Not a shabby system, but some of these parts are getting to be long in the tooth. I guess the first question to answer is what I would buy next. No point in trying to determine what I am going to salvage without knowing what I am getting new. The easiest path would be to go the Intel way. Since I already own a motherboard with a BX chipset. The only logical choice at this time would be the P3 700E. This avenue would also require new RAM to even attempt an overclock, since my PC100 sticks are ancient. The cost would be pretty minimal, as I'm not really changing all that much stuff.
The overclocking success risk factor, however, is pretty significant for me. If I don't make it to 933, I'll be stuck running the chip at default speed, or in some paltry 800MHz range. If I don't make it to an even PCI divider, I'm also screwed. My cards don't like to be overclocked at all; blame the SCSI subsystem. While the chance of a failure is minimal, it would indeed be a sad day if my upgrade only ended up being a 100 MHz increase over my previous computer. I don't think I could take that kind of risk.
Another problem with this upgrade is that it's not going to last particularly long. The Pentium III line is essentially dead. After I upgrade to the 700E, that's it. I'll have to buy a whole new system in a few months. I'm too lazy for that. If I'm doing some sort of an upgrade, I want it all done at once, so I can just sit back and do nothing for a good while afterward. All I've been doing is tossing in new chips for the past few years, nice and painless. It's time for a platform shift.
The only other Intel option I would have is the Pentium IV. Could I really call it an option? Cost? Upgradabilty? Speed? I could just as easily poke hot irons through each of my toes before I consider this.
With Intel out of the scene, that leaves two options from AMD - the Duron or the Thunderbird. If cost were a bigger part of the equation, I would take the Duron in a heartbeat. Those processors are insanely overclockable, and they cost a mere $50. Getting a 900 MHz Duron for the cost of a night out on the town is a bargain.
But I decided that more power was the way to go, so I opted for the Tbird. Since the Tbirds are just as overclockable as Durons, should I just go for the low end Tbirds and push the daylights out of them? I would if I had a normal system. But with the amount of peripherals and cards I have plugged into my system, I have to be a bit more conservative on the overclocks I can hope to achieve. Cost was also a big factor here. Why pay $100 for a low-end Tbird, when I can fork out another $50 and get something considerably higher? So I decided on the 1 GHz Tbird in the hopes of a modest overclock to 1.1 or 1.2 GHz. Aim low and you can't possibly be disappointed! If I don't have much success, 1 GHz isn't a bad place to be.
My old BH6 lasted a long time. To me, replacing the motherboard should be the last option. I've done tons of mods to my computer and never did I have to bother ripping out a motherboard, it involves more effort than I'd like to put in on a casual basis. Adding a hard drive, no problem. A few cables and some lettering changes don't muck things up too much. Changing a motherboard means that, in addition to the troublesome physical replacement, you are going to have to reinstall your OS, plus troubleshoot your way back to a working system. Ugh. This is another good reason to pick up the Tbird. Whatever motherboard I buy is guaranteed to last at least a year if not more. I highly doubt the new motherboard will last me as long as my trusty BX did, but it will outlast many of the other options available at the moment.
Time to go shopping.