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Author Topic: Computer help...Just installed a 160G hard drive too!
Kwea
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I have a computer that is just short of 3 years old now. It is a HP Pavillion a450n; 3.00E gig with HT, with 512 PC3200 DDR SDRAM, and it has a NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 graphics card. It also has a 160 Gig hard drive that only fills up when I am doing intensive graphics work, and usually has about 20-30 gig free, even with my movies and games.


I think the HD is fine (most of the time:) ), but I really want to upgrade my graphics card and DDR.


Thanks to the Crutial scanner that CaiSedi told me about in another thread I have been able to find out what type of memory I need, and get some recommendations for a VC, but I thought I would poll Hatrack too see what you all had to say.


What should I look for? If there anything I should stay away from? I don't need a blistering video card, but I do want to play Oblivion, so I need to upgrade. [Big Grin]

I could upgrade BOTH memory slots to 1 gig each, but I already have a 512 in one slot so I am leaning towards just putting a similar 512 card in the open slot....but I am not set on that yet either.


Kwea

[ June 19, 2006, 01:42 AM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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TomDavidson
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Oblivion will play fine with a newer video card and a GB of RAM.
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Kwea
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Yeah, I think 1 gig is fine for RAM....what type of video card would you recommend?

Also, I have some friends who recommended newegg.com as a good place to find computer parts online. Do you have a site that you prefer?

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Wonder Dog
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I don't know which sites have good prices in the US, but the Geforce 6600GT is a cheap card that performs well. You can get it in AGP or PCI-E flavour. Good luck!

[ June 05, 2006, 11:21 PM: Message edited by: Wonder Dog ]

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Boris
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Since you've got an AGP motherboard, go with a 6600GT. Preferably one by eVGA. ASUS makes a fairly good card as well. They're a little more expensive, but worth it for stability and quality. The most blistering card you'll be able to get is a 7800GS, those run about 300. This card looks like a pretty good value to me. You should get a card with at least 256mb of RAM to run Oblivion really well. I don't know how many manufacturers still produce the 6600GT with that much RAM. I can't find any on Newegg. ATI, on the other hand, has the X700, which runs about 100 dollars even. I don't think it can quite stand up to a 6600gt, but it should run Oblivion competantly. Here's a X700.

Either card should work for you, but you are definately stuck with an AGP card unless you want to upgrade to a new motherboard, in which case you'll likely need to replace your CPU as well (and possibly RAM, but only if you would actually want to upgrade to DDR2 in this case.)

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Sterling
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Dunno about the 6600, but you can get the 6800 with at least 512 MB:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814121216

I'd note that while just about every game on the market now will run smoothly on 1 GB of memory, memory is relatively cheap now, and if you're planning on keeping your computer for some time, 2 GB might not be a bad investment.

As far as Oblivion goes, however, apparently the performance difference will be virtually nil. Loading times will be a bit faster between zones, but that's it.

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Boris
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quote:
Originally posted by Sterling:
Dunno about the 6600, but you can get the 6800 with at least 512 MB:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814121216

I'd note that while just about every game on the market now will run smoothly on 1 GB of memory, memory is relatively cheap now, and if you're planning on keeping your computer for some time, 2 GB might not be a bad investment.

As far as Oblivion goes, however, apparently the performance difference will be virtually nil. Loading times will be a bit faster between zones, but that's it.

*chuckles at the fact that Sterling didn't follow a link [Big Grin] *
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Kwea
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I am looking for a fairly cheap card, so I am leaning towards the x700 myself. $172 isn't a lot of money, but a little more than I was looking to spend, I think.
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Kwea
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What about This one? I don't know anything about Sapphire, but the reviews I found seem favorable, and it has 512 rather than 256.....does anyone know about them? It seems to be the same card, at least on paper. [Big Grin]

$136 is close to my maximum spending limit though....I have about $200 budgeted for both the memory upgrade and the video card. [Big Grin]


I read some reviews, and it seems like this one runs a little hot. It also says it is a great card, even though it can't make full use of the 512 RAM, because of being only 128-bit...I guess I am not sure it is worth the extra $40, although some of the reviews of the x700 (by PowerColor)that was linked to were less than favorable. They had reliability issues. [Frown]

I can have the memory shipped to me for about $45 total, including shipping costs, providing I just upgrade to 1 gig (another 512).

