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Author Topic: Building a PC - where to start?  (Read 2818 times)
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Charlatan
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« on: October 22, 2004, 03:55:38 PM »

I'm coming to the conclusion that I need/want to build myself a new PC. I've done various and sundry upgrades but none recently. Where should I start to read about what I want to get, compare motherboards, processors, etc?

I tried going to Tom's Hardware but I couldn't find a good "start here" place, and I don't think I'm yet ready for the comparative reviews they had - I need to start with more overview articles before zooming in on the specifics I saw there.

Any suggestions for sites? Heck, even places that sell bare bones systems might be good, if they had some edumacational materials too. smile

Thanks!
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Jeff
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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2004, 04:16:01 PM »

Charlatan, see if this site helps:

Build Your Own PC

As for which parts to buy, I'd say right here would be a good place to start. I know several folks here have just built, or are also researching a new build, and they might have some input. The 'hot' motherboard seems to change pretty frequently, and of course depends on which CPU route you take.

One thing you might consider are the new SFF (small form factor) cases. If I were building new right now, that's the route I'd take. They come with the power supply and motherboard pre-mounted, which takes a lot of the hard part out of the physical build. From their, you'd put the CPU, heatsink and RAM in, and then the rest is just adding peripherals like a DVD drive, hard drive, video card, etc.

After you get the hardware installed, you boot up and go into the BIOS to customize those settings for your hardware. Then you format the HD and start loading XP.

With all the guides out there, and folks here to help, it shouldn't be too hard at all.
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Charlatan
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2004, 05:49:28 PM »

Thanks for the tip Jeff. I've taken some time to run with it....

Lets say I start with these 2 components:

Shuttle XPC Barebones SFF system ($200)
3.0 GB P4 CPU ($200)

Does that seem like a good starting point? The Shuttle got very good marks in a review I read at Anandtech. I'm going with Intel because deep down I'm a wuss. smile

The part of this barebone system that somewhat concerns me - only 2 slots. If we assume I put a nice graphics card in one slot, that leaves 1 slot... for a sound card maybe? The case picture shows only 2 exposed bays - seems like they're saying you put a floppy and a CD/DVD drive in (with your HD in an internal bay). Not sure I was even gonna get a floppy drive, they're so 1999.

Other components needed here would be

graphics card (nVidia 5900 or 6600GT - approx $200)
sound card ($50)
CD/DVD drive ($50)
1GB RAM ($175)
Keyboard/Mouse ($75)
120/160 GB Hard drive ($100)
Win XP ($100)

So it seems like $1200-ish plus monitor for a new system.

Other constraints from this system.... uh... I can't really cram anything else into it, no slots... only 2 RAM slots (but 2 GB should last me if I need to upgrade). Dunno... anyone have thoughts?

Is there anything I'm forgetting about here?
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Abaddon
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2004, 06:13:10 PM »

The shuttle systems look pretty sleek and sexy but Its been my impression these were more for portability i.e. LAN parties, bringing to a friends house etc. rather then as your main system. Sort of a bigger better laptop. One of the main problems computers face today is the heat they generate, looking at the SFF cases I cant see how cooling could not be an issue. Granted I do not personally own one of these so this is all speculation but are these small cases THAT much cheaper then a standard Mid-tower case? If its just a matter of it coming with the MB pre-mounted thats a pretty easy procedure to do on your own. You basically line up the holes on the MB with the posts on the case, long as you dont over-tighten anything its all good.
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Charlatan
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2004, 06:37:25 PM »

I'm not against a mid-tower case but the appeal of getting a one piece barebones that has the mobo hooked up appeals, I gotta say.

As for heat, the review at Anandtech said they were surprised but it ran pretty cool. I'll admit heat would be a consideration too take into account.

One thing I gotta ask any experts.... ok, so I price this out... now I go to dell's site and price out a comprable system... and it comes to around $1500 with their 19" flat panel monitor. For

3.0 P4
1GB Ram
160 MB HD
SB Audigy2 card
combo CDR/DVD drive
some sort of crappy video
19" monitor
----
1280

add $200 for a 6600GT and you're talking the same system for $1500 bucks.

I understand the lure of building your own system but am I way off on the component prices above? Shouldn't I be able to hit approximately the same price if I go through the hassle of building it myself? Or am I merely lacking the bulk purchasing power of Dell?smile
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Ibby
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2004, 08:16:35 PM »

I think if you were to price those components  you listed at Newegg (just as an example), you'd probably find yourself spending a little less possibly even with shipping, but you still have to put it together.  And troubleshoot any problems during the setup, and provide all of the support yourself in the future.

