Approximately 6 months ago, my computer started spontaneously rebooting, and I decided to replace the motherboard and Processor. After researching processors online, I decided that the best bang-for-the-buck would be to pick up an Intel Core2 Duo 1.86GHz processor (I am not a gamer, but this is a quite decent proc with dual cores, 64-bit support, and Virtualization support. Good deal! At NewEgg and ZipZoomFly, the processor (by itself) ran approximately $200 by itself.
When flipping through the local Fry's ad, however, they were offering a boxed, retail Core2 Duo 1.86GHz (some processor) WITH a motherboard for $175. This motherboard supported both DDR400 and DDR2, as well as AGP (sounds like a decent transition motherboard... my video card was an 8x AGP Radeon x700 Pro, and my RAM was DDR400.
The motherboard itself was an ECS (couldn't tell you the model...), but long story short, it appears that Fry's was PAYING me $25 to take that motherboard off their hands ;)
It has run decently for the last 6 months, although as you can see in the picture below, the memory performance was absolutely abysmal compared to everything else in the system.
I swapped out the two DDR400 sticks of RAM and put in a matched pair of DDR2 sticks, and the memory stayed the same. I upgraded to 1.5GB of RAM, and still... memory performance remained my bottleneck. I don't know what the deal was with the memory controller on this motherboard, but it was not doing what I needed.
I am quite glad that Vista has the Performance monitor built in. Instead of relying on my "feelings" as to how fast the computer was running, I am able to tell at a glance whether performance has changed, and what component I need to replace to speed things up.
So... a few weeks ago, I decided to upgrade the guts again. As mentioned in past posts, I tend to buy computer components when they are on sale. Memory, which was REDICULOUSLY high when Vista came out has been dropping to ridiculous prices (2GB of name-brand DDR2 runs around $80), so I picked up 4GB of Kingston, and SATA Hard drives are crazy-cheap... I wanted comfortably work with the 4GB of RAM, and 3rd party support for Vista x64 has advanced to the point where it is no longer painful to run a 64-bit Operating System. Therefore, 64-bit support was an absolute requirement. All new motherboards are PCI-Express, so I had to replace my motherboard. In the past, I have had great luck with MSI and Asus motherboards, but after reading reviews, the motherboard in my price range with the features and reviews I wanted was a Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 (rev 3.3). It supports the Core2Duo (with a faster FSB in case I ever upgrade my proc), Vista x64, PCI-E, SATA 3GB, 8-channel Audio Gigabit LAN, and the Intel 965/ICH8 chipset). The one strange aspect of this motherboard is the fact that it has ONE IDE port. I could either run my IDE Hard Drive and DVD-RW drive on the same IDE channel, or just switch to a SATA drive. As I had several laying around my house, I decided to swap out the Hard Drive as well. The video card (Radeon X700 Pro) was swapped out for a Radeon X1950 Pro. I should probably start playing games... ;)
Long story short, I spent a Saturday afternoon performing surgery on the computer. I now have Vista x64 Ultimate Edition up and running, and the computer has Teh Snappy. The one issue I ran into was restoring files from my 32-bit Vista into Vista x64, but the found the solution at the following blog post: Confused about restoring a file from a backup in Windows Vista? Read this!
End result: Memory is now longer a bottleneck, and even processor performance improved on the new Motherboard!