Is there any benifit to getting a 1 gig stick for the other slot if I can't afford to upgrade both right now? I only have 2 memory slots, so 2 gig is my max total....

I found newegg had much better prices; they had memory for $40 for a 512 PC3200 DDR SDRAM (same as what I already have in the other slot) rather than $69. [Big Grin] Does it matter what the PC# is, as long as it is at least as high as what I already have in the other slot?

[ June 06, 2006, 03:00 AM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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Sterling
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quote:
*chuckles at the fact that Sterling didn't follow a link [Big Grin] *
Okay, okay. You were talking about 6600s, I made an assumption. Lazy me.
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Boris
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From the benchmarks I'm looking at (which don't have an AGP version of the X700, but the difference between AGP and PCI-E was minimal for that period), the x700 beats out the x1600 in Age of Empires 3, but is edged out in most of the FPS type benchmarks.
The x1600 is comparable to the 6600gt, though.

That said, I've personally never been a fan of PowerColor. I gave the link as an alternative to nVidia if you care for that. The 6600GT is actually quite a bit cheaper than the 6800 with 512 megs ram that was linked. Here's a good 6600GT. It is priced comparably with the x1600 and will probably give you better stability. There are 6600gt's for as little as 99 dollars, but I wouldn't recommend those, as I have a cheap-o 6600GT myself and have not seen the end of troubles with it.

edit to add: You should be okay with 128MB of video RAM, but you should go through your BIOS settings and see if you can find a setting for "AGP Aperture." Set that to about 256MB. That setting is a buffer in RAM that your Video card will use when it's own memory is full. Memory access from RAM to video is much faster than from HD to video, and most of the information will be pre-processed by the CPU before getting pumped into the Video card rather than being processed at the time it's accessed.

edit to comment on edit: since you have an HP, you probably don't have the option to up the AGP aperture. One of the many flaws of manufactured computers [Big Grin] . Anyway, you should still be okay with 128MB, but you won't be able to run very high quality without a great deal of stuttering on the video.

[ June 06, 2006, 11:26 AM: Message edited by: Boris ]

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Kwea
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Well, I think I need a new monitor now. I have an older monitor (CRT) and it just started making a snapping noise. Not good, sounds like a bit of a short. [Frown]

The picture seems to distort as well when it happens.

If I need a new monitor then I will have to choose the lowest priced options on the video card and memory. I only have a limited amount to spend upgrading this computer at this time.

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Boris
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CRT's are usually pretty cheap if you get them used (don't waste money on new CRT's now). Thrift shops are usually packed with them now.
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Kwea
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Yeah...I found an Envision 17 inch LCD at Staples on sale for $179.99, which is very comparable with the prices on the net. I didn't buy it, but I might tomorrow.

I also found a memory upgrade for $29.99....well, with rebate, anyway. It was about $45 for a 3200/2700 PC400/333 512 MB DDR memory card, and it had a Staples rebate from their website, bringing the price to $29.99. Also, I didn't have to wait or pay shipping.

Their selection of memory cards sucked, with the highest APG card available being the GeForce 6200. I will look around for other options tomorrow while I am at work. There is a Circuit City, a Best Buy, and a CompUSA all within 4 blocks of my work, so if there are good rebates or deals I should be able to find them fairly easily.

[ June 06, 2006, 09:50 PM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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Kwea
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Memory upgrade installed, although it took me a bit to get the card into the slot. [Big Grin]


I now have 1 gig of RAM. [Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Big Grin]

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Boris
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
Memory upgrade installed, although it took me a bit to get the card into the slot. [Big Grin]


I now have 1 gig of RAM. [Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Big Grin]

I call the 1GB RAM level the "Freedom Threshold." At that point, you can do pretty much whatever the heck you want with your computer and it won't slow down much at all [Big Grin]
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Primal Curve
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I would also highly recommend a second harddrive for use as a swap drive and to store large files. You'd be amazed at the performance difference between a system with a primary drive with only 10-15% free space and a system that has two drives, both of which have about 25-30% free space and the swap files housed on the secondary drive- especially if you are using the system for video editing and photoshop. Adobe highly recommends a secondary swap drive for all of its products.

