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Old 08-13-2009, 11:01 PM
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Question Can I make my PCs 'up to snuff' for gaming?
All right, I'm apologizing ahead of time if this post gets crazy long but for my questions to make sense I'll need to explain my computer history.

First off, Hi! I hope some super geek here will be able to answer my questions or at least send me in the right direction. To begin with I have three computing device at my disposal:

1. Dell Inspiron 600m laptop (Windows XP, Intel Celeron 1.4 GHz, 2GB RAM, GPU: ATI RADEON not sure of the number though but it's waaaay out of date I'm sure)

2. HP Pavillion tx1000 laptop (Windows Vista Home Premium, AMD Turion 64 X2 mobile technology TL-58 / 1.9 GHz , 2GB RAM, GPU: NVIDIA GeForce Go 6150)

3.Power Spec Desktop PC (Windows XP, Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz, 1GB Ram, unfortunately not sure of GPU but I'm fairly sure it would need and upgrade to run any of today's PC games)

Each one of these computers has something wrong with them that would need to be repaired before they could be fully functional. The Dell's backlight on the LED screen is kaput meaning it must be connected to an external monitor, not the end of the world but frustrating. The Power Spec desktop PC overheats and shuts down, so it's unable to be on for more than five minutes. The HP has the worst problem. Due to the faulty Nvidia chip it's overheated enough to for the GPU to become disconnected from the the mobo. Meaning when I boot the laptop LED lights turn on, fan runs, but absolutely no image just black screen. I've attempted a repair illustrated here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctHTF3oNdxI with only some luck. The laptop will boot in safe mode with no issue but when in normal mode the display is all cracked out. Resolution's all funky and everything appears fractured.

All computers are out of warranty so the easy solution of sending them to the manufacturers would be costly.

I'd like to be able to upgrade one of these to be a suitable platform for gaming. I believe what I need is a minimum CPU: Intel single core 3 Ghz or AMD equivalent, Memory: XP = 1 GB, Vista = 2GB, GPU: Shader Model 3 NVidia 6600 or ATI 1300 or higher, please correct me if I'm wrong. I realize it would be easier to go out and buy a new computer but I'd like to be able to save some $$$ if I can. Also I'd bet it'd be easier to build a whole new computer myself, but I'm an advanced novice at best when it comes to computers.

I'm sure the Dell is too old to be of any gaming use but it's my only link to the internet world since it's the closest to full functionality. The HP, well it obviously has a whole bunch of crazy problems. It's probably more hassle than it's worth to repair and I'm not even sure if it were working properly if it would be good enough for gaming or capable of upgrading. Through this process of elimination I think the Power Spec is my best bet.

Now for my questions:
Does anyone know if the HP would be salvageable if taken to a laptop repair shop? If so, would it be outrageously expensive? If repaired would it make a decent gaming machine?

For the Power Spec, how do I diagnose the reason for the overheating? If I were to solve the overheating issue how do I upgrade my GPU for it be of gaming caliber?

I know I included a lot of information here but I hope it allows someone to understand my situation and help me out. Also thanks ahead of time, I realize I'm kind of using this forum as free tech support but I just know where to go from here. Thanks!!
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Old 08-14-2009, 12:06 AM
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The power spec sounds the most viable, the rest sound like they would be too slow 4 most gaming, altough older games might be OK. Are all the fans working? I think I had a similar problem with a PC annd it turned out the CPU fan was shot. New CPU fan, problem solved. To figure it out (if its a fan) open the case & boot it, (don't touch anything! *zap*) and see if all the fans are running. (case fan, power supply fan, cpu fan, video card fan if it has one...) Once u figure out whats wrong, shut it off, unplug the cord, ground yourself to the case, & proceed to change the broken part.

As far as the Video card, I would figure out what type of card it will accept (PCI, AGP, or the new one whatever its PCIE or something) and buy the best card you can afford.

I have a 1.8ghz, 2gb laptop that i use for travel, It runs Guild Wars ok... not thrilling though. And Guild Wars is not a super demanding game. so I don't think you will want the laptop as your gaming rig.

P.S. I'm not a guru, more of a parts changer.... But i have manged to upgrade/build a few PCs.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:16 AM
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Any of those would be good enough for some games, if you could get them working, but for an MMORPG, I would focus on the fastest one and move your best stuff to it. Your video card from the Pavilion is far better than you need, but it sounds like you might have fried the card.

