Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Windows 8 RP Released Today (And Other Items of Interest..)

Folks, here are a few news items worthy of your consideration..

* Microsoft’s Windows 8 Release Preview looks to hit on May 31 (that’s today..)

“Microsoft may be set to deliver the near-final release preview of Windows 8 to testers as early as May 31, according to an accidentally posted blog entry.” Read more..

[update: Windows 8 Release Preview: Microsoft gets its apps together

“Microsoft’s carefully timed unveiling of Windows 8 has been frustratingly incomplete. Today’s launch of the Release Preview fills in many of the missing pieces, with the biggest surprise being a… Read more.. ]

* Free Wi-Fi could boost Ultrabooks in business laptop market

“Intel could one-up Apple in the business laptop market thanks to free Wi-Fi on Ultrabooks and tablets.” Read more..

* Cloud Computing: do you have a clue?

“Big systems vendors are spreading misconceptions about the cloud because it helps them sell more kit.¹ Here’s a rundown of some of their tactics” Read more..

* RIM’s impending collapse: By the numbers

“RIM is in dire straits. This week it announced it would suffer an operating loss and suspended its shares on the Nasdaq. Here’s what you need to know before market open.” Read more..

* Judge hands another win to Google; rules 37 APIs not copyrightable

“In a ruling in the Oracle vs. Google case, a district court judge says 37 of Oracle’s APIs are not copyrightable.” Read more..

* Apple’s Tim Cook ‘rules out’ iPhone 5 with 4-inch screen

“Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook appears to have poured cold water over suggestions the next iPhone will have a larger screen. Strangely, he outright said it. On air. Live.” Read more..

¹ emphasis mine.

Okay. That’s all I have time for today.. have a good day everybody!

Today’s quote:Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.” ~ Alfred Painter

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

May 31, 2012 Posted by | Apple, computers, Internet, Microsoft, News, tech, Windows 8 | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Best CPU? Hardware Upgrade, cont.

Continued:
Welcome back to my series on my new recommendations for those who are interested in maximum computer performance. This series is about a specific, high-end, upgrade path. For more general and generic advice & How To on hardware upgrades, please see Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU.

Recap:
I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI ‘rig’ and its performance is impressive. I am quite taken with the combo. In the previous articles I have so far covered:

* Intel i7-920: Hyper-threading, new chip architecture, and easy (stable) over-clocking give this CPU “chip” performance numbers that make it arguably the best CPU available to us “consumers” today. And it has been around long enough now that the price has dropped to “reasonable”.

* I went with the newer X58 chipset because the X58 motherboards have the ICH10R chip, which allows dual x16 (or quad x8) PCI Express 2.0 graphics card support, and supports Solid State Drives.

As I mentioned earlier, if upgrading to an “i-Series” CPU, you will need a new motherboard, and I reco’ a X58. It is fair to warn you that X58 “mobo’s” are rather pricey. I overcame certain reservations and – due to a “clearance sale” – picked up a MSI X58M (the “M” indicates “microATX”). A detailed review of which is here.

MSI-X58M[note: I also purchased a 5-year “replace with no questions asked” extended warranty, which covered the RAM, mobo, and CPU for a very reasonable fee. Ask your retailer what their policies are. (The RAM already had Lifetime..)]

Please understand that while I am recommending an X58 chipset motherboard, I am not necessarily recommending this particular MSI board. I am happy with it, yes, but it was a unique special discount price that was my decision factor. I would not go with a “mini” (or “micro”) ATX board by choice, primarily because the number of expansion slots are fewer.
To help you decide on a board, here are some comparisons/reviews (by date published):
* X58 Motherboard Roundup Review
* ExtremeTech’s X58 Motherboard Roundup
* X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards
* 7 Intel Core i7 X58 Motherboards Tested and Compared
* Intel X58 Motherboard Roundup – What does $300 Get You?

