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Building a New PC from Parts: Lessons Learned

By tiger in Technology
Thu May 09, 2002 at 09:20:04 PM EST
Tags: Hardware (all tags)

In early April 2002, I noticed a loud rattling noise coming from my home PC. This desktop PC, a name brand that I had bought in 1998 for $750 (US dollars), had an Intel Celeron 366 Mhz processor, and 64 MB of memory. Upon opening the case and investigating, I found that the power-supply fan was making the loud rattling noise.

I never liked this PC, primarily because its micro-ATX case (about one foot deep and high), which is the typical case size for store-bought desktop PCs, made do-it-yourself upgrades very difficult, because the case is so small and there is so much inside that small case. To replace the power-supply fan, I had to replace the power supply, and a replacement power supply would cost about $55. However, instead of putting any more money into my old PC, I decided to replace it by buying parts and building a new PC myself.

Selecting the Parts

The first and perhaps most crucial part of building a new computer, is to decide on the parts to buy. If you want to know what is the latest and greatest in terms of processors, memory, motherboards, hard drives, video cards, etc., a good place to learn is from the hardware sites on the Internet. My personal favorite is Tom's Hardware Guide.

Probably the first choice to make, is the processor and associated motherboard. Given a choice between AMD and Intel for the processor manufacturer, and given a wide range of different processor speeds, I decided to go with an Intel P4 1.6A (the boxed retail version for Intel processors, includes a heatsink and fan). This Pentium-4 processor runs at 1.6 Gigahertz. The ‘A’ in the 1.6A, means that the processor has the so-called Northwood core, which is made with the new .13 micron process. These Northwood processors became available from Intel in early 2002, and they consume less power and run cooler than the previous generation of P4s, which were made with a .18 micron process.

I chose the P4 1.6A, instead of faster P4 versions, such as the 2.0A or 2.2A, because the current fastest versions for processors typically have a large price premium. As a rule of thumb, buying a processor that is about two-thirds of the current fastest processor speed, gives good value for the money, and that is what I did.

Once the processor is chosen, the next step is to choose the motherboard. Based on this review of motherboards, I chose the Abit SD7-533. One of the reasons I chose this motherboard, besides its high-quality built-in sound, is because I have read over the years at the different hardware sites, that Abit has a good reputation as a motherboard manufacturer.

Once the motherboard is chosen, the memory and the PC case can be chosen. For the memory, I chose a single stick of 512 MB PC2700 memory, by Kingston. This memory is DDR (Double Data Rate), and runs at 333 Mhz. Note that combining fast memory with a fast processor is important, and many store-bought and sold-on-TV computers, actually have slow memory (such as 133 Mhz SDRAM); slow memory substantially lowers the real-world performance of those computers.

For the PC case—most cases have the power supply already installed—I needed a case for a standard P4 motherboard using the ATX form factor. I chose a mid-tower case size (about 1.5 feet deep and high, which is more than twice the space found in micro-ATX cases). The actual model I chose was the S508-IW, by Inwin, but I do not recommend it, because this case did not include long-enough screws to attach drives to the two uppermost 5.5" drive bays, and also, the two middle 3.5" drive bays look like attachment nightmares. To install the two hard drives that I currently have in this case, I used the holder for the lower two 3.5" drive bays, which is removable, and has easy attachment points.

Regarding hard drives, my old PC had two hard drives: a 4 GB hard drive, by Quantum (this hard drive came with the original PC), and a 12 GB hard drive, by Western Digital, that I had bought and added later. I disassembled the old PC: the old 4 GB hard drive is now in a desk drawer; the old 12 GB hard drive is now in my new PC, along with a new 60 GB hard drive, also by Western Digital, which I bought at the local Best Buy.

Regarding other drives: My old PC had a DVD/CDROM drive (I had bought this drive a few years ago to replace the plain-vanilla CDROM drive that came with the original PC); this DVD/CDROM drive is now in my new PC. My old PC also had a 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive, but it was customized for the case of that old PC, so I could not reuse it in my new PC. Instead, I had to buy a new 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive for the new PC. I did consider leaving it out, since I do not use it, but I decided to play safe and put one in, just in case.

Regarding the video card, I like to play FPS games (First-Person Shooters), and am currently playing Serious Sam 2. My old PC had built-in video, which was useless for 3D games, so I had bought and installed an AGP graphics card a few years ago: an ATI Xpert 2000, which uses the old RAGE 128 chipset. In deciding which new graphics card to get for my new PC, I used a rule of thumb similar to what I used for the processor, which is to avoid the latest models which typically carry a high price premium, and instead choose a slower model that is still fairly new. After careful study and consideration, I bought the Gainward Geforce3 Ti200 Golden Sample video card, reviewed here.

Regarding the modem, my old PC had a 56K modem card in an ISA slot. However, the motherboard for my new PC does not have any ISA slots, so I had to buy a new modem. After making a mistake and buying a dud OEM modem from Newegg (OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer), I then bought a Zoom 56K V.92 PCI modem from the local Best Buy, and installed that.

Selecting a Vendor

For the processor, motherboard, memory, case, video card, and the OEM modem, all described above, I selected Newegg as my vendor. I bought these items online, in April 2002. Newegg is located in California USA, and they have a very good rating at Reseller Ratings.

Based on my recent experiences with Newegg, here are the good points: They have many products, at good prices. They give a lot of information for the products they sell, often including pictures of the product. They also clearly indicate if a product is in stock or not, and they do not allow you to order products that are not currently in stock. They fill orders quickly, and they use Federal Express for all shipping, without gouging on the shipping charges.

Here are the bad points: Among the items I ordered, was an OEM modem that arrived in a stapled ziploc plastic bag. Note that OEM parts are not for retail sale, and they do not have retail packaging (this also means that the OEM part you get, may have already been returned as defective by someone else; some vendors, based on what I have read, simply send returned OEM parts out again to the next customer). This modem did not work. I did not return it; instead, I just threw it out (the modem was $38, and to return it I would have to spend the time doing so, pay the shipping, and so on, so I decided not to bother). Although I did not return the modem, I did try to write a comment about my experience with that modem, and add that comment to the current 25 glowing comments for this OEM modem at Newegg’s website. And, guess what, Newegg deleted my comment. In response to this action by Newegg, I wrote the following comment, dated 5/1/02, for Reseller Ratings, about Newegg:

Among other items I ordered within the last few weeks from newegg, was the 3COM US Robotic v.90 56K Modem Model 2977 (PCI, OEM). This OEM item, which came in a ziploc plastic bag, did not work, and I tried to post a customer comment about this product, which is invited by newegg.

This product currently has 25 customer ratings, and all are positive about the product, and now I know why, because newegg deletes negative product comments. In my attempted comment, the text of which follows, I rated the modem a 1, and newegg deleted my comment:

To build a new computer, I ordered a total of 6 items from newegg; 5 items were in retail boxes, and this modem was OEM. Guess which item did not work? Actually, it worked intermittently.

I tried different things, like a different PCI slot, but nothing worked, so I gave up and bought and installed a Zoom 56k V.92 PCI Modem, retail version.

When the failed modem was working, it was just about 1Kbps faster than the Zoom modem I am using now, which gets 49.2Kbps. The Zoom is not completely hardware, but at least the DSP part is hardware, and that is the most important part for speed.

In fairness to Newegg, they do have the following disclaimer, which they show to potential comment writers:

Newegg.com is not a forum for product reviews. For product reviews, we recommend sites such as www.cnet.com, www.anandtech.com, and www.tomshardware.com. Newegg.com is a private site that conducts the business of selling computer hardware and as such, any specifications and information posted by Newegg.com regarding products for sale must be factual. However, customer comments in regards to their experience with said products are the opinions of the user. The customer opinion reviews are used at the discretion of Newegg.com as a marketing device for positive and constructive ways to share the benefit of the product. It is not used as a source for negative commentary as we cannot endorse the validity of any negative comment. Therefore, the Newegg.com site is moderated to remove any unproven biased negative comments. It is not the intention of Newegg.com to mislead any customer and therefore before proceeding you are required to click on the "I ACCEPT" button to confirm you have read the above statement and agree to its terms. Furthermore, you agree to release Newegg.com from any liability for any statements posted or removed from posting.

Thus, if you do buy from Newegg, do not look at the customer comments, because Newegg methodically deletes negative customer comments. To me, Newegg’s policy is a policy of deliberate deception, and I probably will not buy from them again.

Assembly and Software

Before deciding to build your own PC, you must have the time available to do the assembly and related work needed. When doing something for the first time, more time is needed. In my case, working about 6 hours a day, I spent a total of about 5 days to assemble my new PC, cannibalize my old PC, and reinstall the OS (Operating System) and all the software that I use, on the new PC.

On my old PC, I had both Windows 98 (which came with that PC), and Windows 2000 (which I had bought and installed later). When building my new PC, my expectation was that once I had installed the old hard drives in the new PC, I could simply use the two Windows OSes that were already installed on those hard drives. That was my expectation, but that is not what happened.

When booting into Windows 98, the OS would hang and die, without any error message, after initially looking like it was going to work. Similarly, when booting into Windows 2000, the OS would eventually die with an error message about a missing boot device. Whatever the problem was, I could not fix it, but I did try a few things. Being unable to resolve these problems, I did a clean install of Windows 2000, and reinstalled my applications. I did not try to reinstall Windows 98, because the CD-ROM disk for Windows 98 that came with my old PC, only works on that PC.

Regarding the assembly work, I did do some research on the Internet, and I did come across one good piece of advice: install onto the motherboard both the processor (and its heatsink and fan), and also the memory, before installing the motherboard into the case. I am glad that I followed this advice, because the clamps for the processor fan, and also inserting the memory, required a lot of force to install onto the motherboard.

One problem I had that was especially annoying, is that the power plugs for both hard drives in my old PC, were very tight. It was very hard to get those power plugs off. I found that the best way to remove tight power plugs, is to pull backwards on the plug, and, at the same time, rock the plug back-and-forth sideways. Why these plugs have to be so tight, I do not know.

Regarding installing various IDE devices (Integrated Device Electronics), such as the hard drives and DVD/CDROM drive, always set all the drives for "Cable Select" or "CS" (most new drives are set this way by default), instead of setting each drive to either "master" or "slave". There is usually a jumper on the drive, close to where the IDE cable connects to the drive, that sets the drive for either "Cable Select", "master", or "slave". Having all IDE drives set for "Cable Select", allows you to attach the drives alone or in pairs, in any order, at either attachment point on the IDE cable.


As a rule, the only tool required to assemble a PC from parts, is a single phillips-head screwdriver. Depending on your needs, other tools, if you have them, may also come in handy. For example, cards that fit into an AGP or PCI slot, typically have a bend near the bottom of the long metal plate whose top is screwed into the case (this plate, once the card is installed, exposes the card’s connectors to the outside of the case). For the two cards I had to install (the Zoom PCI modem card, and the Gainward AGP video card), each was being pushed too far back towards its motherboard connector. So, for each card, I used two pairs of pliers to remove that bend (straighten it out); the result was a better fit within the case, for both cards.

One miscellaneous hardware problem I had, was that the audio cable that connected my DVD/CDROM drive to the motherboard in my old PC, was only about one foot long, and this was too short to reach the connection point on the motherboard in my new PC. So, I had to buy a new audio cable, which I bought from Newegg. The two-foot-long audio cable cost $2, and the shipping was $6.

