Question Wanting to upgrade Alienware PC for better gaming...

Mar 17, 2019
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I bought my Alienware X51 in 2013, and at the time it was excellent and top notch. Here are the specs:

16 GB RAM, 1TB HDD
Intel i5-4460 CPU @ 3.20GHz
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
Windows 7 professional

Please keep in mind that I am not tech-savvy. I had considered building my own PC back in 2013 but after attempting this just with tutorials and part-shopping, I realized I wasn't comfortable starting from scratch because I don't understand enough.

My problem:
The fan kicks on high when I'm rendering video files, usually just 4GB in size at the highest quality. Just sitting here now with nothing other than Firefox and Windows explorer open, my RAM is running 40% and CPU is jumping up to 25%... no reason. I can run most of my PC games fine, which include Black Desert Online, Sims 3, Banished, Cities Skylines, and Diablo 3. However, Sims 3 is the one that actually gives me the most issues (lag, freezing, crashing), and Skylines also gives lag sometimes but it mostly just takes forever to load a game. I have modded both, and I've already cleared out the caches and lowered my graphics... that didn't help much at all. I'm concerned about the temperature considering my fan just screams when I play the Sims and edit videos, and also in Diablo3.

Possible solutions?
I know something needs upgrading.. it's overdue. Six years old is pretty old for a mostly gaming and art-based PC so I understand the tech has aged. However... I'm not sure what exactly needs upgrading. Should I upgrade just the CPU? Again, I'm not comfortable with tech so I don't even know if the i5 is good because I don't really understand the specs in CPUs. Should I upgrade my GPU? Is my RAM sufficient?

Also I refuse to upgrade my OS so please don't suggest that. I need to maintain Win7 for my older games like Zoo Tycoon and Diablo2.

Most importantly, I do have a small budget so I'm definitely not up for starting over on a PC. Just want to upgrade the parts, which is why I bought a desktop not a laptop.

Thank you everyone in advance!
 
TO start with, the immediate problems suggest a refresh of Windows (because of the high RAM/CPU spikes) and a cleaning of the case to blow out dust (loud fans) are in order.

Next, know that your upgrade options in regards to hardware are limited by your decision to stick with Windows 7. The newest generations of Intel/AMD CPU are only supported by Windows 10. You currently have a 4th gen i5 (the first digit of the four digit number after ix- indicates the generation), and can go up to an 6th gen part under Windows 7. The i5 is a good part: the Intel hierarchy goes from slowest to fastest Atom<Celeron<Pentium<Core i3<Core i5<Core i7. Now there is a "Core i9" at the top of the stack but that didn't exist when the 4th generation was released. Newer generations from 8th gen Intel and beyond increase the core counts:

i3 used to be 2 cores with hyperthreading (a clever trick that makes a single core able to run two tasks at once), is now 4 cores
i5 was 4 cores with no hyperthreading, now 6
i7 was 4 cores with hyperthreading, now 6 with hyperthreading.

Also, to upgrade to a new CPU you'll need a new motherboard, and possibly new RAM. You'd need to re-install Windows in either case (I'd still suggest it since Windows should be running better on the current system than you describe)
 
Mar 17, 2019
2
0
10
0
TO start with, the immediate problems suggest a refresh of Windows (because of the high RAM/CPU spikes) and a cleaning of the case to blow out dust (loud fans) are in order.

Next, know that your upgrade options in regards to hardware are limited by your decision to stick with Windows 7. The newest generations of Intel/AMD CPU are only supported by Windows 10. You currently have a 4th gen i5 (the first digit of the four digit number after ix- indicates the generation), and can go up to an 6th gen part under Windows 7. The i5 is a good part: the Intel hierarchy goes from slowest to fastest Atom<Celeron<Pentium<Core i3<Core i5<Core i7. Now there is a "Core i9" at the top of the stack but that didn't exist when the 4th generation was released. Newer generations from 8th gen Intel and beyond increase the core counts:

i3 used to be 2 cores with hyperthreading (a clever trick that makes a single core able to run two tasks at once), is now 4 cores
i5 was 4 cores with no hyperthreading, now 6
i7 was 4 cores with hyperthreading, now 6 with hyperthreading.

Also, to upgrade to a new CPU you'll need a new motherboard, and possibly new RAM. You'd need to re-install Windows in either case (I'd still suggest it since Windows should be running better on the current system than you describe)

Thank you so much for your explanations. I will do the cleaning and refresh of Windows, that's the easiest to start with.

Why would I need a new motherboard to upgrade the CPU? I thought the whole point of a desktop motherboard was that you could upgrade your specs without changing the board? This is disappointing news. Based on what you were saying about compatibility with Win7, I hoped I could at least go up to a 6th generation Intel without changing the motherboard.
 
Unfortunately there are some small changes between generations made by Intel which make a certain generation of motherboard tied to a couple of generations of CPU at most. Eventually they'd have to either way but there is a common complaint that Intel changes these too quickly.
 
For example, especially now that the memory controller is in the CPU if a new generation of RAM, or more RAM channels are added a new chipset and CPU socket are required (as more pins would be needed for the extra RAM capability). So you can't have both a march of progress and unlimited motherboard support - though it's still a common complaint that Intel forces motherboard changes after just a few generations nowadays.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
New video card should help the system more than the CPU, 1050Ti, RX 580, 1060, 1660, depending on the budget.

Also clean out the system, not just dust but re-do the heatsink with new thermal paste, check for a newer BIOS also before swapping the video cards.

A solid state drive will speed up the system overall, that is a good thing to get, especially with prices dropping over last several months. A 1 TB SSD is within reasonable prices for more people now, and a 500gb is also good enough for many people. I have a 500gb in my main system and holds WOW and a 3-4 other good size games at one time.
 

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