These boards vary greatly in number of slots (including graphics slots), features, performance, and price — so do a bit of pre-planning. Do you need four graphics slots, or will one do (if so, a P55 board may work for you…)

Biggest boost?
In my writing so far, the CPU, motherboard, and dual graphics cards have taken center stage. And one could argue “as well they might!”, but RAM is where you really put the “turbo” in a PC’s performance — upgrading your RAM is the first thing (in terms of hardware upgrades) you look at.

patriot_3pak

Patriot 6GB PC3-12800 kit

Fact is — the primary motivation for me to act, and do this upgrade was I wanted “tri-channel” DDR3 .. and I wanted 1600MHz. If you have read this series this far.. maybe you do too.

The primary benefit of DDR3 is the ability to transfer at twice the data rate of DDR2, enabling higher bus rates and higher peak rates than earlier memory technologies. For best performance, DDR3 should be installed in identical sets of 3, and I definitely advise purchasing a “3-pak” to ensure all three modules are the same.

I happened to find an unbeatable price on a Patriot Gamer Series PC3-12800 6GB DDR3 Kit (review here), but I have no idea what the best deal is today. I’m a “most bang for your buck” shopper. For those of you who are a bit more discriminating:
* Mainstream-Ready? DDR3-1600 Shootout
* The Great DDR3 1600MHz Memory Showdown
* Xtreem.com | Focus on DDR3
* Benchmarkreviews: DDR3 Review Series

Winding down for today…
Since we are talking about cutting-edge hardware here, and “enthusiast”-level performance gear (aka “high-end”) means that these items will not be in the “student” or “budget” price ranges – some “sticker shock” is to be expected. That said, prices have come down on these items enough that you are no longer paying the premium. Still, you can buy a whole new PC for less than an i-Series upgrade…

I was able to use my existing power supply and graphics cards. And at least for now, I am not going to go nuts over-clocking the CPU, so I can stay with the stock CPU cooler and I had a well-ventilated gaming case. This reduced my upgrade cost but your situation might be different — an i7 upgrade path probably will require a more powerful PSU and more efficient cooling, and you should budget accordingly.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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March 1, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Part 3 | The Best CPU?

This week I started an article series due to my most recent PC hardware upgrade, as I have a new recommendation for those who are interested in maximum computer performance — I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI ‘rig’ and its performance is impressive. I am quite taken with the i7/X58 combo.
[note: each of those acronyms is “clickable” for those interested in learning more details. I will try to avoid Geek jargon here..]Intel_Core_i7
Earlier, I wrote a 4-part series on the ‘How To’s’ of upgrading your CPU, and suggest it as a preface (please refer to part 1, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU).

In the previous Part 2 | The Best CPU? I started discussing this hardware upgrade by focusing on i7-920 CPU. Hyper-threading, new chip architecture, and easy (stable) over-clocking give this CPU performance numbers that make it arguably the best CPU available to us “consumers” today. And it has been around long enough now that the price has dropped to “reasonable”.

  • Turbo Boost technology – To maximize speed for heavy applications
  • Hyper Threading – Intel has brought back its hyper threading technology first seen in its Pentium Processors to allow a new level of parallel performance with 8 threads available for multi-tasking.
  • QuickPath Interconnect – is designed for increased bandwidth and low latency. It can achieve data transfer speeds as high as 25.6 GB/sec.
  • Smart Cache – For better and more optimized handling of cache memory
  • Integrated Memory Controllers – Supporting three channels of DDR3 Memory (1066 Mhz) to produce a whopping 25.6 Gb/Sec memory bandwidth.
  • HD Boost – For improved performance in a wide spectrum of Multimedia and compute-intensive applications.

[a brief aside: to be fair, this thread on Tom’s Harware.com, (GAMERS ONLY) i7 vs 955/ is 300$ worth it?, posits that a particular (over-clocked) AMD CPU is the smarter way to go for gamers.. and I think the writer’s point may be correct.]