The motherboard I bought came in a retail package, which included a booklet full of illustrations and instructions, that allowed me, a novice, to correctly make all connections to the motherboard, and also set the motherboard’s BIOS (Basic Input/Output System). Also, in the motherboard package, besides a floppy-disk cable and an IDE cable, was a CD-ROM disk that included drivers for the motherboard’s built-in sound system, and also a Windows program called the Hardware Doctor. This hardware-monitoring program shows hardware details, including two RPM measurements (Revolutions Per Minute), for the processor fan and the case fan, and two temperature measurements, in centigrade, for the processor and the “system” (the temperature sensor for the processor is located within the P4 processor; the temperature sensor for the “system” is located on the motherboard near the processor).

My new PC has a total of four fans: the processor fan, the case fan, the power-supply fan, and a small fan on the video card. In a way, this is a step backwards, in terms of both PC reliability and PC noise, because fans are often the first part to fail in PCs, and fans are a source of noise. The noise level of my new PC, which sits a few feet away from me as I type this, is moderate, but greater than my old PC before its power-supply fan went bad. All this noise is coming from the fans.

Before I built my new PC, I did investigate the possibility of overclocking it. Apparently, the Intel 1.6A processor, is easily overclocked to higher speeds. For example, some users have reported successful overclocking of the 1.6A to 2.4 Ghz, a 50% speed increase. However, although both the processor and the motherboard that I have, allow me to overclock, I decided not to even try it, because I am more interested in reliability. To me, a modest increase in overall PC speed, is not worth shortening the expected lifetimes of the components in my PC. Also, unless you really know what you are doing, overclocking can result in destroyed parts.

Regarding my new PC as a game platform, there is a 3D video benchmark by MadOnion, that they update yearly. I downloaded the free version of their 3DMark2001, and ran its benchmark. The video card that was in my old PC, which I temporarily installed in my new PC to see how it would do, scored a rather poor 532 3Dmarks. In sharp contrast to this old card, the Gainward Geforce3 Ti200 Golden Sample video card, at its default speed setting, scored 6157 3Dmarks. This Gainward card comes with a utility to set the card to faster speeds: both the graphics-processor speed, and the memory speed, can be increased. At its fastest speed settings, the Gainward card scored 6550 3Dmarks. After this top-speed experiment, I set the card back to its default speed settings, and intend to keep it there, because a 6% increase in 3Dmarks is not worth shortening the life of the card.


For all the parts I bought, from both Newegg (including shipping charges) and Best Buy (including local sales tax), I spent a total of $897.90. Here is a list of the items I bought, and the prices paid, totaling $832, and not including the shipping and sales-tax charges:

  • Bought from Newegg:
    • Inwin S508-IW case @ $49
    • Abit SD7-533 motherboard @ $93
    • Intel P4 1.6A processor (includes heatsink and fan) @ $132
    • Kingston 512 MB PC2700 memory @ $169
    • US Robotics 56K v.90 PCI modem (this part did not work) @ $38
    • two-foot-long audio cable @ $2
    • Gainward Geforce3 Ti200 Golden Sample video card @ $129
  • Bought from Best Buy:
    • Zoom 56K V.92 PCI modem @ $40
    • Teac 3.5" floppy-drive kit @ $30
    • Western Digital 60 GB hard drive @ $150

Besides the financial cost, there was also the five days spent to assemble the new PC, cannibalize the old PC, and do the software reinstalls, and also the time spent researching the whole subject of what to buy, and how to build a PC.

So, was it worth it? Well, I now have a much better and faster PC, and a much better and more up-to-date gaming platform. And I also have the experience of building my own PC from parts. However, obviously this experience is not for everyone, and, who knows, in a few years when I am ready for a new PC, perhaps I will remember all the time and effort needed to build this one, and simply buy my next PC retail.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Building a PC from parts
o is not something I want to do. 2%
o is something I may do, someday, maybe; it depends. 11%
o is something I have already done. 86%

Votes: 181
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Tom's Hardware Guide
o review
o S508-IW
o Best Buy
o here
o Newegg
o Zoom 56K V.92 PCI modem
o Reseller Ratings
o many products
o overclocki ng
o MadOnion
o 3DMark2001
o Also by tiger

Display: Sort:
Building a New PC from Parts: Lessons Learned | 130 comments (110 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hard drive power plugs (5.00 / 3) (#3)
by dieMSdie on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:18:55 PM EST

Speaking as someone who has always built my own systems, and also ran a computer store, I'll answer this one :)

I've seen power plugs that were very easy to remove. This made them slowly lose contact with the internal pins as time went by. The hard drive vibrates as it spins, and if the plugs are not very tight, they can work loose and just at the wrong time... boom! You've lost your data.

You want those plugs as tight as possible. This also lowers the resistance, as some drives do pull a lot of current on spin-up (older ones, mostly though).

Assembly is easy. Getting the parts is hard (none / 0) (#100)
by BLU ICE on Fri May 10, 2002 at 11:12:44 AM EST

Holy sh*t, I went through a lot to get my parts. I got everything except the monitor off of Pricewatch. I had to cancel 6 orders because they were out of stock!! It took me a month to get everything rounded up.

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"As good as gold."

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It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

About your processor. (4.66 / 3) (#4)
by gooberguy on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:22:09 PM EST

I noticed you don't want to overclock your PIV processor because you want to keep your system reliable. Let me tell you something. The Pentium 4 northwood 1.6ghz and 2.4ghz are the SAME PROCESSOR! The only difference is that the 2.4ghz has a different clock multiplier on it. If you speed up your front side bus (since clock multipliers are locked on Intel processors) you can easily clock up your Pentium 4 without any stability problems. There is only one thing you need to watch out for: make sure the cooler on your CPU can handle a 2.4ghz processor. Even a 130nm process CPU will generate a lot of heat at 2.4ghz.

not exactly (5.00 / 2) (#8)
by demi on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:37:37 PM EST

While it's true that in the old days Intel would take a batch of P5-200's and label some of them as 133's for economy's sake, it's no longer true that a P4-1.6A and a P4-2.4 are the same chip, even considering their shared internals. The yields are so low and the product cycles so short that there are considerable quality differences over a period of a month or two of production. Back in the day you could clock a p5-166 to 225 easily and indefinitely (I did for 3+ years), with just a fan and a little luck, but even if you engineer the cooling correctly that's no longer true for Athlons and P4's if you want them to last for more than a few months, or if reliability matters more than benchmarks.

Also, the performance boost that you can get from overclocking has finally reached the point of diminishing returns. FPS performance is more often than not determined by GPU speed, and for desktop use there is not much of a perceivable difference between a 1.6 GHz processor and a 2.0 GHz.

[ Parent ]

But (none / 0) (#41)
by theR on Thu May 09, 2002 at 09:55:44 AM EST

It is true that the P4 1.6A is an extremely good overclocker. Look around the hardware forums and you will see that many people can easily get it up to 2GHz. I actually believe that one of the hardware people, perhaps Anand, did say that the 1.6A was essentially an underclocked 2.0. While I don't know if I'm remembering correctly, it doesn't change the fact that the 1.6A is one of the best overclockers out there right now.

[ Parent ]
still not exactly (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by prator on Fri May 10, 2002 at 11:27:19 AM EST

Ok, you are close on some of the facts here.

I haven't followed Intel as close as I use to, but I'm pretty certain that both the 1.6A and the 2.4 are Northwood cores.  That means they are the same processor die.  Now, companies like Intel use a testing procedure to see which of the chips will run at higher frequencies and sell them accordingly. So the 2.4 is a Northwood that runs stable at 2.4 and the 1.6A is a Northwood that runs stable at 1.6A.  

The information we can't extract from this is whether or not the 1.6A runs stable at 2.4.  Usually later in the life of a processor core, the yields are very good.  This means that most the processors will test good for the higher speeds.  Companies will still sell the different speed grades so that they can make money in the different markets like low-end desktop, high-end, etc.

As far as i know, Intel does lock the multipliers on their chips.  This means that you have to run at a higher FSB to get the higher clock speeds.  That definitely decreases the chances of the system operating properly.

Now, regarding the overall life of a processor.  Things like higher core voltages and front side bus speeds can reduce the life of a processor.  One of the main effects I recall is electron migration which causes degradation of the transistors.  But electron migration occurs anyway.  I think running above spec causes it to increase but not to the level that your processor will die in only a few months.  However, I'm not very knowledgable on that subject.


[ Parent ]

You've answered yourself (4.50 / 2) (#48)
by gazbo on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:53:28 AM EST

A P4 2.4GHz has a higher clock multiplier than a P4 1.6GHz.

When you overclock you usually boost the front side bus. This affects not only the cpu speed, but every other bus controlled by the motherboard.

Even if you took a certified 2.4GHz processor+fan+heatsink and wired it in with a clock multiplier the same as a 1.6GHz, and pumped up the FSB to compensate, You can bet there would be stability issues in many systems.

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[ Parent ]

Doing your own work (5.00 / 4) (#5)
by Tatarigami on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:29:39 PM EST

...is the only way to go.

When buying my last computer I worked out that having it assembled for me by the supplier wouldn't be significantly more expensive than putting it together myself, and I'm lazy.

I paid for that mistake both in taxi fare transporting the thing back to the supplier to have new parts fitted, and in aggravation when I did my own work to correct the screw-ups they'd made.

Recently I did a major overhaul which involved exposing parts of the PC I'd never seen before, and spent a good twenty minutes swearing and hurling tools around the room at what I found (warranty expired a few weeks ago, BTW) -- screws missing, screws hammered into place, loose live wires... it's a miracle the thing has ever worked! I'd already decided that being gang-raped by monkeys was preferable to going back to that same supplier again, but this tripled my resolve.

sounds bad, very bad (none / 0) (#17)
by tiger on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:20:56 AM EST

… screws missing, screws hammered into place, loose live wires …

That bit about “hammered into place” really got me. I never heard of that before.

Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child

[ Parent ]
DIY is the only way (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by killmepleez on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:04:06 AM EST

i've never bought a pc from one of the out-of-the-box retailers because you invariably don't get all the hardware you want/need, and also end up paying for stuff you don't want [like the way fast food revenues skyrocketed once they started convincing you that You Want A Combo Meal And SuperSize It Too].

going to my friendly neighborhood chop shop, i had a pentium-166 built for me with and only with the desired hardware. generally i was very happy with how it turned out. then, sometime around 1997 it seemed like a whole flurry of technologies leapt forward -- processors, storage, graphics accelleration -- so i decided to upgrade a few components. guess what? they had used a hot glue gun to mount the floppy drive and all the power plugs going to the various components. it took me three frickin days [in between work and college] using tweezers, a screwdriver, and a pecan pick to scrape enough out of the cracks so that i could use a pair of pliers to jerk the plugs.

after that experience i decided that i would never again buy a pre-assembled computer unless it was by paying a good friend with the requisite skills.

"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "Jumpers" in The New Yorker, October 13, 2003.
[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#87)
by Perianwyr on Fri May 10, 2002 at 04:22:49 AM EST

You know, I can see both sides of that one.

On one hand, it's a bitch to get those hot-glued connectors out if you plan to h4x0r your machine.

On the other, I as the tech never have to do service on a machine for loose connectors, and most folks will never open the bastard up (in fact, the first person to open them up is generally the owner's child, who gets it as a handmedown and wants to put a new video card in it...)

