slight_smile:

Kind regards to everyone, and thanks once again for the assistance :slight_smile:

Your Thanh