Monthly Archives: March 2008 - Page 2

Building a Computer 101: The List

So by now you should have a little research done and a decent idea of what you want to build. It’s now time to take that information and go shopping. I personally use Newegg 100% of the time. They have speedy delivery, convenient RMA and an easy to use browser/cart system. Without further ado, let’s get to the parts.


The case is a very important part of building a computer. While often one of the cheapest components, without it you would essential have a loose collection of electronics sitting on the floor. It is important to get a case big enough to hold everything you want. It is also important to get a case with good air flow. Other factors to consider when selecting a case are: included cooling methods (water, small fans, big fans, etc.), Color, Case Mod Windows (etc.), material, tool less designs and drive bays. There might be a few more but the key factors to remember are: you need space for everything, electronics like to have airflow (be cool) and any lights (case mods) or noise (fans) will make it harder to sleep if it is in a bedroom room.

My Selection: Thermaltake Armor Series VA8000BWS Black Aluminum / Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case

  • Very Big Tower
  • Well Reviewed
  • Lots of drive slots for hard drives and etc.
  • Good airflow
  • Decent price and construction
  • Lots of external slots, meaning eventually I can have video cards running in SLI or X-Fire

Power Supply:

If you buy an unfit power supply, you will kill your computer. We need a power supply that can provide enough power to all of the components. We also need a power supply that will not degrade at an accelerated rate over its lifetime. A number of issues people have with their computers can be traced back to a failing power supply. Think of it like an internal brown out.

My Selection: Thermaltake W0116RU Complies with ATX 12V 2.2 & EPS 12V version 750W Power Supply 100 – 240 V CE, CB, TUV, FCC, UL, CUL, and BSMI certified

  • 750W of power
  • Great reviews
  • Decent price
  • Supports video card upgrades
  • Quality power output

Mother Board:

There is a reason they call it the motherboard. With out this the child elements would be lost and have no way to talk to each other. A quality motherboard can go a long way to assist in over clocking endeavor, stability and general computer health. Remember that the motherboard is the biggest limiting factor in which processor, memory, hard disks and accessory cards you can use. It’s VITAL to ensure you get a motherboard that has a form factor that matches or is smaller than your case. It is also VITAL that you get a motherboard with the correct slot type for your CPU. That doesn’t just meant Intel vs. AMD vs. Other, but also so that it supports the correct chipset. (This isn’t that hard to figure out, it’s in the description of the product, but it is important to double check.) It is also VITAL to ensure that your Mother Board supports the slot type needed by your hard drives (SCSI, IDE, SATA) and accessory cards (PCI-E, PCI, AGP, etc.) If you haven’t caught on, the Mother Board is important. Have no fear if you buy a modern motherboard and modern other parts, they generally will work in tandem.

My Selection: ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP LGA 775 Intel X38 ATX Intel Motherboard

  • ASUS is a well respected MoBo manufacturer
  • Has all the slots I could need
  • DDR3 support
  • 45nm CPU support
  • Quad-Core and below support
  • Fast Front Side Bus


Behold, the heart of the beast. This is where your machine starts to come alive. The processor is the biggest factor in determining the speed, reliability and overall “1337“ness of your system. This is one aspect you will want to do research on. There are many different release versions of similar processors by the big names to fit every market. Go wild, but remember that your CPU has to fit in your motherboard and have enough power and cooling to stay alive.

My Selection: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Yorkfield 3.0GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 775 130W Quad-Core Processor

  • It’s Fast
  • 45 nm processor: less power and more transistors
  • Did I mention it was fast?

RAM or Memory (Random Access Memory):

Ok, so your computer is fast. It will still be like a retarded monkey on crack if it can’t store any of the knowledge it has worked so hard to process. This is where RAM comes into play. When buying RAM it is important to look at clock speeds, CAS and the type of memory. It can be pretty confusing. A simple guide is get DDR3 memory (it’s the newest) and a CAS 9 or lower and a clock speed 1333 or higher.

My Selection: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory

  • Corsair RAM has worked for me in the past and is well respected
  • 4 GBs of RAM in 2GB sticks (Allowing me to get 4x2GB sometime and utilize MoBO)
  • DDR3 RAM

Hard Drives:

I’m sure most of you are familiar with hard drives. When selecting your own ahrd drives for your custom built system it is important to review a few factors. The RPM of the hard drive, the type of hard drive and the connection it uses to attach to the motherboard. Look for reviews about noise or hard drives tearing themselves apart. The last key element is the size. In today’s world you will likely want 200gb as a minimum. I have 240gb on my current system that is 5 years old and I am starting to wish I had more.

My Selection: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive x4

  • 1280gbs of total storage, giving me lots of raid options.
  • Well reviewed to be quiet
  • SATA connection is fast
  • 7200 is decent speed


It’s a DVD/CD burner/reader. Pretty plain and simple. Look for speed (20X) and look for read time, lower is better. Also make note of the connection type. If it uses a connection type that you’ve already exhausted on your MoBo, you will be unhappy.