[ Parent ]

Onboard Bad (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by bugmaster on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:30:39 PM EST

I built a couple PCs from parts, and, inevitably, the onboard audio/video cards have been nothing but pain. They are usually pretty low quality, low performance, and (adding insult to injury), they sometimes get analog interference from other components on the board.

Given a choice, I usually buy a motherboard without those onboard cards. If the MB I want is only available with the cards, I just disable them with jumpers.

one notable exception (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by NiceGeek on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:01:18 PM EST

Any Nvidia NForce based board. Comes with Geforce 2 level video and quite respectable 5.1 dolby sound. I'll grant you the video isn't state of the art but it's not bad.

[ Parent ]
Decent Article (5.00 / 5) (#9)
by Zara2 on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:39:09 PM EST

Good article for first time computer builders so I voted it up but I would really like to add a few extra links.

PriceWatch For cheaper parts.
AMD for the company that has a better/cheaper product and was not mentioned.
Anandtech for good geeky HW reviews.
HardOCP for more info on overclocking.
I am glad that you mentionedTom's as it is one of the best review sites on the net. Also thier pricegrabber is often better than pricewatch.

Overall though I felt that this is a pretty good guide for the first time system builder. I personally do it for a living and found some of the mistakes sorta "noob" (not thinking that U would need to reinstall the MS OS) but I think that this would be of a great help for someone building a system for the first time.

Personally I just built my own system for only a little more than yours. Some of the hardware I had around but I had to buy most of it.

Bought items

Antec SOHO black server case (with 450 watt pwr supplly)
Soyo Dragon+ Motherboard (for the kicking on-board sound and RAID)
1800+ AMD XP (OC'd to 1.8Ghz or so)
VisionTech GF4 4200
256MB ddr ram
2 seagate 80GB drives (gotta use the RAID)

Already had

20x CD-RW
The extra fans in the case to keep the proc cool

All in all it ended up costing me around $1100 after all was said and done. Mostly due to the goodies on the soyo dragon motherboard and the price break on the AMD chip instead of a Intel Chip. As of yet I have had no issues at all and my benchmarks are right next my friends Intel 2.2Ghz system if we swap vid cards. (he got the 4600 right when it came out.)

In the UK (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by Zeshan on Thu May 09, 2002 at 06:14:43 AM EST

If you're in the UK, you might want to look at PC Index for price comparisons.

The newsgroup uk.comp.vendors is a good place to find out about the reliability of various merchants before you buy. Also apropos is uk.comp.homebuilt

(Try groups.google.com if you don't have access to a news server)


[ Parent ]

I like your system (3.50 / 2) (#49)
by prator on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:18:00 PM EST

Good stuff in here.  I love the Antec cases.  The power supply is a little noisy for my taste, though.  

I'm assuming those are Barracuda IV drives.  I love mine.  It's so freaky quiet.

I'm not so sure about the RAID.  That cheap on-board IDE RAID might get you a few points in a benchmark, but I doubt it gives you any significant real world performance.  Plus when you RAID 0 drives, you increase the risk of failure.  

You might know what I'm talking about.  I'm just trying to give you a heads-up.


[ Parent ]

RAID (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by dennis on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:28:23 PM EST

That's assuming he configured as RAID 0. I'm considering the same thing, but using RAID 1, just so I never have to worry about a disk crash. (I've had two disks crap out on me at work, and it just happened to my dad at home.)

[ Parent ]
Raid 0, (5.00 / 1) (#113)
by Zara2 on Fri May 10, 2002 at 06:31:27 PM EST

Actually, to be honest, I am doing the Raid 0 for the geek factor. The only boost I get is in copying ISO's and large movies and such. That and I plan on adding enough of these things eventually to fill up all of the Raid slots on that board and I won't want to format later.

[ Parent ]
dont forget... (none / 0) (#129)
by lorcha on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:33:49 PM EST

TechBargains, a listing of good deals for nerds
Market Pro Computer Shows, if you're on the East Coast.
I got all of the parts that I used to build a dual PIII machine last year using those two resources + ebay.

צדק--אין ערבים, אין פיגועים
[ Parent ]

Next step: case modding! (5.00 / 2) (#10)
by demi on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:42:57 PM EST

You've correctly identified the major creeping problem with fast computers today: noise. I recently built up an AMD system that I had a blast overclocking and tuning, but it had so many fans it wound up being as loud as a vacuum cleaner. To get rid of noise you can try some tricks like piped-in cooling (seal the case and make a duct hole, then blow in cool air from somewhere and suck it back out), where the most powerful fans are a few feet from the case and they won't drain power from your PSU. I'd recommend against water cooling and/or refrigeration because ultimately the amount of noise is still high.

Noise (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by myshka on Thu May 09, 2002 at 07:57:24 AM EST

You've pointed out what might well be the single most important factor in the enjoyment of your new system. One area where retail systems usually win over homebuilt solutions is noise - even the dual-proc workstations from Dell are fairly quiet, compared to a similarly configured home rig.

Thus, some time should be spent researching the cooling in your system. Without going overboard with case mods or watercooling, one can easily lower the ambient noise by simply replacing the stock fans on the CPU and case with quieter models. Panaflo L1As come highly recommended, as do Papst fans, although the latter are exponentially more expensive and quite hard to find in the US.

Replacing the regular 60mm CPU fan with a quieter 80mm model is also desirable, since the larger fans produce less noise for similar cooling due to lower RPMs. A good heatsink (e.g. Thermalright AX-7) can also allow for slower, quiter fans. For instance, I have 6 80mm L1As in my case and the only audible components are the power supply and the hard drive. For older (< 550MHz) Intel systems, I'd recommend passive cooling.

Noise is often ignored in enthusiasts' comparison of AMD and Intel solutions. The .13 micron PIIIs and P4s run at much lower voltages than current Athlons, allowing the system to operate with fewer, lower-RPM fans. Depending on your requirements, this might prove to be a decisive advantage.

[ Parent ]

Exponentially more expensive? (none / 0) (#53)
by fluffy grue on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:55:37 PM EST

So the Papst equivalent of a $10 fan costs $1024?
"#kuro5hin [is like] a daycare center [where] the babysitter had been viciously murdered." -- CaptainObvious (we
[ Parent ]
Indeed, an understatement (none / 0) (#58)
by myshka on Thu May 09, 2002 at 02:48:26 PM EST

L1A: $3
80mm Papst: $20

[ Parent ]
That could still be linear (4.00 / 2) (#68)
by fluffy grue on Thu May 09, 2002 at 06:57:41 PM EST

"Exponential" means "adding a certain constant to the input doubles the output." So like, it'd be exponentially more expensive if, for example, the L1A $3 has a $8 Pabst equivalent, and the $4 L1A has a $16 Pabst equivalent, and so on.

It's just a pet peeve of mine when people misapply mathematical terminology. If something is 7x as expensive (such as in the singular example you gave), it's just 7x as expensive, not "exponentially more expensive."
"#kuro5hin [is like] a daycare center [where] the babysitter had been viciously murdered." -- CaptainObvious (we
[ Parent ]

That's ridiculous (3.00 / 2) (#91)
by KOTHP on Fri May 10, 2002 at 06:20:37 AM EST

You only have two data points, you can map any curve through them or a straight line. You need more samples if you want to claim that it's a strictly linear or exponential relationship.

[ Parent ]
Not talking data points (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by Arkaein on Fri May 10, 2002 at 12:43:35 PM EST

He's not talking about data points. More technically, an exponential function can be described as:

f(x + c) = 2 * f(x)

for all x given a (usually positive in these cases) constant c.

Yes, (x, f(x + c)) and (x, (f(x)) are only two data points, but the relationship holds for all data points on this curve.

The ultimate plays for Madden 2003-2006
[ Parent ]

Yes we are (none / 0) (#121)
by KOTHP on Sat May 11, 2002 at 10:52:45 AM EST

Did you read the entire exchange? I wasn't debating fluffy grue's definition of an exponential relationship, but rather his insistance that given f(1) = 3 and f(2) = 20, f(x) isn't an exponential relationship.

Accepting your definition of an exponential function, set x to 1, and f(x) = 3. Set c to about 2.725 and yay you have f(2) = 20.

Describe a linear function as:

f(x+c) = f(x) + kc ,

Once again, x = 1 and f(x) = 3. Set c to 17 and f(2) = 20 again.

This has everything to do with the fact that there were only two data points provided. There are an infinite number of relationships that could be put forth that would fit them. The original claim that the relationship was exponential was meaningless, but not incorrect.

[ Parent ]

Rather... (none / 0) (#122)
by KOTHP on Sat May 11, 2002 at 11:07:19 AM EST

Set c to about 2.725 and yay you have f(2) = 20.

Set c to about 1 / 2.725...

Which is really not terribly important. The whole of what I was pointing out is contained in both the original post and the final paragraph of my last one.

[ Parent ]

*ahem* (none / 0) (#124)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 14, 2002 at 12:22:41 AM EST

I didn't say it wasn't an exponential relationship, just that the expression "exponentially more expensive" was being misused specifically because no relationship was shown. It could be exponential, sinusoidal, or it could even be inversely as expensive! But just comparing one pair of prices is no reason to call it "exponentially more expensive," because there's no relationship established whatsoever.
"#kuro5hin [is like] a daycare center [where] the babysitter had been viciously murdered." -- CaptainObvious (we
[ Parent ]
I'm building one right now (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by MSBob on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:51:19 PM EST

Actually I'm in the process of putting together my own PC! I've selected many components different from you for personal taste reasons. This is quite exciting because I'm now in the financial position to put together my dream machine. For the record the current system I have is a K62-450 with 128MB SDRAM (100MHz) and a 66MHz UDMA HDD.

My dream machine is actually gonna be quite the beast. Not a $9000 dollars spec but not a cheapo thing either:

  • AthlonXP 1800+ - I have a soft spot for AMD. I always believed they offerred much better price/performance ratio than INTC.
  • MSI KT333 motherboard - this is the fastest breed of AthlonXP motherboards now with four holes for a water cooling system :)
  • 512MB of Samsung PC 2700 DDR - just as reliable as Kingston but cheaper
  • 60 GB Matrox HDD - It's supposed to be fast and quiet. The fact that reviewers refer to it as quiet is important to me.
  • VisionTek Geforce 4 Ti4400 - should keep those Wolfenstein rates going for a while
  • 18.1" NEC LCD for a monitor - this screen is so sweet and clear it's just unreal. Not the fastest refresh rate out there but can't be beaten for image sharpness. You can only beat this monitor by going with something like an 18" Eizo Nanao LCD!
  • Logitech Wireless keyboad and optical mouse - most folks dont have an idea how much more convenient a wireless keyboard is until they try mine!
Unfortunately most parts I've ordered haven't arrived yet but I'm already enjoying the monitor and my new input devices and the whole shebang should be ready by the end of the week. Barring any cockups by Canada Post.

Anyway, enjoy your new gear. Hope it serves you well for a while.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

Doing the same, slowly, for different reasons (none / 0) (#64)
by regeya on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:21:03 PM EST

I'm buying components as I go, and it's always a compromise, because I look to see what'd be a good compromise between performance, reliability, and (unfortunately for me, this is a huge issue) price.

