Linked by Jay Sabol on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:02 UTC
Gifts, Contests, Easter Eggs Many of us have done it. What does it take to do it?
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some tips
by all your linux on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:21 UTC

well you can be as meticulous as you want, and research every component for your pc, like linux compatibility, stability, compabitility with other components.... this can drivey ou mad sometimes, and even delay your purchases for weeks or months...

or you can just buy everything on a whim, by getting the most common hardware components, like plain ATA, single processor... etc...

look on pricewatch.com for the pricerange you would expect for each component... i tend to buy most of my stuff from the same site, that carries a large array of components and at a low price... so i can easily track my orders.

dual processor, raid, and motherboard selection i would suggest researching the most before buying, read reviews about each component and select the best for your needs...

do you want to case mod? do you want a mid, mini, large case? think about these things too, try to keep everything under some price range or total budget... so you dont go overboard and spend 3 grand on stuff...

anyway... i gotta hit the can... more stuff later

some tips :)
by mopar on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:32 UTC

-Buy a case with rolled edges, so you don't cut yourself while building your computer.

-Buy as powerful as you possibly can, in CPU, graphics, memory, hard disk space, and CD-RW speed. This will make your system stay uptodate longer.

- NVIDIA makes chipsets now. You could start out with an NForce2 mainboard with integrated graphics. Then, later add a real graphics card using the supplied AGP slot. Or, just go for the type of vid card you really want, and get a slightly cheaper mainboard to offset that cost...

-Buy fans that advertise themselves as "quiet running," or something like that. 2 fans, a power supply fan, and a CPU fan can get pretty noisy all running together.

-If you don't want to run 3d games, look into the Mini-ITX mainboards. Some are the size of a mousepad, and some also have integrated CPUs that do not require fans to cool them, so you can have a system with a case the size of a large hardback book, and get a small keyboard and mini mouse and LCD monitor, and have a very small system.

Good luck....

newest hardware..
by micronuke on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:36 UTC

>-Buy as powerful as you possibly can, in CPU, graphics, memory, hard disk space, and CD-RW speed. This will make your system stay uptodate longer.<

i suggest never buying the absolute top edge hardware.. it's mostly much more expensive and doesn't bring that much more power.

I wonder..
by Anonymous on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:36 UTC

Are there really allot of people who build their pc from scratch? A year back I was investigating to build one myself, and found that I couldn't get my pc as cheap as local pc shops. They had access to OEM components from distributors, I didn't. I gave up, and just made a list of what I wanted. Gave it to the shopkeeper, and 2 weeks later it was built and ready to be picked up. (he had to order some components in).

It was tested, and had one year of guarantee. The graphics card ended up not being compatible with Linux. But no problem, I could trade it in for an equivalent graphics card for no cost.

Really, what is the advantage of building it yourself?

.
by Rich on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:38 UTC

Oh.. you know how to put round blocks into round holes?

Well, building a computer is exactly the same.
Just make sure that you're putting the right things into the right stuff.

And read that fscking manual.

It's easy.

Anal Retentive Guide to Building Your Own PC
by Charles on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:38 UTC

The key is to SHOP around for quality parts, and be very meticulous about applying for rebates. Use only quality e-tailers that have a good reputation, I suggest: http://www.newegg.com, http://www.tigerdirect.com, http://www.buy.com, http://www.provantage.com, etc. (I do not work for any of these companies, your mileage may vary.) Also be sure to check your local shops, sometimes if I catch an item ON SALE or with a REBATE, it will beat or match online pricing, and you won't have to pay shipping. I have gotten some good deals through the years at CompUSA, MicroCenter, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.
Okay, so now that you know how to shop.... how do you know what are "quality parts" and what you should be looking for? DO YOUR RESEARCH! Before buying anying, research your items on the hard core tech sites such as: http://hardocp.com, http://anandtech.com, http://tomshardware.com, http://extremetech.com, etc. Search the newsgroups, http://groups.google,com, and make sure people aren't having massive problems or driver trouble with the component you are considering buying. (Especially if you use weird OSes like Eugenia! Make sure there is driver support for the oddball-OS you are probably running if you read OSNews.)
That's all for now, my fingers are tired. Some other hardware geek can address putting it all together.

USE STAND-OFFS!!!
by Anonymous on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:42 UTC

Put the stand-offs in b4 you screw in the motherboard or else your computer will squeal like a pink when you turn it on. Bastards don't but that in the manual.

The Advantages
by siege on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:43 UTC

The advantages go far beyond price if you know where to look. Building your own pc GURANTEES that you know what parts you put in and that alone is more then enough. OEM parts arent really a good idea unless you only intend to use the pc extremely short-term as their warranties expire rather quickly.

Building it yourself, or at least buying all the parts and paying someone to, allows you to know your system, and assures (like some "small shops" do) that you will get all the parts you ask for. I've seen with my eyes shops put off cheap OEM soundcards as Soundblaster Live's to save cost. I've built my last 2 pc's from scratch and used none of these ideas however. i've gone with the 3rd best proc at the time (amd athlon xp 2000) and a decent graph card and i've never had any sort of operation conflict.

Great info!
by Jay on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:43 UTC

And I think the big reason to build one yourself, rather than from a white box outfit, would be the feeling of satisfaction and completion.

Eugenia built her dual Celeron!!

Don't forget!!!
by Err on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:44 UTC

Cable ties, lots and lots of cable ties.

Ain't nothing worse than having to crack open a PC and find cables draped all over the place.

Besides which it ruins your airflow.

My thoughts
by deonisei on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:45 UTC

Do your reserch and even after you check out pricewatch.com go to a local computer shop (not OfficeMax or Bestbuy), but a shop with local owners and staff. Tell them that you are interested in building your own computer and that you've checked out pricewatch. Let them know that you are trying to keep your money local and that you were wondering how much said components would cost (this probably works best in a small town setting). I've found that shipping charges added to the discounted prices on pricewatch come pretty close to what the hometown shop would charge anyways. Plus if your CPU pops, or your mobo, or something else goes, you do not have to hassle with sending it back to the store located in god-knows-where USA, you just bring it in to the shop and they take care of it for you (and you may even get to go home with the replacment part). Keep the shipping charges in mind when you order from pricewatch, I've seen some friends over the years get burned by them (i.e. floppy drive cost $10, but shipping was $15, if they went downtown to get it they would have paid $17.50 out the door). Take care and have fun.

Save money. Don't buy top of the line.
by Simba on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:46 UTC

"-Buy as powerful as you possibly can, in CPU, graphics, memory, hard disk space, and CD-RW speed. This will make your system stay uptodate longer."

I don't suggest this at all. For most people, all they are doing is wasting money if they buy the top of the line hardware. Lets look at what I do with my computer for example:

- I write papers for college classes
- I Do data analysis in OpenOffice Calc
- I do presentations in OpenOffice Present
- I do scientific programming with C and C++
- I do Email and web browsing
- I do image editing for presentations and web sites

Do you know what my system specs are?

- 400 Mhz AMD K6-2
- 128 Mb RAM
- 20 Gb hard disk
- 16 Mb Matrox Millenium AGP card

This system does everything that I need, although by today's standards, it is a dinosaur.

The only people who need top of the line hardware are gamers or people doing some very serious number crunching. And that does not describe most people. The era of PC gaming is coming to an end anyway as console gaming systems become more powerful for games than PCs are anyway.

Ultimately, for most people, it is better to save themselves about a $1,000 and buy lower end hardware, because the top of the line stuff would be nothing more than a waste of money for them.

Mo advice.
by cheezwog on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:47 UTC

Stay a year behind the current tech. Buy very good quality, but slightly outdated components, and you will have an easier life.
It takes about a year for decent drivers, patches, workarounds etc to appear for hardware, and for the hardware to have been on the market long enough to gather public opinion about whether it is reliable or intrinsicly flawed.
If you want it for a specific purpose ie, high end audio, then often problems with hardware don't become widely known for a long time after it's release. (Graphics cards and VIA chipsets being the worst offenders).

I want stability and speed out of my computers, and would rather other people did the beta testing for me.

Building Your Mac
by linux_baby on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:47 UTC


Wouldn't it be nice to build your own mac?? Maybe even your own sparc box?? ;)

Figure out what you want first
by in.johnnyd on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:48 UTC

If you want something that's already available, there's no need to build it yourself. The one PC I built from scratch needed 2GB of RAM (expandable to at least 3GB) and I couldn't find a manufacturer that would offer systems with mobos that would support this. So I built it myself.

As for dual CPUs and RAID, you have to ask yourself "what am I going to do with this system?" If your answer is email/web surfing/IM, and stuff like that....just get a single PIII or equiv. That's still a pretty impressive email machine.

Re: My thoughts
by Jay on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:49 UTC

Hmmm, I do live in a small town and we do have a white box shop!

re: building mac/sparc box
by Dubhthach on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:51 UTC

yeah it would be, but hey what can you do, by the way realworldtech got a good article about replacing the x86 called: Escape From the Planet of x86
here's the link:
http://realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT060503232439

Other suggestions
by Simba on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:53 UTC

"Use only quality e-tailers that have a good reputation"

I highly recommened M-Wave. www.mwave.com

I've always had very good service from them, and their prices are always very reasonable.

Other tips:

Buy white box components when you can. White box components are just that. They usually come in a white box, often with no documentation, no fancy packaging, etc. They are intended to be sold to VARs, but there is nothing that says individual system builders can't buy them too. The drawback is that you probably won't get as good of a warranty with white box as you will with retail. But computer components are reliable enough these days that if they don't go out in the first 90 days. they probably aren't going to go out.

White box CPUs, for example, sometimes only have a 90 day warranty. But a CPU is completely solid state, and chances are, if it is bad, it is going to be bad right out of the box. If it is going to fail, it is almost certainly going to fail in the first 90 days, especially if you stress test it by looping some computational intensive program for awhile.

So basically, if you don't mind giving up a few years on the warranty, buying white box parts can save you money.

RE: Building your mac
by Anonymous on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:56 UTC

Wouldn't it be nice to build your own mac?? Maybe even your own sparc box?? ;)

I don't have a link, but I believe some people have put together their own PPC computer, put Linux on it, then put mac-on-linux on it, and installed mac os x on it.