The machine on which I play City of Heroes has a Pentium 4 (2 Ghz), GeForce 4 graphics card (no problems with it in CoH if you accept low settings), 1.25 Gb RAM (some load lag, but not much), and a dial-up connection which usually operates under 12K (works fine so long as I avoid other players). You can actually go lower on the speed and the memory and still play just fine. One internet cafe I use only has 512 MB RAM and I still don't have much trouble.

Considering the specs you need, the Pavilion is ready to go if you can just get it fixed. The slightly slower chip might mean more lag, but probably only in really big crowds, and I mean REALLY big, like a raid against a giant monster, a costume contest or a busy day at the auction. It's not slow enough to affect normal play at all.

The Inspiron isn't going to be able to run some games at all, and will be laggy on many of the ones you can play on it. I'd retire it to the parts bin.

The desktop is your obvious first choice. I'd open up the Inspiron and see if the memory is compatible, and if so, move a gig to the desktop. If not, you can probably get a 1G memory card for it for under $50 if you shop around. Your graphics card isn't as big a worry as many people will tell you, so you can just go with a used one equivalent to at least a GeForce 4. If you're lucky, the 3160 in the Pavilion will fit in the desktop, but if not, you can get old graphics cards for very little. My GeForce 4 cost me $12 from a local computer recycling shop, called Gold Circuitry. However, before you buy another card, take a look at the graphics card you already have in there and compare it to a GeForce 4. If it's equivalent or better, you can still use it for most games.

The heat is probably the result of its having a Pentium 4, which puts out an insane amount of heat all by itself. If your fan isn't working, the heat will build up really fast. If you also have a hot-running graphics card in there, the heat can quickly magnify out of control, even if nothing else at all is wrong with the machine.

The only thing you can do about it is to increase the ventilation. That's really easy to do, fortunately. You can never have too many fans. Just add more fans and see if it works. For best results, you should have at least 2 fans, one blowing in and one blowing out, spaced as far from each other as possible. The one attached to your power supply counts, but blows in on some computers and out on others. There should also be separate fans blowing on the processor chip and on the graphics card. If you can add even more fans, all the better. An floor fan blowing past the back of the PC will also help get rid of all the hot air around the outside and improve heat dissapation even more. You might also want to dust out all the vents in the case, and don't overlook the ones in front (most people completely forget about the front vents). Don't forget, as TamaraLane suggests, to make sure all the built-in fans are working - the most likely culprit really is a broken fan.

If you think that sounds like a lot of trouble to go through to get rid of the heat, you should see what's in a quad core computer. With 4 Pentium 4 or Inspiron chips in there, there's enough heat to be worth the risk of using a liquid cooling system.

If the system is overheating when the computer is idle, then there's a more serious problem. Most of that heat is generated only when the computer has tons to do. It should really only overheat when you're playing games, rendering large or complex graphics, compiling software, or maybe opening 36 gamerDNA pages all at once.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:55 AM
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Build your own pc imo and ditch the laptops. I've never personally upgraded a laptop other than software. Also since laptops don't follow a standard (unlike the pc ATX form factor) its kinda difficult due to the specific motherboard make and how the parts fit where putting aside memory and data storage. I'm not saying its not possible, its just more difficult (go for it if you desire).

The PC-with the overheating..I'd check the heat sink on the cpu. Put some thermal grease on it, slap it back on the cpu and see if theres any change. If you're sure its overheating put more fans in too and put the pc in a well ventilated area. My comp (old one) used to shutdown for no reason, turns out it was the power supply being faulty..replaced and it worked fine. Maybe it turns out the pc uses more power than the PS can give it. For upgrading Video card, check to see if its PCI or AGP or PCI-E. Buying the wrong card willl be frustrating. Since you're running XP you should be fine with newer cards since the PnP will pick it up (still install drivers too).
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:52 PM
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From what little I know of laptops a screen replacement is extremely expensive.

As to a new build, yeah, you'd be best served by building a new system and updating your architecture. Spending money on older tech may be ok, but it certainly isn't ideal.

I'd recommend you hold off on things until around November and slate around $1000 for a complete build at that time. (This would include everything, screen, OS, system, everything.) With the Intel socket 1156 launching in roughly 1 month, and rumors that the Nvidia series 3 is set to launch in October with ATi trying to beat them to the punch, November will very likely be an ideal time for a new system build.

Peep my sig for more bla bla.

(I don't visit these forums much these days as it's got some dumb bug that marks every single post in every section as read after I read the first one. It makes it very difficult to follow things. )
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