Slightly OT: I was slightly disappointed at the last Linux Journal's Dream Machine issue, as it didn't have a budget-machine equivalent article this time. Maybe this year will be a different story. ;-D

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

1 Side Note (none / 0) (#105)
by virg on Fri May 10, 2002 at 12:47:49 PM EST

Just a minor funny, but when I read the spec:
MSI KT333 motherboard - this is the fastest breed of AthlonXP motherboards now with four holes for a water cooling system :)
I thought, "A water cooler on your PC? You must drink a lot." I blame it on a professor I had once that insisted on the phrase, "water-based CPU cooler" when referring to this stuff.

"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Re: Cable Select (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by J'raxis on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:54:38 PM EST

Be careful with using Cable Select on your HDs if you’re planning on trying out RedHat/7.2 Linux.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by Mr. Piccolo on Wed May 08, 2002 at 10:55:02 PM EST

Way back in 1996 I built a Pentium Pro 180 with 32 MB  RAM.  One step away from the top-o-the-line (which cost twice as much and only went 20 MHz faster).  Cost me a bundle.    Over the years I:

Swapped video cards from Stealth 3d 2000 to Stealth 3d 2000 PRO (I though it would be faster! Honest!)
added a Monster 3d
added a HD
OCed to 200 MHz (har har har)
added 32 MB RAM when Solaris was too slow
swapped the mobo and processor for a cheapskate K6-III 400, still 64 MB RAM
swapped video cards for a Matrox Millenium G400
added 128 MB RAM to play the wolfenstein demo

Finally retired it this March.  And this time I bought the package deal (from Polywell).


I got lazy, I guess.

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.

PPro 180 (none / 0) (#16)
by rusty on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:18:15 AM EST

I built my (dual) Pentium Pro 180 in 1998. Cost me about a thousand bucks altogether. It later became the first K5 server, and is currently sitting next to my desk, doing nothing, because it has a squeaky fan that I haven't bothered replaciong, and I have no real use for another machine. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Ebay is your friend... (none / 0) (#24)
by joeyo on Thu May 09, 2002 at 01:40:39 AM EST

Especially if you mention that it was the K5 server v1.0.  Heh. :)

-- I'm down with the sodomites. They have all the fun. --Rusty
[ Parent ]

Ha (none / 0) (#27)
by rusty on Thu May 09, 2002 at 02:18:10 AM EST

That's not a bad idea. I've got nothing to do with it, really. And it's still not a bad little machine, save one grindy fan.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Give it to someone, then (none / 0) (#40)
by theR on Thu May 09, 2002 at 09:51:23 AM EST

I certainly know at least one person that would take it. :)

Actually, if you want to sell it, I'd recommend doing it on Arstechnica's Forum. I've traded, bought, and sold there and it's generally much less stressfull and much easier to get reliable references than on Ebay. People would jump on hardware like that with the quickness. If you really want to get rid of it, that's the way to go.

[ Parent ]
Yeah but (none / 0) (#92)
by rusty on Fri May 10, 2002 at 08:36:59 AM EST

The advantage to eBay is that it could fetch a much higher price than it's really worth in bidding, due to "historical significance" (ha!). On Arstechnica I'd just have to assign it a price.

I'd even leave all the original stickers and crap taped to it, including the big signs that warn:

This machine and all of it's [sic] contents are the personal property of Rusty Foster.

Do not open, mark, or in any way molest this computer.

Ahhh, it's vintage. Vintage I say!

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Been past there, saw the T-shirt (none / 0) (#33)
by Cloaked User on Thu May 09, 2002 at 05:58:59 AM EST

I bought my first/current PC nearly 5 years ago, second hand from a friend of a friend. If I remember correctly, it was a P75 with 48MB of RAM, with a 33.6kbps modem, 8x CD drive, etc

In the intervening years, I've upraded the processor 3 times, the video card 3 times (plus adding a 3d accelerator at one point), sound card twice, case twice, CD drive once, motherboard twice, etc

The only components that now remain from the original machine are the floppy drive (which I never use), the modem (which is almost redundant now that I have ADSL), the monitor (which is going just as soon as I can afford it - so not very soon :-( ) and some of the cables.

So, whilst I've not actually built a machine from scratch, I have performed some pretty massive upgrades of an existing one.


"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]

Guess I'll chip in too... (none / 0) (#85)
by Danse on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:48:39 PM EST

First PC I built from parts was a 286 12MHz, IIRC. Had 4 megs of RAM and 2 hard drives, one was 20MB and the other was 10MB. All this and my 4-color CGA monitor :) Oh yeah... and dual 5 and 1/4 inch floppy drives. Played my first PC game on this machine. Some game called Overlord. I think I still have it in a box somewhere. I tripped out the first time I saw the game on a monochrome vga monitor. The graphics looked incredible. Even in black and white :)

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
A few comments (4.66 / 3) (#15)
by _Quinn on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:12:06 AM EST

I would never use cable-select on IDE drives.  It's marginally more convenient, but how often do you really move your HDs/CD-ROMs around?  Some software, as mentioned elsewhere, barfs on cable select, and in your case, especially, you really want the newer (and much faster, in all probability) drive to be the master; otherwise, it's limited by the speed of the slave.  (Likewise, if you'll be doing CD ripping or burning, put the CD-ROM on a different controller from the HD, since IDE can't have multiple commands outstanding.)

Why a P4, over an Athlon?

I'm an Athlon fan (er, no pun intended :)), so maybe this is a dumb question, but I was under the impression that DDR 333 didn't significantly improve system performance because it doesn't operate at an integer multiple of the front side bus, making the chipset more complicated.  (Buffering.)

As for cases, I adore the Antec SX-10x0 series (add a B for black); perhaps a bit larger than you're looking for, but the extra space is always nice. :)

I have to give you mad props for doing the processor and RAM installation before mounting the MB; I didn't, and it was an enourmous pain.  One thing you didn't mention is that you really want a flathead screwdriver to for the heatsink/fan clamp.  (At least, for AMD's heatsink/fan.)  I also recommend buying the retail boxes for non-overclockers, since you _know_ that the heatsink/fan will do what it must.

I have to admit that I actually /forgot/ to buy a floppy drive my most recent machine, and that I haven't noticed its absence.  Modern BIOSes and CD-ROM drives mean that booting from CD is no longer the iffy proposition it once was, and most installation CDs are bootable now, so...

I bought a GeForce 3 Ti 200 as well; I think it's the best price/performance point out there right now for "one generation behind" group that enthusiasts on a budget belong to.

Finally, as for fan noise: I have an older (celery 800, 384 MB of RAM) machine I've kept around as my 'desktop' box that's not too loud.  Since my newer machine is a dedicated gaming rig, the fan noise doesn't matter to me because the game's sounds will overwhelm it. :)

Finally, if you have broadband, look into setting up your old machine as a Linux/BSD box to firewall your new machine; it's not just the firewalling, but I find it very nice to be able to ssh home from anywhere and I use it as the One True Storage for my various e-mail accounts and projects I'm working on, etc.

Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.

the P4 choice (none / 0) (#19)
by tiger on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:33:26 AM EST

Why a P4, over an Athlon?

I decided on the P4 because, based on what I had read, it would be cooler and consume less power. I saw the choice as a way to have less heat generated by the PC.

One thing you didn't mention is that you really want a flathead screwdriver to for the heatsink/fan clamp. (At least, for AMD's heatsink/fan.)

If I recall correctly, I did not need any tool to install the P4 processor, fan, and heatsink; there were no screws, unless I’m forgetting something.

Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child

[ Parent ]
P4's may be cooler... (none / 0) (#22)
by sremorse on Thu May 09, 2002 at 01:37:07 AM EST

But they are much more expensive and underperforming. Simply buying a faster CPU Fan for an Athlon wouldn't add much to the price, would save you quite a packet, and give you much better performance.

"Life sucks, get a fucking helmet." - Denis Leary.
[ Parent ]

Much better? (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by rebelcool on Thu May 09, 2002 at 01:51:11 AM EST

At what? They're fairly evenly divided, though intel tends to beat them out with the highest end stuff.

More myths...

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Price/Performance (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by mech9t8 on Thu May 09, 2002 at 01:29:25 PM EST

For the $132 paid for the P4 1.6, he could've gotten an Athlon XP 1800+ or 1900+, which would soundly beat the P4 at just about anything.

Not that the differences would be enough to be hugely noticeable for most uses except running benchmarks... and it would need a louder fan and more power...

[ Parent ]

Savings vs. TCO (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by fluffy grue on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:53:05 PM EST

My power bill has gone up substantially (around $20/month compared to when I had a Celeron 466) ever since I upgraded to an Athlon. As far as I can tell, Athlons don't actually throttle on HLT like Intel CPUs do (I can't find any definitive answer on the web about this, but I've yet to find any indication that they actually do, but plenty of stuff implying that they don't) and so they're always at a high level of power consumption.

But even running at full power all the time (if you're one of those wanks who wants to run rc5 all the time), P4s do seem to draw a lot less of it.

"#kuro5hin [is like] a daycare center [where] the babysitter had been viciously murdered." -- CaptainObvious (we
[ Parent ]

Well (5.00 / 2) (#86)
by ghjm on Fri May 10, 2002 at 12:53:27 AM EST

There are some drawbacks. I'm not anti-AMD, and they are the best thing for a raw power gaming box. But there are reasons why you might want a P4. I bought one - back when there was much more of a price difference. I did this for two reasons.

First: I was trying to build a "Quiet PC" system. My goal was to have a PC that I could put in the living room, and not be able to hear it from the couch. With a PC Power & Cooling power supply and a Seagate ATA-IV drive, the system is near-silent - except for the CPU fan. I never found a fan that wasn't subjectively at least twice as loud as the rest of the system put together, so I took the quietest one I could find and wired in a resistor to get the voltage down to about 6V, which makes it nearly silent. With an Athlon I would be really worried about this setup. The P4 has integrated heat spreaders and slowdown-on-overheat, so if my weak fan isn't moving enough air or, worse, stops turning because it can't run effectively at 6V, I have to replace the cooler - not the CPU.

Second: In my experience the P4 on an Intel 850 or 845 has been a lot more stable overall than the Athlon on most of the available chipsets. But then again, if I could get away with it I would still be running a BX chipset.


[ Parent ]

Heatsink Installation (none / 0) (#32)
by Cloaked User on Thu May 09, 2002 at 05:47:47 AM EST

I bought a P3 about 18 months ago, and had a hell of a time installing the heatsink - the bloody thing absolutely refused to clip onto the socket. The only reason I persisted was that I trusted the person I bought the bits off to have given me the right stuff, but right up until I got it on, I was almost certain it wasn't going to work.

Four friends have recently (last 4 months or so) built themselves new PCs, and all have reported similar problems. One even broke a (plastic) screwdriver installing it.

How on Earth did you manage to get it installed without using any tools?


"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]

New P3 (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by theR on Thu May 09, 2002 at 09:45:08 AM EST

Newer P3s do not require a screwdriver to clip on the heatsink and fan. I'm guessing that the P4 is the same, though I haven't seen a retail one to know. The two retail P3 1GHz I have came with a heatsink, fan, and a plastic clip that is hinged instead of the metal one that has been used in the past. You put the clip on with the hinge released, and then press down on a lever until it is in the closed position. No screwdriver required.

I'm not sure my description is very good, but I can't find a picture online.