I don't know how the performance of that is though, or how easy it is.


another one bites the dust
by Anonymous on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:57 UTC

...and another one, and another... well, like he said. it's sunday. and now, for some real OS news. :-)

OEM parts
by Simba on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:58 UTC

"OEM parts arent really a good idea unless you only intend to use the pc extremely short-term as their warranties expire rather quickly."

I disagree for two reasons:

1. Computer parts are very reliable these days and manufacturered to very high tolerances. Failures are very rare. Retailers like Best Buy will always try to sell you an "extended warranty". It's rarely worth the cost, and Best Buy is making tons of money on these extended warranties.

2. Solid state components like CPUs, video cards, etc. are extremely reliable. If they haven't failed in the first 30 days, they probably aren't going to fail.

Basically, buying OEM can save you a fair amount of money, and the risk is relatively low considering how reliable computer parts are these days.

get a Mac
by Ben Huot on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 15:58 UTC

Why don't you just buy a Mac - they use quality parts and everything is done by the same company so everything works together extremely well. I switched and I didn't have any trouble with compatibility and it had even more good programs for everything I wanted to do at really bargain prices.

Thermal goop
by Quattro on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:02 UTC

When applying the thermal goop, don't just glop it on, More is not better. The http://www.arcticsilver.com/>Arctic website has excellent <A HREF=http://www.arcticsilver.com/arctic_silver_instructions.htm=>Inst... on applying thermal compound.

Re: get a Mac
by Jay on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:03 UTC

LOL Ben - I have a Mac! This is something entirely different.

Make a bid
by Anonymous on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:11 UTC

Have you checked EBAY?

My suggestions: Start with a good base
by epseps on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:19 UTC

I really enjoy tinkering with my hardware. Having grown up in a place where cars where in the front yard on blocks I have the equivelent in my living room with PC's.

I'd first start by getting a good case and power supply. A good power supply is less likely to destroy your components, be queiter and run cooler, less likely to be ea fire hazard or to zap you and have more and longer connectors for things like fans, hard drives, and whatever else you put in.

Next, you should get a case that has thumbscrews or some eeasy way to "pop" everything open...like esliding doors , easily removable front bezel etc. Because when you open up your case all the time you want it to be easy. Plus the more screws you have the more contrived the bezel is the more likely you are to wreck something or bend something and have to get a new case anyway. I also go for the light aluminum ones just becausue they are easy to move around, have soft carners and keep cool.

Aother thing about getting a good case is that all the misc supplies like mobo screws and risers are prorvided. The first PC I built from scratch had no risers and no screws so In had to make do with nylon twist-ties and antistatic bubble wrap underneath.

What kinda hardware? IMO if you get into this you are gonna be buying alot of it anyway, so start however you want. I got one case/PS set up filled with "high end" stuff and another one filled with the stuff I took out of my "high end" computer to upgrade it. the stuff I take out of my "low end computer gets put in a salvaged case and sold or given away...But if you are worried about screwing gsomething up at first go low end on everthing just to buid it and gain confidence, then later swap everything out and start getting better stuff.

If going high end, be sure to research your mobos and get a good one with a good warrenty. Buy a anti-static wrist strap to just in case.

If going dual processor, get a case and a Power supply for that task. If you don't know, get a case and a powersupply for dual processor anyway in case you change your mind.

Just remember the point is to makae your hardware as flexible and easy to manage as possible.

Good luck.

How to build your own PC!!!
by Zaphrod on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:56 UTC

Having worked for several small computer company'2 and now working for a large multi-national corporation in Technical Support I have built and repaired many computers from very simple e-mail/web surfers for grandma to bleeding edge gaming/multimedia editing PC's.

My experience is many people don't really know what they want or what they need. Some spend far too much on a PC and wind up never using the power they payed for and still more buy low spec and find the PC doesn't do what they want, at least not very well. So, my first suggestion is to really think about what you want to do with the PC then design the PC based on the requirements.

This might seem obvious but many people will not balance the parts in a PC and either wind up building/buying a PC with a Top of the line Graphic card and find the CPU they chose cannot push it to its potential or more often they get a Top of the range CPU and neglect the Graphics card and/or Motherboard that would really push the PC to its limit. What components you buy in the end is up to you but doing some real research will help you to avoid major mistakes.

There is no reason to spend a couple thousand on a PC then using it to send e-mails and surf the web, a $300 PC from wall mart will do that just fine. Conversely there is little point in skimping on parts if you are planning on playing the latest games like UT2K3 or Halflife2. These games can bring my near cutting edge XP2700 Radeon 9700pro rig to its knees if I turn up the graphics as far as they will go.

Now on to actually building a PC. This is a relatively simple process, anyone who can turn a screwdriver, has a little patience and is willing to RTFM can do it. In the most basic form the process is pretty much as follows.

1. Gather together your materials making sure you have plenty of room, you will need a Phillips screwdriver and possibly a pair of needle nose pliers (though you can usually do without). A wrist strap is always a good idea but if you set up your work area in a location with no carpet (which can generate static) and ground yourself frequently by touching something metal like the little screw that holds the coverplate on a wall socket you should be ok.

2. Start by opening your new Computer Case. You will need to open both sides to properly secure your disk drives.

3. After setting the jumpers on the back of each drive to the correct postions (usually Master for a single harddrive and Slave for a single CD/DVD drive if they are sharing an IDE cable or Master for both of they are to be on seperate IDE channels) secure your disk drives in the locations you want them using 4 screws each, there will usually be several locations for CD/DVD, Hard drives and Floppy. If you have a tall case it is worth considering that the longest an IDE cable can be is about 18 inches and are frequently shorter so if you only have one CD/DVD drive I recommend placing it in the Lowest 5 inch bay especially if the IDE connectors on your motherboard are placed low on the board. If possible leave one bay unused above and below the hard drive to help cooling as the new drives can get very hot.
NOTE: the reason for putting the drives in first is they can be quite heavy and if you accidently drop it while positioning it you dont risk damaging the motherboard etc if they havent been fitted yet

3. Determine which standoff holes you need to use on the case by comparing the locations to the holes on the motherboard and place a standoff (use the metal ones if supplied)in each one. If the case does not have a hole where your motherboard does then consider using one of the plastic clip in type standoffs (if supplied) with the threads cut off with a Stanley knife to support the board in that location.

4. After insuring that you have the correct holes punched out of the I/O sheild plate and that the plate is securely in place, gently place the motherboard in in the case positioning the holes so they line up with the standoffs then secure in place with the screws. It is worth noting that there are several different type of screws supplied with most cases so determine which is for what beforehand by trying each in the standoffs and setting them aside.

5. Now that the motherboard and disk drives are in place it is time to put the CPU in, this is very easy and your motherboard manual should explain in detail but you basically just lift the lever on the CPU socket of the motherboard and after ensureing the CPU doesn't have any bent pins and determining the correct orientation place it gently in the socket. Lower and Lock the CPU lever. Now following the directions that came with it, install the Heatsink Fan (in the case of some types of Heatsinks like the Zalman Flower this can be left until the after all add in cards have been installed if necessary)

6. Install all of your add in cards and RAM by gently placing them in position over the appropriate slots and firmly but gently pressing them into the slots and securing eith the appropriate screws (do not force them, if they don't slide in relatively easily they aren't positioned correctly or there is a problem with the position of the motherboard, resolve the problem before proceding). Ensure the RAM is properly seated and that the clips have engaged into place (you will know when this has happened as they should rise up on there own when you are pushing the RAM into place)

7. Now that your add in cards etc are in place it is time to connect the dirves to the motherboard plug one end of your IDE cable(s) into the IDE connector(s)and the other end into the back of the appropriate Disk Drive. IDE 1 should go to the hard drive and IDE 2 should go to the CD/DVD. Alternatively you can set the CD/DVD to slave by moving the Jumper on the back of the drive to the correct position and connecting the remaining IDE connector from IDE 1 to this drive. Connect the split and twisted end of the Floppy cable to the Floppy drive and the other end to the Motherbaord. Most new IDE/ Floppy cables are keyed so they will only fit in the slot one way.

8. Plug the ATX lead into the motherboard and in the case of P4's plug in the extra 4Pin lead also. Make sure all components are now secure and install any components that have been left until last for what ever reason following the manufacturer instructions. Also ensure that you have plugged your Heatsink fan and case fans if present into the correct motherboard header or Mole connector from the Power supply and that the fans are well away from any wires, Secure any loose wires and cables as neatly as possible with Zip Straps while attempting to keep the ATX power wires seperate from the IDE and other data cables.

9. Now its time for a test run, Connect up Keyboard, mouse and Monitor and plug in the Base unit and Monitor to the mains power. Switch on the Power supply if it has a switch then turn on the computer. At this point it should power up to the boot screen and give you the option to go into the boot menu, if this happens without any error messages then you are ready to button it up and install the OS of your choice. If you get any error messages or the monitor doesn't come on then something is not plugged in, you have a cable the wrong way round or you may have recieved a faulty part. Turn off the power and try to determine what is wrong.

This may seem like quite a daunting task but in reality if you can turn a screwdriver and plug in your TV then you potentially have the skills necessary to build a PC as long as you are willing to actually RTFM that came with your components.


When shopping around for parts for your computer a great place if you are in the US is http://www.pricewatch.com then check the company you choose before you buy at http://www.resellerratings.com to determine if they have a good reputation.

Hope this helps someone and isn't too confusing, in this case it is actually easier done than said.

Zaphrod

RE: Building your mac
by Kevin Arvin on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:57 UTC

I built a mac by buying parts on Ebay. All you need is (usually) a mobo, cpu, and maybe power supply. The rest are regular parts.

You may also want to consider buying a basic machine from one of the major mfg's. Often, they start with a lowball price on the lowend unit and make it up by overcharging for bigger drives and more memory. You can usually buy a stripped down Dell and upgrade it yourself and have the same end result for $100 to $250 less than Dell would have charged.

If you are determined to do it yourself, I would recommend favoring functionality over speed. (e.g. buy a dvd burner instead of a really fast cpu).

only advice
by stupidnewbie on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:58 UTC

Go all out on the case and moniter as these have the longest upgrade periods.