If your time is worth more than the price difference, Dell can be an excellent choice.  

I like building my own machines, and have never used a Dell, but I have friends that have and they have nothing bad to say about their machines.
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gameoverman
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2004, 08:59:40 PM »

For me, the reason for building your own vs buying a Dell(or any other standard PC maker) is in the components.

When you build it yourself, you pick the motherboard/Ram/Harddrive/case/etc.  You can specifically get the best of each possible component available on that day for that price.  You can choose, for example, the motherboard that has the exact features you need. When you buy from a Dell, you get whatever they are able to package at that price range. Various compromises are usually made along the way- some stuff may be just what you need, some stuff is okay but you wish it was better, and some stuff needs to be replaced right away(usually videocard).

Companies that allow you to choose specific components usually cost alot more than a Dell, erasing any advantage of using them.

The one thing you do get over building it yourself, technical support, is something only you can decide how important it is.  I've built several computers now and never wished I had technical support(beyond forums like this), ymmv.  I can see how technical support can be worth its weight in gold to someone.
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egrudzin
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« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2004, 09:02:07 PM »

If you do decide to build one yourself I would recommend going with newegg.com.  I have built my last 2 PCs with parts exclusively through them and couldn't be happier.  If they don't have what you want, chances are nobody does.

The Dell system you spec'ed is pretty good for that price.  Remember that not only do you save time not having to build it yourself but you also get a warranty on the whole system through one company (as opposed to individual warranties for each component).  You also get tech support, thier website resource, and a better deal on the OEM software (gotta have a legit copy of Windows right?).  So you may pay a bit more for the Dell but the system they sell is definitly more than the sum of its parts.

I think people should only build a PC themselves if they want the experience of doing so.  You don't really save that much over buying a pre-built system and it certainly costs you in terms of time and effort.  Sometimes it's nice just to pull it out of the box plug it in and go.
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Eco-Logic
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« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2004, 09:32:55 PM »

Charlatan, are you set on the P4?

You should get an AMD 64 instead.
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Charlatan
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« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2004, 09:45:52 PM »

So it's been a slow day, here is what I've found at newegg. Since I have my heart set on a 6600GT video card, and since only the PCI express versions of that are out now, I am forced to go with the PCIe motherboards, which means I am forced to go with an Intel 775 socket. That said:

Antec case with 350W power supply ($75)
Aopen I915P chipset motherboard for Intel LGA 775 CPU ($126)
Intel LGA 775 3.2GHz P4 CPU ($222)
Chaintech nVidia 6600GT video card, PCI-Express ($215)
Corsair 1GB RAM (2x512MB) ($156)
Seagate 160MB SATA 7200 RPM HD ($129)
NEC 16x Double Layer DVD+/-RW ($73)
Creative Labs SB Audigy2 ZS Gamer Ed. ($113)
D-Link  AirPlus Extreme Wireless PCI Ethernet Adaptor card (802.11b/g) ($40)
MS Windows XP Home w/Service Pack 2 ($91)
Princeton 19" LCD Flat Panel Monitor ($385)

Total: $1734

I could cut here and there but i wouldn't go below $1500 I bet.

Questions:
1. Is this the correct RAM for the machine?
2. Any reason to get separate CD-RW and/or DVD-R drives, or is a one-piece jobber like this one ok?
3. Any reason to get a floppy drive? I mean, it's like 8 freakin bucks! smile

Suggestions for bettering this setup welcomed, as long as the price doesn't significantly change. Thanks again for the input everyone.
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Ibby
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« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2004, 10:02:12 PM »

1) That's the right ram. You want DDR400(3200) which that is.
2) I like 2 optical drives in case I want to do a straight copy from disc to disc. With 1 all-in-one drive, you can't do that.  If you don't forsee yourself copying other discs onto DVD, then I guess it won't matter to you.
3) Screw the floppy drive.  When was the last time you actually used one?

Any thoughts on  trying to find a monitor locally? That way you don't have to go through the hassle of shipping it back if it has X amount of dead pixels.
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Ibby
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« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2004, 10:09:56 PM »

Oh, and I bought that exact case for one of my machines.  It only comes with 1 120mm fan (mounted in the rear I think), so you might want to grab another 120mm fan for the front intake if you're in a warmer climate and think heat might be an issue.

They push a ton of air, keeps the case nice and cool, and is quiet.  If it wasn't for the other machines in my room, the harddrive would be the loudest component.

My only complaint is that the front door appears to be rather flimsy (plastic), but i've not had any problems in the last 6 months I've had it.