But going with an i7 as your upgrade path does mean that you will also need a new motherboard.

The i-Series CPU’s new design and on-chip features require a new socket, chipset, and also the newer DDR3 RAM memory –> the i7 needs to be matched to a “50-series” chipset.

I went with the newer X58 chipset because I was building a “performance gaming rig” with dual graphics cards, in what is known as an “SLI/Crossfire” configuration (the motherboard must have two or more PCIe graphics “slots”) and the X58 motherboards have the ICH10R chip which allows – for the first time really – both cards to transfer data at 16x. The 55’s don’t have the ICH10R.
(Prior to this, the 16x graphics datapath was ‘split’ between cards in an SLI config to 8x, 8x. With the X58/ICH10R it is 16x, 16x.)

The Intel X58 Express Chipset supports the latest 45nm Intel Core i7 processor family at 6.4 GT/s and 4.8 GT/s speeds via the Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (Intel® QPI). Additionally, this chipset delivers dual x16 or quad x8 PCI Express* 2.0 graphics card support, and support for Intel® High Performance Solid State Drives. SLI

Now, I would like to tell you that this effectively doubled my graphics cards’ ability to pump out the frames-per-second.. but if you have been around computers for a while you will know that doubling some performance number or other does not make your computer appear to do things twice as fast. Machines simply don’t work that way.

What it does mean is, the machine is capable of handling a heavier ‘load’ before you notice slow downs. And in computer graphics, ‘load’ means things like driving a larger monitor at a higher resolution. And specific to computer gaming, ‘load’ means ‘features’ — like shading, anti-aliasing, and Vsync, etc. — often referred to as “the bells and whistles”.

I can tell you it is true, if you can run your game on a large screen, with the “bells and whistles” on (or “dialed up”) and you do not experience slow downs, such as lag or a slideshow style framerate, you will have a better gaming experience. Typically that means you become more “immersed” in the game’s environment… mostly because it is more “real looking”.

I will continue this .. hopefully Monday. I hope you all have a great weekend.

News Item: Microsoft uses the courts to shutdown cybercriminals. See, Cracking Down on Botnets.
Botnets – networks of compromised computers controlled by hackers known as “bot-herders” – have become a serious problem in cyberspace.  Their proliferation has led some to worry that the botnet problem is unsolvable.¹ Under the control of a hacker or group of hackers, botnets are often used to conduct various attacks ranging from denial of service attacks on websites, to spamming, click fraud, and distribution of new forms of malicious software.

¹ emphasis, mine.

Skip to Part 4 The Best CPU? Hardware Upgrade, cont.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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February 27, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Part 2 | The Best CPU?

It has been my intention, all week, to tell you about my most recent hardware upgrade, and why I have a new recommendation for those who are interested in maximum computer performance — I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI ‘rig’ (the latest technologies) and its performance is impressive. I am quite taken with the i7/X58 combo.

I feel I should try to explain the significant architectural changes that occured with the “i” series CPU‘s (and why they needs a ’50 series’ chipset) but, I am well aware that most readers are not Geek-y enough to enjoy hearing about bus speeds, or the fact that the “i-series” does away with the southbridge. Um, wait.. does away with the northbridge.. or.. something, and replaces it with on-chip “QPI” (which is faster).

So.. I will quit there, and try my best to avoid jargon from here on out. I remind you that I wrote a 4-part series on the ‘How To’s’ of upgrading your CPU, and suggest it as a starting point.. (please refer to part 1, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU).

Starting with the CPU: The Intel i7-920 is the “consumer grade” CPU which quickly captured the attention of PC enthusiasts, Geeks and Gamers — not only due to outstanding base benchmarks, but because of its ease-of-overclocking, and stability when over-clocked (used to attain levels of performance beyond the specified values). It currently can be found for $199.

