Upgrading my PC

  linsxxx 18:37 03 Jan 09
Locked

Ok I'm probablly being over adventurous here as it took me long enough to work out how to replace my hard drive but...

I have a Dell Dimension 3000 that is just over 4 years old. It has a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of RAM. I use Windows XP and would be happy to keep on using it if it would keep costs down for now. NOt sure what else you need to know.

I don't use it for games or anything but really would like to use it for the webcam to speak to my various relatives dotted around the country / world. I just bought a Logitech Pro 9000 webcam because it said on Skype and Windows Live that you needed a certain kind of webcam to send the very best quality messages. Then after I bought it I read the bit that says you need to have a dual core processor!

So judging by the underwhelmed response I'm getting to my new webcam I'm not getting the best out of it.

I don't really want a new computer as there's nothing wrong with all the bits - the screen, speakers, CD/DVD drive and even the hard drive (which is brand new) are all absolutely fine. It seems pretty wasteful to change the lot - and more to the point I can't really afford it!

So I wondered if it would be possible to upgrade the processor and RAM without all the other bits.

A bit of googling has only reassured me that it sounds very complicated as it looks like I need a new motherboard and I need to make sure it's all compatible - I have no idea how I would go about doing that.

My Dad could help me with the putting it in bit as he is pretty good at that sort of thing but I need to know I'm buying the right thing as I can't afford to spend that kind of money on something that doesn't work.

Advice please?

  brundle 18:54 03 Jan 09

No need for dual-core for a webcam. Memory upgrade to 1GB, perhaps 2GB as memory is so cheap at the moment. No need for more with XP. click here
Not much you can do regarding CPU on its own, sourcing a replacement and fitting probably not worth the effort for what may be an unnoticeable performance improvement - if you elect to change the whole board, that's a different story - get the whole bundle in one; click here
If you decide to go for a motherboard upgrade you'll probably need a more powerful power supply too, and if your graphics card is an AGP model it will need changing for a newer PCI-E version. Dell's PSUs are generally pretty high quality but the current one may not be powerful enough for the new kit.

  brundle 18:56 03 Jan 09

Your camera appears to have an HD mode which may benefit from a faster CPU, but the speed of your internet connection will be a more immediate limiting factor. The requirements for the camera a below what you have now.

  iscanut 19:49 03 Jan 09

Processor is fine for a web cam...Memory upgrade would help as brundle suggests. Do you have a resonably fast broadband connection ?

  linsxxx 20:23 03 Jan 09

sorry I thought I had replied to this but must have replied to another random posting (sorry if I confuse anyone!)

My broadband is 4MB which I would have thought was fast enough. My concern about upgrading the RAM only was that eventually in the near future I would need a faster processor anyway. Have been looking on the website brundle suggested both at motherboard bundles and cpu only. I wonder if it's easier just to get a new cpu - albeit a bit more expensive.

My computer isn't what you would call fast for most things and when I was using the camera today it was very slow and then said it had run out of virtual memory (is that a RAM problem?)

How much faster are these new processors? Is it worth it do you think? There are so many different kinds I haven't got a clue what to go for. I remember the days of the 286 and 386 <sigh> have been away from the workplace having babies for a couple of years and am now completely out of touch!

I have just bought a second SLR camera and my dad reckons you need a decent PC to deal with RAW format pics so maybe I should just bite the bullet and upgrade?

And if I do upgrade what should I go for what would be noticeably faster than my current creaky old model?

  linsxxx 20:23 03 Jan 09

sorry I thought I had replied to this but must have replied to another random posting (sorry if I confuse anyone!)

My broadband is 4MB which I would have thought was fast enough. My concern about upgrading the RAM only was that eventually in the near future I would need a faster processor anyway. Have been looking on the website brundle suggested both at motherboard bundles and cpu only. I wonder if it's easier just to get a new cpu - albeit a bit more expensive.

My computer isn't what you would call fast for most things and when I was using the camera today it was very slow and then said it had run out of virtual memory (is that a RAM problem?)

How much faster are these new processors? Is it worth it do you think? There are so many different kinds I haven't got a clue what to go for. I remember the days of the 286 and 386 <sigh> have been away from the workplace having babies for a couple of years and am now completely out of touch!

I have just bought a second SLR camera and my dad reckons you need a decent PC to deal with RAW format pics so maybe I should just bite the bullet and upgrade?

And if I do upgrade what should I go for what would be noticeably faster than my current creaky old model?

  brundle 20:43 03 Jan 09

Domestic broadband is assymetric, you only get about 20-25% of your download speed. But it ought to be enough for decent communications with a webcam.
A new CPU won't fit your board - the number of pins and the whole architecture of the motherboard changes routinely. Dual-core CPUs are much faster than the old single core variety, in my experience - some people will point out that for single tasks, the fact that the CPU clock-speed is lower than that of a single core model will make things appear slower, but the improvements in other areas of the CPUs performance negate that in my experience.
Yes, processing large image files of any kind is very CPU intensive, the faster (or the more cores, with some caveats) the better.

Your current chip has 478 pins, the dual core chips have 775 pins and different motherboard architecture (LGA775). The dual-core LGA775 architecture has just been replaced by the Intel i7 chip/architecture, but they're really expensive at the moment and the current crop of dual-core kit will still be current for at least 18 months. A board with 2GB of memory and a modern dual core CPU will outperform your current box easily. Anything from the dual-core range, E4xxx > E8xxx, broadly the higher the number the better the performance (even though Intel themselves beg to differ click here) but the higher the cost.

  aine 20:51 03 Jan 09

my wife has a Dimension 3000. I upgraded her Ram to 2GB, it works very well, you only have 2 memory slots fitted and the max for that PC is 2GB

  brundle 21:12 03 Jan 09

"Upload speed is only about 20-25% of your download speed", is what I should have written...

  linsxxx 21:56 03 Jan 09

doh that shows what i know i thought cpu was the name for the whole box of gubbins as put together. I've had a bit of a look and I could get a dual core with 2GB of RAM for not that much more than I good buy the motherboard. And given that I have no idea what I'm doing that might be safer!

Had a look at the Intel page but not really sure how to tell which processor is the fastest. We do have problems when we have multiple website pages open along with maybe Outlook and Word - the whole screen goes white and we have to let it have a bit of a think about everything. I'm guessing more than one processor would help with that?

  Diodorus Siculus 01:06 04 Jan 09

What I'd suggest is the following:

Take a look at what programs are running at startup when you boot the machine; the vast majority of those in the bottom right corner are not necessary. List what is there and we can tell you what you can safely disable.

Get CCleaner from click here and run it; it will clear out a lot of junk that slows down the PC.

Go to crucial.com/uk and find the correct RAM for your machine; it is simple to install (much more so than a hard drive) and will give you an immediate boost.

Your PC was perfectly good when new I presume so the fact that it has slowed down is due to software issues rather than inadequate hardware. As another solution you could do a reinstall of XP but I assume you did this when you installed the new hard drive.

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