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greenknight

Cheap upgrades

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Not as exciting as rridgely's new computer, but I've finally got a better video card - and will soon be installing a much faster processor. I decided the way to upgrade this old computer was with parts pulled from other old computers (when I discovered how super-cheap they are).

So I'm now running an ATI Radeon 7500 32MB 4X AGP card - yeah, I know, still pretty weak. A BIG improvement over the old SiS 6326 8MB 2X AGP card it replaced, though (don't know why that even worked, 2X AGP cards are not supposed to go in 4X slots). Browsing is noticeably snappier with this card, I guess the old one couldn't even handle Web graphics gracefully.

This one's said to be a Dell OEM part - why it's only 32 MB when normal Radeon 7500s were 64 MB, only Dell knows (did I hear someone say "Dell sucks"?). Only $14.95 from Weirdstuff Warehouse - they've got lots of them, unsurprisingly.

Downloaded drivers from ATI, swapped the parts without a hitch, everything was going real smooth - until I ran the driver installer, which mysteriously gave a message that it needed to install from an admin profile (which I had), and aborted. It worked ok with Windows generic driver, anyway; but then I found I had no sound - I'd failed to plug in the speakers. Still no sound after I plugged them in, but I ran the driver installer again, and now it worked. Sound worked after that, too. Don't understand this, but I'm happy that everything's working.

At the same time, got an AMD Duron 1200 MHz CPU to replace the Duron 700 Mhz I'm running now. This should work without even a BIOS upgrade, according to my research, but I'm going to do a little more checking on that. Only cost $10.95, anyway; shipping & handling for both was another $11.57. Then I blew a whole $8.00 (w/shipping) on a better cooler from Newegg - the old one's fan is getting noisy anyway, probably due for replacement besides being inadequate. Altogether, 45 and a half bucks for a major upgrade.

Still need more RAM, though...gotta start saving up :P .

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So I'm now running an ATI Radeon 7500 32MB 4X AGP card

If I'm not mistaken ATI quit supporting the 7xxx line of cards starting with Catalyst 6.6 and up, and the version for your card is 6.11,

I am assuming maybe you were attempting to install a later version - sorry if I was wrong. I have the 9600 Pro series.

Here's a link to ATI/AMD - XP Home/Pro - 7500 Series - Catalyst 6.11 - hopefully the page wont expire.

I will say I'm beginning to think I'm really lazy, I've had an Athlon XP 2.1GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and an 80GB SATA drive for over a

year that I have yet to install (an upgrade over my Athlon XP 1.5 GHz) - mostly due to my system really running smoothly and, I'm reluctant

to tear into it.

Anyway, enjoy your new toys :P

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Thanks anyway, but that's the driver I installed. It's working great. The only problem came from not getting all the wires plugged back in.

If I had a 1.5 GHz CPU, I wouldn't be in a hurry to upgrade, either. But I'm looking at 100% CPU usage an awful lot with this old Duron 700 Mhz (yet still I hesitate).

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Been meaning to update this topic for a while; it turns out this old video card doesn't like the latest drivers. I got a game for Christmas, Command and Conquer Generals, for which the card just meets the minimum specs required - and a hard crash occurred when the game started, every time. Not even a BSOD, a hard reboot.

Debugging the memory dumps identified ati3duag.dll as the culprit - an ATI driver file, no surprise. Googling ati3duag.dll crash got lots of hits - many people have sought help for such problems.

Not all the help they got was helpful: I was pretty sure bad video RAM wasn't the problem, and a clean reinstall of the drivers made no difference (it was nice to learn about DriverSweeper, though, probably come in handy some time). One suggestion did have promise - a guy said that some older ATI cards just don't like the newer drivers.

Long story short, I got Catalyst 5.6 (from a reputable site) - new enough to support DirectX 9.0c, which is all it needs to do. Installed that, no more crashes - hooray! Everything's ok now, no problems with the CPU - the northbridge barely gets warm, so no extra fan is needed - now I'm tempted to try overclocking... just not anytime soon. :P

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Finally added more RAM. Instead of splurging on new, I took a chance on some of the used stuff you can get on Ebay for next to nothing. Found a guy on there who regularly sells pairs of PC133 256MB DIMMs for under 10 bucks with shipping - and he guarantees them. Got a couple, replaced the 2 128MB ones that came in the barebones kit this machine was built from. So now, with the newer ones plus the 256MB DIMM that was previously added (to make 512MB to run XP), I've got 768MB. Not great, but a very noticeable improvement (and Memtest finds no problems). That's the most the mobo will officially support - though the chipset maker says it supports 512MB DIMMs. Have to try that next...twice the RAM would be a major improvement!

Almost forgot to mention, the fan on that $8.00 cooler didn't last a year. Still under warranty, but I decided to improve on it a bit. Got a better grade Masscool with a copper heatsink for only 12 bucks + $3.00 shipping, and collected on the guarantee on the first one so I've got a spare on hand. The fan on the new one runs slower, though, I have a feeling it may last. It keeps the temperature lower, too.

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If you have an Anti-Virus running on XP, 768 MB RAM should make a big speed difference over 512 MB.

When the AV updates itself, and Windows Update runs at the same time, I have found that XP often requires about 580-650 MB of RAM installed.

.

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I hadn't noticed that problem - probably never happened to see that combination of events. I was seeing a problem when Avast updated while I was running Firefox; Firefox would hang until the update was through installing. That problem is now gone.

It makes a big difference the rest of the time, too.

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I'm sure it would be. Not in a position to do that now, though.

When this computer finally gets replaced, which probably will be fairly soon, I was thinking of doing exactly that. I've got Puppy on a live CD, and I really like it - most likely what I'll use. It supports the modem, too; if we're still stuck using dial-up, I won't have to go hunting for Linux drivers for the modem.

I haven't tried Lubuntu, though; I might give it a look - but I'm not interested in Chrome OS at all.

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Finally added more RAM. Instead of splurging on new, I took a chance on some of the used stuff you can get on Ebay for next to nothing ...

I've just done the same thing on an old computer I use for testing. Needed some more PC-133 SDRAM so went shopping on eBay.

Came back with a couple of 256MB DIMMs for the unbelievably-low price of 4 pence (~ 6 cents US). Not a surprise that it didn't come with free postage at that price. Still, at a very cheap £1 (~ $1.60), that's still 25 times :shocking: the price of the goods for postage. No idea why no-one else bid on it as it tests perfectly in MemTest+. My one and only bargain from eBay.

.

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