The first thing I did to mine was simply change the bclock (baseclock) from the stock 133 MHz to 166 (one BIOS  setting adjustment). Without having to add a heavy-duty CPU cooler, or do any other drastic ‘mods’, my CPU went from the ‘stock’ (out-of-the-box) 2.67 GHz – which was plenty fast – to just shy of 3.5 GHz.
Which is a hair faster.

(Articles I have read on various enthusiast/over-clockers Websites all seem to agree that the 920 can be over-clocked to over 4 GHz, but I would not consider trying that w/o also upgrading my power supply and cooling. For those of you a bit curious as to what “over-clocking” might entail, this PDF is a How To Overclock The i7 tutorial written for a specific motherboard, but gives you the gist.
Also: PC World article, Overclocking for Newbies)

cpuZ1

Another other factor that has me truly liking my i7-920 is that its “i-series” technology gives me true hyper-threading. This means that the “quad-core” CPU is seen as eight CPU’s by the operating system.. as seen in this Task Manager screenshot.

i7_load1

If you are at all Geek-y, you will have noticed that the average load at the time this was captured is a mere 1%.

If you are at all Geek-y, let me clue you a bit more:
* this is Vista 32-bit (i.e., not particularly multi-core savvy).
* this is while Avast! 5.0 antivirus is running a deep scan.
* while not particularly relevant.. also Open were Outlook 14, Live Messenger, Speedfan, CPU-Z, SIW, and Spider Solitaire. When I launch Call of Duty 6, the load goes up a bit… but, I have not yet attained a “wait-until-100%-unsticks” .. which hits my Core 2 Duo/4 GB Vista laptop all too frequently (and I don’t “game” on it).
* If you are not particularly Geek-y, this translates to: the i7 has the performance horsepower to handle “multi-tasking” with aplomb, and the times when the “wheel just spins” (or.. hourglass) are much fewer (and don’t take nearly as long), and your windows open faster.

Well.. that’s enough for today. In Part 3 I will discuss why I went with the X58 instead of the more affordable X55 motherboard.. and talk a bit about tri-channel RAM.

Continue toPart 3 | The Best CPU?

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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February 24, 2010 Posted by | computers, hardware, how to, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Perfect CPU?

This 6 days-a-week series I write is, for the most part, exactly as I describe in the sub-title — Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice (as well as “Questions Answered”). My writings tend to be Microsoft Windows-oriented because that is what I, and approximately 95% of you, use. I write about the Internet a lot also… because I understand a few of you are using it too.

I also try to keep my readers informed of emerging technologies, developments, and trends (“tech news”, if you will). I do this because personal computers, and “tech”, is out of diapers now, has learned to walk, hopefully is out of the “terrible twos”.. but!, is anything but a “mature product”.. like, say, sailing vessels [ships] are “mature”.

And.. there’s a little thing called “Moore’s Law“, which tells us that tech is ‘growing’ at an exponential rate (evolving is a better word).

My point here is, simply, that I try to provide information here that is useful to you. Tech – for Everyone is not a place where I discuss my hopes and dreams, favorite music, next week’s schedule, or who I think should win American Idol (one exception.. my football predictions).
Like Dragnet’s Sergeant Joe Friday, I try to deal with “just the facts”.

Even in discussing tech, I try to leave myself out of it. I don’t think you care what brand graphics card I prefer, or that I find PowerPoint boring.

But sometimes, my own personal experiences with tech make for the more well-received articles. For instance, my writings on my experiences with the new Windows 7 (click here to see all articles tagged “Windows 7”) and switching to a 64-bit operating system have been very popular.

And I did get a bit personal when I wrote a series on hardware upgrading for my readers after I decided to swap out a dual-core CPU for a quad-core, and load up my motherboard with RAM modules (see part 1, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU)

Where is he going? Well, I have ran a bit long, but it was my intention to tell you about my most recent hardware upgrade, and why I have a new recommendation for those who are interested in max. computer performance — I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI rig.. and it is pretty sweet. I am very impressed with the i7/X58 combo.

