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Help me build a desktop.

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by mace85, Oct 4, 2008.

  1. mace85

    mace85 NRA GOA USPSA

    Mar 22, 2005
    I am intrested in building a desktop to compliment our two laptops in the house. I like the portability of a laptop, but we are outgrowing ourselves. We run an XBOX 360, a Zune (possibly 2), an iPod, and a printer/scanner/fax combo. Basically I am looking for a decent media machine. I don't want any microsoft programs such as Word, or Excel. But do want my machine to do Vista Home Premium so we can use it as a media extender for the XBOX 360. For word processing we will either use google docs or open office. Basically it will be a web and media machine. I wouldn't use it for games, or videos (other than streaming internet) much if at all. So basically storage and RAM are my top priorities.

    But I don't know crap about computers, so this is going to be a learning experience. Can anyone recommend some components that will be fast, and have a good bit of storage, while keeping the total system price (excluding monitor and keyboard and such) under $700 or $800?

    Thanks a ton
  2. IndyGunFreak


    Jan 26, 2001
    Are you asking "HOW" assemble a desktop.. or are you just wanting advice on components?

    For "HOW" to build a PC, there's several magazines, websites, etc, out there that have a walkthrough on the process, its really quite simple...

    As for components.. I've been building PC's for probably around 10yrs, and this is always the process I go through when I kind of "build as budget allows"...

    I look at current motherboards/processors, to get an idea of what I'd like.

    I then buy the things that aren't going to matter, no matter what motherboard/processor I get.. With that in mind, most motherboards now days, will have SATA ports, and probably a PCI-e 16x slot for the video device, and at least 2-3 spots for frontside USB ports, and if it interests you, frontside audio. Unless your a major audio maniac, most motherboards will have onboard audio, and it will generally be more than sufficient. Onboard LAN should also be there, so you shouldn't need an ethernet card.

    So once you have a general idea of the specs you'd like for your motherboard, I always get the things that are going to work no matter what motherboard I may decide upon. Case(including fans, a package of zipties, etc..), Power supply, Hard Drive, Optical Drive. Once I've got those, I get a motherboard/processor combo, which will then dictate the type of memory to get. Then get the memory and OEM of whatever OS you want. As for brands, use QUALITY components, and you'll be happy in the long run....

    Motherboards - Asus or MSI
    Processors - I always use AMD, but its strictly preference, Intel makes good stuff to. I also always get the retail CPUs, because they come w/ what is usually a very good, quiet AMD fan.
    Optical Drives - Lite ON
    Case/Power supplies - Antec
    Hard Drives - Western Digital or Seagate
    Memory - Kingston or Crucial
    Video Card - Nvidia

    From the sounds of it, your needs aren't really all that big, so meeting your budge shouldn't be to big of an issue..

  3. IndyGunFreak


    Jan 26, 2001
    and just cuz I'm bored..

    Case and Motherboard --- $105 (the power supply with this kit looks like junk, so I'd remove it and get a quality one, see below)

    CPU -- $135

    Optical Drive -- $25

    Hard Drive-- $80

    4 Gigs of Ram -- $60

    Power Supply -- $79

    Video Card -- $80

    Vista Home Premium OEM -- $100

    Now if my math isn't nanners because its 6am, thats $665, probably another $30 in shipping if you order separate, etc. You won't save a ton building anymore, not w/ OEMs as cheap as they are, but you get a way better PC for your money than if you went w/ an OEM.

    This link might be helpful for the actual build process, but if you have the mental capacity to turn a screwdriver, you shouldn't have to much of a problem.

    Hope that helps..

  4. d3athp3nguin


    Aug 7, 2007
    While I'm always supportive of those who want a self-built machine, desktop hardware has become standardized enough that general consumer brands are very appealing for everyday computing. There is less of a difference hardware-wise among brands (heck, most of them are owned by the same company!) You could get a respectable multi-core machine from Gateway, HP etc. for a great price.

