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Thread: Updating computer hardware on a limited budget

  1. #1

    Post Updating computer hardware on a limited budget

    Good morning!

    I want to mention before I start that I am aware there are perhaps more appropriate forums to post this particular question on, but I feel a stronger connection to this community and feel this is a more supportive and less judgmental one. So here it goes.

    I am currently a student at university on quite a tight budget, but want to update my computer to play some of the newer games that have been and are due to be released. I enjoy tinkering with my hardware but I am in no way a master. In fact, I consider myself still to be quite naive.

    Here are my current PC specifications as taken from DirectX Diagnostic Tool:

    Operating System: Windows Vista Ultimate (6.0 Build 6002)

    Processor: AMD Phenom II x4 955 processor (4 CPUs), ~3.2GHz - On a side note, it does have a turbo function to increase this to 3.8GHz.

    Ram: 8190MB

    Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series - ~1GB I believe

    HDD: 500GB (partitioned) - my oldest component at nearly 5 years old, I intend on buying another, maybe two depending.

    Does anyone know of any online guides or books that I can read to advise me further and possibly teach me a little more about this or if anyone can inform me from their own experience which components to update first.

    Warm regards,


    P.S. I built my computer with my uncle 5 years ago and have been steadily updating it since. My last purchases were the graphics card and a 750w PSU.

  2. #2


    From what I've read in my own quest over the years, the latest AMD processors have not advanced all that much - but by the same token, they seem to perform quite well compared to Intel products for gaming purposes. So that aging processor might work well for you for at least another year or two (I have no idea what your motherboard is so I don't know what upgrade options you have, if any).

    8 Gigs of RAM is pretty standard for gaming, I haven't really encountered anything that demanded more, but if you're using a 64 bit operating system, and your motherboard supports it, then I expect 16 couldn't hurt.

    Your graphics card is a midrange card from 3 years ago, so that might be your best gaming upgrade. With that absurdly huge power supply, you have plenty of room for something beefier like a 7850 or one of those newer R7's that are virtually the same (usually you can find either for around 160-200). I'm a long time NVIDIA booster, so I'd tend toward something like a GTX 660 or even better, a GTX 760 (if you can justify $250+ for a video card)

    Your OS is ancient, and you really ought to consider updating to at least 7. While I don't endorse 8 at all, it *is* faster booting, and the desktop environment is much snappier and less full of bloat than previous versions. The Metro interface is brutal for desktops though (in my opinion), which is why I don't endorse it.

    The single best upgrade I've ever made to my computer though is definitely a solid state drive for booting windows and running vital apps. A 128 gig model can be had for less than 100 these days, and the boot performance and application load times on that thing are nothing less than phenomenal. I've had mine for almost 2 years and it still wows me. Doesn't necessarily affect gaming though, unless you install your games on this drive.

    Happy hunting!

  3. #3


    First upgrade you HDD that will make some decent effects on games.
    Then Grab a new GPU. If you can Spend the money get a higher end one.

    The CPU/RAm is fine for now.

  4. #4


    Thank you for the replies. I am unsure of my motherboard until I take a look inside but a new HDD is definitely on the cards as well as a new GPU. Thanks for the help

  5. #5


    If you're on the lookout for parts and advice and stuff, /r/buildapc is always a good place to visit.

    The Phenom is probably going to be the best CPU you can get for the AM3 socket, so without upgrading your motherboard you're stuck there. The hard drive definitely needs replacing (or at least get only use it as a secondary), and the operating system could use an update (I prefer 8.1 myself, but a lot of people seem to have some weird grudge against it). You're good on RAM for the moment (though I'd consider getting something at a higher clock; yours is probably 1333 MHz; but that's a personal preference).

    Your GPU, hard drive (like I mentioned), and OS probably all need updating. I'd recommend getting something along these lines: Build List

    GTX 760, 120 GB SSD, 1 TB Hard drive, and Windows 8.1.

    Ninjaedit: justhere pointed out to me that the AMD Phenom II X6 is an AM3 socket CPU, so that could be a suitable replacement, if you can actually find one these days.
    Last edited by Varys; 22-Feb-2014 at 03:14.

  6. #6


    Keep the 500gb for data and get a solid state drive for programs. An r7 gpu should do fine for another few years if you can swing it the r9 series is pretty beast and should keep you gaming for a few years at an insanly high fps and resolution of not much other than a titan and high 700 series can touch them in performance.

  7. #7


    I just checked some older benchmarks and it seems my C2Q / nVidia560 combination is roughly equivalent. In my experience that's still satisfying with everything I throw at it, but both kind of on the verge to being a bit slow.
    For an immediate boost in game graphics, replace the GPU, something like nVidia 760 or similar should be fine (beware of AMDs Linux drivers, if that affects you). On a tight budget the new GTX750 mgiht be a deal, but you would have to check some reviews to make a choice yourself there.
    A faster card might live to see the next CPU though, I don't know what your further upgrade plans are.

    I myself will probably aim for a mainboard/CPU combo next, since my biggest need is SATA3 and more RAM (4). The graphics card will have to wait.
    Last edited by kapi; 22-Feb-2014 at 20:29.

  8. #8


    I really appreciate the response I've had and apologise for not messaging sooner. Since I last posted I looked at my motherboard and it's a M4A87TD EVO. Thanks again for the advice, and my next buy will definitely be a new HDD or even solid state. Do any of you have any knowledge of HDD failures? I've had a couple of issues with booting the OS recently. The drive is aging, does that mean it is more likely to fail? Once I've reworked my budget I'll make some purchases and update you!

  9. #9


    Your computer is fairly decent, I don't really see any need of upgrading anything besides maybe a bigger hard drive if needed, or even an SSD as your other hardware should be able to play any game out these days maxed out without many issues. As someone else suggested, I also suggest upgrading to 7 if possible. If not, Vista will still be fine as Vista works with Directx 11 anyways. But if you really are having an itch to upgrade something, I suppose a beefier video card couldn't hurt

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