My system has two IDE drives and one, small (9GB Seagate UW2 Cheetah) SCSI drive for the swap files. It burns through DV transfers, photoshopping and Illustrator better than a system with more RAM and processor speed but only one HDD.

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Kwea
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I am looking at picking up one some time in the future. I found some reasonable ones that ranged from 60-100 gig that were still reasonable.

I am just glad that I bought a decent computer that is still upgradable 3 years later. [Big Grin] I didn't go crazy, but this was fairly close to the top of the line when I bought it. [Big Grin]

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Kwea
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OK, CompUSA is overpriced for every single thing I checked for, and I will never go there again.

I didn't get to BB, but CC was very helpful.

Anyone know anything about monitors? I saw an Envision 17'' LCD for $179.99, but the guy at CC said he prefers the Proline, which is the same price this week. He sells both, but said the Envision is blurry for a LCD....still looks sharp unless it is next to another type of LCD, when you notice is looks....fuzzy. [Big Grin]

They also recommended updating my BIOS, but I don't want to pay what they are asking for a home delivery, and even their in-store price seems a bit high.


Is updating my BIOS something I should try myself? I found a few sites about it but thought I would ask about it here. [Big Grin]

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TomDavidson
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If you can put your shoes on the correct feet, you can update your BIOS.
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erosomniac
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quote:

Is updating my BIOS something I should try myself? I found a few sites about it but thought I would ask about it here. [Big Grin]

How computer savvy are you? Misflashing your BIOS can lead to the sort of problems even experienced tech geeks cringe at. It's theoretically a very easy procedure, but when things go wrong, they get frightening.
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Earendil18
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Kwea if you're looking to play Oblivion, I would recommend the ATI x1600 256mb. I purchased mine at Newegg for about $120, and it's the best lil'agp card I've had for under 130!
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Morbo
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quote:
Originally posted by erosomniac:
... Misflashing your BIOS can lead to the sort of problems even experienced tech geeks cringe at. It's theoretically a very easy procedure, but when things go wrong, they get frightening.

My mother gave me her old computer and I flashed its BIOS last month as it was very old. The power went out less than an hour after I was finished (a transformer blew down the street with a loud *BANG*).

Just how screwed would I have been if the power had gone out while I was in the middle of flashing? How do you recover from that?

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erosomniac
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quote:
My mother gave me her old computer and I flashed its BIOS last month as it was very old. The power went out less than an hour after I was finished (a transformer blew down the street with a loud *BANG*).

Just how screwed would I have been if the power had gone out while I was in the middle of flashing? How do you recover from that?

I'm not sure - I think it would depend on where in the process of flashing the interruption occured.

When it happened to me, my computer would get power, but BIOS would not start, period. When it happened to a friend of mine, BIOS would start but would not read ANY drives. Hard, CD, floppy, removable; the drivers probably vanished into thin air.

The way I know of to repair the problem is to actually obtain a replacement BIOS chip from the manufacturer of your board, if they even offer them. ASUS charges $20.00 for this, plus shipping.

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Kwea
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I read at one of those sites that you would have to reload your old BIOS in that case, and that was why it was important to take down what the settings were for it.

However, all I could find was that my BIOS was "American Megatrends Inc. 3.19 12/12/03".....


When I went to the HP site and put in my computer model (a450n) only one BIOS update came up as available. Do I have to open up my case and check what type of motherboard I have since there was only one option?

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TomDavidson
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I would trust HP on this one. Is the update that's on there dated post-12/2003?
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Sterling
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My experience is that most of the big electronics stores (Best Buy, Comp USA, Circuit City) are awful for video card selection, and worse for AGP. What they have tends to be overpriced.

If you're lucky enough to have a Fry's nearby, or an independent computer store, it's worth a look... Otherwise, I'd stick to newegg, outpost, or the like.

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Kwea
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Well, I went to BB and bought an X1300 Pro for the exact same amount I would have paid on the newegg site, but I get to install it tonight rather than wait for it to ship, and I payed tax rather than shipping. [Big Grin]


Tom, the HP site has one dated about a year ago, I think...definitely after the BIOS I have now. I will probably flash it tonight. [Big Grin]

Kwea

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Kwea
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OK, I over payed for this card by a little...about $25.00. I am not happy, but at least I don't have to
wait to install it. [Big Grin]

It should do me fine, although if I had noticed it before I opened the package I would have returned it and just bought online.