[ Parent ]
two large plastic levers (1.00 / 1) (#59)
by tiger on Thu May 09, 2002 at 03:01:50 PM EST

The two retail P3 1GHz I have came with a heatsink, fan, and a plastic clip that is hinged instead of the metal one that has been used in the past. You put the clip on with the hinge released, and then press down on a lever until it is in the closed position. No screwdriver required.

That’s a pretty good description. For the P4 I had, once all the parts that came in the retail box had been put in place, there were these two large plastic levers on the top, that had to be flipped in opposite directions, using a lot of force, which caused the whole fan-heatsink-processor-motherboard assembly to be held together very tightly with a lot of pressure.

Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child

[ Parent ]
Intel retail heatsink (none / 0) (#119)
by Tommy A on Sat May 11, 2002 at 06:54:36 AM EST

I had a tough time installing the retail Intel heatsink onto my Celeron 667. Probably took me a good few hours. Gave up trying to use a screw driver to force the metal spring over the plastic clips because it kept slipping off, in the end I had to use my thumb. I lost the feeling in the tip of my thump for over a week.

I vowed that this chip will stay on my motherboard till the day it dies.

[ Parent ]
Just to clarify :) (none / 0) (#76)
by _Quinn on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:20:44 PM EST

The Athlon heatsink/fan didn't require a screwdriver to drive screws, but to apply enough force to the clip that connectected the heatsink to the socket -- it was a thin metal bar with a loop at either end, which had to pushed down past some nibs/posts, at which point the tension in the metal would 'snap' the whole thing together.  I couldn't apply enough force with anything but a (flathead) screwdriver (the recommended method), because the metal in the other things I tried bent too much.

Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]

Who hasn't done this? (4.33 / 6) (#18)
by Torgos Pizza on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:32:32 AM EST

Okay, I might be a bit harsh and ignorant, but hasn't the majority of k5 users built their own PC at one time or another? When I visit a site like [H], Tom's, k5 or /., I just assume that the vast majority of people have assembled or at the very least cracked open the case of their PC.

I voted this down simply because of the plethora of articles just like this that are written better and actually serve as a guide for building your own PC. Just seems too much like a diary experience to me.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.

I've been building computers... (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by sremorse on Thu May 09, 2002 at 01:29:04 AM EST

Since I was 14. Its incredibly simple if you have a basic grasp of technology, but its definately something I dont advise newbies do without understanding of every part they are playing with. Too many expensive mistakes can be made - a wrong cable here, not clipped in properly there etc.. can cause a very expensive mistake. There could be a couple of other things I could comment on - but I'll just leave it at this one. NEVER use Winmodems. Ever. External modems, if you must use an analog one, are a hell of a lot better.

"Life sucks, get a fucking helmet." - Denis Leary.

hm (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by rebelcool on Thu May 09, 2002 at 01:37:19 AM EST

External modems, if you must use an analog one, are a hell of a lot better

As opposed to a non-analog modem? A MODulator/DEModulator describes going from analog to digital and back.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

No, that's an analogue-to-digital converter. (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by gordonjcp on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:43:21 AM EST

"Modem" stands for "Modulator-Demodulator". A cable modem, or indeed an ISDN modem, does in fact do this. Those aren't raw bits floating up the wire, they're modulated RF. Now, will you all please stop this "digital modems aren't really modems" crap? If it worked the way some people seem to think it does, you'd get your ethernet connection working over arbitrarily long bits of wire.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

[ Parent ]
Uhm... (none / 0) (#45)
by rebelcool on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:10:27 AM EST

that's exactly what I said. Perhaps you replied to the wrong post.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

No, I just misread it. (none / 0) (#47)
by gordonjcp on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:52:45 AM EST

I thought you were one of these "cable modems aren't modems" types. Sorry.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

[ Parent ]
Modems are purely digital devices (4.50 / 2) (#65)
by sjmurdoch on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:25:50 PM EST

Despite popular opinion, modems are not digital to/from analog convertors, since both the input and output are digital.

What they actually do is take an digital input - baseband (composed of frequences 0Hz and up) dual level signals from the bus/serial port of the computer. These cannot be sent over the phone lines since the public phone network cuts off low frequency components, which is where most of the energy in baseband transmissions are.

For this reason the signal is modulated using phase shift keying (128 or 256 levels) so its frequency components are shifted up into the range (300Hz-3400Hz) that is properly transferred over the public telephone network, but it is still digital (finite number of pulses per second, finite number of levels).
Steven Murdoch.
web: My Home Page
[ Parent ]

Payed too much (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by booyeah451 on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:02:56 AM EST

Wow, you payed too much for a power supply. My girlfriends power supply went bad, and we found one (250 Watts, ATX) for $15 (including shipping). Power supplies at most stores (like comp usa) are way overpriced. Sometimes components like that are cheaper at Mom-and-Pop places. (a normal price would be $20-$30)

Payed too much (none / 0) (#30)
by booyeah451 on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:06:43 AM EST

Change "payed too much" to "would have changed to much" =)

[ Parent ]
The Problem... (4.50 / 2) (#38)
by Therac-25 on Thu May 09, 2002 at 08:57:40 AM EST

I agree that buying a PSU at a large retail outlet is probably wasting money, but trying to find the cheapest PSU you can is just asking for trouble.  If you don't have a clean power supply, all kinds of wonky problems can crop up.

You can usually get good (Antec, etc) PSUs from a wholesaler for cheaper than you would get them from retail, and it'll be a much better idea in the long run.

"If there's one thing you can say about mankind / There's nothing kind about man."
[ Parent ]

price vs everything else (4.50 / 2) (#66)
by gps on Thu May 09, 2002 at 05:23:07 PM EST

cheap power supplies exist.  they are cheap.  they don't work well in the long run.  a 250w $15 power supply should not be used in a system with a p4.

its worth the extra money for one that has better load characteristics and an ultra quiet fan such as PC Power and Cooling sell.

if you're trying to save a buck or two here and there you can -always- find a cheaper part and build a useful computer for less.  what you're paying for is less headaches in the future with things going wrong.

[ Parent ]

bad idea (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by lucid on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:03:01 PM EST

Buying a cheap power supply is just a really, really bad idea. Personally, I've been very satisfied with my Antec 300W power supply. My main workstation (Athlon 950) is using that. By contrast, my other machine has a "$20-30" power supply in it, and it's plagued by problems with bad connectors and such. The "brand" is Deer, and can be found in the Toledo area, one for every cockroach. In addition, the fan failed in it before, and the new one barely spins. Nothing wrong with the fan. Don't get stuck in Shiatty Power Supply Hell.

[ Parent ]

Recent experience (none / 0) (#36)
by Rande on Thu May 09, 2002 at 07:46:56 AM EST

Having made a semi-expensive mistake with a mobo a few years ago when I didn't use washers to isolate the mobo from the case, I then made sure to isolate the new one.
And it failed to even start up. I was utterly frustrated and eventually gave it to the local computer shop to get going.
My mistake? Putting the washers on. The new mobos use the earth connection to the case.
Question : why don't they mention this in the guide to the mobo? Neither the former nor the latter mobo install guide mentions the washers at all.

hmm, sounds like BS (none / 0) (#46)
by rebelcool on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:12:00 AM EST

i've never ran into a motherboard which didnt use washers. No decent motherboard would use screws as a ground because thats a flaky connection at best.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Maybe BS (none / 0) (#88)
by Rande on Fri May 10, 2002 at 04:31:32 AM EST

But that's the theory.
Whatever the reason, if I put the washers on, then it just did not work.
I'd get about 0.1s of life (CPU fan spinning), and then it'd just stop.
Take em off and it'd start up brilliantly.
If you have a better theory I'd love to hear it.

[ Parent ]
My Theory (none / 0) (#103)
by virg on Fri May 10, 2002 at 11:36:43 AM EST

My theory is a ground fault on the mobo. I agree that MBs shouldn't use the screws for ground, since that can get really flaky really fast, unless you're using stainless steel for mounting. Besides, I prefer to use plastic standoffs for my mobos anyway, and if I had your problem the mobo would get a return trip to the place of purchase for tradeout.

"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
BS (none / 0) (#74)
by f00b4r on Thu May 09, 2002 at 09:57:03 PM EST

This does sound like BS... earth connection? Maybe they meant ground. At any rate, why get "grounded" through the screws in the mobo when the atx connector does a fine job of doing it.

[ Parent ]
UK speak (4.00 / 1) (#77)
by ShadowNode on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:28:29 PM EST

Earth == ground in UK speak.

[ Parent ]
BS? Hardly (none / 0) (#123)
by CrayDrygu on Sun May 12, 2002 at 01:31:51 AM EST

  1. earth = ground... even if you don't know UK slang, that shouldn't be difficult to figure out.
  2. why ground through the screws?  on a motherboard where there's limited space to begin with, why force all ground points to go to a single corner of the motherboard, when you can have multiple ground points spread over its surface?

[ Parent ]
Don't forget HDD speed (none / 0) (#43)
by jpm165 on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:13:46 AM EST

In my experience, a 7200 rpm IDE drive gives you way better system performance than the cheaper 5400 rpm drive. It is very noticeable.

"But then, why should you listen to me? For I know nothing..."

However: (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by fluffy grue on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:45:00 PM EST

5400RPM drives tend to run cooler and last longer. Most 7200RPM drives are pretty much identical to their 5400RPM counterpart except that they run the (same) motor faster.
"#kuro5hin [is like] a daycare center [where] the babysitter had been viciously murdered." -- CaptainObvious (we
[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#70)
by Profane Motherfucker on Thu May 09, 2002 at 07:58:32 PM EST

Please support this with some evidence. I find this hard to believe.

[ Parent ]
Which part? (none / 0) (#71)
by ShadowNode on Thu May 09, 2002 at 08:05:26 PM EST

Of course they run cooler, at least in general. More energy in the system, more energy leaked off from friction.

7200 RPM drives are faster though, at least in average seek time and burst reads. (the time it takes to start reading data, and the speed consecutave data can be read at.)

[ Parent ]
The second part... (none / 0) (#79)
by Profane Motherfucker on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:38:58 PM EST

About that the difference between a 5400 drive and 7200 drives are only the speed at which the operate. I'm curious to hear the evidence for the argument that a 7200 rpm drive is just a 5400 drive overclocked (so to speak).

[ Parent ]
Okham's Razor (none / 0) (#94)
by tekue on Fri May 10, 2002 at 10:24:32 AM EST

The Okham's Razor proves him right. If you'd like (and can), you can prove him wrong.

I find it very annoing when people write things like "prove it". If you've got real reasons to believe what he have wrote is wrong, state them. If you don't have any reasons, well, tough. :)
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Real reasons (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by Profane Motherfucker on Fri May 10, 2002 at 10:36:30 AM EST

How do you know Occam's Razor is correct? It's an idea, not bona fide law.

If Occam's Razor guided every decision, we'd still have phlogiston rather than oxygen. Phlogiston is a hell of a lot simpler than Oxygen. To cite Occam's Razor as absolute is to set yourself up for a logical flaw.

Also: "It would have been easier to fake the Apollo moon landings than to actually build a vessel capable of travelling some 600,000 miles at 17,000 mph. With Occam's Razor, we can see that the Apollo moon landings obviously occurred in a television studio, not on the moon."

Who's to say that taking a 5400 rpm drive and running it at 7200 rpm is simpler than building a drive that natively runs at 7200 rpm?