For everything else, try to buy stuff between 3-6 months old. Nothing bleeding edge, but not last years model either. Seeing as you posted this in a geek forum, suggest trying to get as generic hardware as possible. The Asus MB, SB Audigy Card, The Linksys Network Card, whatever. Like everyone here you probably try an assload of OS's over the span of your computers life so building with hardware that's more likely to have drivers built for it will make things easier in the future.

Some specifics
by Claus on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 16:59 UTC

Mainboard: ASUS A7N8X Deluxe, Epox 8rda3+ (fanless)
CPU: AMD 2400-2700 (sweet spot)
Disk: Hitachi/IBM, Western Digital, 80 Gb ($1/GB)
Memory: 2x256 MB DDR3200 Kingston,Corsair (dual channel)
Monitor: Samsung 19"
Video: By far the area with the most selection. Check out www.newegg.com as another reader also suggested. Matrox G450/G550, ATI Xpert 2000, ATI Radeon VE for non-gaming graphics.
New technologies to consider: SATA
A site that monitors the web for new reviews: www.8dimensional.com

A satisying project
by alspnost on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:02 UTC

I (re)built my own PC, after realising that the small case was the limiting factor in cooling my Athlon XP. I bought a lovely blue Chieftec case (so much nicer than the beige nonsense) and bolted in all my components, replacing my CPU cooler at the same time.

It does indeed give you a great feeling of satisfaction, and you have complete control ;-) The scariest moment is hitting the power button for the first time and seeing if it all actually works!

A *big* consideration for today's machines is noise. It really is possible to have a silent but powerful PC, at little more cost than normal. Go for all those clever Zalman heatpipe things, the Zalman flower cooler, a Seagate FDB silent hard drive, and choose your PSU very carefully. Between that lot, some acoustic deadener, and careful construction, you'll soon be zipping along in fast, blissful silence.

RE: I wonder..
by Anonymous on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:11 UTC

You won't save money building your own PC. What you may gain, if you do your homework, is better quality.

Too much is made of processor clock frequency. Unless you happen to be doing one of very few applications, it is difficult to find a processor that is too slow - look for the sweet spot in the price/performance curve.

Packaged systems often include mediocre peripherals. It didn't cost me any more to pick a DVD-ROM that does an excellent job of ripping DVDs and audio CDs, but many drives do a poor job at those tasks. A hard disk with a high transfer rate will make your system seem faster - you spend much more time waiting for the disk than waiting for the processor. Graphics cards can have similar effects on apparent performance. Packaged systems are often shy on RAM, as well. There are few programs that won't run because the processor isn't fast enough, they just take longer. But many will fail if you don't have enough RAM. Put in as much as the motherboard will support.

But the biggest benefit is that you can pick components that are well supported. Check the news groups and other sources, and learn what works for others. For many years, I've been buying hardware that's well supported in Linux. One unexpected benefit is that Windows also works better; well documented, well supported hardware works better for all operating systems.

Longetivity
by lacrymology on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:29 UTC

The key is to spend a little more for future capabilities. For example, try to look for a motherboard with 800MHz FSB (if you're interested in Intel processors), that way you can save some cash on the cpu now by getting a 533MHz FSb and deferring the cost of the upgrade for later, when the 800 FSB chips are cheaper.

My philosophy is to be on the bleeding edge with motherboards and on the trailing edge with processors and RAM, that way you have some flex room and can have some serious speed boost in the future without spending too much. Make sense?

.:.
by HAL on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:36 UTC

buy medium range. evrything. top of the line is always ridiculously overpriced. Consider barebones from shuttle if you don't want to stuff heaps of drives and cards in there but want a small silent pc. Whatever you buy, go for quality, I had too much cheap stuff die on me on the way.

Saving money
by Simba on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:37 UTC

"You won't save money building your own PC. What you may gain, if you do your homework, is better quality."

Actually, you can save a substantial amount of money. Example. I priced out a Dell system and then priced out building my own system. The system I came up with had a faster CPU, a larger hard disk, and more RAM. All other specs were identical. The difference? The difference? I could build the system for $400 cheaper than I could buy it from Dell.

The other benefit of building your own PC is that you will learn about how the hardware components work together and such, and when something goes wrong, you will be able to repair it yourself. Computer repair is really a racket. $70 to $90 an hour for something that the average computer user could easily do on their own with a little bit of effort.

If you ever have to have a shop reinstall Windows and your applications for you, figure about a $90 labor bill... For something that you can easily do yourself in one hour over a weekend.

Building or Buying?
by vasper on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:41 UTC

My belief is that you should certainly buy your first computer from a retailer. After that you should upgrade yourself.

For you second computer, I would suggest having a friend that already build his own succesfully help you. That is because a lot of things can go wrong and cost you more, if you are not careful.

Now as what to buy... Not the top, and not the lower end of the tech spectrum. Just buy what you can aford and have some money left for extras (like a nice looking speaker set :-) ).

My suggestion as what to buy (If you want enough power, but you are not an extreme player):

FULL TOWER ATX Case
AMD Athlon 2000+ XP
Gigabyte Mainboard (DDR,Firewire,Serial Ata,USB 2, Audio, Network card, AGP 8X, NO VGA onboard)
512 Mb Ram DDR 333
80Gb HDD Western Digital or IBM
GeForce 2 400 MX TV/Out 64mb ram
Toshiba DVD
Acer CDR-RW 48X
any floppy,keyboard
Optical mouse (very accurate, can't do without one now.)

As for a monitor, I leave it up to you because this is too personal of a choice to suggest. However don't buy anything below 17 inches.

If you find the right dealers, this system should cost less than 1000 dollars. The only parts above 100$ are the motherboard, the Hard disk and the monitor.

If you need something with more kick (for GAMES) to it then a P4 2.6Ghz and a GeForce 4 FX 128Mb or Radeon 9700Pro is what you want.

NOTE: I have worked on both high end Athlon and P4. P4 only provide better Gaming for the average user/power gamer. The only other reason to consider a P4 would be if you use something like 3D Studio Max.

many good comments
by the arbiter on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:45 UTC

First, do it! It's a lot of fun.

I was going to share my experiences, (I've built 6) but Zaphrod did such a stellar job of describing the process that I'll skip the build part. Good job, Zaphrod!

I would add a few things:

1. The process, the first time, will take about three or four hours. Get comfortable.

2. Really do read the motherboard manual. Keep it close.

3. I do have some hardware recommendations. Bear in mind I'm a real cheapskate.

ECS K7S5A or K7S5A pro.
Athlon 2000+ or for the real cheap...Duron 1.3GHz

The ECS board has onboard NIC and sound, so you save there.

NVidia video cards...I bought a generic 64MB($40)with the TV-out option, which can be useful sometimes.

Get a decent modem, if you're on dial-up. Winmodems really put the hurt on your system's processing power. Don't know why.

Two places I spent the money...Got the Enermax "Whisper" series power supply and the Zalman "Silent" series CPU cooler. I can't stand noise, and these two products did such a good job I don't have to use case fans. The machine is VERY quiet.

You'll notice with hard drives there is a cutoff point, pricewise, where getting more space suddenly costs MUCH more. You should be able to find an 80 GB for around $100 these days.

You should be able to build the entire box for no more than $400.

I do recommend getting a GOOD monitor, as that will be with you for quite a while. If you must have LCD, don't but online. Actually look at what you're getting as the quality varies a lot.

Get a good keyboard and mouse. These too will be with you.

Many people here have posted some really good suggestions. Cable ties, easy open cases, etc.

And one last word...ignore the Mac trolls. They're just jealous. Building your own Mac is fun but economically not worth it...and it's against the Apple/OSX EULA.

Better price?
by lacrymology on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:47 UTC

"You won't save money building your own PC. What you may gain, if you do your homework, is better quality."

You most certainly will... however it depends on the type of system in question. The top of the line systems are much more expensive when bought from places like Dell, but you would be hard pressed to find a similarly priced self-built computer like the Lindows machines from Walmart. It may be possible, but I seriously doubt it.

>first computer
by lacrymology on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:50 UTC

"My belief is that you should certainly buy your first computer from a retailer. After that you should upgrade yourself."

My first computer was a Commodore 64 that I 'upgraded' by attaching X-Mas lights to the user port to flash them to the beat of Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden. Does that count? ;)

What are you willing to pay for
by nnooiissee on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 17:55 UTC

I was enrolled in a class that was supposed to lead to A+ Certification. Durring the first week a friend called me up and said "I'm going to Frys to build a computer, wanna come?" Three hours later (including going for sushi) we had a computer complete (and a pretty nice one too). I recomend shopping a physical stores, but then that is always my habit.

Now then, the question is what you are willing to pay for. You can go out and buy a mobo with on board everything, a chip, a HD and a case for real cheap. Do you want it to be a gaming machine? Do you want it to be a speed demon under Linux? Do you want it not to sound like a jet engine? Do you want it to be compact? Do you want it to be a Be OS machine? All of these will add cost.

Building a machine capable of playing modern (or semi modern) games well is going to add a lot to the price: high end video card, faster processor.

Building a Linux speed demon is where you would want a second CPU. Windows isn't going to take advantage of it.

Building a quiet computer apeals to me a lot. I'm currently modifying my G4 (five slot) in this direction. I can highly recomend Seagate's Baracuda drives for this, or any other purpose. This doesn't add price so much as it adds restrictions on other parts.

Building a small computer is also fun. There are some great flex cases out there now. Shuttle even has an Athlon version of its case out (finaly). Most of my friends building comps are going in this direction.

And, yeah. Building for alternative OSs is going to restrict your options.

Building a faster box so it doesn't get outdated is hogwash. Know what you are going to do with it, and build to purpose you want. Three years down the line it will still server you well. On the converse, put a lot of RAM in it no matter what.

Start with cheap parts.
by nymia on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:00 UTC

I buy most of the PC stuff from Fry's getting only the cheapest parts I can get. For example, the mobo-cpu combo you can get at around $80, throw in a PC-type memory costing aroung $40 to $60. But don't tighten yourself too much on the graphics card, like get something that can do vertex and pixel shading for about $100. Do this every two months and you will have 6 boxes to play with after one year.

Heat issues
by Chris R. on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:08 UTC

Can anyone here, especially the people suggesting AMD over Intel for CPU solutions, comment about the heat issues that i've heard about (and experienced!) w.r.to Athlon CPUs? I've been using AMD for a couple of systems now, and while the price-to-performance ratio is nice, i've noticed that the damned things sure tend to run hot, with all the attendant issues that come with that.

