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My PC needs surgery

upgrade

When i got my current PC, Man Utd were a month away from being crowned champions of europe, 2008. I had no major hardware problems with it up until yesterday when my graphics card failed. The result was an infinite loop of streaky, colourful boot screens…

Diagnostics

At first, i thought it was just the PC being awkward. The odd time i’ll get some random error or the PC will freeze, doesn’t happen often but it can happen with driver updates or windows updates. Usually restarting it works. Yesterday however, after about a dozen restarts and a few tweaks in safe mode, i was still getting nowhere so i was beginning to think it could be hardware related.

My gut instinct told me it was the graphics card because i’d had a few tell tale signs over the past month or so… this photo came to mind.

Windows Error

By pure coincidence, this was the last thing i did on the computer before it started to go bad… i just doodled in photoshop for about 20 minutes with a brush tool. Little did i know it would be the last custom designed graphic to be created with the help of my graphics card…

girlfriend on phone

A few google searches confirmed my fears about the card. The nvidia 8800GT (my graphics card) was failing regularly within 1-2 years and there had been a known fault with them, with failure rates in the teens with a certain batch. Given the fact i’d had it for over 3.5 years, i’d done quite well…

I opened up the PC and checked all the RAM modules one by one, hoping one of them was faulty as they’re much simpler & cheaper to replace. With a graphics card, finding an identical replacement would mean getting a 2nd hand one… a 2nd hand graphics card which i already know isn’t reliable. Then if i were to stick in another card, i’d possibly need a new PSU (power supply unit) and so the knock on costs & effects would start which i didn’t want.

Plugging the RAM out didn’t solve the problem. At this stage i was convinced it was the graphics card and more googling revealed screenshots very similar to what i was seeing on boot – with the general consensus being ‘yeah, that happened me, the graphics card is f****d, get a new one’.

Replacement GPU

Initially i tried looking for a new or 2nd hand exact replacement. Ebay prices were crazy. €60+ for a 2nd hand graphics card with a lifespan that has probably already passed. No thanks. I decided to seek an alternative card and came across the ATI radeon HD 5750. Apparently it’s better than my old graphics card, has double the memory and is more efficient which means i shouldn’t have to worry about upgrading the PSU. I really don’t care about gaming but i do a lot of design work these days and the odd bit of video editing so that’s why i needed something of the same kind of quality as my last card. I found the 5750 on amazon for £71. Most importantly, it’s *new*, not 2nd hand which gives me peace of mind.

Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4550 GPU
Creative Commons License photo credit: William Hook

RAM upgrade

After ordering the graphics card i thought i may as well upgrade the RAM whilst i have the PC open, cleaned & disconnected. So i checked out RAM prices and found i could upgrade to 8GB RAM for £60 (again from  amazon). Up until now i’ve had 4 x 1GB DDR2 667mhz chips but they’re gonna be replaced by 4 x 2GB DDR2 800mhz chips. So not only will i have more RAM, it’ll be a bit faster too.

Do i need more RAM? Well, i multi-task a lot. Chrome & Photoshop are my two most used applications, in that order. Both are probably amongst the worst offenders for RAM usage on any computer. RAM usage is almost constantly above 3GB any time i check, so i probably hit 4GB without even noticing. But even assuming i never hit 4GB, it still makes sense to upgrade whilst i can. More is always better when it comes to RAM.

So all in all, i should be seeing a performance boost and shouldn’t need to upgrade anything for the foreseeable future. That’s assuming everything goes according to plan and works. The graphics card was ordered in the early hours this morning and has already been shipped out so i’m hoping to have it Wednesday or Thursday. The RAM probably won’t arrive until next week but i can live with that. Getting my PC back working again takes priority.

 

Sean MacEntee

Web Developer. Technology Addict. Swimmer. Man Utd Fan. Writer. Designer.