It seems like it would be simpler to build more stout drives with motors that output higher torque at the same rpm, then to force a piece to move faster.

HENCE - my original question, please cite some evidence. It wasn't a pissing contest. I was genuinely interested. What am I to say: "Yes, 7200 drives are really just 5400 drives. Some stranger said it on k5, and now it is cannonical."

[ Parent ]

I didn't say Okham's Razor is correct! (none / 0) (#97)
by tekue on Fri May 10, 2002 at 10:58:06 AM EST

I've only stated, that the simpler explanation is that 7200 r/m drives are only "overclocked" 5400 r/m drives. I don't know squat about HDD motors and all that, so I would think that to take a motor that runs at 5400 r/m and just make it faster is a lot easier than "to build more stout drives with motors that output higher torque at the same rpm".

Okham's Razor is supposed to favour the simpler explanation of an incident, not better technology for anything. I'd say that for a layman the "overclock" explanation is the first thing that comes to mind.
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Technical Points (5.00 / 3) (#102)
by virg on Fri May 10, 2002 at 11:31:54 AM EST

> I don't know squat about HDD motors and all that, so I would think that to take a motor that runs at 5400 r/m and just make it faster is a lot easier than "to build more stout drives with motors that output higher torque at the same rpm".

Actually, you're presuming characteristics into electric motors. Unlike a gas engine, increasing the speed of an electric motor can't be achieved by adding power, it requires a redesign of the components that drive the motor. In this case, you either have to change the input circuitry that gets power to the drive, or modify the design of the motor itself (as PMF suggested) to run faster on the same current. In reality, you do both to some extent. In the case of hard drives, most major manufacturers use a different model of spindle motor, and change the input circuitry for the step motor (the one that moves the heads).

So, PMF, you're right to question the "overclocking" (in this case it'd be called "overpowering" or "overdriving") as it's usually a different motor. However, Shadownode is right that the faster motor runs hotter, and he's even right about the reason (it's the kinetic-energy-turned-heat-by-friction coupled with more kinetic energy that makes it so).


P.S. to Tekue: as a minor editorial note, the rule is "Occam's Razor" after William of Occam. If you wish the alternate spelling, it's "Ockham", not "Okham". Also, you can take comfort in that you did not misapply it here; you merely applied it in absence of familiarity with the inner workings of electric motors.

P.S. to PMF: what would be the opposition to your handle? Divine MF? 8)
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
electric motors (none / 0) (#127)
by superflex on Wed May 22, 2002 at 03:27:50 PM EST

can you please clarify your statement about not increasing speed by increasing input power? i agree with your subsequent statement about modifying the circuitry that drives the motor, but that essentially would be increasing the input power.
ignoring electrical and mechanical losses in the machine,
volts x amps = torque x speed
if load torque is constant, then increasing input power will definitely increase shaft rotation speed.

[ Parent ]
configuration... (3.00 / 1) (#56)
by bayankaran on Thu May 09, 2002 at 02:41:31 PM EST

About 3 weeks back I assembled a new computer ordering parts from newegg.com.

It is a personal preference for going with different vendors which choosing parts. Mine has an Athlon XP, ASUS A7V333 motherboard, 512 2700RAM from Samsung and an ATI 8500LE video card with 128 meg RAM and a CDRW drive. The case is from Nikao and powersupply is 400W and a new 19 inch monitor from COSTCO. Also the cheapest computer desk from IKEA.

All of this for around $1200.

Now the problem I am having - the credit card bill came today.

Another first timer (5.00 / 2) (#67)
by Otter on Thu May 09, 2002 at 06:08:49 PM EST

I've been a long-time Mac owner, but last year I wanted a new, cheap Linux box with supported components and my wife wanted it to run Windows also. I knew very little about hardware at that point (although I had installed drives, RAM, etc.) so I just followed the Budget Box recipe in the Ars Technica System Guide.

For what it's worth, I had good luck with The Chip Merchant and Sunset Marketing for parts.

I'm glad I did it -- I now have a real feel for what's inside my system and how to troubleshoot and replace it. I also was surprised to see that the Mandrake install was far easier and more automatic than the Windows 98 install.

Newegg customer reviews (4.50 / 2) (#73)
by acceleriter on Thu May 09, 2002 at 09:26:41 PM EST

As a customer of Newegg, I sent an email to express concern about the deletion of negative reviews. In particular, I thought it deceptive that a notice was given to reviewers but not potential customers who would read the reviews.

I don't know whether this is new or whether I am sufficiently dense to not have noticed it, but right now, the following text appears prominently at the top of the link when clicking "READ THE REVIEWS" in an item description:

Customer Review

Newegg.com is not a forum for product reviews. For product reviews, we recommend sites such as www.cnet.com, www.anandtech.com, and www.tomshardware.com. Newegg.com is a private site that conducts the business of selling computer hardware and as such, any specifications and information posted by Newegg.com regarding products for sale must be factual. However, customer comments in regards to their experience with said products are the opinions of the user. The customer opinion reviews are used at the discretion of Newegg.com as a marketing device for positive and constructive ways to share the benefit of the product. It is not used as a source for negative commentary as we cannot endorse the validity of any negative comment. Therefore, the Newegg.com site is moderated to remove any unproven biased negative comments. It is not the intention of Newegg.com to mislead any customer and therefore all purchase decisions should not be solely based on the customer review.

This was pointed out to me in the reply by email from one of their representatives. As a previous customer who has been happy with them, and the recipient of an email satisfactorily addressing the issue, I still give Newegg two thumbs up and will continue to order from them.

I don't get it... (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by Danse on Thu May 09, 2002 at 11:18:31 PM EST

It says:

It is not used as a source for negative commentary as we cannot endorse the validity of any negative comment.

How is it that they can endorse the validity of positive comments, as they do not delete those comments, but they cannot endorse the validity of negative comments?

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Good point. (none / 0) (#93)
by acceleriter on Fri May 10, 2002 at 08:58:05 AM EST

But as long as they disclose what they're doing prominently, I'll just consider it puffery.

[ Parent ]
Its a shame (4.00 / 1) (#78)
by smallstepforman on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:36:31 PM EST

I dont wish to flame/troll, but reading about Win98 and Win2K barfing on your new hardware really pisses me off.  You see, it doesn't have to be that way.  Case in point - the now defunct BeOS.  You could simply rip out the hard disk from one PC and connect it to another PC, and (**in most cases**) presto, the OS comes up with no problems whatsover.  With the Windows family of OS's, simply swapping PCI cards from one slot to another causes the OS to have a fit (new hardware detected, insert driver disk, bla bla).  The more advanced OS dies, yet Windows continues to dominate the market.  People are masochists, I tells ya.  Just like the person in the next cubicle lending Office2K to a friend, yet OpenOffice (which is free) is hardly used.

Congratulations on your new PC (ABIT was your best choice).  Most of us have gone down that road a few years ago :-)  Next time, try a dual processor rig (these days only offerings from AMD).

Removing devices (5.00 / 1) (#120)
by Tommy A on Sat May 11, 2002 at 07:11:34 AM EST

I haven't tried to move a hard disk into another PC but, you could try removing all the devices that are going to change from Windows 'Device Manager' before transferring.

[ Parent ]
OEM (5.00 / 2) (#80)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:47:02 PM EST

Note that OEM parts are not for retail sale

This is hella wrong.

OEM means Original Equipment Manufacturer - guess what, that's you, if you are building your PC yourself!

The difference between OEM and retail is that retail stuff is going to come in a shiny box with manuals, cables, warranty cards, and costs more. Generally, OEM CPUs also come sans heatsink/fan.

Now when I buy myself a CD-ROM drive I certainly don't need a shiny box and manuals, and I already have cables.

Depending on what you buy, OEM might also have some of the stuff I mentioned retail having. For example, any sort of Hard Drive or CD-ROM drive that I have bought OEM has come as a drive in a static proof bag in a plain cardboard box, but when I bought an OEM video card it had the drivers disk and manual just like the retail card, but in a small white corrugated box instead of a shiny glossy one like you see in the store, and I saved $10 by that.

The only thing I generally don't buy in the OEM version is the CPU, because considering that I don't bother overclocking much the default fan and heatsink are usually good enough and it's a small matter of convenience to not have to search for them separately.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

Hard drive (4.00 / 1) (#81)
by klash on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:56:23 PM EST

You paid too much for your hard drive. I bought a Seagate Barracuda 60GB for ~$100 from Newegg about 2 months ago, and now the prices have dropped so that their 80GB Barracuda is $115 with shipping. These are fast, very quiet drives, though they do run a bit hot...

Retail is so much nicer (5.00 / 4) (#89)
by 0xA on Fri May 10, 2002 at 05:16:49 AM EST

Okay DIY guys chill, hear me out.

I started my carreer as a retail hardware tech 8 years ago, my experience building and fixing my own systems and a teen got me the job. I always built my own stuff, I built my mom one, my brother one and comps for serveral friends but I will never do it again.

The mindbending things I have had to deal with over the years has totaly turned me off doing this. I am good at hardware, all modesty aside I only know 2 or 3 people I think are as good or better. Most of the time this stuff is easy, slap it together and go but sometimes it's a nightmare. Video card X will not work with motherboard maker B's PCI implimentation for example. It gets down to the specific model of MB and specific rev of that card sometimes. It doesn't really matter who the vendors are either, I have an ASUS MB that will not work with a spefic rev of the 3Com 905 too. I don't have time to track this crap down.

The other thing is the warranty / support issues. I moved away from my mom (440 km) but if her PC breaks it's still my problem. I have fixed that thing three times in 2 years, power surge or something got the motherboard, hardrive gave up, USB ports died. Again stress I don't need. The Dell I bought myself 2 years ago has done the same thing but each time I got a new part the next day. Not even thier fault really, my old apartment backed onto a gravel alley, you would belive what that fine dust does to CD drives but they still replaced them. Do you have any idea how hard it can be to get a replacement from a motherboard vendor 2 years into the warranty?

I've been looking at a new system and after I priced out the difference between buys OEM stuff and buying another Dell I was shocked at the price difference. The Dell will cost me an extra $42, even if you add the shipping ($90) I'm getting a rougly compareable (close the OEM one has a faster CDRW but the Dell a better video card) system I'm getting the 3 year, onsite if I want it, warranty for $130. Canadian dollars too, that's about $85 US.

Unless you want to build a system for fun or have a bunch of parts to recycle I don't see any point at all any more. You used to be able to save a lot of money that way.

Agreed, but Disagreed (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by virg on Fri May 10, 2002 at 11:10:16 AM EST

> ...my experience building and fixing my own systems and a teen got me the job.

My question is, did you have to give her up when you started, and did you get her back when you left? Or did you mean that you also built and fixed the teen (in which case you really are good at hardware...)? 8)

Anyway, I agree with you on some points, but not on others. You're dead on with your assessment of hardware quirks, as I've encountered tons of that sort of thing in my adventures building PCs. Still, the number of times I've enocuntered this (and not been able to resolve it with a return to the store or perusal of a good Google) is relatively small, even if the answer was, "video card X and network card Y don't work in the same system." Also, I got an off-the-shelf retail system (as a gift, so I didn't get to choose, but hey, it was free...) and although it's been rock solid, there are a few failures that are startlingly annoying. The first is that I don't get a proper OS CD, and while many would argue that a full Windows Me CD isn't a proper OS CD, it's a major pain in the butt not to be able to reinstall the parts of my OS that need reinstalling without having to return the machine to its pre-sale state. I have no such worries on a Frankenstein PC, since I get, buy or download (depending on the OS) the full version of the OS. Also, you can count yourself lucky that you've had little difficulty with OEM technical support for your retail PC. I have lived through enough horror story tech support calls to know that service is often spotty, and the technicians are sometimes (not often, but often enough) undertrained or very inflexible. At least I know that when my dad calls me for help, I'm not going to tell him to reformat his drive or clean his motherboard with a shop vac (!!!) (some tech really told him this!).

