I really don't know why I hear that people can't run games like Metro 2033 on maximum. I have a 5 year old BTX rig with an E6420, 4 gigs of DDR2-667, and an MSI 260GTX clocked to 655/1408/1050, on Windows XP, and I run Metro 2033 on maximum settings, nearly always locked at 60fps. Lowest drop might be to 45fps or so for a second or two when shit hits the fan. I consider that perfectly playable.
I don't know... maybe keeping my computer clean, and manually optimizing whatever I can plays a bigger part than you'd expect. That and staying with good old Windows XP and DX9. Oh, and my Metro 2033 is stripped of Steam.
Now, I'm not saying I can play ANY game on maximum settings. I can't play S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call Of Pripyat on anything above mid-high. My processor just doesn't cut it. I always use Metro 2033 as an example, because honestly, I've never seen a game with better graphics.
LOL? you don't play on maximum settings you know, not only because your OS isn't capable, but your computer isn't capable as well, regardless of what operating system or configuration you try, since your GTX 260 isn't DirectX 11 capable at all, in fact it doesn't support D3D 10.1, you obviously stay with Windows XP for performance reasons (while I don't need, I do it because quite honestly, the NT 5 line is unbeatable in reliability and speed, though it's getting really dated already, besides Sound Blaster/X-Fi cards working much much better under XP/2003 than they do under Windows Vista/7/8, because XP supports the dedicated audio processor). Now, as for STALKER, you're memory limited, the GTX 260's 896MB framebuffer is too tiny to handle that game, and for system memory, which it's just as hungry at, DDR2-667 is simply too slow even in quad-channel server configurations, standard memory clocks today are more than twice as that, besides STALKER being one of the games that benefit from memory abundance due to the nature of GSC's engine. As for your CPU, you only play titles that won't hammer it, that's pretty much why you stand it. If you ever try Black Ops, GTA IV, or any other CPU hog, your processor would give you unbearably shitty frame rates, quite often below 15 even on the lowest resolution and texture settings you could imagine unless you overclock it hard, in fact the 65nm Conroe lineup is so dated for today's standards, that even your 4 generations old GTX 260 is bottlenecked by it, seeing as it barely won over AMD's dinosaur Athlon64 X2 line. The bare minimum processor for enjoyable gaming today is the Core 2 Quad Q6600, which is exactly TWICE as powerful as your processor, and already several times slower than the latest in gaming hardware. Y'know, time to invest the money you didn't funnel into Steam into something a bit less jurassic.