I currently have a dell inspiron 530
intel dual core e4600 2.4ghz cpu,nvidia 8600gt video card.
What is the largest video card i can use without frying my system or doing any damage.
You're very unlikely to do any damage, no matter what graphics card you were to fit?
Depending on your budget(?), your only limitation might be the PSU the system is using?
Newer, more powerful graphics cards, draw a heckuva lot of power, so you need to make sure your PSU is up to it - else you'll have problems?
If you want a substantial upgrade... you may need to consider a PSU upgrade as well... assuming that's possible (some Dell systems use proprietary components)?
Why are you considering an upgrade anyway? Are you an enthusiastic gamer, or do you use graphics intensive software - i.e. CAD?
From experience, I've found that: “Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder”!!
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You could possibly consider the 9600 GT without a PSU upgrade. You will still draw less than 250 watts on your total system with the card installed. The 9600 GT will give you twice the performance of the 8600 GT. Generally, the power supply will be less efficient if it is operating near its capacity. Dell power supplies are usually pretty good and can handle more than their stated amount so you should not have any concerns about doing any damage to your system. The 8600 GT states a requirement of 350 watts and you probably have the 300 or 305 watt power supply. The 9600 states a 400W requirement, but will not use much more than 20 watts over the 8600 GT. These requirements are for the total system not just the card itself. I think the card manufacturers over state the requirements due to a lot of cheap power supplies out there not living up to their specifications. Therefore, if you are only drawing 250 watts total and you have a 305 watt power supply capable of close to 400 watts, you can see that you still have room to spare. Amps are usually more of a concern than watts. Open your case up and look at the sticker on the side of your PSU. Check how many +12V rails you have and how many watts are on those rails. Video card manufacturers also list their amp requirement.
The power supply for the I530 is easily upgradeable with any standard ATX 12V one. Note that any PSU upgrade results in a bunch of cables in your case due to their length as compared to the custom fit wires on the Dell power supplies. The cables on retail power supplies are made to fit full size cases and with these mini towers such as the I530 you end up with a mess of cables you don't need and have to tie them up or stuff them into an empty optical drive slot.
Also, the 9600 GT requires a 6-pin PCIe hookup from your PSU and the 8600 GT does not. All higher-end cards require the additional power connection. You would have to use a couple of adapters to make it work since your current power supply does not have the PCIe cable. If you happen to have the 350W PSU, and I don't think you do, then you will already have it.
If it were me, I would just upgrade the power supply if you indeed just have the 300 or 305 watt. That way, you will have more video card choices now and in the future and all the cables you would need since you can get a good name brand one on sale for around $50. This one HERE is reduced right now and will fit right in and also have the benefit of being modular. You will still have a mess of long cables but you don't have to use all of them. You will usually just use 3, one for your hard drive, optical drive and video card besides the mainboard and CPU.