Saturday, September 15, 2007

I stopped counting. (Day ???)

Well it seemed like a good idea at first but its just adding overhead. And as long as the days keep adding up then thats what counts. I'll keep May 19th in mind. Just by writing it here I have secured it beyond the limits of my stupid spinning platter hard drives.

Bring on the good shit!!!

Speaking of which, this post relates not to the usual pontifications but more of a practical sort of lesson. Today we'll investigate (in depth) the nifty details of building your own PC.

Consider the project of upgrading one PC, we’ll call it Build I and with the spare parts create another PC for a minimum of cost. Call that Build II (gawd damn I am original) Lets take a look at the original PC and where it could and COULD NOT be upgraded.

Motherboard: MSI K9N4

CPU Socket: AM2 (Athlon and Athlon X2 type chips)
Ram: 2 Sockets rated for DDR2 533, 667 and 800
GPU Socket: PCIe x16

4 Sata II ports
1 Ultra ATA controller *2 devices*
3 PCI slots
1 FDD (floppy controller)

Actual Components: (same order)

CPU: Athlon X2 4600 (2.4 ghz dual core, 90nm manufacturing process)
Ram: 2x 1-gigabyte sticks of DDR2 533
GPU: EVGA Geforce 8600 GTS with 256 mb DDR3 Ram
2 Sata HDD’s: 160gb and 320gb
(empty SATAII socket x2)
1 ATA DVD Burner
5.1 sound card
Tv Capture Card
(empty PCI slot 1x)
No Floppy Drive.

So Basically it was a HUGE advance over my ding dong Dell Dimension 8250 with its pitiful 2.66 P4 and 1 gig of RAMBUS!!!! The old video card was a 256 mb Radeon All in Wonder. I will not say anything bad about it. Total HD space was 160 gigs.

Build I was pretty awesome. I applied a lot of the lessons learned from Wade’s build to create a very solid workstation with enough muscle to mess up some games if I so chose but without shelling out 6 grand for an alienware or voodoo PC.

Now it was pretty close but I had some hardware and accessories leftover and I realized that with a few upgrades to my current build that I could slap together a whole new box. Originally I was hoping to make it a Server 2003 box but the drivers didn’t jive with my ‘trial version’ of Server 2003. Microsoft, surprisingly, did not provide much help.

So it ended up being another XP Pro box.

Build II need a few parts that I had and a few that I would need to acquire to completion. To understand what defined Build II was how much I could upgrade Build I

Now I could add or replace all of the components but the biggest sticking points were the processor and the RAM. Each could stand upgrade without unreasonable cost. Assuming we took those two leftover parts and some other stuff what would we need to make a whole new box.

Keep in mind I am negating a monitor/keyboard and mouse since I’m basically using it for extra processing and data storage. It’s now sitting under my desk connected by Cat5 and a 4 Port KVM switch.

Now here’s a list of everything you need to build your own PC.

Power Supply
Graphics Processor
Hard Drive(s)
Operating System (already had it)

Naturally all these parts have to fit on the motherboard and there is a difference between them all so they don't always jive correctly.

Now there’s also a smack load of screws, cables and sometimes adapters. From the last build I had a large container of these accessories, a 500 watt Power Supply and three Hard Drives via charity. Two are IDE and one was Sata (it didn’t work)

In order to put together a new system I would need the hand me downs from Build I and a Case, Mobo and graphics card. Now cases can be super cheap or super expensive. Wade’s Antec case without a PSU cost about 160 bucks. My budget case, with a 500 watt PSU ran me about 60 bucks. Since I replaced the PSU for Build I (there were no SATA or PCIe connectors) I still had the 500 watt PSU for Build II. Adding that PSU to a 20 dollar super cheap .5mm steel case made in China took care of the first two components.

There was no getting around needing another Mobo for Build II. I considered the route to upgrade my own Mobo and passing down the old K9 but that would have necessitated other upgrades and the price more or less tripled the original cost of Build I. Why do that when I could go with a BIOSTAR K8M800 Micro AM2 (Cost $45.99)?

Was this a mistake? This micro ATX board also has onboard Video so it negates the need for a GPU. The minimum acceptable GPU whether AGP or PCIe x16 costs 50 bucks or so.

So for the Case, Mobo and…no wait that’s all I needed additionally. 66 Bucks plus spare parts? That’s pretty sweet.

The new CPU became an Athlon X2 5000+ 2.6 ghz processor. This chip isn’t much faster but its built on 65 nanometer tech. That means lower power requirements and cooler operating temp.

The new Ram is Crucial Ballistix DDR2 800. I cannot convey (and the pictures will not likely do justice either) just how undeniably badass the orange heat spreaders look on this stuff. Quantity remains the same but it should be slightly faster than the budget stuff I got for 20 bucks a gig.

Now some may say that the difference between a 2.4 ghz Windsor core and a 2.6 Brisbane is nominal at best and I probably won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. More on that later…

Now the new CPU and Ram cost a total of 180 plus tax and shipping. Even adding up the full cost of those parts makes a grand total of 246 bucks + dink parts I wouldn’t be able to use otherwise.

You show me anywhere else on the web where you can get a dual core system with 2 gigs of ram and nearly half a terabyte of storage space for UNDER 300 bucks and I will show you a LIAR!!!!

PS All my parts came from natch.

Since I got such a great deal I decided to experiment with a new bit of technology (new to me at any rate) so I picked up a Zalman CPU cooler. There was a combo deal so I basically got another (awesome) CPU cooler for 15 bucks plus tax and shipping.

Now the Pics begin so I will segment here to prevent UBER length posts.

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