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 Post subject: Building a PC
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2003 6:17 pm 
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I considering building a PC. Any words of wisdom on this? Good places to buy components/kits?

Can the average joe handle this or am I getting into more than I realize?

Thanks

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2003 10:08 pm 
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Location: Weymouth, MA US of A
Hi Alan,

I considered building my own PC when I wanted to upgrade. I've installed Hard drives, CD-Drives, modems, memory, video cards and other expansion cards in the various computers I've owned. But I was intimidated by the things I've never done, like installing a microprocessor (if done wrong, you could crack it in half, or bend a pin the wrong way, ruining it) or setting up a system BIOS the first time. The next system I buy, I'll build myself.

What I did this time, however, was go to a computer show and pick out the components I wanted in the system and had a vendor put it together as a custom job. If I were to buy the same computer from say Dell, Micron or Gateway, it would have cost me at least $1000 more. The person I baught my computer from has his store one town over from me (not too far from Mike's school in Randolph, actually) and has a good reputation. One word of caution: do research into the components you want before you buy, even if you want to build your own. There are certain websites out there with advice for building your own PC. I'll dig a few out for you and post them here.

How are the boys, BTW? And the wife?

Gene

Gene


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 1:15 am 
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Thanks Gene.

A friend from work has built 3 and offered to give me a hand buying components and building. I'm sure I'll learn a lot and have a mega PC.

I'll let you know how it goes when I do it. He suggested www.directron.com or going to a show as you suggested. He is going to also suggest what I should buy for components.

Brenda and the boys are great. Thanks for asking. Chris has probably grown a foot since you saw him last and Seth is doing well in the Army. Plans to go to sniper school and then to Ranger school. He was asked to apply to West Point also. I'm not sure he is ready to make that long of a commitment to the Army. Looking to FBI when he gets out.

Best

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 1:26 am 
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If you do it right, you can save a lot of $$$, and have a killer system. Just make sure to research all the diferent components out there: their options, their upgradability and how well they work with other companies components. For example, certain Sound Blaster sound cards are notoriously fussy when matched with certain VIA Technologies chipsets on motherboards.

Here's a link to Maximum PC's guide to How to Construct the Ultimate PC. It's about a year old, but still has good info. The new, faster Pentium chips are out, so they might be worth looking into, if you want to be on the cutting edge.

Gene


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 1:27 am 
I've built a couple myself.. it's a pain getting the right components but you'll learn alot. A couple of annoying obstacles are setting up your IDE devices (CD-ROM, Hard Drives, Zip Drive, etc) and getting the jumpers setup properly and also formatting an old drive and setting a partition. it's not to hard but if your new to the computer hardware scene, i'd reccomend reading up on these two things. Everything else is basically Plug 'n Play.
Also, if you are getting a motherboard, try and get a deal on the processor and motherboard. Like Gene says, you can break the processor but also setting the jumpers on the mother board for that processor might be confusing. It's best if it comes pre-configured.

Are you going Intel or AMD?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 1:29 am 
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Oh, one other thing.

If you think you don't want the hassle of building from scratch, have a local vendor put together a bare-bones system, and then you can buy the components you want and put them in yourself.

Gene


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 10:34 am 
That's actually a good idea but alot of times they'll put a tamper proof label on the case. If you open the case, it will void the their warranty (not the warranty on the components). You need to discuss with them your intentions before commiting to buying.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 9:15 pm 
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Hi Alan. Today, building a PC is straightforward and fairly easy if one follows directions. If you are going to get some experieenced help in the process, I highly reccommend that approach because it can be a lot of fun as well -- besides saving big bux.

I've built many over the past 20+ years. I built 5 last summer and fall, some from scratch, and several of what they call "barebones." Barebones typically means that one purchases a case, power supply, and motherboard all mounted and tested, and sold as one unit.

There are several places, one local, where I can reccommend getting your parts from, and even what could be better to get or not, etc. The local place has an outstanding support, repair, and warranty replacement reputation, as well as offers plenty of tips and hints, etc.

Tony writes about setting jumpers. The newer motherboards have jumperlees BIOSes, and automatically set up everything including hard drives, CD drives, frequency, video, etc. Many new motherboards have built-in audio, video, Lan, latest USB, Firewire, etc., and the manufacturer supplies a CD with ALL the drivers. These included items are not shoddy and have state-of-the-art latest technology.

I'll give you a typical example. Pick out a case, have help picking out a motherboard to provide as seamless transition as possible. Let's just pick one popular board, it's called ASUS. I'm lazy so I want to get one with all the goodies on it. This will also save maybe 200-300 dollars. Not bad because the outlay for the board itself was maybe 125 or 150 including tax. Cases usually come with power supplies, and the type of CPU will determine the type of power supply and the wattage you need.

