How much speed increase in this?

     I have a Dell Precision 530 workstation equipped with a 1.7 Ghz. Xeon w/256 cache and 256 mb rdram, running Win. XP. If I pull this processor and install a 2.4 Ghz. with 512 mb cache and increase my rdram to 512 mb-how much speed increase am I going to see? How much more at 768 ram and at 1.0 GB ram? Which of these improvements will trigger Microsoft to re-register Windows? Can I make any of these improvements without altering the operating system?
                                                                                            L. Daily
                                                                                            greywolf01 at EE
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Gary CaseConnect With a Mentor RetiredCommented:
The economics leew noted are accurate -- but may not be the only factor here.  If you have a large amount of time/effort involved in configuring the system and are happy with it in all other respects, then you can achieve a fairly notable improvement with a RAM upgrade that may be all you need.   I agree that the RDRAM hurts the economic picture -- but the ability to use the same system with no modification to the OS, no software reinstallation, etc. is worth something in many cases -- only you can decide if yours is one of them.

As for your questions ...

"... If I pull this processor and install a 2.4 Ghz. with 512 mb cache and increase my rdram to 512 mb-how much speed increase am I going to see?" ==>  Let's break this into two parts:

   (a)  the CPU upgrade => for MOST applications you use very little of your CPU's capabilities;  so a swap from 1.7GHz to 2.4GHz will make little difference.   However, the doubling of the cache will make a notable difference in the memory bandwidth => that will give you a nice bump in performance probably more noticeable than the increased CPU speed.   BUT ... do (b) first (the memory upgrade)

   (b)  the memory upgrade will have FAR more impact than the CPU upgrade -- in fact I'd do it first and then see if you even feel the need for further upgrading.   With XP you will notice a MAJOR increase in performance between 256mb and 512mb.   The difference in increases beyond that depend very much on the application mix, and the number of simultaneous applications you typically have open.   If you typically have several windows open, you may want to go with 768mb;  but the performance difference between 512mb and 768mb is MUCH smaller than the difference between 256mb and 512mb.

"... How much more at 768 ram and at 1.0 GB ram? " ==>  Discussed above -- but generally there is a rapidly reducing gain/$ about 512mb.  Since your PC has 4 RIMM sockets and you most likely have 2 occupied (I presume your 256mb is 2 x 128mb RIMM's -- correct?) I would suggest you keep your current RIMMs and add either 2 128mb modules or 2 256mb modules -- a total of either 512mb or 768mb.   There's NO reason to go to 1GB -- the difference between 768mb and 1GB is very small.  If you happen to have 4 64mb RIMMs, then I'd buy 2 256mb RIMMs and go with 640mb total.

"... Which of these improvements will trigger Microsoft to re-register Windows? " ==> NONE of them.   Your system has a built-in NIC, which is the highest ranked in Microsoft's activation scheme.   You'd have to make SIX other changes in the hardware has to trigger activation !!   ... and that's only if Dell didn't use a BIOS-based pre-activation (if they did that you can change ANYTHING else with no activation requirement).    ... and even if you did trigger activation (you won't) it will activate over the internet with no intervention as long as you haven't done that 3 other times in the same year.

"... Can I make any of these improvements without altering the operating system? " ==> You can make ALL of them without altering the OS.   The only change that would cause that to be an issue would be changing from a non-hyperthreading OS to a hyperthreading OS, which would alter the Hardware Abstration Layer and require a re-installation of XP.   You have not proposed doing that -- so you're fine.