Also, on a slightly-related note, given than i'm going to be doing this exact thing in a year or so, what manufacturers/chipsets should i look into for dual-cpu motherboards? Either intel or amd will be worth looking at, though i intent at the moment to migrate back to an Intel solution. I'm asking for current info because, unlike some here, i don't think that bleeding-edge on the motherboard is a good idea - most of the problems i've had with systems i've built and/or troubleshot could have been traced back to crappy mobo implementation...

If anyone *does* decide to answer, i'm largely interested in a system that supports RAID (not sure what the level would be - the one that does redundant writes for data integrity) on board, and preferably w/ SATA just cos i like the cables SO much better. Tips would be great sooner, so that i can keep an eye on the reliability of the parts over the next year.

Danke ;)

This is great!!
by Jay on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:16 UTC

Thanks everyone - what a wealth if info! Keep your opinions coming!

When I see everything that here, I may, if i have the time, try to do it. And maybe I can post reports here on my progress. I'll have to talk to Eugenia about this. Maybe if I'm allowed to tell these people I'm doing a story for OS News on how to build your own PC, I may get mucho cooperation :-)

Used to build them myself...
by Ronald on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:25 UTC

Then we got our first Dell Dimension 4600. IMO it's not worth it building it yourself. No more bad surprises waiting to happen. No more bad motherboards with fried transistors and arguing with the store owner that it's his damn ASUS mobos that are bad. I have never bought a home made computer that didn't have troubles. Never again...

If you go the home made route at least make sure that you buy all retail NO OEM. Retail as longer warranties and are safer buys IMO. Sealed boxes. Never buy opened stuff.

Know what you want your PC for.
by Vincent on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:37 UTC

Here is a description of the machines I build and what I use them for:

I have 3 computers at the moment. My fastest systems is an:

Athlon 1.2 Ghz
786mb SDRAM
1 40gb HDD
3 80gb HDD
SB Live 5.1
Radeon 7200? (The driver says 7200, but they didn't have numbers when the Radeon's were first released.)

This computer runs SuSE 8.2 and is my network data server. The sound card is hooked up to my stereo for playing MP3/Ogg files. The radeon card sits in this machine for when I feel like loggin into the server to things that are too graphics intense for my other computer. When I'm not directly futzing around this machine, its used as my public FTP server, and my NFS server.

My other PC is a:

P2-400
256mb SDRAM
40gh HDD
SB 512
Rage 128

This machine multi-boots, SuSE, WinXP, BeOS, and QNX. It runs all of these OS just fine. When I say just fine, I mean its as responsive as OSX does on my 500mhz TiBook, or SuSE on my server. This machine is just for email, web-browsing, writing stuff, minor photoshop stuff - heavy stuff I'll either use my TiBook or if Gimp does it I'll use my server.

Obviously I didn't build my TiBook, but I use it for word processing, photoshop stuff, on the go email, web, real video feeds of class lectures, on the go video editing, web design. I works fine for most of the things I want to do, not as fast as a dual 2ghz Power Mac, but still nice.

Honestly, it really does help to know what you want a computer for. That way you don't go out buying a P4 2.4ghz computer just to use it for email, web browsing, when a P2-400 that can be gotten on eBay now for about 100 dollars, or a WalMart microtel is more than sufficient. More over from what I've seen, it helps to have a good idea of what a system can do. I've seen a lot of shouting from people that XP is slow on a P3, or that RedHat is much faster then Windows on a P4 2.8 ghz. However, every time I've gone into Best Buy and CompUSA I've played with the computers they have there and 2.8ghz doesn't seem to open the start menu or load IE, Outlook, Word sufficiently faster than my 400mhz to warrant spending 1,000 to 2,500 dollars.

The only market I can see that kind of desktop hardware for is games, home video editing or general 3d rendering. Although I have to admit - before I changed my Athlon to a data server, WarCraft 3 with all the details up didn't even phase it; nor did StarSiege, or MechWarrior 4. So maybe its just FPS games that need a P4 3.06.

Suggestions
by TheClient on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:43 UTC

Building your own PC:

1. Determine what it will be used. For gaming, get the best hardware you can afford: CPU, RAM, Video Card, hard disk, sound card.

2. Do your research on these component to see if they have problem. People who purchase these components are pretty vocal in forums, chatrooom, etc. so you know what to avoid. By research I mean on price, reviews, and users feedback. If you plan to install Linux, make sure they all work before you buy.

3. Get yourself an anti-static wriststrap at places like CompUSA or local PC shops. Static can KILL your component SILENTLY and there is no way to test it except when your brand new CPU, RAM, etc. does not work. Always wear it whenever you handle the components. What is static? Well you probably experience it the past: sliding across the carpet and touch the door knob, drying your clothes without the 'Bounce' softener (if you do your own laundry).

4. Be patient and follow instruction that come with your parts: case, mainboard, etc. If you are stuck, just post the question one of the many forums and people are more than happy to help.

5. Once you have completed the assemply of your new PC, run some test on it after you install you favorite OS. Check out these programs:

Prime95: Stress test your CPU and RAM. Find it here:

http://www.mersenne.org/freesoft.htm

Memtest86 - A Stand-alone Memory Diagnostic.

http://memtest86.com/

Although these programs are not perfect, they do a good job of testing your hardware for defect.

Most of all, it is not as hard as it seems. It's like riding the bike. You remember that, don't you?

Good luck!

RE: This is great
by Claus on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:51 UTC

Thermal pads are cheaper and easier to deal with than thermal paste. So I first tried with a thermal pad. But the mainboard shutdown after 5 sec. because temperature was too high. I'm happy that the mainboard has this feature. I then tried thermal paste and it stayed up. Temperature is a little over 40C. I think that's normal for a 2400 AMD. The case has only the 2 standard fans - one for the PS and one for the CPU. I'd rather it had none.

Silence is golden...
by Metic on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 18:56 UTC

Here's my 2 cents worth to the discussion:
I nowadays always recommend people to put noise reduction as one of the top priorities when choosing a case and components for a new PC. From personal experience of using both noisy PC's before and this almost a silent one now, I can say that the pleasure of low PC noise is well worth the extra effort, money and the potential - but usually quite small if any - decrese in performance.

For those needing unbiased advice in this matter, there are at least these two good web sites having lots of good hints and reviews to help in finding the best low noise components:
- Silent PC Review: http://www.silentpcreview.com/
- Silent PC: http://www.silent.se/





add'l advice
by David Huff on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 19:04 UTC

Lots of good advice here so far, so I'll try not to rehash most of it...

1) where to buy ? online retailers generally have the best prices. pick from a good one like http://www.newegg.com">Newegg Directron" rel="nofollow">http://www.directron.com">Directron, but watch the shipping charges - they can eat your cost savings fast. Fry's or MicroCenter aren't bad, but they often don't have the best prices. watch their ads for sales and rebate offers.

2) figure out what you want to do with your system. gaming ? go for a fast Intel P4 on an Intel chipset motherboard and an ATI or nVidia graphics card (one notch down from top 'o the line, if you can stand it ;) Linux, email, web surfing, etc...but no gaming ? go for an inexpensive AMD-based setup. my Linux box is an AMD Duron at 1.2 GHz and an ATI Rage 128 graphics card (ATI card cost < $30 at Newegg).

3) cost/performance ratios. you'll notice cost/performance ratios go up in a linear fashion until you near the top of the line stuff, then they go exponential ;) try to buy at or below the point where prices skyrocket up. that last 10-15% performance gain can REALLY cost you.

4) don't skimp on some things. buy good quality RAM (Crucial, Mushkin, etc...), a decent power supply (Enermax, PC Power & Cooling) and a case that you can get into easily & not cut yourself on (Chieftec seems nice).

5) check http://www.dansdata.com">Dan for level-headed reviews of cases, CPU coolers and graghics cards.

Cases...
by Simba on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 19:10 UTC

"and a case that you can get into easily & not cut yourself on (Chieftec seems nice)."

Heh... I wonder if there are any techs out there who have never seriously sliced their finger open on a case? I know I have. Multiple times. Computer case cuts tend to be pretty nasty. They are like razor blades.

What you need to build your own PC...
by Darwin McBride on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 19:26 UTC

The process of building your own PC is physically simple (they were designed to be put together by uneducated workers ), but requires some knowledge or a set of good instructions. You are unlikely to find good instructions included with your motherboard or case - typically you get a poorly written booklet put together by someone for whom English was a second language. There are plenty of books out there on building your own PC, though, ranging from the "Dummy's guide" series to less insulting titles.

The dearth of good included documentation means you'll probably be more confident if you compensate by gathering a good amount of knowledge first. (eg. you should know that PC 2100 DDR memory is the same thing as "266 MHz DDR memory". You should know if you want to spend extra on new technologies like Serial ATA drives (which at this point in time seem to offer few benefits to offset their higher cost). And if you intend to use an alternative operating system, you'll need to know what hardware works well with it. (Apparently Via KT-400 motherboard chipsets still don't work well with some Linux distributions, for instance). Finally you need to have some idea of how to get into the motherboard BIOS and what those numerous settings mean, and how to install an operating system onto a bare hard drive.

If you frequent osnews.com, it's likely that you already have some or all of the knowledge you need.

By way of actual tools and materials, I suggest the following:

1) One phillips screwdriver

2) One pair of flat-tip tweezers for retrieving lost screws, placing tiny jumpers onto their pins, etc.

3) A way to keep static electricity from destroying your components. The official way to do this is to have a conductive rubber mat on top of your work surface, a conductive wrist-strap on your wrist, and ground both of these to a good electrical ground (eg. a water pipe). I have gotten by by covering my worktable with kitchen foil and grounding that, and ensuring that part of my body was always in contact with the foil to discharge any static build up on my person.

4) Some assorted PC hardware - screws in the most common two sizes used in PC cases, some standoffs, a few washers, etc. Chances are good that your case will not contain enough screws, etc to let you complete your project, and few things are more annoying than having to make a trip to the hardware store to get three screws before you can fire up your wonderful new PC.

Actual assembly is usually easy, consisting mostly of plugging tab A into slot B. The one exception is mounting the heatsink onto the CPU, which requires steady hands, a firm grip, and great care to avoid slipping and spearing your new motherboard with your heatsink mounting tool.