Edit: The other thing about the case that bugged me was that it had 3 different hardrive LED leads to the motherboard.  I had to switch them around until I found the one that had the amber hardrive come on when the drive was accessed.  You won't get any instructions with the case, but with labels on the wires, and your motherboard's manual, you'll know where everything goes.
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TorpidSloth
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« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2004, 12:53:27 AM »

I'm a little late chiming in here, but I'd second Jeff's recommendation that you look at a SFF case. I've had one for about six months now and I absolutely love it. It's small, looks sleek on my desk, leaves me with plenty of desk room, etc. Only room for one optical drive, which doesn't matter to me since I don't make disc-to-disc copies really. Expansion's a bit limited with only one PCI card (in addition to the AGP slot), but that's a tradeoff I'm willing to live with given the aesthetic appeal of the case. Oh, and it's very quiet, too, which is a plus.

And assembly is not so bad, either. You have to remove the drive cage to get to the RAM and the CPU cooling assembly can be intimidating, but Shuttle has great documentation and an install guide for the CPU/heatsink. I've built a lot of machines myself and was a little nervous coming into this one given the cramped quarters of the case and all that, but Shuttle's excellent engineering and documentation made the build a breeze. Just my $0.02.
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Charlatan
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« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2004, 01:08:18 AM »

Thanks for all the input guys, I'm still churning it around in my head so nobody is chiming in too late yet.

The only problem is that I really want a midrange nVidia card, which means a PCI-Express card (cuz the AGP 6600GT isn't out yet)... which means a SFF case is out.

Desk space isn't REALLY a consideration (though who ever has enough desk space...). smile
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« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2004, 09:04:57 PM »

Quote from: "Charlatan"
The only problem is that I really want a midrange nVidia card, which means a PCI-Express card (cuz the AGP 6600GT isn't out yet)... which means a SFF case is out.


WOAH DOOD!!! Check this puppy out: Plug a PCIx card in this

I've been drooling on this case for awhile now cuz this 3.6Ghz PIV I have is homeless. I just don't have the $$ to put the system together yet. Newegg just dropped the price from $335 to $279!

Thank you for being a wuss and going with Intel - somebody's gotta keep this pathetic company I work for afloat!!  biggrin
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Charlatan
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« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2004, 09:43:40 PM »

Quote from: "PaulBot"
Thank you for being a wuss and going with Intel - somebody's gotta keep this pathetic company I work for afloat!!  biggrin


I just have two words for you: FREE SAMPLES!

P.S., In the end I couldn't beat out the deals Dell was having last week, so I got a 3.2 P4 with 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HD, ATI X800SE video card, SB Audigy2 sound, DVD-+RW dual layer, free 19" FP monitor for roughly $1300 bucks. So I got an Intel product even though it wasn't a build-your-own. smile

Edit to add: After looking at that case I gotta say.... that's a pretty cool case! Maybe next time!
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walTer
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« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2004, 11:53:27 PM »

Last Christmas anyone who asked was told to get me gift certificates for Fry's.

I ended up with about 550.00 worth, waited for components I wanted to go on sale and for that price-I picked up a nice rig- less a gfx card for that price-

It has been a year, and it still runs great- haven't hit a game yet that it won't handle... but this year it is definitely time to replace my GF3ti200....

As an asside, I was very glad I took the opportunity to build my own gaming computer...I learned a lot and will continue to upgrade- my current mobo will handle an Athlon 3000 but after that it is replacement time- but one thing- I will not build another machine.

Not that it is hard but it seems that you are forever tweaking, fiddling and just doing stuff to a machine you build... and as another poster stated- what you can get a Dell for under 1000 bucks-- or just get a lower end rig, add a better card, another HD and more ram... cheaper still...

Anyway like I said, glad I had the experience but also glad I got it out of my system.
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PaulBot
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« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2004, 02:16:27 AM »

Quote from: "Charlatan"
Quote from: "PaulBot"
Thank you for being a wuss and going with Intel - somebody's gotta keep this pathetic company I work for afloat!!  biggrin


I just have two words for you: FREE SAMPLES!

P.S., In the end I couldn't beat out the deals Dell was having last week, so I got a 3.2 P4 with 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HD, ATI X800SE video card, SB Audigy2 sound, DVD-+RW dual layer, free 19" FP monitor for roughly $1300 bucks. So I got an Intel product even though it wasn't a build-your-own.


Sounds like a good system from Dell. I've had two laptops, a desktop and a Pocket PC from them and I'd definitely buy from them again!

As for the free samples: that's where I got my 3.6G chip!!
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