Recommended upgrade?

Hi, I have a Dell Dimension 8300 with the following specs...

Microsoft Windows XP Professional
3.0GHz Intel Pentium 4 Processor with HT technology and 800 front side bus
512MB Dual Channel DDR 400 (2x256MB)
Western Digital 120GB (7200rpm) IDE Hard Drive with 8MB DataBurst cache
GeForce FX5950 Ultra 256MB DDR 8x AGP
19" iiyama VM Pro 455 CRT Monitor
48x DVD/CD-ReWriter Combo Drive
Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Digital Sound Card
Creative Labs 5.1 Inspire Speaker System
1Mb Broadband Connection

Most games run perfectly, with all the detail settings to the highest. However, some of the newer games I have, like Vampire: Bloodlines, The Sims 2 and Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault are rather sluggish, even with the detail settings turned down. Just first-person looking from one direction to another is very jerky and stuttery. The loading times from one area to the next are pretty horrific too... especially for Vampire and The Sims. My specs either meet or exceed the recommended game specs for these games, yet I still have these issues.

My question is... can anyone recommend my next hardware upgrades so I can get back to smooth gaming? I'm not sure whether it's memory, graphics card, processor or what, and I could really do with some expert advice.

Thanks a lot! =)
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Offhand, my gut feeling says memory.    512MB just doesn't cut it today.     Most gamers *start* with 1GB, many have 2.

You have a decent processor and 800 FSB is not bad.    And the FX5950 w/256 is a very nice card that should handle most games smoothly.

When I review the whole system as a package, my first reaction was "hmmm.   not enough memory".
With most of these new games, the graphics card is the bottleneck.  The FX5950 was the top of the line in its days, but it has been surpassed by the 6000 series cards, like the 6600GT and 6800GT.  If you don't want to spend more than $200, the 6600GT is a great value; if you want ultimate performance, the 6800GT or 6800 Ultra will do it.
Before you change the hardware though, try a different video driver.  I have the 6600GT and the 66.93 driver was jerky with Unreal Tournament; I updated to the 75.90 beta and everything was smooth.
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I agree with callandor before purchasing anythig make sure all drivers are up to date and you version of direct x is current.

you might also download the trial version of sisoft sandra and run som system diagnostice and see if thre is anythign you can do to increse performance by changing settings oin teh system,
defragging your hard drive regularly will help as well.  I know this isnt a hardware option for upgrade, but it's something to look into.

I agree from above though. 512megs with windows xp is kind of my starting point when building systems for others.  when you go to buy new ram, you might want to look into getting faster memory for it.  400 mhz fsb ram could be bumped to 533mhz ram, increasing our processor to memory speeds which may also cause a bottle neck.

If money's no object, max your motherboard out with the ram it can handle, and go for 533mhz ram.

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Ali_BAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone for your comments. I have split the points between the three that helped the most. I will definately upgrade my memory, then maybe the graphics card when I can afford it.

I regularly defrag and have the latest graphics and directx drivers, so that isn't a problem.

Thanks again! =)
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