Before I built my first PC I got an old 486 (for free, donated by someone who had no further use for it) and practiced taking it apart and putting it back together. While newer PC components have very different electrical specs, the physical connectors, jumpers, memory slots, and other doohickeys on an old 486 are not very different from those on a new one, and gaining familiarity with the old parts will make it much easier to identify the new ones. If you know how to install a card in an ISA slot, you'll have no trouble installing a card in a PCI slot, and if you know how to install an old 72-pin PC 66 memory module, you'll have no trouble with newer DDR 3200.

I encourage you to go ahead and build your own PC. It's nice to have a better understanding of what's in that box, and how to fix it when something goes wrong. You'll save money compared to the national chains, though it may cost you more than the mom-n-pop local white-box PC stores. I have built several PC's over the last few years, and it's not hard to get plenty of performance on a tight budget. For instance Fry's Electronics sold me an Athlon XP 2400 CPU bundled with an ECS K7S5A motherboard for $109, and the price for the bundle has actually dropped to $89 since then! This is not a cutting-edge motherboard, but it supports DDR memory at 266 MHz, the ATA-100 standard, and has onboard ethernet and sound. It is also fully Linux-compatible, a necessity for me as Linux has been my only operating system for the last two years. Similarly, an Athlon XP 2400 is not cutting-edge, but is more than fast enough for anything I want to do with it, and the money I save on the inexpensive CPU can be used to buy things like the Zalman copper "flower" heatsink I used, which provides effective cooling while being very quiet.

-Darwin McBride

My Advice
by DCMonkey on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:02 UTC

- Don't drip sweat into your AGP slot, thus possibly requiring a trip back to Fry's to return/exchange your motherboard.

- Don't pop your shiny new DVD+-RW drive out of the bay, breaking the flimsy door on the case when putting on the IDE ribbon cable because those handy drive bay rails weren't holding the drive in as securely as you thought.

- Don't wait till you've assembled everything and are ready to plug in before you realize that those little grounding tabs on that ATX port adapter plate have lodged themselves into you motherboard ports instead of touching the on the side as they should.

- Don't get Arctic Silver all over your DIMMS and cables because you were careless when pulling your giant CPU fan/heatsink out of the case after an aborted attempt to lock it down.

- Pay attention to the drive letters when setting up partitions during a WindowsXP install, lest you accidentally install it on drive F:

- Have fun!

RE: some tips :)
by Matt on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:14 UTC

I wouldn't suggest buy the most powerful CPU, graphics, etc... That really isn't taking the right path, nor a good suggestion for a person that just needs a computer for word processing.

You want to do your research, figure out what your going to use the machine for. If your building a good gaming PC, or a PC for video editing, and such then yes I would recommend the top of the line stuff. But if you're just using it for work (like word processing or internet use), then you can scale down the CPU, get an average video card. The processor is what really makes the computer expensive, remember that. If you shoot for the top of the line processor, then be expecting to pay a lot of money!

Good places to buy parts:
www.pricewatch.com
www.newegg.com

As for tools, you'll need the basics just to get the thing together. But the most important part with building machines is; 1) what you're going to use it for, 2) how much money you're willing to lay down.

i wonder ...
by garapheane on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:22 UTC

wonder what would happen if this subject is posted on /.

going back to sleep
( -o-).zzZZ

Know where not to skimp
by Dave Farquhar on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:28 UTC

It's possible to build a PC for next to nothing these days but it doesn't mean you should. Like others have said before, get a good quality case and power supply. A cheap case will cut you up (Five years ago part of my job was to build PCs as cheaply as possible and I've still got scars on my hands from it) and a cheap power supply will give you instability and can even fry your components. Antec cases and power supplies are popular, reliable, and reasonably priced. For a budget system, Foxconn makes good stuff.

Also stick with brand-name memory. In 486 days, memory was memory, but systems are a lot more sensitive to memory quality now. Kingston and Crucial is good stuff. Un-branded memory is asking for trouble. There are other brands that are good, but Crucial and Kingston are the safe choices.

Try to buy as much of your stuff as possible from one vendor to keep shipping costs down. There's no point paying $15 in extra shipping to save $4 on the price of your video card. I buy most of my stuff from newegg.com and/or mwave.com. My friends and I have been doing business with them for years and their pricing and service are always good.

Aside from that, figure out what you want. You can build a low-end system using an integrated motherboard and literally be done with the work in less than an hour. A more powerful rig with discrete video and sound and network cards will take longer, of course, but it's still not difficult. Anyone who's installed some kind of upgrade in an existing PC ought to be able to build one.

Ah, the joy of PC Building ...
by Kady Mae on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:39 UTC

I've built PCs from scratch and rebuilt/upgraded my PC on several occasions. (In fact, the hard drive on "Ad Astra" just completely borked out so I get to tinker on her again. Thank god for backups.)

I won't repeat all the other advice you've gotten.

But, I will tell you to do the project bare foot. Keeps you grounded, and if you drop any teeny parts on the floor, and can't find them, you can walk around and if it's there, you will feel it when you step on it.

If you don't have needlenose pliers/forceps you need a pair.

Have fun! You won't necessarily save money, but you will get an excellent computer with no "mystery" parts in it.





Do the following:
by johnG on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:53 UTC

Your case and monitor will be with you for a long time.

1. Invest in a good ATX full tower case. You won't regret it. Cards fit better -- you won't have to bend and tweak stuff to get them to fit. I've been told to buy from
http://www.pcpowerandcooling.com/home.htm

2. Don't buy a cheap monitor. I'd recommend a nice 17" LCD that you will keep for a long time -- at least until OLED's are available. Maybe an NEC/Mitsubishi.

3. If it were me building a new computer, I'd have a look at what ATX PPC (G4) motherboard offerings are available.

I built my last PC. I tried to save some money by re-using components from my existing PC. When I fired up my new PC, I had no video. Long story short, my old video card fried my brand new Athalon XP 2000+ processor. I returned to the store and luckily was able to return the processor.

So finally a week later I was up and running!

After installing the new processor, I booted up, and installed the OS. After the OS was installed, I tried to restart the machine again, but this time it would not start up. Turns where the fan and the processor touched did not line up correctly, so the processor overheated. Sweet. I sent had to send the processor back to AMD, and thankfully they exchanged it in return.

Overall, I really like the new PC. The only thing I would do differently is get a quiet PC case. With the fans running, I can hear this thing going two rooms down the hall! If you are interested, this is one case that has excellent reviews for being QUIET! http://extremetech.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=678...

Also, I recently got hooked on Linux. If you haven't tried any Linux distributions, I recommend Mandrake 9.1 100% after trying out the last few Red Hat distros.

Good Luck! :-)

With due respect...
by Adam Scheinberg on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:54 UTC

With due respect, everyone I know in the IT world has built their own computer and it's not really that big of a deal that I'd want to read about someone else doing it. I think it's a great experience, but it's not monumental like, say, building your own OS.

My experience is that building your own computer doesn't save you any money for two reasons, 1) because you'll end up buying name brand parts, unlike the generic stuff used in OEM models, and 2) because you'll buy good stuff that you might not otherwise because often comes with OEM models, such as an optical mouse. Not to mention, even hardware warranty doesn't come close to comparing to a Dell warranty plan.

I know when I built my last computer, it was as follows:

AMD Athlon XP 1700+
MSI K7T266A motherboard (with onboard RAID controller)
(2) IBM 40 GB 7200RPM HDs (at RAID 0)
512 MB Crucual DDR SDRAM
52X CD-ROM
12X8X40 Lite-On CDRW
3-Com 10/100 NIC
32 mb nVidia GeForce2 GTS vid card
100 MB internal zip drive
Creative SB Audigy soundcard
Microsoft Optical wheel mouse
Logitech 5.1 THX 300W speakers
250 w power supply w/ ATX mid-tower case

I spent way more than I needed to. It was nice to have built a computer from scratch, but now I've done it about 10 times, and I'm okay with buying vanilla models off a website. Every true techie should have done this at least once, if only because you learn a lot and you'll lose all nerves about cracking any case open.

oh, one more thing
by johnG on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 20:56 UTC

Put the heatsink onto the CPU before you put the motherboard into the case (and don't forget the heat sink thermoconductive compound). Put the mobo on a towel on a table. You have to push hard on those things and you don't want to crack your mobo.

Don't skimp on your motherboard !!1
by Anonymous on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 21:07 UTC

My suggestion is to get the very best MotherBoard you can buy and then if you want to get parts that have been around for a year or so then feel free. This way you can easily upgrade your components without having to upgrade your motherboard. Remember folks that the Motherboard is the foundation of a good system and will determine how long you will need to do a full upgrade later on down the road.

P.S. Also make sure that you buy a big enough power supply and then some ! Go for a 500 watt power supply and you'll never run out of juice to power those peripherals, especially those high end video cards !

building your own pc
by thrift on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 21:08 UTC

I don't understand why a lot of people say you end up spending more money on a machine you build yourself. Unless you build a machine that is just a basic web surfing box, you will definately save money if you shop smart.

Ex. Box I built last year
ABit AT7 motherboard(on board sound, firewire, usb, raid)
AMD XP 1800+
GeForce2 MX
512MB PC2100 DDR(2 sticks of 256MB)
2 30Gig 7500 RPM Hard disks
TDK Burner(48xSomethingxSomething)
Keyboard, mouse, floppy, 1024x768 max monitor

all for under $600, and I'm sure I could build a better box for even cheaper now.

Also, a lot of people put way too much weight on processor and graphics card. If you don't play firstperson shooters you don't need a card that uses 8x AGP or anything close to that. For processors, what's the point of getting a 10Ghz dual Opteron board if you have a single 5400 RPM harddrive and 128MB of ram? Be smart and make sure all you're parts are at equal levels, get RAID + get LOTS of RAM, don't play the fastest frequency game.

Proof that you will save money.
by Simba on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 21:39 UTC

2.8 Ghz P4, 120 Gb hard disk, 128Mb ATI Radeon video card, 512 Mb RAM, 19 inch CRT flat screen monitor.

Dell's price: $1,899

My price: $1,371.44

Amount saved by building this system myself: $527.56

And yes, the price for building it myself even includes a legal copy of Windows XP.