"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
You have to know how to work tech support (4.00 / 2) (#117)
by 0xA on Fri May 10, 2002 at 10:35:49 PM EST

I agree, working with retail tech support people is difficult sometimes. You have to know how to get them to do what you want. Keep in mind that more often or not you are talking to an undertrained phone jockey with a script. It doesn't matter if they think it will work or not, they still have to run the script.

Indentify yourself and establish your credentials right off. You want the tech to know you have a good idea what's going on but you don't want to be arrogant either. We'll use the time I got my CDRW replaced for an example.

Tech: What's wrong?
Me: CDRW is fried it won't read my dics. I need to get this fixed so I can copy my code and compile it on the server at work.

I've established myself as clueful without being a prick about it.

Tech: Have you tried other discs?
Me: Yep

Tech: Have you installed any software or harware recently.?
Well ya but I can install a hard drive without fogetting to plug the damn cdr in, I already checked that anyway.
Me: No.

Tech: Check this setting it should say X
Browse porn for a minute
Me: It's fine.

Tech: Okay this one too.
Check k5 for new stories
Me: It's fine.

Tech: Okay let's check your cables
Read email, have an AIM chat with GF, bang coffee cup on desk a couple times
Me: I pulled everything out and plugged it back in, lets see if it works. /wait Nope.

Tech: I think your drive is broken (no shit) I will send you a new one.
Me: Okay, thanks.

If you know how to get though it you can get what you want. I also agree with you on that restore disc BS tough. That is a real pita. Tray and find a company that just gives you an OEM disc. Using Dell as an example, they used to give you a strait OEM disc, they package them differently now but they are basically the same. Some of them check your bios to make sure you are installing on a Dell though. Aside from that I'm happy with them.

[ Parent ]

Apple Tech Support. (4.50 / 2) (#118)
by Jacques Chester on Fri May 10, 2002 at 11:16:18 PM EST

This reminds me of my experience with Apple tech support in Australia. Of course they're a modern firm so they don't do it themselves, they outsource. What this means is that when you call apple, you talk to their guys. When you hand over your machine, a completely unrelated set of people look at it. Apparently they never fucking talk to each other.

It took me eight weeks of calling and handing the machine over, only to receive it back STILL BROKEN, to convince to replace the friggin' HDD on an iBook. From the get-go I knew what the problem was, and told them. But they handed it back to me three times saying "it's fine". Yeah, it's real good. It doesn't even finish booting. You just hit the power button and saw the smiley mac. Fucking idiots. Arrrgh!

However, what was sweet is that if you boot an iBook holding down the 'f' key (if I remember correctly), it starts up as a firewire drive. No, really. You can then plug it into another FW mac with a cable and retrieve your files from a non-booting machine before you reinstall the OS. Now that's what I call thoughtful engineering. Too bad the tech support was so clueless.

In a world where an Idea can get you killed, Thinking is the most dangerous act of all.
[ Parent ]

Apple Tech Support (5.00 / 1) (#128)
by Schofield on Fri May 31, 2002 at 09:40:44 PM EST

What this means is that when you call apple, you talk to their guys. When you hand over your machine, a completely unrelated set of people look at it. Apparently they never fucking talk to each other.
It took me eight weeks of calling and handing the machine over, only to receive it back STILL BROKEN, to convince to replace the friggin' HDD on an iBook. From the get-go I knew what the problem was, and told them. But they handed it back to me three times saying "it's fine". Yeah, it's real good. It doesn't even finish booting. You just hit the power button and saw the smiley mac. Fucking idiots. Arrrgh!

I'm a tech at an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) in California. Don't know the setup in other countries. YMMV.

We are not allowed to do repairs on iBooks or G4 Powerbooks (the new titianium ones). They won't ship us the parts. (We can do most repairs on the old black plastic powerbooks.) This means that you call Apple, they confirm that you should go to an AASP, you do, we take a brief look at the machine, and ship it to Apple. Apple then either repairs the machine or doesn't, and ships it back to us. We then test the machine, and either give it back to the customer or ship it back to Apple to be repaired again. Between out-of-stock parts and other problems, this process can continue for weeks. (Although I've also seen the entire process completed in three days.)

My point? Don't necessarily blame the local techs. There's incompetence in all organizations at all levels.

[ Parent ]
my $.02 (3.00 / 3) (#90)
by j0s)( on Fri May 10, 2002 at 06:06:50 AM EST

ive starting buying stuff online recently and ive been using newegg.com to look at prices. i think your situation is definitely one that doesnt happen too often, otherwise newegg.com wouldnt be as popular as it is, but who knows, and ill definitely remember this when i consider buying something from newegg.com.

and some advice... next time you decide to buy computer stuff online (i take it that you live in california from your comment), and if you live in the LA area (more specifically the IE), you should use mwave.com, and pricewatch.com is very good about getting great prices and you can always find a company located in CA pretty high up on the list. i mention this because you can just stop by and pick up your purchases instead, no shipping costs. and if you dont live nearby, they are in CA so the shipping wont be too high. another good site ive found is augustus technology, they have lots of cool stuff. also, youll always overpay when buying computer peripherals at best buy. they are just too expensive for most things. online is always way cheaper, even after shipping. or, shop at fry's. they are so much nicer and have a much more extensive selection of everything. i like them a lot more for computer stuff, best buy is for cds and dvds.


-- j0sh -- of course im over-dramatizing my statements, but thats how its done here, sensationalism, otherwise you wouldnt read it.

Augustus tech (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by danb35 on Fri May 10, 2002 at 01:00:24 PM EST

another good site ive found is augustus technology, they have lots of cool stuff.
OTOH, I've been waiting 6+ weeks for them to replace some defective RAM I bought from them a few months ago. Their shipping was also more expensive than they had posted on pricewatch at the time (though I didn't bother to contest it).

[ Parent ]
Building your DREAM PC. (3.33 / 3) (#96)
by Phillip Asheo on Fri May 10, 2002 at 10:43:07 AM EST

I read this article with interest, since I have recently built my own PC from parts (Shuttle Spacewalker SV24 barebones, Celeron900MHz, 256MB ram, BeOS, Lite-ON 52x CDROM).

However I feel I have to disagree that "this experience is not for everyone". I had never even looked inside my PC until I built the spacewalker system, and it was as easy as building something from Legos.

I did a lot of research, looking at tomshardware, arsetechnica etc, and found this simple guide to building a PC demystified the whole process, as it is written from a newbies perspective. You can read it here: Building your dream PC. What the experts don't tell you. Be warned, if you know anything at all about hardware, this may sound a bit patronising, but for newbies like me, it was just what the doctor ordered.

"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long

MS re-install (3.50 / 2) (#99)
by lb008d on Fri May 10, 2002 at 11:12:41 AM EST

I've tried this with w98 and it worked great, but I haven't attempted with w2000, so YMMV:

Before putting the HD in the new machine, boot to safe mode in the old machine, go to the hardware manager, and remove every last bit of hardware (you'll be suprised how many duplicates are there when you boot to safe mode).  Then, when you bring the OS up in the new machine, windows will be forced to re-detect everything.

Be sure you have your installation CD or .cab files somewhere accessible, because you're guaranteed to need them.

good advice (none / 0) (#109)
by tiger on Fri May 10, 2002 at 05:29:33 PM EST

Before putting the HD in the new machine, boot to safe mode in the old machine, go to the hardware manager, and remove every last bit of hardware (you'll be suprised how many duplicates are there when you boot to safe mode). Then, when you bring the OS up in the new machine, windows will be forced to re-detect everything.

This certainly sounds like the way to do it. I wish I had known about this before, but I didn’t.

Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child

[ Parent ]
You paid way too much... (4.66 / 3) (#108)
by cr0sh on Fri May 10, 2002 at 03:52:56 PM EST

Now, I will concede that it looked like you needed an upgrade or two, and considering you had what seemed to be a "proprietary" style case, etc - what you did seems sound...

With that said, I wouldn't throw out that old PC and power supply just yet. Sure, a new power supply is going to cost you some money, but why do you need a new power supply? Because the fan rattles?

Put in a new fan into the power supply! The fan is going to be a standard size, and can be easily picked up at any well stocked local electronics store (if you have a Fry's in your area, check there first). Unplug and remove the power supply from the case and open the chassis. If the fan plugs in, good. If it doesn't, and it is soldered on the pcb, then unmount the pcb, flip it over, and unsolder the fan (if you have no soldering experience, this is the perfect time to learn, and on a piece of hardware you can screw up too badly). Then attach the new fan, and attach the plug to the fan (you may need to solder leads here), or to the pcb (remember to match the wires + and - to the proper spots on the pcb!). Put it all back together, and you are good to go! The fan shouldn't cost more than $5-10.00 - It will take about an hour to repair if you have never done it (and for anyone giving me that time/money crap, it is obvious that since he built his own new machine, it DOESN'T APPLY).

Of course, your real problem was actually a dry bearing. The fan probably worked fine, it just needed to be re-greased. This could essentially make the cost go down to near zero dollars. If you take the fan out of the power supply, then look at it, you will notice one or two "stickers" - one will be on the fan blades - you can ignore it. The other will be on the fan case, on the other side where the wire enter the fan motor. If you press on the sticker, you should feel and indentation. This sticker covers a hole that the fan shaft is under, and helps reduce the dust that gets into the motor. The motor is actually a funky two-pole stepper motor. The wires enter the motor circuit board, and the board consists of some control electronics, and four electro-magnets, which forms the stator of the motor. The rotor is formed by two small perm-magnets under the hub of the fan blades.

If you remove that sticker, with a set of jeweler screwdrivers and a pair of small tweezers, you can remove a small retaining ring on the shaft that helps to keep the fan in position. DO NOT LOSE THIS RING. Once the ring is removed, the fan is now held in place by nothing more than the magnetic force acting between the rotor magnets and the steel in the stator coils. Remove the fan, and the shaft is attached to the hub - you should now be able to see the stator coils that are normally hidden under the fan hub.

One thing of note is that many times you will find that so-called "ball bearing" fans are still simple sleeve bearing fans. I have yet to see a real "ball bearing" fan - I am sure that they are made, but most fans in a PC are likely to be sleeve bearing fans.
What you want to do after you get the fan off is to get some lubrication back on the shaft between the shaft and the bearing (which is likely to be a sleeve bearing as noted above). This lubrication should be a simple petroleum based substance, like petroleum jelly or similar. A small amount of auto bearing grease would even work. Crisco would work in a desparate situation. DO NOT USE WD-40. Silicone-based oil would also work for a short time, but do not use silicone heat-sink grease. Apply a very small amount to the shaft, slide the shaft and fan back into the bearing, spin it to make sure it still spins good, then reattach the retaining ring (this takes a lot of patience, and perhaps a magnifier lamp) to the shaft. Once this is done, moisten a q-tip or similar in a bit of rubbing alchohol, and clean the plastic around the hole thoroughly - do not get any of the alchohol into the hole. Let the remaining amount evaporate (blow on gently if you wish to speed the process), then take a round paper sticker (like is sold for garage sale price tags) and place over the hole. Check that the fan still operates by hooking the leads up to a 9 volt battery, then reattach the fan to the power supply. It should be quiet once more.