I want a processor, a CPU chip. I actually select this first because the selection of the motherboard depends upon what type of chip. I select Intel. A little more expensive, but much, much quieter. A good place on the price curve is around a 2.4 or 2.5 GHz chip. After that the price shoots up rapidly. I want to use either Windows 2000 or Windows XP. If I'm just going to do some document work and a little surfing I could be happy with one 256 Meg chip. However, anything more, like spreadsheeting will need 512Meg. Memory is not that expensive.

Case, power supply, motherboard, and memory out of the way. Each is fairly easy to connect and almost childproof to connect as well.

CD -- CD R/W drives are being eclipsed by DVD drives. If you spring for a writer get a DVD - something, not a DVD + something. There are also combination CD burners and DVD readers. Personal requirements can help select one.

Hard drive. Usually, actually most often, bigger is better. THESE DAYS, Western digital 7200 RPM drives with 8 Meg buffers seem to be the better choice. I think they are. Maxtor is trying to catch up, but they ain’t there yet. CompUSA is, and has been having sales on these Western digital drives. You can save a legitimate $100 bux or more on one from them.

Almost there.

Again, the latest motherboard does most, if not all, of the work for you.

Floppy drive? Anything will do.

The wires are also fairly easy to route and connect. Most everything has it's own set of highly identifyinle wires and keyed to help prevent plugging things in the wrong way.

Operating system. My recommendation is either Windows 2000 or Windows XP. XP ties into Microsoft they have to be contacted whenever something in the PC in the PC is changed. I consider it a real PAIN in the butt, therefore I stick with 2000. Either operating system will also do a lot of automatic setting up for you as well; no muss, no fuss.

Monitor? Get nothing but an LCD monitor. They REALLY save the eyes, and the price of them has dropped considerably.

Pick your networking stuff, printer, mouse, keyboard, etc.

BTW, you can use parts from your current PC to save more $$$.



IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED, ALAN, LET ME KNOW TODAY. I'M ARRANGING TO GET SOME TIME TO GO TO THE HUT TOMORROW MORNING, AND IF SUCCESSFUL, I'LL BRING IN ONE OF THESE LITTLE JEWELS WITH ME.

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Always with an even keel.
-- Allen


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 10:02 pm 
I'd hold off on a DVD writer for now. They are very expensive and are soon to be obsolete with a new DVD technology that will quadruple capacity (using a blue laser). No sense in spending 250 dollars when they'll be 50 bux in a years time. Same goes for players.. once these new HiRes dvd's come out, your old players will be obsolete. The new players will be backward compatible, but I wouldn't spend too much on a DVD player right now.

That was great info Allen. Been a couple years since I put a whole PC together. Stuff changes fast.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 11:23 pm 
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I think the DVD writers are great. I recently got one ($2xx.00), and a pinnacle card and am converting, or will be when I get a chance, all my old hi-8 tapes.

I biught my first CD writer for the purpose of printing The American UechiRyu Handbook in 1995 for $1,100.00 shortly after the price break from 3 or so thousand. What a rollercoaster ride, and it's all downhill.

Back to DVD. They play great in the DVD players under the TVs, and even writes 20 minutes of AVI to CDs.

I watched for DVD media sales since November, and even in the best of Xmas sales, they held their price.

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Always with an even keel.
-- Allen


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 11:25 pm 
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Location: PA, US
Thanks all for your input.

Below is a suggested shopping list. This would be one mega machine. My friend suggest the AMD - he has had good performance and say upgrades are easy as poping on a new chip. He has a watercooled case that allows him to overclock his AMD.

Comments?

****************
Allen

Wish I could be at the Hut to see you and your machine! But it would be a long drive from PA.

****************

Tony

Maybe I'll hold off on the DVD R/W??? Although I thought this was a pretty good price.


AMD Athlon XP ThoroughBred 2600+ 2.13GHz 333MHz Socket A Microprocessor, OEM
*Test Before Shipping?: 289.00


Samsung DDR 400MHz 512MB (PC 3200) 184Pin Memory, Non-ECC, OEM

*Test Before Shipping?: 132.00 x2 = 264.00

Thermaltake Black Highest Xaser II A5000A Plus Case w/ Big Side Window, Hardcano 7 & Back IEEE Connector



*AMD Athlon XP, BG-XP (+4.99) 123.99
Vantec ThermoFlow TF8025 80mm Case Fan, Speed Adaptable, Low Noise, Low Power Usage, Retail box


*Add a Case Badge: 9.00 Yes 45.00

Black Pioneer DVR-104WB DVD-RW, CD-RW Combo Drive w/ Software & Media, White box. 229.00

Thermaltake Highest Performance Smart & Silent VOLCANO 9 Cooler for XP up to 2600+, Socket 370 & Socket 462 19.99