Still, it is a huge upgrade from my GeForce 5200. I did find a GeForce 6600 online just now for $80; the price had dropped from yesterday. [Frown]

Oh well.

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Boris
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They had an AGP x1300? Or do you have PCI Express?
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Kwea
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It was an APG, and it is up and running right now. [Big Grin]


It was a bit of a pain to install since I have no idea how to do any computer work at all, and it wasn't clear if this card needed to be directaly connected to the power supply (it did).

After NOT attaching it to the PS, I reinstalled the old card to make sure I had pulled the right thing in the first place. Boy was I happy to see the Windows logo at that point. [Big Grin]


So now my memory AND graphics card are both installed, my BIOS is updated, and all drivers are updated and ready to go. [Big Grin]

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Kwea
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I payed as much (almost) for this 256mb card at BB as for the powercolor 512mb one online, but it will work fine I guess. [Big Grin] I didn't have to wait, and it seems line the powercolor one got fairly poor reviews, mainly because of their dependability.
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Kwea
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Well, I installed a new hard drive today. I bought a 160G internal HD for $60 at BB today, and after a bit of work it is up and running. [Big Grin]

I didn't have a spare 3.5 bay open, so I pulled my floppy out. I had never used it anyway. [Big Grin] My shiny new HD is sitting in that bay now, humming away. [Big Grin]


None of the holes on the 3.5 bay lined up though...how important is it to screw this down? It clips in so it isn't moving at all, so I was wondering....

[ June 19, 2006, 01:52 AM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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TomDavidson
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When you say "it clips in," what do you mean? Is the hard drive screwed to a set of rails that slide and clip into the case? If so, there's no need to add additional screws.

If not, I'm having trouble envisioning the "clips" you might mean.

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Kwea
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Nope. There were some raised parts of the bay that stopped the HD from moving in farther, and they needed compressed to have it slid all the way in. The HD isn't loose at all, but the screw holes didn't align with the bay so I wasn't able to screw it in at all.

I made sure the drive went in correctly, and the holes for the screws were almost even (if it had been in wrong the holes wouldn't have been close at all), but they were off just enough to not fit.


I could bend the metal of the bay to make the holes line up, I think, but I wasn't sure how necessary it was to do so. There might be issues with it being grounded properly if I don't, I guess, so that is why I thought I would ask. It is in firm, with no tendency to move at all, and not likely to move in the least.


There was no other way of fitting the secondary HD in the case without putting it in this bay though. Even though I have not used a floppy drive in over 10 years I would have preferred leaving it in if I could have, but once I had the case open there really was only two options...remove the card readers, or the floppy.

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El JT de Spang
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The grounding isn't an issue, but vibration is.
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TomDavidson
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If it's really in there firmly, then you're probably okay. The big issue with hard drives, as JT observes, is vibration; if the drive isn't shaking uncontrollably, and if you aren't moving the computer around a lot, you'll be okay.

You might be taking a few months off the life of your drive, on average, but even that's a bit pessimistic. I've seen people run hard drives just set on top of their case for up to five years, so I can't imagine that you're going to have lots of problems.

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Kwea
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Hmm....
I don't even know if bending the peice of metal that has the hole it needs to screw into will work...it was about half a hole off, and I don't want to damage the bay either. [Frown]

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Primal Curve
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Just drill some new holes for the HDD.

Make sure you transfer that swap file to the second HDD, btw.

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Kwea
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Swap file?

I did notice that my computer is a little weird during startup now though. It says " Dive Error" then asks me to hit either F1 for setup or F2 to continue. It also takes a little longer to boot up.


The install book said I had to change something in setup, but was not clear WHAT to change, or how to change it. Any ideas?

Kwea

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Orincoro
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I was thinking about buying an xl76-459-DGB with a higher-filter excranulated DGBY color output. I can't decide if I should go with the mega-gain d67-alpha, or the more expensive hi-attenuation 56JXB with a mid-flox boost.

What do you guys think?

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Kwea
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Yes. [Wink]
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