Upgradability and Quality
by Chris Emery on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 21:59 UTC

First the obvious info:

NVidia graphics tend to beat ATi and others for quality, reliability and availability.

Now the more obvious

When you buy RAM, consider that your motherboard of choice may be flash-upgradeable to support faster FSB speeds. Even if you're only going to run a 333mhz FSB right now it may be advisable to buy 400mhz or faster RAM ( this advice from someone who is currently running 400mhz RAM @ 200mhz )

( this kinda assumes you'll be using an AMD Athlon, but then, if you're home-building you'd be a fool to use anything else for performance/price reasons ) ( good case for a C3 if you need quiet/cool/unobtrusive )

Check there are WHQL-signed drivers for your hardware if you plan to run a Windows OS on your machine.

Lastly

Just avoid cheap parts. Especially so when they tie you in to certain OS's, or into using old tech like PC133 RAM ( a lot of cheapo motherboards need this )

Think expandability. More PCI slots and USB slots than you need is a good thing.

don't go top of the line...
by burns210 on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 22:01 UTC

"-Buy as powerful as you possibly can, in CPU, graphics, memory, hard disk space, and CD-RW speed. This will make your system stay uptodate longer. "

I completely disagree, i have a 450mhz that i email/surf/type/etc with that has PLENTY of speed, for hardcore gameres, a higher CPU is needed, but blowing money on top end 3ghz just for the hell of it isn't worth it, you will only find yourself wishing you had the newer model whenever it is released.... for games, a 1.5 athlon xp for me is more than enough power(counter-strike and black and white both run very, very smooth)...

Instead of buying super highend specs, figure out what you want to do, what the specs of a computer you need to have to do those things, and buy high quality(long lasting, well made) hardware that meets those specs... for everything non-gaming for me a 450-600 is plenty of cpu and 128megs of ram is enough, those 256megs is reasonable as well.... for gaming, 1.5ghz with 256megs of ram is plenty for ne...

Don't convince yourself you need top of the line, or you will only be dissapointed when your system becomes last-weeks model..

Re: with all due respect...
by Jay on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 22:13 UTC

Adam said: Every true techie should have done this at least once, if only because you learn a lot and you'll lose all nerves about cracking any case open.

That's it exactly! I do stuff inside of computers all the time - installing RAM, I can take my Cube apart and put together again in minutes. I even replaced the Apple provided new power supply and fan for our Wind Tunnel G4. But, to have built a computer from scratch - I haven't even come close to doing that.

My .02
by Maxamoto on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 22:15 UTC

1. Avoid AMD like the plague. Unsable, cheap, unreliable. There's a reason why most businesses won't use them =]

2. Asus and Intel make the best motherboards

3. Buy the best you can afford. Remember, cheap hardware = cheap computer.

4. Plan your machine around your primary OS

5. Do NOT buy a cheap power supply. Antec are usually the best.

6. Plan for an upgrade cycle, so you can avoid completely rebuilding your kit every year. Scalability!

7. Read the reviews!

8. SATA is NOT ready for prime time.

9. Burn is always a good idea.

10. Save your boxes and reciepts =]

Tools
by mexmoon on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 22:31 UTC

By a Vitrinox Swiss Army knife Cybertool. Has all the necessary screwdriver attachments and pokey bits you need to assembly components and set dip switches, etc...Oh, and when you've finished building the PC it comes handy for other tasks as well. You'll be using it long after the PC has been traded in.

http://www.victorinox.com/newsite/en/produkte/index.htm

advice
by manolo on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 22:39 UTC

If you are building or upgrading your computer keep
in mind to use hardware that has open or well known specs.
When I build my next computer, I'll use a Matrox VGA.It is
outdated but at least Matrox provides documentation for its
products.Just have a look at http://www.directfb.org
The same goes for every other piece of hardware.
And if you want to save money use Linux instead of Windows.
Around here (Greece) a copy of WindowsXP Pro costs 418 Euros.
And I know that if I buy hardware with open specs, it will
be well supported in almost every operating system.

Twelve Step Program
by Bob on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 23:08 UTC

Hi, my name is Bob and I'm a junkie (hardware junkie that is). If you have any tendency to become a hardware junkie get a fulltower case. Pay careful attention to the case and the power supply. Be sure to buy something that won't be a pain to work on and that fulfills your needs.

If you are planning on buying a new hard drive consider SATA. The SATA may not provide much boost in performance but you will appreciate the thinner and longer cables. Cabling becomes very important when you start putting a lot of drives in your case. I have six hard drives in my case (2 on the mobo, 3 on a Promise PCI card, and 1 on a SATA PCI controller) and cabling becomes a very important issue.

I disiagree on AMD but see your point
by epseps on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 23:15 UTC

"Avoid AMD like the plague. Unsable, cheap, unreliable. There's a reason why most businesses won't use them =]"

They run hot and the machines need more maintenence and cleaning than do Pentiums...But cost to performance ratio is good and anyone building their own PC is not going to be adverse to swapping a heatsink or adding a fan.

Where I work I'd like to get them away from P IV's even. I'd go with VIA mini-itx with a good 15" LCD and save on power costs, maintenece, lifting strain etc. Plus no cards to screw around with. Since everyone does work that does not require a big CPU, they'd be perfect.

For the folks happily running low end equiment I say keep at it..Run those things until they drop. Less than 1 year ago my "top end" machine was an AMD k6 350 and my low end machine was a P166. I built the AMD almost 4 years ago for $400 and I built the p166 2 years ago for $25 (price of a socket 7 mobo) because all the other hardware was deemed obsolete. I still have an emergency monitor in the closet that I found in the trash (Viewsonic 4e 800X600). So if any of you have friends who always buy the latest and greatest, you can get their old equipment for cheap or for free and really save cash.

My 2cents worth
by Chewy509... on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 23:17 UTC

Having built 50+ custom made PC's (used to work for a small PC Shop), there are a few things:
1. Get the best monitor you can. CRT Monitors generally have a life of 2-3 boxes. (mine is 7yrs old and still looks as good as the day I bought it).
2. Get a high quality case (Aopen, Antec, Macase are all good). (read Anandtech for reviews).
3. Get a high quality power supply (400W+ needed in modern PC's).
4. Get surge protection or a UPS, (think of at as your insurance policy, on all the nice new shiny equipment).
5. Buy the current generation motherboard, (i865/875 or nForce2 Ultra 400). (provides scalability). And go with a well known brand, Asus (single CPU), Tyan (on Duals).
6. The rest will fall into place...

PS. Get a good keyboard and mouse (current Logitech or MS are good).

re: Chevy 509
by Simba on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 23:38 UTC

I would agree with most of your suggestions except for the power supply. 400 watts is overkill for most users. The average user will have power to spare if they have a 300 watt supply.

RE: Sean - how to get a quiet PC
by Metic on Sun 22nd Jun 2003 23:56 UTC

"The only thing I would do differently is get a quiet PC case."

A good case has to have good air flow and ventilation, and that means that some noise unavoidably comes out of the box too. However, if the case has a good ventilation, then you can have quiet fans, which really makes the difference in noise reduction. If the fan noise level is ok, getting quiet CD drives & harddisks is essential. After that some tricks with the case like putting noise damper material inside it etc. might bring some (probably marginal) extra noise level reduction too.

The truth is that a home made PC build from standard (non-quiet) components is likely to be a relatively noisy machine nowdays - also when compared to the Dell and other such PC's (Dell and many other PC manufactures have started to pay real attention to the noise issue recently.).

If you want to build a fast modern PC from components, I recommend to pay attention to the noise issue from the start, when choosing its components etc. Unless you want to develop a chronic headache and a disgust for computing because of the constant background noise...

AMD rocks
by dronebee on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 00:23 UTC

1. Avoid AMD like the plague. Unsable, cheap, unreliable. There's a reason why most businesses won't use them =]


I guess that's why my Athlon has been running day and night without so much as a hiccup for almost 3 years.

Quiet Power Supply
by Jud on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 00:36 UTC

The folks who suggested reading Resellerratings and checking out PC Power and Cooling were right on.

You might think the PCP&C Silencer 400 ATX is more money than you want to spend on a power supply, and that other power supplies probably won't have disturbingly loud fans. You would be wrong.

Suggestions re where to go for other parts: http://www.ecspc.biz/ ; Newegg. Each is at or near 10 (highest rating) at Resellerratings, deservedly so.

Make Sure the Components are as OS Agnostic as Possible
by sasquatch666 on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 00:38 UTC

IF you intend to build from scratch,I would suggest you research into hardware compatabiliy with as many of the cool alt-OS's written about on this site,don't worry abot M$ Windows,it runs on damn near anything but a Mac,what I'm talking about is Linux,which is probably 2nd to windows in hardware support,along with the BSD's,Next comes things like QNX and BeOS which have a more limited support base,but are definitely worth having around,especially BeOS which has some real cool multimedia tools found nowhere else,and finally,the hobby-type OS's like AtheOS-Syllable,MenuetOS,SkyOS and such.
Information can usually be found on the respective OS's sites and message boards and i would start by compiling a list of supported hardware for them all and cross-referancing it to find the common denominators so to speak.
My machines are usually optimised for BeOS,which is my favorite alternative,but sometimes I wish I would have done my homework a little more thoroughly, when I try something new and it doesn't support this or that piece of hardware that I have(of course nothing I have has actually been 'built from scratch'they are more or less cobbled together from used equipment I have aquired from various sources and upgraded with new components as needed)
This Is why I cannot stress enough the importance of"Universal Compatability"this would be one of my main reasons for building such a box,especially now when a really nice factory-made unit can be had so cheaply.
Have Fun!

Building Your Mac
by Bayerwerke on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 00:48 UTC

>Building Your Mac

This is no problem, if you don't want to start completely from scratch get a bare bones system from;

http://www.2khappyware.com/corecrib.html

Now keep in mind that this IS NOT going to save you money.

1) Decide what operating system you want. This will narrow your CPU choices. Print a copy of the OSes hardware compatibility list. Compare hardware compatibility lists from other OSes, parts they have in common are often better quality.

2) Pick a CPU, try to shoot for double the system requirements for general use, this will narrow your mainboard choices. Pick a type of memory you want, this will further narrow your mainboard choices, shoot for twice the amount of system requirements for general use.