But I will need more space — maybe another series — to do the topic justice, so I hope you will return here and read it. It should appear Monday. Have a super weekend folks, and please exercise “paranoid common sense” while online.

Update:
Part 2 | The Best CPU?

Part 3 | The Best CPU?

The Best CPU? Hardware Upgrade, cont.
(part 4)

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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February 20, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Upgrading Your CPU – Conclusion(s)

Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU

When my Windows 7 upgrade disc arrived in the mail last week, it triggered in me an urge to do a more extravagant hardware upgrade to the machine I intended to install Win 7 on. 180px-High_Performance_RAMThis urge resulted in me pulling out the OEM RAM and the E2200 dual core CPU and installing 8 GB’s of matched pairs of high performance DDR2 RAM and a Q9550 Core 2 Quad.

A fairly significant “performance upgrade”.
* See Windows 7 64-bit Adventures and Pt 1, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU

In parts 2 and 3 (Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU – Pt 2 and Upgrading the CPU pt3 – Selecting A Processor) I described the process for determining which processors will ‘fit’ and function on your machine, and then how to look at benchmark scores for the different CPU models.
That brings us up to date.

Now that you know what CPU’s to look at (and which won’t fit) you can look at and compare prices and benchmarks to find the right CPU deal for you. In my real life example, I happened to find the Q9550 for well under $200, and I was satisfied with its rankings on CPU performance charts.. The deal you find, and CPU you prefer, may very well vary (there are better CPU’s than the Q9550).

CPU “Factors”

| # of cores | Speed | Wattage | Performance |

Three of these processor “factors” — # of cores, clock speed, and “performance” — will be reflected in the benchmark scores, so you don’t need to study and become an expert on each of those. The general rule of “more is better” (typically) applies here.

But when considering a CPU replacement/upgrade, you also want to look at the processor’s Watts.. and one other factor I’ll get to in a moment.

1) Look up the Watts on your old processor.
In my RL example, an E2200, which is rated at 65W.
2) Look at the Watts on the processor type you’re considering.
In my RL example, a Q9550, which is rated at 95W. (Also, try to find “recommended power supplies for”, and make a note of the most mentioned Wattage.)
3) Look at the Watts on your PSU (power supply unit).
Now it’s time for a little math — I know, yippee.

Continuing on with my RL example, we can see that my new processor draws 30W more power than the old one: further research shows that the most frequently mention recommended PSU Wattage is 500W: and when I plug my system’s components into the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator (and allow 20% for capacitor aging) I get a result of minimum = 315W (which seems low).

My power supply happened to be rated at 500W, and so I felt I could do the upgrade without also upgrading my power supply. But you may need to, and that is an additional expense that you should factor into your thinking and your budget. (See question #2 here, for the how to)

Another “factor” for consideration is heat (and therefore, cooling). My processor will produce more heat (higher Wattage, more cores..) than its predecessor did, and so I downloaded and installed SpeedFan to better help me keep an eye on the temperatures inside my case. Heat is the enemy of electronics, and letting your chips get too hot will kill them.
So you may need to protect your investment by upgrading the cooling in your computer case as well.. and that is an additional expense that you should factor into your thinking and your budget.

In conclusion:
So there you have it. It only took me 4 articles to describe all the most relevant considerations for a hardware upgrade, and if you do all those things, you should have a pretty good idea of your own personal “upgrade path”.

I was lucky: I did not have to upgrade my power supply, and it appears I won’t have to upgrade my cooling. My upgrade – 8 GB’s of matching RAM and a quad-core CPU – cost me right around $300. It could have easily been more.

So my upgrade to 64-bit Windows 7 and high performance components turned my machine into a real speed demon, right? Well…
Several of my “Windows Experience” scores went from 5.2 to 7.5; and yes, my computer is a bit quicker and more responsive. I like how it behaves.

But, I liked it with the E2200 and the 3 GB’s nearly as well.