WD1200JB SE, Western Digital (WD) 120GB 7200RPM Special Edition IDE Hard Drives, 8MB Cache, OEM

*Test Before Shipping?: 166.00

Silver & Black Directron BTC Multimedia PS/2 9110 Keyboards, Slick Look, *RP16*
*Add Software: 19.00 Yes 19.00

Black Generic PS/2 Scrolling Mouse/Mice


*Add Software: 4.99 Yes 4.99

ABIT NF7-S Socket A ATX Motherboard, nForce2 Chipset, FSB333, DDR400, AGP 8X, USB 2.0, IEEE1394, SATA (RAID), ATA133, Audio & LAN 138.00

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition Operating System Software, Version 2002, Full Version, OEM 86.99

OEM, ATI RADEON 9700 PRO 128MB DDR AGP Video Card, Support AGP 8X 342.00


Enermax 430W EG465P-VE(FCA) Whisper Adjustable Fan Speed Power Supply, Dual fan, P4 Ready 89.99


Silver Single Device Rounded Floppy Drive Cable w/ Metal Mesh Shield, Boots 16.00 Remove

Total Purchases 1833.95

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Alan


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 18, 2003 9:51 am 
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Still Developing...

Writing in-process.

Quote:
. . . I was intimidated by the things I've never done, like installing a microprocessor (if done wrong, you could crack it in half, or bend a pin the wrong way, ruining it) or setting up a system BIOS the first time. . .


The risk of destroying up to, and over, $700 between your forefinger and thumb in a fraction of a second is definitely something to be concerned about, and is a big fear for the unfamiliar. The sockets are called ZIF connectors, ZIF for Zero Insertion Force. They have a lever similar to a paper cutter lever that you pull up vertically, and actually “rest” the CPU in place with no danger of doing the wrong thing. For most of us, ktutzes not included. Once the CPU is down and out of your fingers, pull the lever arm down and gently snap it into place. All done!

The BIOS needs almost none, and often it just finds everything and works without even glancing at it. It’s THAT easy.


Quote:
One word of caution: do research into the components you want before you buy, even if you want to build your own. There are certain websites out there with advice for building your own PC. I'll dig a few out for you and post them here.


In the Boston area, PCs for everyone.com is simply the best. Micro Center [probably microcenter.com], located at the opposite end of Cambridge, has the cheapest parts locally, but you need savvy before you venture in there otherwise you can throw away money there. Upgrade Source [upgradesource.com] to name a few are superior. Upgrade is usually the first with the newest that’s been reputably proben ok. They have 15K SCSI drives and the new ATA serial drives which are much faster than, and are the coming replacement for EIDE drives.

Quote:
Here's a link to Maximum PC's guide to How to Construct the Ultimate PC. It's about a year old, but still has good info. The new, faster Pentium chips are out, so they might be worth looking into, if you want to be on the cutting edge.

The new Pentiums simply blow the doors off everything else. The new hyperthreading ones border on supercomputers. Nothing else is even close.



Quote:
Below is a suggested shopping list. This would be one mega machine. My friend suggest the AMD - he has had good performance and say upgrades are easy as poping on a new chip. He has a watercooled case that allows him to overclock his AMD.


I'll get to the rest of the stuff in the list in a few minutes, but first the AMD...

Trust me, unless you’re into hot gaming and want to play around tweaking the #$%%&* BIOS all the time, stay away from AMD and overclocking. AMD chips are NOISY!!! Plain and simple. I’ve just retired two Athlons, an AMD 1100+ and an AMD [1800+ or] 2100+. The quietness of three purring Pentium-4 PCs is beautiful. I’ll sell you a good, robust, functioning and fast Athlon system, real cheap, if you want to go that route. Nothing wrong with them except they run hot and heat kills them and other hot-running components, such as video cards that require fan cooling.

Another AMD killer is heat, and overclocking generates even more heat, the reason they’re noisy in the first place. AND water-cooled? I purchased an Iceberg watercooled system ready to go into one of the retired AMDs but there were a few caveats that made me stop in my tracks while reading the instructions and decide to cut my losses right on the spot. It has to be turned on before the pc. That means if you don’t want to think about it you’ve got to devise a relay system that turns the water cooler on a fraction of a second before the pc and not the other way around, else pffft! Not a concern, the chip killers say? If you power down, say a cold reboot and power up again right away you simply have to remove the heat away from the chip before you power it up again, the heat that’s been accumulating since you’ve turned the PC off.

An AMD plus a water-cooled heat exchanger system can end up costing more than a simple Penium 4, much more, especially if you have to replace everything after the flood.

Gamers love them because they can sit their colored pcs up on top of the desk and show them off. They have cases with plexiglass side panels and colored neon lights inside, and in the case of water-cooled units have some real serious plumbing as well. I build one for my youngest last summer. It has an aluminum case, the plexiglass window, and the neon lights (blue in his case and I have a pair of red neon lights in my server case).