3) Pick a mainboard as this will narrow your case choices.

4) Choose a case, if it comes with a power supply less than 250w make a different choice of case or buy a better power supply. Don't skimp on the case, you're going to have to look at it and work inside it. Make sure it has room for the drives you will buy.

Now, assuming you are probably building an x86 type machine, don't buy any hardware that only mentions the Microsoft Windows program on the box or the website of the manufacturer or has the words "Requires Windows...", even if you intend to install Windows.

The following is for a general (not games) machine.

Pick out a monitor, ViewSonic is a good choice, so is NEC. Rounded ATA cable are worth it.

6) Choose a video card, if you don't want to do research on an Nvidia chipset card then buy ATI.

7) Choose a network interface card, 3Com or Intel it's up to you. If one of those choices is intergrated into the mainboard, so be it.

8) Choose which model of Sound Blaster you want. If one or an Intel audio chipset or Ensonic card is intergrated into the mainboard, so be it.

9) Choose a hardware modem, it used to be you just bought a Hayes and didn't worry about it, they are gone. After much debate I wound up with an ActionTec and am happy.

10) Pick a hard drive, make sure you don't buy a Maxtor. Although the new serial ATA drives aren't really faster, they put less load on the CPU, the cables are nice too. You may want to choose a second hard drive as well or removable storage.

11) Choose an optical drive. If you get a Sony DRU-510 or one of it's close relatives you don't have to choose a specific format. You may want to choose a second optical drive as well.

12) Decide if you have any use for a floppy drive.

13) Install the power supply into the case. Plug it into the wall. Now, every time you touch your case you are grounded and dissipate any static that could damage your parts. Only 5 and 12 volt DC current come out of the power supply. It can't hurt you unless you open it.

14) Now you can remove the mainboard from the bag for the first time and install the mainboard risers, as mentioned, after you touch the metal case.

15) Put the CPU, heatsink and Memory onto the mainboard and attach any cables that won't get in the way when installing it into the case.

16) Install the mainboard and connect the power supply.

17) Install the video card, attach the monitor, plug the monitor in and boot the mainboard to make sure it works.

18) Attach your drives and remember a master goes on the end of the cable and a slave goes in the middle. Never make a hard drive the slave to anything but another hard drive.

19) Pretend like you are going to install your OS and boot from the CD. If it starts to work, shut it doen before it does anything then install the drives.

20) Put in the network interface card, modem and sound card and boot your installation CD again. If you don't exerience any lock ups go ahead an do a basic installation.

21) Shut down and screw everthing together.

22) Install again in the method of your preference if neccessary.

23) Put the cover on back on the side of the case.

My recomendations
by Ciprian on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 01:26 UTC

Depends what you want your PC for. I built one last year and I got all the parts on http://www.pricewatch.com

I would recommend using a single supplier because all the shipping costs involved getting everything from different places.

Some things to keep track of that you would not normally worry about:

-Get an AMD chip unless you want top notch performance or like to throw money out the window. I would suggest 2-3 rungs below the top of the line since they have the best price/performance ration IMO.

-Get a goof mobo. I've never had a problem with ASUS. I got one that had a GeForce 2 integrated, on board sound, ethernet USB etc for $80 and it saved me a ton of money.

-Remember that money you saved on the CPU? Use it to pump up your RAM as high as you can. I think you can get more performance for your money from memory than CPU muscle. Don't hesitate to get a good brand of memory, with lesser brands bad sticks can be really common and a pain in the butt to mail back, wait for a replacement etc.

-Don't overclock. The risks are not worth the performance gains any more. Plus you will void your warranties.

-Go to Tom's Hardware web site and read the guides, they have some really nice illustrated ones on building the PC.

-Make sure yo get a good power supply/case combo. A good power supply means you can upgrade painlessly and bad ones can fry really easily.

-Don't hesitate to scavenge off your existing systems. I took the hard drive from my old Compaq POS and put it as a slave/MP3 jukebox in my new machine. I also scavenged the CDRW and floppy drives.

-Don't forget to order small things like fans,thermal paste, cords (sometimes CDRW and DVD drives will come wihout all the cables, read the product description carefully).

-Your biggest expense will be software (unledd you want to run Linux or BSD's). If you plan on putting WIndows on there it will cost you a lot (there will be no bundled software from a PC manufacturer so if you want to do anything you have to shell out money). Of course you can always slap an old version of Win 98, load Kazaa and become a pirate arrr....

AMD
by Ciprian on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 01:39 UTC

Just a reply to the people complaining about AMD and heat. I have an AMD 1600+ and I have never had a problem with overheating (It's generally around 42 Celsius).

-Get a good heatsink/fan and some Arctic Silver (put a pin head size gop on there not more)

-Get the cables out of the way so you have good air flow

-Put two fans in (one at the top back blowing air out and one at the bottom fron sucking air in). This gives you great flow.

Faulty components
by JK on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 01:39 UTC

The main problem I've had with building my own PC is that it can be a pain to work out what component is causing problems if the system is unstable.

I've built two PCs and both times at least one component had to be sent back. A bad hard disk was easy to diagnose, but the faulty motherboard and RAM I recieved both caused very similar stability problems. I had to borrow spare components to isolate the faults, I don't know how I would have found them if that hadn't been possible.

Obviously if the computers had been bought ready built these problems would almost certainly have been found in testing. If a fault did occur I could have just sent the whole machine back rather than having to find the faulty component.

I've also heard a lot of horror stories about PC mail order companies refusing to replace faulty components if they suspect that they were damaged during installation. I know swome places that will hardly ever replace CPUs, as they assume that they must have been broken during installation.

Personally I would never build a PC again after my bad experiences. You don't save any money, you can get PCs custom built to your spec for the same price as buying all the components. Unless you're looking for a hobby and you're not too worried about wasting money or actually having a PC that works, I wouldn't recommend building your own PC.

The REAL Secret of Buying Hardware
by enloop on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 02:31 UTC

Watch what I buy. Wait a week, then buy it. You'll save lots of money.

AMD heat issues
by Jason on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 02:32 UTC

I honestly don't think AMD is truly the value it may once have been. The last machine I put together was a P4 with an Intel Motherboard and it has been the most stable machine I have ever owned. With any modern x86 system you have to worry about heat but there are some definite advantages the the P4 system when it comes to heat. I have seen friends with AMD systems do some interesting things to help bring the temperature of their systems down. I'm glad that hasn't been a worry of mine.

re:building your own pc
by dennis cochran on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 03:06 UTC

very simple. Two major resources are ARS TECHNICA.com buyers guide and PC UPGRADE magazine www.techworthy.com They build a different computer every month. The articles give you explicit how tos and whys and photos for everystep. Recent build your own articles have been a modded pc, a digitalaudio workstation, and a 9GHz supercomputer. You NEED this magazine if you are building your first pc. trust me.

Re: Simba
by Chewy509... on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 03:16 UTC

I would agree with most of your suggestions except for the power supply. 400 watts is overkill for most users. The average user will have power to spare if they have a 300 watt supply.

Sorry, I'm just used to people running RAID, a DVD-Rom + CD/RW, GeForceFX/Radeon9700Pro, 3-4 fan type systems. If however you run a single HDD with a single optical (DVD or CD), and a Video card that deosn't need external power, then 300W is fine...

start with upgrades first
by Anonymous on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 04:27 UTC

I suggest if you already have a reasonable PC you should mess around and upgrade some components, such as the hardrive or install a CD burner yourself before tackling a PC from scratch.

It is better to get someone to assemble a PC for you unless you know what you are doing as you can easily damage expensive components with static or rough handling. Also if you do it yourself you will need to buy cable ties, an antistatic wrist strap, screws etc which will probably be more expensive than the labour.

Also DIY projects are often plagued with incompatible drivers, poor hardware doucumentation and other glitches which can be very frustrating for newbies.

Make sure you know exactly what hardware you need before you start. Combining a 1.8GHz Athlon with an ATI 9800 Pro is a mismatch for example.

Hold off 3-6 months so that new hardware such as SATA RAID and 800MHz buses become mainstream or you will be stuck with limited upgrade options in future.

re: Chevy509
by Simba on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 05:07 UTC

"I'm just used to people running RAID."

I think that would be where most of the power goes. But the average home user doesn't have much need for RAID, unless they are doing some pretty serious video production. And for serious video production, you are probably looking at an external rack mounted RAID system anyway.

it takes balls
by Debman on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 05:20 UTC

because you have to be prepaired to accept the risk of killing your CPU/mobo/mem if you do not ground yourself.

Just the crumbs.
by BR on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 07:13 UTC

Gee! What could possibley add? ;) One think to keep in mind with some OEM/Retail parts. There can be differences between the two. i.e Sound card ports. A little research will protect you from such gotchas. Also save your old stuff (unless it's too old). Combine those with a home network, and you may not need such a powerhouse machine. Also for the poweruser, dual-procs could be a better investment. They don't even need to be the latest and greatest (Dual celerons). Right now is proably the best time to build one, because one can easily get a computer that fits a given niche.

Advantages
by hmmm on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 07:16 UTC

this has probably already been stated, but one of the advantes for me is I know exactly what hardware I put together. If someone else builds it sometimes I have to do some research before I can identify what drivers I need. I use Linux all the time, so I'm a little picky about what hardware I get. I wouldn't have to be this picky if things like Winmodems didn't exist. But I'm used to it.

I've never built my own PC...
by Huw Morris on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 09:30 UTC

...but over the years, I've replaced the case, the hard disk, the motherboard(twice), the CPU (twice), the memory (twice), the sound card, the graphics card (twice), the fan (twice), the monitor and the mouse. I've removed the original dial-up modem and added a ethernet card.

Come to think of it, the only original parts left are the floppy drive, which hasn't worked in years, and the keyboard.