My Selection: SAMSUNG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model SH-S203N – OEM

  • It’s + and – and many many other formats
  • It’s fast and mostly quiet
  • Well reviewed

Video Card:

Do your research! This industry is constantly changing. It just so happens that right now Nvidia is dominating. On board graphics processing is fine for those office types, but we will be buying big and bad.  Purchase with future upgrades in mind. Like my selection is capable of running in SLI. That means if in the future I want to beef up my capabilities, I just throw another card on and instantly get performance increase. (This was not possible until manufacturers and programmers began building for this concept.)

My Selection: EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB 384-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card

  • I want it now.  It’s fast.  It’s glorious.  It dominates the market.
  • DDR3 RAM
  • 768mb of Video RAM
  • SLI capable
  • 2560×1600 max resolution
  • Needs 450W of power  (That’s why we got a big one.)
  • HDTV/S-Vid Out
  • Direct X 10 compatibility
  • PCI-E x16 Interface

There you have it.  That is the computer.  I have left out a soundcard a TV tuner because they are not vital to the computer at this time.  In the next post I will address accessories as well as the soundcard and tunner options.  For now just bask in the glory of the computer that this list represents.

The average retail price: $2874 USD.

Building a Computer 101: Research

The Job posts are taking a hiatus.

I’ve been looking at building a computer more and more lately. When the Orange Box was released I was partially enticed as I wanted to play Team Fortress 2 on the PC. (I’m not a big fan of console FPS, but I manage.) Next came the official announcement of the Spore release date. I’ve also been running into issues based on how I first partitioned my drives. I originally only alloted 20gigs to the C drive. I mean come on…if I only install vital components there I should have 10 gigs of buffer space. (I’ve even allocated My Docs to a different drive.) Low and behold, 5 years later and the stupid drive has somehow managed to work its way down to 2gigs to 200mb of free space at any given time. Baring a complete wipe and reinstall, this issue is mighty difficult to fix. (If you know a way around this, I’m all ears.) The last and most recent issue is the fact that my video card is starting to go on the “fritz”. (It’s a technical term.) Since I only have AGP slots to replace the graphics card, my choices are limited. (AGP is now old tech.) All of these combined events lead me to start looking at building a new computer.

Since I’m planing to go through the process, I’d figure that I would share this journey with you. Keep in mind that each edition of this series will occur when it occurs and to be candid, the information that I present during the first couple of posts will likely become outdated by the actual build time and require me to repeat a few steps.

With that said let’s begin:

The first thing you will want to do is figure out your needs.

If you just need a computer for web browsing and word processing, then I suggest you go the laptop route. In that case our journey together ends here. I suggest you give Dell a look or any other well reviewed laptop. As I’ve never purchased a laptop and my “best” laptop is a 386+ (That’s old school folks), I’m not one to ask about laptops.

If however, your needs happen to require a desktop, a high performance desktop ;-), then you and I have something in common. You could be doing video work, photo work, playing games, developing games or anything else that requires a power hogging, heat generating beast of a machine.

If you want to do some research on your own I suggest reading HardOCP. They are an amazing and (presumably) unbiased website that reviews and details all kinds of hardware components. Within the reviews you can find benchmarks, comparisons and a bunch of well presented useful information.

Here are the basic parts you will need to research for your computer:

  • Case (Bigger allows for flexibility)
  • Power Supply
  • Mother Board
  • CPU
  • RAM
  • Hard Drive
  • DVD/CD ROM Drive

And here are the parts that we will want for our computer:

  • Video Card
  • Sound Card? (Some MoBos come with pretty good integrated sound.)
  • Multiple Hard Drives
  • TV Tuner

The list of things that have become antiquated and you probably won’t need:

  • “A” Drive (Floppy Drive)

I think I’ve listed everything that you need to build a fully functional computer. Some optional items you might be interested in are case mods, physics cards, additional cooling or even a different form of cooling (water/refrigeration). Being that my experience is limited to affixing custom fans and heatsinks using thermal paste, I won’t be covering exotic forms of cooling. (Exotic cooling is generally only necessary if you overclock or live on the surface of Mercury.)

You may be wondering why I didn’t list a monitor. Well unlike some giant chains would have you believe, you don’t need one monitor per computer. (You can use one monitor for multiple computers if you have a switch.) The computer is a separate entity from the monitor and will be selected after building the computer. This is an especially good idea because some video cards only have certain types of output or can handle only certain levels of resolution. Your monitor and your video card need to coexist in blissful harmony. Trust me, choose a monitor after you have ordered the parts for your computer.

In the next post I will detail the exact parts that I have selected if I were to build a computer tomorrow. It’s important to know this even if you plan to build many months out. It gets you in the practice of researching and might clue you in to any possible future breakthroughs that you should wait for. More on that tomorrow!