Not quite two years ago, I built my first computer. It was a pretty budget-style gaming PC; I think it cost me ~$600 to make from scratch. And it was a rite of passage in my life as a card-carrying nerd. Being a lower-priced build, there are now games coming out that I want to play that won’t run all that well on the original system. I’m not wanting to run Crysis on high settings or anything. I would just like to run Left 4 Dead smoothly, maybe see a bit better performance in WAR, and be able to play Starcraft II when it comes out (although that may be another upgrade cycle away, knowing Blizzard). I had already upgraded my video card a few months back, but I’ve done that many times before, so that wasn’t too big of a deal.
Replacing the CPU is a step up from a video card upgrade, as far as technical knowledge goes. Sure, I had installed the original CPU in the system, but I have had very little experience with processors and heat sinks. I was pretty confident I would be able to get the old parts out without messing up the motherboard, then get the new processor and heat sink in. I had less confidence in my ability to solve any BIOS problems or other compatibility issues that arose after installation.
As it turns out, I got the new processor into my system without much problem. It did take a bit of effort to remove the old heatsink, but after using a flathead screwdriver to help pop it lose, everything was downhill from there. What really pleased me was thatit was strictly plug-and-play with the new processor. I didn’t have to adjust any BIOS settings, or anything like that. At least I don’t think I had to – everything seems to be working fine, and the system recognizes the new processor and its increased speed. So all in all, pretty easy installation.
For those that are wondering, I went from an Athlon 64 X2 3800 to a X2 5200. Not a huge upgrade, I know, but it’s one of the fastest processors my aging motherboard can support. And I have seen a bit of an improvement in WAR already. I also meet all the recommended requirements for L4D now too, so I’ll get that sometime in the next couple weeks and give it a spin. I’m also going to drop another 2 gig of RAM in there, which will get me up to 4 gig total (3.5 effective in XP, of course). So overall, a great upgrade experience and another notch in my nerd belt!