I have done this operation on many small fans, and have gotten tons of useful life back out of them. In our "throwaway" society, it is a tragedy to simply buy new instead of fixing the old when and where it can be fixed (I mean, if a bearing failed on your axle in your car, would you throw away the vehicle and buy another, or replace the bearing? Which would be cheaper? Duh).

Like I said at the beginning though, it sounded like you needed a full new system - but there is still a ton of life left in your old system. I find your comments about memory interesting, considering I still have some systems using 72 pin SIMMS (non-EDO), as well as a couple of 386 boards using 30 pin (though these aren't in "active service") - I also have a few 30 pin SIPPs, and my old CoCo 3 has a 512K upgrade with a ton of DIP-type DRAM...

OK - I am dating myself now - but my point has been made. I hope this helps you or someone else out there...

wow, you really know fans (1.00 / 1) (#111)
by tiger on Fri May 10, 2002 at 05:43:43 PM EST

When I looked at the power-supply fan, I did not know what to look for, and I did not see how the fan was held in place, so I quickly gave up on trying to fix it myself.

Your detailed instructions sound very complete. Based on what you say, it sounds like just about any of these fans can be re-lubricated.

Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child

[ Parent ]
I am the kind of person... (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by cr0sh on Fri May 10, 2002 at 07:18:28 PM EST

...that tends to try to fix something, if I can, before I go out and buy new. If I understand the process, and what is wrong, and it looks like I can fix it, I will. I will even attempt it if I am lacking tools (one fan I fixed was on my work PC - I didn't have any grease, so I used carmex, which is petroleum based - still runs like a champ, 3 months later). If I don't understand it, I will ask someone how, or to help me - but I always take an active role.

Recently I bought a house. I had my digital cable/broadband transferred over, but when I hooked it up, it didn't work. I had gone out and bought some cable from a surplus dealer, and tried to hook it up properly. However, due to the special impedance matching, frequencies involved, and losses, it still didn't work. I called the cable company, and they sent out somebody to put in a booster, it didn't help. They offerred to do an install, at $50.00 per drop (I have three drops). This was way too expensive. I decided after that to simply buy the cables, instead of building them, and last night I hooked everything up. Both cable boxes are now working, I have to work on the broadband tonight (need to have the modem "reprovisioned" by the cableco, then go from there).

So, I threw money at the problem last night, and it seemed to work. I have a bunch of extra cable, but I have uses for it, so it isn't a total loss. I could have tried to make it and the old cable work, but since I don't have the knowledge or tools (ie, cable testing/splicing equipment - which cost big $$$), and being in the actic is no picnic, I decided to go the seemingly "easy route". I probably saved myself time and heartache doing it that way, anyhow.

[ Parent ]

Building your own. (my 15+ years of experiences) (5.00 / 2) (#110)
by bored on Fri May 10, 2002 at 05:36:32 PM EST

I've been building my own PC's since my first 286 (which slowly grew to a 486 when I had to buy a new machine for PCI/ATX). Some have definitely been better than others. Besides the occasional flaky part i've had good luck. I've seen Dell's and Compaq's with nasty problems too. Its pretty rare to have a card that doesn't work on a motherboard or a card-card conflict. Driver problems, and issues with over clocking are everywhere. The major OEM's have the same problems, last year one of the guys at work got a Dell that had a pinned memory problem in the W2k driver for the video card, this resulted in BSOD's almost daily until I fixed it.

The big advantage of building your own is upgradablilty, which when done properly can save a _LOT_ of money. The trick here is to sell the old parts and buy trailing edge stuff (like a P4 1.6). Buy a new part every few months to replace the oldest or slowest part in the machine.

As far as cost? It used to be that I saved a lot of money. I still save a lot of money but that's because i'm buying machines that are classified as 'workstations' by the major OEM's and therefor have additional 'tax'. Instead of paying $3200, i'm paying $2500 and getting a better machine. Buying low-mid range machines ($700-$1000) its hard to beat the OEM's unless you cheap out on stuff, which is exactly what they are doing. When you compare a machine I build for $700 vs theirs you will discover that mine has a bunch of little things, bigger power supply, more PCI slots, more memory slots, a better mouse, a bios with more options, nearly always a bigger HD and its better tailored for the application its intended to be used for. I shave by not putting a modem in the computer, everyone I know has broadband.

As far as OEM parts? I don't have a problem with them, all though sometimes they aren't the same as the retail. It used to be that the OEM and retail versions were identical, except you didn't get a pretty box and a bunch of cables, screws and junk software no one really uses. Ever since the big OEM's started pushing manufactures to sell things a lot cheaper, that you get two versions of the hardware. One for retail, with the nice gold connectors and one for OEM where the connectors are crap, the GPU is clocked slower, or has less RAM. It pays to research if there is a difference between the OEM and the retail. I always buy my IDE drives, floppy, CDROM, soundcard, CPU, and NIC OEM. IDE drives are identical (there might be a couple that aren't I haven't found one) except they won't have manuals mounting brackets, cables and screws the motherboard will come with the cables. floppy? Again identical, nic? I use those cheap little realtek clones. They work in everything, all the time, i've never had one die, and i've been paying $3 for them. I've been told they don't perform. Ha, who cares! they are faster than my broadband connection and I don't care if my internal lan is only running at 98% of max. CPU? By oem from a _REPUTABLE_ dealer, never had a problem. Sound cards are tricky, I don't believe in all the beeps and bells on the new soundards, I want something with good quality and lots of ports (ok there are a couple features I look for). Retail they have a HUGE markup, so I tend to go for the best OEM i can find which is usually cheaper than the mid range retail stuff.

For the most part OEM/Retail doesn't matter much to me. I could care less about the extra retail crap it just ends up sitting in a box. What does matter though is where I buy stuff. I buy monitors and CDROMs local. Monitors cost to much to ship and I have had a bad track record with some of them. I tend to drive them >= max res which they don't tend to like. Once I get a good one though its lasts for years. CDROMs though! damn, they are like disposable items in my budget. I don't know why (I think star craft kill a couple) but I kill them in under 6 months. I've tried every major manufacture. Not one has survived for long (except maybe the second SCSI plextor I bought which is still going). Buy these local so you can return them or accept the $40 charge of getting a new one.

BTW: Non Intel CPU's are almost always a better value. Except for the Intel overclock queens your better off with a non intel. You pay to much to help their margins. Right now the only real choice in third party cpu's is AMD. Hopefully this will change in the future and VIA and Transmeta will have competitive designs.

CPU's (none / 0) (#130)
by boschke on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 05:36:15 AM EST

Non-Intel CPU's are indeed better value, but:
AFAIK AMD chips thend to run hotter than Intels and have no thermal protection to speak of. So either you need an excellent cooling, or prepare for instability problems as the CPU is under stress. Also, the AMD chips are power-hungry (that's why they heat up), and I have read at least one review stating that the Athlon does not have power saving features, or something along those lines. (like a sleep instruction)

To be completely honest, I own an AMD Athlon 1.4, and it runs fine, although it does tend to lock up the system once in a while when I run it at a continuous full load on a hot day.

So, in conclusion, I think Intel might just be a tad more reliable.

just my two cents!

[ Parent ]

Try Directron (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by Will Sargent on Fri May 10, 2002 at 06:25:04 PM EST

I've had good experience with them; I bought an IDE RAID controller, said it sucked in an e-mail, and it promptly appeared next to the product's "customer comments" and STAYED THERE.

The moderators will reply to any random question you have on the message board within a day, and everything is entirely above board (an experience I promptly didn't have when I tried to buy an ECS motherboard from another company and got shipped a lemon).

I own no stock, YMMV, etc. :-)
I'm pickle. I'm stealing your pregnant.

Things you don't want to cheap out on (5.00 / 3) (#115)
by swr on Fri May 10, 2002 at 08:39:02 PM EST

When building your own PC from parts, there are some things you don't want to cheap out on.

The motherboard is what connects everything in your computer together. Questionable motherboards are the main cause of compatibility problems. Also, because the mobo is very large as PCBs go, and have the physical stress of things being plugged in and out from time to time, they can develop fractures which can result in system instability; cheap materials can make this more likely. Get a decent motherboard. None of the major brands suck, but Asus is probably the best of the bunch. This is one area where you will have to pay noticably more for quality.
Power supply
Power supplies (a.k.a. "PSUs", power supply units) are rated at a certain wattage. What really matters is not how much power it can deliver, but how consistently the device will deliver power under load. Machines can fail in very strange ways as a result of bad power. Bad PSUs are a major cause of system instability, right up there with bad motherboards. Usually your PSU will come with your case and you won't have any idea what brand you are getting. I suggest getting the next higher wattage, as I suspect that they are more likely to be well-made. So if most cases come with a 250W power supply, get a 300W. The extra cost may be a significant percentage of the price of PSU, but it is next to nothing when compared to the price of your system, and it really is a major factor in reliability.
Bad RAM can lead to system instability and even data corruption. Fortunately most manufacturers make decent RAM. Micron is probably the best, but you should be fine as long as you aren't scraping the bottom of the barrel. If your local computer shop sells "name brand" RAM for only a few dollars more, it's almost certainly worth it. Also, be sure to get a good amount of RAM. RAM is far more important to system performance than CPU, in my opinion. Get more than you need and expect to add another stick later on.
Hard drive
This is where all your stuff goes so you don't want it to crap out. Like RAM, most of the major manufacturers produce decent stuff at about the same prices. You don't need to spend a lot of money, just don't be trying to buy the cheapest drive on the market.

newegg.com reviews - yay or nay? (none / 0) (#125)
by mobius314 on Thu May 16, 2002 at 04:29:17 PM EST

First, I am in no way affiliated with newegg.com. I wonder how accurate this story is. There are reviews on newegg with comments like: "This mobo is a piece of sh*t.. It will run, but with many problems.." If they didn't delete this, why did they delete yours? However, after a quick look, I don't see any ratings of 1 star. Maybe they remove everything with 1 star.

Use AccessMicro (none / 0) (#126)
by nocebo on Fri May 17, 2002 at 06:12:38 PM EST

I've been looking over the last couple weeks to find a place that will assemble the parts I want and ship me the completed system. For the record I've never actually bought a PC from them, but I've been looking to get a new one and wanted to find a place that would:
1) Let me pick the parts
2) Let them assemble and test so that I find out if the CPU/memory/hard drive is busted I don't have to go thru the RMA deal.

Previously I found a place that did a great job, GCSextreme, but there website now still lists pIIs and I don't know what there problem is.

Anyways, back to the story, accessmicro has a page here that allows you to select from a specified list and they will put it together for you. Their prices for equipment are pretty damn good and while they might be alittle bit high here and there the sum of my computer on their site was only $10 more than the best prices that I found on pricegrabber. Then they charge an extra $20 to assemble and test. It is worth it for me to avoid the hassle but still get the computer I want.

Building a New PC from Parts: Lessons Learned | 130 comments (110 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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