He has one of the retired AMD setups and his roommate complains about the noise at night. The Iceberg is his if he wants it, but he’s taken no action to install it, hence up for sale.


Quote:
Maybe I'll hold off on the DVD R/W??? Although I thought this was a pretty good price.
You just have to have a use for one to make it worthwile otherwise CD burners are real cheap, as low as $20 with rebates when they're on special. Like I wrote above, you can get up to 18 minutes AVI video from a CD. More time from Mpegs, but they just can't deliver the quality.

Quote:
The BOM


I just read BOM the list after I wrote all the above, and decided you’re hopelessly (LOL) lost. You’ve actually had all this stuff picked out ahead of time and was waiting to drop the bomb.

Quote:
‘*Test Before Shipping?: ‘
Yes, expect everything to have been tested before shipping. Some bench techs may even have been burning-in some of that stuff inside their own computers for as long as six months prior, to insure the parts don’t give the purchaser infant mortality.

Excellent choices, most of them. A question, a couple of comments, and one suggestion. Subjective, but make sure 512 is enough memory. I notice my pc uses a lot of memory when I feed the pinnacle card a new video to crunch. And if you are doing DVDs, you’ll be feeding in videos.

The case is where I decided you’re helplessly/hoplessly lost. For those who still don’t know what I mean, check out http://www.thermaltake.com/ THEY’RE mean. I like the sick pea-soup-green neon-color ones best, although I haven’t seen any outstanding orange ones yet. The colored ones drive everyone nuts, especcially with matching internal neon lights.

I swear, you’ve got all this stuff in your living room, just laughing at us all (LOL).

The one suggestion is to get a larger hard drive, by Western Digital, of course. Comp USA has a sale on the 180Giggers right now for about the same price. Go for it because 120 will get too small. I’m running a pair of 120s on one of my Shuttles.

Abit makes great motherboards. I’ll look at only three: ASUS, MSI, and Abit. And it’s got the Firewire AND the serial ATA ports. Good! Radeon is one of the best, if not THE best video card on the market today.

Enermax is the best in power supplies. I have a dual-fan one in my server case and it’s a s quiet as can be. Excellent choice. The Pentium ready means that it has a special 4-prong power connector for Pentium boards.

You may want to consider getting a rounded cable for your WD hard drive as well because it’s not SATA, the serial cables provided by Abit w\are useless for it, everyone’s going to be googling inside that case, and you want to show it off good!

One more thing... I missed the line where you wrote internal neon lights. You've got to get neon lights to really set that new baby off. Envy, now I have envy, ooohh.

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-- Allen


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 Post subject: Thanks everyone
PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2003 5:02 pm 
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My goals were to:

1. Learn something
2. have a great PC
3. have some fun doing it.

Well thanks to everyone's input I'm already learning and having fun. :D

Now I just have to make some final decisions on what to buy and get it put together.

Allen - thanks for letting me know about the neon lights in the case, sounds cool. I wonder if they have black lights? :wink:

I am going with 1024 ram.

I'll let you all know how it goes.

best,

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Alan


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2003 6:30 pm 
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Of course they have backlights, Alan. Not only that, you can buy special backlight paint, invented for the specific purpose of spraying it on the inside of your PC case to show off its insides with a pair of backlights.

Pair did I say? The best style of PC case lights is sold as two lights that come as a pair and are independently attached to a ballast setup. The ballast plugs into any standard hard drive power connector and has an attractive-looking switch that you can mount somewhere on your case.

I'm having the side panels of my server case (a big cube on wheels) machined-out and am installing a set of Plexiglas side-panels on it. I'm considering stripping everything out of it (probably for the tenth to twentieth time) doing a little sandblasting and then spaying it with the special backlight paint. I'll keep the neon lights in the case too, but on a separate switch. My server case (has an ASUS P4PE in it, BTW) doubles as either a foot stool or a conversation starter coffee table.

Again, I strongly recommend to go with Pentium and not AMD if you want the fastest, bestest, and coolest machine in town and all around. The new Pentiums are still super-quiet, but most importantly they do hyperthreading that blows the doors off everything else and there's nothing in its class. Keep that in mind if you haven't purchased your new toy yet, Alan -- Allen

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-- Allen


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2003 2:16 am 
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Additional note about water-cooled PCs: I just got in from work and noticed some eager college-man installed the water-cooled system in his pc. It looks kinda, well, cool. The internals look more like the engine compartment of a car than the inside of a PC. He stuck a set of black lights in it. I wonder if powder can be added to the water that would show off the flow when his pc is running.

Y'know, for a long time pc cases have been booooring. Now they're getting to look pretty hot, er cool, er whatever.

When's yours coming. Alan?

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-- Allen


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