"... how about internet connection speed-where is the most noticable and economical difference there? " ==>  This very much depends on what you're using the connection for, and if it's shared with others.   If it's just used for e-mail, and you're happy with the current speed, there's no reason to change.  If you do a lot of downloading, or share with a lot of users, then you'd likely notice a very large difference with a faster connection.   I've seen many cases where folks buy a faster computer when what they really needed was a faster internet connection.   Personally I'd be a bit frustrated with a 256kb connection, as I'm very accustomed to a much faster one ==> for example, I often "grab" a 3-5mb manual to peruse and help folks here -- I couldn't reasonably do that on that connection.   But for my e-mail needs 256kb would be FAR more than I need.   So it just depends on the usage.   As far as a "sweet spot" where it's "most noticeable and economical" ... that's almost impossible to evaluate without comparing the pricing plans for your specific area.   Bottom line:  You need to evaluate the price/performance thresholds of the available connection options;  but be aware that an appreciably faster line (1.5mb+) would make a VERY noticeable difference in the "feel" of the internet even with NO other upgrades to your system.
greywolf01Author Commented:
Also, I know the greatest speed improvement will occur at maximum processor and ram, but which single increment will make the most noticable difference compared to the rest?
greywolf01Author Commented:
Also, how about internet connection speed-where is the most noticable and economical difference there? I have a DSL
256 connection. Please let me know your opinions there-we want to improve considerably for the least expensive

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jamietonerConnect With a Mentor Commented:
with xp just upgrading the ram from 256 to 512 you will see a speed increase. not so much if you just upgraded the cpu. Upgrading the ram wont cause it to need to be registered, thats usualy caused when the motherboard is replaced with a different one.
enfzConnect With a Mentor Commented:
The system performance depends on overall performance, depending on the type of performance boost you are after. For example, if you are using a program which requires raw processing power performance, then a CPU upgrade will be the most benefitial. Upgrading the more memory (RAM) will definately help when running WinXP, as that way Windows will utilise more of the RAM rather than the page file (swap file on your hard disk, which is slowed than RAM). Having more RAM doesn't specifically make the programs run "Faster" but it will make things run alot smoother (less hard drive grinding) and you can run more programs simultaneously. The extra cache on the CPU will help for applications that will take advantage of it, eg Gaming (then again, Xeon is not really optimised for gaming!). The overall architecture & bus system of your system will be your major bottleneck, newer systems have better bus speeds, better features such as HyperTransport which improves on the communication of the internal system, HyperThreading (intel) etc.

As to whether you need to reactive windows, refer to this site to do your math!

Hope this helps ;)
Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
As I mentioned in your previous question, RAM will make the single biggest increase in performance.  Going to 512 will be good for everyday use.  More RAM will help, depending on what you do with the computer.  If you do video editing and run virtual machines, you will need more RAM - if you just check your email and browse the web while occasionally working in an Excel sheet or Word Document, then 512 will be the best option.

As far as activation goes, it doesn't matter - if you have to reactivate, you call microsoft.  I've never heard of a single instance where they didn't reactivate a system - I'm sure it's happened, but I've not heard of a single one.  Adding RAM will DEFINITELY not force a reactivation and I DOUBT changing the CPU will.  I believe you have to make at least three major changes at once.  That's two.

Your problem is this system uses Rambus RAM - this is NOT cheap.  RAMBUS RAM at this vendor ( is $100, $200, $400 depending on the size of 256 MB kit, 512 MB kit, or 1 GB kit.  For comparison, a 1 GB kit of DDR 2700 at crucial is as little as $123.  You can probably get a second cpu cheaper - or a faster CPU cheaper - but it won't provide as much performance out of it.  Given this, you would probably be better off selling the system on ebay and buying a new Dual Core processor based system - I put together an AMD Athlon X2 3800+ with 2 GB RAM, PCI-X video card, and LARGE tower case for under $700.  That's about the cost of 1GB RAM upgrade and CPU upgrade on your existing system.  Throw in another $100 for DVD Writer & Hard Drive and you've got a REALLY good system, MUCH faster, for a relative little more money.

If your existing system didn't use RAMBUS, then upgrading it would be ABSOLUTELY warranted...  But it does.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Sell it on ebay for $200, add the $400 for a 1 GB Kit upgrade, and for $200 additional you get a system far faster
greywolf01Author Commented:
Again, great information guys!
     It is all about what I had imagined I would receive for answers but every time I ask this type of question somebody else inputs a little more information that I can learn from or that I did not know so every little bit helps. Your answers were all so good that I increased points and split 4 different ways this time. Thanks for the help EE!
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                                                                                                           greywolf01 at EE
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