Computer upgrade time (again)

I finally decided to take the plunge and update my computer that has served me well for probably the longest of any computer that I’ve ever owned without a significant upgrade. I last overhauled my computer in January of 2004. Since that time the only upgrades that I performed were bumping the RAM up to 1GB of PC3200 (in December of 2005) and installing a wireless network adapter a couple of months ago.

I had originally decided that I just wanted to upgrade the video card as the 5700 Ultra was beginning to show its age. Since my old machine only had the AGP slot I really only had two options in this regard: buy an nVidia 6800GT or buy a PCI express video card and upgrade nearly everything else in my computer. Once I managed to scrape up enough cash I decided to do the latter.

I decided early on that I would have to reuse some of my old components to keep the cost down. I determined that I would reuse my mouse, keyboard, monitor, case, and power supply. I also wouldn’t necessarily go for the top of the line system, midrange would be fine. I would further lessen the blow of purchasing all the components by purchasing the components in two stages.

Stage One

The motherboard

The motherboard I decided on was the ASUS A8N-SLI Premium. I chose this motherboard primarily for several reasons: it supports Socket 939 processors (I’ve always been a fan of AMD), supports PCI-e and SLI, and has enough things integrated that I can get rid of a couple of add-on cards.

The Processor

I had originally wanted a dual-core processor because, hey, two cores. I quickly realized two things: most of the stuff I used my computer for wouldn’t really see much benefit from having an extra CPU, and a processor with two cores costs roughly the same as two seperate processors. I decided that in order to keep costs down I’d go with the Athlon64 3500+. I have always had good luck with AMD’s stock heatsink and fan, so I decided to go with the retail kit.

The Video Card

Shortly before I decided to upgrade my PC, nVidia released their GeForce 7600GS GPUs, specifically aimed at the “midrange market”. Perfect. I have always had good luck with XFX, so I decided to get the GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition since it supports SLI, which I was wanting to try, it comes slightly overlocked out of the box, and XFX has an unbeatable double-lifetime guarantee.

Stage two

I gathered the remaining components for Stage two.

The Video Card 2

Sometime between purchasing the components for Stage One and beginning the purchase of the components for Stage Two, I decided that I wanted to try out SLI since I had both a motherboard and video card that supported it. So I picked up another identical GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition.

The Removable Media Drive

Nothing too exciting here, I picked up a 16x DVDRW/CDRW that supports Lightscribe.


A few months ago I bumped up the 512MB of Kingston RAM in my machine to a full gigabyte of slightly faster Corsair RAM. I decided to go ahead and fill up the remaining slots on my motherboard with another gigabyte of matching RAM to get myself up to two gigabytes.

The Hard Drive

Since storage is becoming dirt cheap these days, I decided to retire my old reliable 80GB IDE drive and go for a 320GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10.

The Assembly

Now that I had all my parts together, I began the process of removing the old components from the case and fitting in the new. Motherboard installation was a breeze, and I was nearly finished routing the power when I came to a realization: the power connector on my power supply didn’t have enough pins.


One emergency trip to Best Buy later yielded:

The Power Supply

I was pretty much at the mercy of what the Best Buy had to offer, so I got their 430W Antec power supply over whatever house brand they were hawking that day.

The Assembly 2