Currently, very few programs and games are written to take advantage of 64-bit, multiple processors, and multi-“threading”. Also, I have yet to put any load on it that could use the extra RAM. So, simply put, there is really very little noticeable “speed” improvement in my day-to-day usage… though there is some. (Games perform with less hesitation, but to really bump my fps, a graphics card upgrade would have been the proper “upgrade path”.)

Short version: I do not regret my upgrade, but I would not do this again; as my original equipment’s 5.2 scores (under Win7) were quite satisfactory. The E2200 is a much better CPU than its “low end” reputation had me thinking, and 3GB’s of RAM is enough in most cases.
To improve the performance of my aging gamer computer, I have decided against a hardware upgrade: I will pool my money and replace it with a new machine with the new “i7” architecture.. and donate the old one to charity.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 7, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, dual-core processors, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Upgrading the CPU pt3 – Selecting A Processor

In the preceding articles in this series I described how receiving my copy of Windows 7 triggered in me the very geeky impulse to upgrade my machine’s hardware capabilities — to go along with my first (good) 64-bit OS. If you are new to this series of How To’s, please click the provided links and read the first two before reading further here.
1) Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU
2) Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU – Pt 2

In those articles, we established the three things we need to know before shopping for a processor (so that the CPU will fit and function), namely — Manufacturer/socket type/motherboard’s chipset. (The instructions for how to do that are in pt2.)

* In my RL case, that was: Intel/Socket 775/G33.
* In my hypothetical Pentium 4’s case, that was: Intel/Socket 775/915G

By consulting the chipset/CPU compatibility tables on the Intel website, we discover that the:
* G33 chipset can accommodate: pretty much any socket 775 processor.
* 915G chipset can accommodate: Pentium 4 (up to #672) and Celeron D (#351)
So that latter is a no go. I would reco forgetting an upgrade. Leave it as is and/or new machine is the way to go. So let’s keep going, but assume that we have a chipset more like the 33G — and we can choose from any of the Intel Socket 775 CPUs including the “Core” series duals and quads. OK?

Since I’m thinking quad-core, I see that there are more than a dozen “Core 2 Quads” to choose from (the Core 2 Extreme editions are too pricey for me) … and if I mix in “extreme” dual cores.. it’s a lot to pick from!

(AMD users will follow essentially the same steps but on the AMD website. AMD has a “wizard” to help you narrow down your search too, based on some answers you provide. Click here to see that. AMD has at least as many to choose from — Phenom vs Phenom II and X3 and X4 as well as different model #s.)

CPU “Factors”

| # of cores | Speed | Wattage | Performance |

There are a lot of CPU’s to choose from and it’s easy to get confused by all the specs. There are many websites that are dedicated to nothing but hardcore Geeks trying to squeeze the maximum performance from each and every component, and they have published many CPU comparisons (and tricks). Sometimes these Geeks call themselves “gamers”.. and they like the word “extreme” (a couple of clues for you, there).
There are also many reviews posted (sometimes.. conflicting).

sample_chrtI am going to save you some trouble. I am simply going to point you to two of my favorite sites which have CPU comparison charts which will look like the sample shown and tell you that the longer bars are better.

These are “standard” benchmark scores. (If you are thinking of overclocking, you can find benchmarks and scores for those too, but I don’t discuss OC-ing here. UltimateExtremeGamer.com is more the place for that.)

The two places I look for these scores are:
* Tom’s Hardware (in particular, the 3DMark Vantage 1.0.2 CPU)
* Passmark
I put Tom’s first because you really can “drill down” into CPU performance scores, as several different benchmarking tests are run, and videographers might decide on a different CPU than a gamer will (for example). Also, you can get a feel for pricing, and read reviews and recommendations there. Anyone considering an upgrade (of any kind) should make a stop at Tom’s.

Okay. That’s it for today. Go have fun looking at some charts. In Part 4 I will explain the “factors”, and how they will help you have a smooth installation of the CPU you decide to go with.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 6, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments