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Help Rock out My System!

Ask the Doctor LogoMy current rig is an HP Pavilion M8530F with a Viola-GL8E motherboard. The CPU is a 2.2GHz Phenom X4 9550. The board is AM2+. I asked HP for a copy of the mainboard’s user manual hoping it could tell me what AM2+ chip I could drop in. However, I find myself even more confused. I think a 2.6GHz Phenom 9950 X4 will work even though it is a 125-watt chip and my current 9550 is a 95-watt chip.

I’d rather not spend the money only to be proven dead wrong and be stuck having to borrow my fiancée’s Vaio laptop. It may be nice, but it’s not my desktop. So far, the only change made to my rig in the two years I’ve had it was the addition of a graphics card cooler, of the intake variety. I’ve done research and the more questions I have answered, the more confused I get. If I could, I’d just buy/build a new rig, but that’s not an option. Some newer games, like BioShock 2, require AMD core speed in excess of 2.2 GHz, and mine barely meets the requirements. Even the budget upgrade article in the July 2010 issue is vague on whether I can upgrade. Doc, please steer me in the right direction, lest I crash on the rocks of inaction.

—Lucas Allain

Read the Doctor's advice for Lucas after the jump.