Upgrades to an Old PC (Z77-Socket 1155)
Upgrades to an Old PC
To my regular readers, this article might bore you, but perhaps a little dose of humour might still be of entertainment. To begin, I’m not really all that much of a techie, even with talk of my Socket 1155, and what not. I’ve had my own home PC for over twenty-three years, and worked with them for around three decades. I love working with computers, but inside of them … not so much.
Essentially, I only work on my own hardware because of the costs involved, the learning curve, and the time factor. I spend my entire day on the computer, so being without a workhorse is not an option. When there is an issue, I panic, then research, and promptly fix it. The point of this article is to serve people (like me) who need this information when upgrading their older systems.
Processor sockets come and go, DDR keeps going up in numbers, and almost none of the expensive items are backwards compatible. We can thank Intel for that, but don’t. I am pleased to see AMD coming back with a vengeance. For the record, and SEO purposes, these are the hardware specs you might be researching if you find this page.
- Processor: i7 3770 (non K) (Socket 1155)
- Motherboard: GA-Z77-D3H Rev 1.0 (Gigabyte Z77 series) Bios F22
- Everything else is stock standard.
- Graphics: MSI GTX 1080 TI Armor 11G OC Graphics Card
- Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCI-E RX 7.1
- RAM: Kingston HyperX Savage 32GB Kit (4x8GB) 2400MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL11 DIMM XMP (HX324C11SRK4/32)
With the boring details out of the way, let’s get on with the fun stuff; ordering components and worrying about whether they will work or not, and when they don’t fit, taking a grinder to the computer housing. You can do as much research as you want, but until you get the parts in your grubby paws, you have no idea if they will be compatible with your system.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of information online, and many of my questions were answered on Tom’s Hardware. Thanks guys! It’s in the spirit of this mutual support and help that I’ve decided to add my own little morsel of information.
First, let me start with the beast. The MSI GTX 1080 TI is enormous! It looks smaller in the promotional images because it is taller than your average card, so the visual proportions are misleading to the eye. I ripped open the packing, hauled out nearly one kilogram of graphics card … and it did not fit. I could get it into the PCI slot with a very gentle side twist, but that is far from desirable. You do not want any component wedged tightly against anything else in the chassis.
With the beast temporarily seated on the motherboard, I eagerly flicked on the power, excited at the prospects. Well, not only did it not fit, but it also did not work. Oh dear, that was a costly mistake! The system would boot up as far as the start-up logo and stop. After a heart stopping moment or two, I swapped it out with my original MSI GT 640, and did some further research.
Thanks to the online community who knows these things far better than I do, I learnt two crucial things you should know when considering any Nvidia GTX 1080 TI:
- With a motherboard this old, you will probably need to update your motherboard’s bios. This is why mine froze on initial boot up;
- This card requires two 8-pin PCI-E power connector inputs. Make sure that your power supply can handle the card, and has at least one 8-pin PCI-E power connector (6+2-pin version also works), and an additional 6-pin PCI-E that you can attach to the 8-pin adapter included in the box. It requires a minimum of a 600 watt power supply.
With this sorted out, I swapped the cards around again, and breathed out with relief. The main reason for my graphics card upgrade is that I am running two 4K 28” 60Hz monitors, and while the MSI GT 640 can run such extreme resolution, it’s not ideal on the long term. I don’t game much unless it is Tomb Raider — sorry gamers, I can assure you that it’s not wasted nonetheless — but I do use the desktop real-estate space. I work with graphics, photography, book cover design, typesetting, editing, and so forth, so I continually use both monitors.
I yanked out the beast of a card, the other bits and bobs, and took the case outdoors. I brought out my Dremel and began grinding away. Boy, the older Cooler Master cases are really tough! Nearly two grinding stones later, I had an ample gap for the pointed plastic back edge of the GTX 1080 to slide in without any pressure. If you are looking at any of the Nvidia GTX 1080 TI cards, get out your measuring tape before you purchase because they are large and heavy. In fact, the MSI Armor is so hefty that I now need an ATX extension adapter cable for the power supply to the motherboard. When it arrives, I will be routing the cable the long way around the back of the board, and not directly over the graphics card.
Considering that my PC is now quite old, I had two choices: a complete new system; or a partial upgrade coupled with a fervent prayer that the Socket 1155 motherboard holds up for another few years. Since I am quite happy with my system, I decided to max out the RAM with a Kingston HyperX 32GB kit. I had 24GB in two dual sets of DDR3, but mixed speed. This meant it ran as fast as the slowest set. At worst, the new HyperX would have run at 1600MHz. If you are wondering whether the RAM will run at 2400MHz on this motherboard, it does. Simply select from one of the XMP options in your bios. Fortunately, I was surprised to find that it can run at its maximum, and the system is 100% stable. I am now a big believer in buying factory created sets of RAM modules.
… and now for the biggest disappointment. I’ve been a huge fan of Creative Labs products for twenty-five years, but that has just changed. Sadly, they have not evolved much, and in fact, they have become far less feature rich. I specifically bought the Sound Blaster Audigy 5 because it’s reportedly the last card that properly supports the older, more exciting EAX options, but even this has been stripped down. The software has not been updated in many years, and it doesn’t even save some of its settings, which is such a daily nuisance. Midi support is now so dumbed down that there isn’t even a proper way to use the 8mg SoundFont bank (hidden on the CD) except to manually overwrite it in the operating system. Why did they break the drivers? It used to work just fine.
Registration is another shocker. The software suggests that you register on the company website, which I decided to do, and then it told me that my serial number was incorrect. Really? The company rejects its own serial numbers? Shame on you Creative Labs. You cannot even be bothered to reply to your fans, so this sound card will be the last product I buy from Creative Labs. The hardware is okay, but not brilliant — not any more. What has happened since the days of the original Sound Blaster Live? I think Creative Labs has become greedy, and even worse; extremely lazy! With a CD filled with software — most of it undocumented and unused — surely they could have written some decent drivers?
Do you want my honest opinion? Buy a Xonar from Asus instead. They are more affordable and have the same audio quality. Creative Labs products have become so stupidly expensive that I could not afford one with my last PC build. I have a budget Xonar that I just replaced with the Audigy 5.
In closing, I have a (nearly) top-of-the-range PC that is now four years old. The graphics card and the sound card should be good for at least another five to ten years. Please hold thumbs on my behalf that my Socket 1155 motherboard lasts at least half that long. Oh, and Intel … can you STOP changing sockets faster than people change their underwear? It’s enough to make us buy AMD. Perhaps on my next upgrade ….
Do You Have Something to Contribute?
If you have a Socket 1155 based system, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below, and let’s start a discussion.