Upgrading a Dell Inspiron 518

My son recently has been complaining about the performance of his computer (a Dell Inspiron 518) in games. I did not purchase the computer for him originally so I did not concern myself with the Radeon 3450 video card which came with the system. Unfortunately, this video card has finally proven to be inadequate for playing modern games. My son tried to play Call of Duty Black Ops on the PC, but the video card just could not handle it even with the settings turned down.

With this in mind, and with a Radeon 4850 lying around from a PC I am turning into a media center computer, I decided to upgrade the Dell. Unfortunately, the power supply in the Dell is only 300 watts and lacks any power connector for a video card (6 pin connector in this case). So now I had to upgrade the power supply as well. I checked the measurements for the installed power supply and fortunately is was a standard size. I made a pre-Thanksgiving trip to best Buy and picked up a Thermatake 600 watt supply for $89 with more than enough power connectors.

The install of the power supply went well, although the old PS was a little difficult to remove thanks to some metal clips on the case chassis for routing cables which made removing the PS harder than it should have been. The new PS fit fine and then I went through the motions of finding what connectors I needed (there were many unused ones left). I plugged everything in, routing the cables as best as I could. Before removing the old video card, I powered on the PC to make sure the PS was working. When I saw the boot screen, I knew I was in business. Next I removed the old video card and installed the Radeon 4850 with its required power connector. I power on again, and everything was good. I only needed to reinstall the video drivers (which was not really a problem because I was planning on upgrading them anyway).

After a reboot I ran the Windows Experience test again and the video went from 3.7 to 5.9 (the max for Vista). Now all his components were 5.9 and I knew the PC was good to go. My son has been playing COD a lot lately since the upgrade (he was happy to be able to set the video settings to max).

So do not forget to check the power supply before upgrading internal components – you may not have the power connector you need.

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