Techies, help me out: Need to upgrade PC system

After working on this last school assignment a serious performance flaw in my current PC was discovered: my box is S L O W :imp:

The problem orginated when trying to open and manipulate a very large SolidWorks file we recieved as reference material for a design project. This WAS an exceptional case: the assembly file was 1,500+ components and 24 MB. Our work to date has not been anywhere close to that size and complexity… but who knows what I will encounter in the future.

Secondly, when attempting to use Photoshop with very large and high-resolution layouts, well, it was very slow to do anything.

Current specs are: P3 1000 (256 cache, 133 mhz FSB), 700MB RAM (PC333 DDR [256] and PC400 DDR [512]), 40GB drive, and on-board graphics (couldn’t get my old 32mb card to work), four PCI slots.

To solve both problems I transfered the software and an extra 512 MB of ram to my mom’s computer: P4 2.66, 256(+512), onboard graphics, don’t have the rest of the specs with me. This machine could easily open and manipulate the large assembly file without breaking a silicon sweat. Photoshop performance was acceptable given the file size… but I wished it was faster. The project was finished and looked good, it just took an extra three hours swaping files and programs and crap :imp: :imp:

SO: what I am looking into now is upgrading my PC with a new mobo and processor. I’ll swap over the RAM, HD, CD, etc etc etc, and upgrade those items, if required, later on.

Also, video card. There’s so much out there I’m not sure where to look. This might be a future purchase depending on prices and where the market is going. Apparently AGP is dead and PCI-E rules? lol :unamused:

Budget: yes, money will be tight. I don’t want to sacrifice performance or “upgradability” for the sake of saving $50, but I’m not looking for the latest and greatest. Plus no matter how little I spend on this my parents will bitch and complain.

What I’m doing with it: currently I’m using SolidWorks, Illustrator and Photoshop, plus other stuff that doesn’t strain the system. I’m not sure what other software I will encounter before school is done. The plan is to build something that will last me another 2 years (until grad) and still be able to keep pace, until I can spend some First Job money on another retrofit program.

Any help is appreciated! I’m not affraid of the technical jargon, I’d rather expand on what I know and learn how to tweak things to get the most performance. I’m willing to try overclocking, etc. I’ll most likely be doing this over the summer, which, for me, starts in two months :sunglasses:

Oh, I’ll eventually design and make my own case. Don’t hold your breath.


I’d suggest getting an AMD Athlon64 although there isn’t much software that uses 64-bit extensions when it does become available you should see a performance increase without having to upgrade your hardware (though you’d have to upgrade your software) I’d also recommend getting a seperate video card rather than using onboard video since they tend to have much better performance in 3d applications I’d recommend the nvidia geforce 6600gt; as far as 2d I hear that Matrox cards picture quality is a little better but they aren’t going to be as fast at 3d applications but almost certainly faster than the onboard video you’re using now you should be able to get an athlon64 3400 a good motherboard (I like the MSI or ASUS boards) and a geforce6600gt for about $450 I’d say this is the best performance/price compromise and should still perform pretty well in a couple years

i have a 6600gt. not handling CAD files as well as expected. may go back to my Firegl2 (eBay for $10) for CAD work.


how does Intel vs. AMD shape-up for CAD work?

and what are good sites/forums to check for this kind of info ?

… thankS

werd… thanks

6600gt may not be too bad. test file i used is probly extreme case. just opened a few client files. no issues. fwiw.

Alright, I’ve been looking into the AMD 64-bit technology, and so far it looks great (of course, it’s the latest and greatest stuff). Are there any tangible reasons to NOT go with an Athalon 64-bit processor for my design-orientated upgrade? Of course there will be an increase in price to pay for these components and I am trying to keep the expenses to a minimum… :unamused: And then there’s the problem of buying into an emerging technology at the begining of the life cycle. But, given my time line of “Done by September”, should I exclusively persue an AMD 64-bit core?

(Any english majors in the house? I just used And and But to start sentances :stuck_out_tongue: )

For now I’m concentrating on the Motherboard and Processor decision, then I’ll tackle stuff like the video card… the help is appreciated though :smiley:

I can’t think of any particular reason to NOT get an athlon64 though of course the price will go down but that’s the same of any cpu so the longer you wait the more bang for your buck you’ll get as for intel vs amd the performance is comparable but amd’s are always cheaper so I recommended amd Intel is coming out with a 64 bit version of the pentium4 soon so I think it’s pretty clear that 64bit computing is the way things are moving whether you should go ahead and go 64 bit now is just a question of when/how often you’re planning to upgrade your hardware and software. Windows xp 64bit is supposed to come out this spring which would set you up to use any other 64 bit applications that come out in the next few years and you should still be able to use any 32bit stuff you may have but you can’t move to 64bit applications if you have a 32bit cpu personally I just think the athlon64 will give you more flexibility during the next couple years.

if you’re trying to run solidworks and photoshop at the same time, both with relatively large files, you’re probably running out of ram if you only have 768 MB, believe it or not. the cheapest speedup for you is replacing the 256 MB with a 512 stick of 400. be sure to get the same spec as the other stick you have, look at the CAS rating on it before you shop.

by getting matching ram you can take advantage of dual channel memory when you buy your next motherboard. this choice will lock you into DDR instead of the newer DDR2 ram, but this year DDR2 is not absolutely preferable since DDR2-533 offers a modest, not dramatic, performance boost.

your next speedup would be to buy a $200 video card. photoshop and solidworks will speed up tremendously versus onboard graphics as long as you have enough ram. AGP is a good choice this year as well, since ATI and Nvidia are still making their newest boards in both AGP and PCI-E flavors.

if you get a motherboard and can afford it, a really, really nice choice would be a socket 939 athlon64 board. most or all of these boards will support the new dual core processors coming out next quarter. agp and intel are both going to have chips with two processors inside one package that plug into one socket.

of course they’ll be hideously expensive but if you want to plan as far as a year or two out, it makes sense to get a motherboard now that supports that feature so that you can add another processor just by buying a new CPU and not a new machine in a year. athlon64 is generally cheaper than comparable intel iron right now, and when windows xp 64 and 64 bit apps come into wide availability they will offer decent performance increase over current (32 bit) apps.

but a new motherboard means a new cpu, and that gets into $$$. for now, ram and video card would be my bet. wait til fall, get a new mobo + cpu that accept your current agp card and ram.

aside: i don’t know what current intel p4 compatible boards will support dual core, but my guess given past history is that only a few will do it right, after flashing the bios.

Thanks guys…

I’m leaning towards the Athalon 64 system so far. My current mobo doesn’t even have an AGP slot… trust me, it’s useless in terms of upgrading anything: I’ve already checked that out. What about Socket 754 vs. 939? Is the 754 a “budget” choice and 939 better for future upgrades (the dual-core mentioned above)?

So, what’s the better bet: AGP video or PCI-E? I won’t have the funds/need for PCI-E SLI setups by any means.

After that I’m looking at collecting a list of mobo’s to compare. Any off-hand model suggests are welcome.

Cheers :mrgreen:

Alright: 939 vs. 754

Memory Width: 64bit or 128 bit (939) vs. 64bit (754)
HyperTransport bus: 1000 MHz (939) vs. 800MHz (754)
L2 Cache: 512 or 1024 (939) vs. 256, 512 or 1024 (754)

and 939 will support dual core processor packages, while 754 will not.

if, of course, you believe what amd is saying. intel, on the other hand, is saying that their current socket, 775, will not support dual core.

right now if you can squeeze the cash and want a mobo to upgrade in the future rather than chuck out, get a 939.