But I've never built my own PC. :-)

machine I would suggest you built.
by vasper on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 11:50 UTC

This is my system:

Full Tower ATX 350W
Gigabyte GA-7ZXE
Athlon XP 1700+
786Mb Ram DDR 233
GeForce 2 MX 400 64MB TVOut
SoundBlaster Live Players 1024
20GB HDD WD (system disk)
40GB HDD WD
60GB HDD WD
80GB HDD IBM
CMD 649U Controller
Acer 12x10x40 CDRW
Toshiba DVD 12x
Pioneer DVD-RW 105
Iomega Zip Drive 250Mb internal Atapi
Pinnacle PCTV Studio PCI
External Serial ISDN Modem
Microsoft Natural Keyboard PS/2
Optical Mouse PS/2
TVM AS06 17" Monitor

The cost for all these? Around 1500$ today.
And above all.. I have Windows 2000, Windows XP, BeOS 5 Pro, BeOS 5 PE Max Edition V3 beta2, Suse Linux 8.1 Pro and Lindows 3.01 installed on this system. All hardware runs prerfectly on all OS. Cost of OS? 400$

Thanks!
by Jay on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 12:23 UTC

Before this story gets moved down off the screen, I want to thank all of you - I have a tremendous amount of info! We'll see what happens ;-)

Choose the case carefully
by roger on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 12:30 UTC

To answer the question why would you want to build your own PC the response is because you can build it to suite your needs, ensure that it is built with top of the line quality parts, and you dont have to worry about proprietary parts. As an example I'm not a gamer so I'm not into the latest and greatest video cards, for my needs matrox is the best card on the market, but I prefer SCSI to ATA for all drives so I spend the extra money on those items. True you can buy a system off the shelf which cost less but you must ask the question why does it cost less two obvious reasons are the pc builders buy in bulk and second to help keep the price down many of them do not use top of the line parts.
The list of components in your case is easy to assemble based upon your needs but two important items overlooked by many people building a PC are the case and power supply. I have seen people spend weeks on finding the right video or sound card then spend less than ten minutes selecting a case. Contrary to belief all cases are not equal. The first thing I look for in a case is good air flow, believe it or not this alone eliminates many of the cases on the market, next look at the hard drive bays to see if they are easily accessible and if there are multiple bays in case you later decide to add an addition hard drive, the ability to expand is always desired in a case.
The power supply that comes with the case is usually small and not intended to handle a lot of extra drives and other devices so again look at your requirements and replace the power supply with a quality brand.

Good Luck

avoid static e
by samer on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 12:48 UTC

Touching certain parts or areas in the RAM or CPU chipsets may conduct some static elecricity from the fingers and body, so avoid that,OR everything will be Spaghetti. The mobo CPU options may dictate what CPU you will have to install, so decide first on that.Aluminuim cases if avialable are cooler, lighter and heat friendlier.And your finger are always safe in them (no pun)
Your average usage will help you decide how high end the other component should go.Asus motherbords are handy if you want auto detection when you first switch the beast on.But if you are into geeky overclocking go for ABIT or Gigabyte motherboard.

two most important things
by matt on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 13:40 UTC

Two most imprtant things (to me at least):

1. Buy a high quality case. I prefer Antec. This is one place not to cut costs. If you get a budget case, it will likely come with a noisy, unreliable power supply. It will also likely be made of thin flimsy sheet metal that bends or breaks easily and resonates noise. Once you own a quality case, you can use it for many years of upgrading.

2. Pay attention to noise. If you are like me, the noise of a pc can drive you batty. If you use "standard" parts, it will be noisier than the average PC from Dell or Gateway. Most of the noise comes from cooling fans. Speeze and Zalman make quiet case/CPU cooling solutions. Antec and Thermaltake make quiet power supplies.

Build a Macintosh
by hylas on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 13:48 UTC

Anyone can build a PC.
Get a static (electric) free mat or bracelet and non- magnetic tools.

http://www.macopz.com/buildamac/

Overclock
by k-bear on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 14:48 UTC

I suggest buying a CPU you overclock to an extreme amount and buying excess RAM. I recently read about a gentlemen that bought a AMD processor and 1gig of ram and was able to overclock it so that it was running at about 4gigahertz. I also suggest buying a graphics card that has a fan or a cooling device on board so that it is also overclockable. RESEARCH AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!

This works because you can buy relatively cheap hardware and put some actual work into it to make a very high end PC. It may make some of your hardware have a shorter life span but if you buy the right products and do it correctly you can save yourself a ton of cash and have a computer that is unbelievable. I have a 2.4 processor, overclocked to 3.0, an overclocked graphics card and it runs like a dream. Watch your temperatures closely, the higher they get, the more damage. Good luck!

What I find strange...
by Laplandsix on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 15:01 UTC

is that everyone is reccomending against buying OEM components. If you think about it for a bit, who buys these OEM components and uses them? Why the PC manufacturers of course! The only people who buy the full retail versions are regular consumers like you and me. So that shiny new Dell with the Nvidia Chipset...Do you think Dell went to best buy and picked up 8,000 retail boxes and installed them? Heck no! They use OEM parts just like any other PC builder. Now, one think that I've conveniently glossed over, is the fact that Dell will indeed support these OEM parts with a longer warranty than you would otherwise get, but I say, if it's good enough for the OEM's in the first place it's good enough for me

Consider Spec'ing Out a Barebones Unit
by enloop on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 18:14 UTC

I posted a flip response earlier, but, to be serious, think about going the barebones route. A number of online vendors enable you to select your preferred components, and will then assemble, at nominal cost, what's called a barebones box for you. Typically, they install the power supply, fans, and motherboard, as well as connecting the power leads to the on-off switch and the like. (If you're going to make a mistake that will fry your system, it's the wiring that'll likely get you.)

That leaves you to add your drives, your sound and video cards, and any other little goodies you want.

This is a lower-risk way to go that will tech you just as much as doing it all. Unless you really think screwing fans into the inside of a case is a thrill, give it some consideration.

As for the rest, buy the best you can afford so you can do what you want to do, but don't buy what you won't use. If you need cutting edge hardware, buy it, but realize that the price you pay today will probably drop precipitously in the following weeks. If you're a gamer, pay attention to sound, video and monitor. If you're a coder or a web person, understand that you spend all day looking at 2-D displays and go for a good 2-D video card. I'm in the 2-D category and recommend Matrox cards. I've used them for several years. Take a look at the 450 or the 550.

Remember, OEM and white-box parts are cheaper, but you won't get any instructions or manuals.Some times current manuals are available on the web, sometimes they aren't.

Don't buy the cheapest case. Consider an aluminum case -- they're supposed to keep the internal parts cooler. (Who knows if they really do. My aluminum Lian Li case does feel cool to the touch.) Buy and install enough fans. Better to spend an extra $30 on a fan than to bake the system. Don't buy a no-name marginal power supply. Get a brand name supply that can produce more power than you need. You never know what you'll add on later.

Assemble it in a place with lots of light. Little screws and little jumpers are easy to lose. In addition to the Phillips screwdriver and a pair of needle-nose pliers, grab a pair of tweezers to hold those little screws steady and in place for your screwdriver.

When it's built, put your new toy someplace well-ventilated. If you can avoid it, don't put it on the floor wedge between the side of a desk and the wall.

STATIC - Don't get it?!
by Bayerwerke on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 19:51 UTC

IF YOU INSTALL THE POWER SUPPLY AND PLUG IT IN (to AC in the wall), THE CASE IS GROUNDED. IF YOU ARE TOUCHING IT, YOU ARE ALSO GROUNDED. IF YOU DO THIS BEFORE OPENING THE PACKAGES FOR ALL THE OTHER PARTS AND TOUCH THE CASE FREQUENTLY DURING ASSEMBLY YOU WON'T FRY ANYTHING AND YOU DON'T NEED A STUPID BRACELET. If you have ANYTHING to worry about it's bending pins, which can be straightened.

build your own mac link
by Hayabusa on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 21:09 UTC

here's the link to a page describing how you can build your own macintosh

http://www.macopz.com/buildamac/

Never done it myself, but it will be my next project.

I've built my own x86 systems for years. my recommendations are.

1.)combos. motherboard and CPU. You can usually get a good deal on a motherboard and CPU bundled together as opposed to buying each seperatly. For Instance I got a k7s5a motherboard with an Athlon XP 1800 cpu as a combo.

Powersupply/case combos are good as well, many sites that sell cases let you choose amongst several different power supply models, and they'll mount it for ou, which saves a lot of headache.

2>) It's been ebaten to death in this thread, btu don't go for top of the line. Don;t go bottom of the barrel either. Look at each component on a site like pricewatch and choose the best component you can afford with your budget. You'll see the trend of how and where prices start to spike, buy accordingly.

3.) Onboard isn;t always a bad thing. For instance my motherboard has onboard NIC and sound. The sound quality is fine for what I use my computer for, and I've had no probablems at all with the onboard nic, which elaves two free PCI slots that would have otehrwise been taken up by seperate NCI and sound cards.

4.)Don't fear refurbished merchanside either. I got a great deal (an warranty) on a refurbished 21 inch monitor (cost me 250 after shipping)

5.) do the research. If you're going to run windows you can ignore this step. If you plan on tunning anything else, you'll want to make sure the hardware you're buying is WELL supported by the OS you plan to use.

OEM
by Simba on Mon 23rd Jun 2003 22:33 UTC

"If you think about it for a bit, who buys these OEM components and uses them? Why the PC manufacturers of course! The only people who buy the full retail versions are regular consumers like you and me."

But remember that Dell for example, is getting NO warranty at all on the CPUs they buy from Intel. If they get a bad CPU from Intel, they eat the cost. But it works like this: Intel sells the CPUs to Dell at dirt cheap because they don't have to support it, or mess with it if it is defective. But Dell on the other hand, buys so many CPUs that it is far cheaper for them to eat the cost of a defective CPU once in awhile than it would be for them to pay higher prices for CPUs that have warranties.

Ultimately, the only reason NOT to buy OEM is you are a home builder is that the warranty is not as good. Example, OEM CPUs may come with NO warranty at all, or maybe only a 30 day warranty. If you are buying high volume, it is definately worth the risk to save money buying OEM, even if you have to eat the cost of 1 or 2 dead CPUs.

For an individual home buyer, you have to decide how much risk you want to take. For me personally, I think that PC parts are reliable enough these days, and the chance of getting a defective one so low, that I think it is worth saving the money.

So I say, buy OEM. Save yourself money. The chance of getting a defective part are pretty small.

CPU FAN
by FuGe on Tue 24th Jun 2003 09:05 UTC

MAKE SURE THE CPU FAN IS PLUGGED IN