    Here's what I got as a general-purpose PC with gaming potential (if I add a 3d card):

    I found the rig on Newegg, but it was available at BestBuy. Yes it's about a year old, but so far it has been able to handle everything I've thrown at it. The video card is the slowest component when playing modern games. PCs like the one above also come standard with USB ports in front and back, onboard surround sound, as well as a universal memory card reader in the front. Those little extra goodies sweeten the deal if you want a swiss-army PC without hunting for components.

    Or you could kick it up a notch with a newer model:

    If you wanted a GAMING rig, I would say built it yourself.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2008
  5. silentpoet


    Jan 11, 2007
    This Old Caddy
    Always buy a good power supply. Not the dusty one on the used rack at your local shop. And like Tim Allen always says "More Power." Go for the most power you can afford. It gives you room for future upgrades to video cards and CPU.
  6. mace85

    mace85 NRA GOA USPSA

    Mar 22, 2005
    Thanks alot guys. I will have to look into the components. The actual building I am confident I should be able to handle. It's just that I don't really know crap about components.
  7. jilverthor


    Apr 11, 2004
    Parker, CO
    One piece of advice I would have is to think about where you want to place the computer. If it is going to be tucked back into a closet someplace and really just be a media server then it would be good to go for a large full tower case so you can expand and add hard drives as needed. If on the other hand you plan to keep it right next to your TV and treat it like a stereo component, then you will want a case that looks very classy and is silent. In that case you can go for things like passively cooled graphics cards, isolated hard drives, and larger slower turning fans.

    Also, I will reiterate the advice of getting a good power supply. A crummy power supply can ruin an otherwise good system.

  8. jwb


    Sep 10, 2001
    Latest issue of Computer Shopper has a good article about assembly. Lots of good info.

    One of the ZDnet bloggers has a number of posts about selecting, assembling components to build a computer. Recently, he posted specs (and prices)on building a cheap home system good for around $150.

    First thing you need to do is decide just what you want it to be able to do. In many ways, you can build real cheap if you don't need to run heavy duty things like games and graphic processing. For media storage NAS (network attached storage), you might get away recycling an older machine with some upgrades.

    Lots of info and help readily available on the internet.

    Good luck
  9. No Frills McGee

    No Frills McGee He bites

    Aug 29, 2008
    NE ohio
    dont buy components online. Where i used to live there was a small humble computer shop up the street. With the way the economy is.. people are willing to take losses. He installed stuff on my comp for free, and sold me stuff at extreme discount. For example, i got vista home premium off him for 40 bucks. Internet purchases can be good.. but the right deal face to face crushes them.
  10. Big Al 24

    Big Al 24

    Apr 23, 2008
    I would definitely get a good quality power supply that is rated higher than you need so it won't be noisy in your media PC. Here is a list of quality manufacturers, remember quality parts can be had cheaply because well known names aren't guarantees of quality in the PC world.

    Another thing to consider is that larger or more hard drives may be in order for a media PC. Stored movies, music, tv recordings can add up quickly.

    Newegg and ZipZoomFly are both great online retailers. Everyone has bad experiences but the savings from that "shop up the street" can be astronomical. When I built the computer I'm typing on now, I had to run to the shop to get a cpu fan. If I had bought the components in that shop instead of at the egg, I would've paid about $600 more.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2008
  11. Razrbk444

    Razrbk444 Sumthin' Witty Silver Member

    Jul 22, 2006
    NE Arkansas
    Indy and I have similar taste in building PC's I see. I have been building my own and for several friends for the last 10 years. My current setup is not the biggest or baddest, but it works very well for multimedia and gaming.

    CPU: AMD X2 6000+ 3.1 ghz.
    Motherboard: MSI K9N SLI Platinum
    Ram: 4gb Kingston PC2 6400
    Video: MSI Nvidia 8800GT 512mb
    Sound: Audigy 2 ZS
    Hard Drive: 320gb 16mb Seagate SATA II
    Hard drive: 80gb 8mb Western Digital IDE
    Hard Drive: 160gb 8mb Western Digital External
    PSU: Antec Smart Power 2.0 500 watt
    Optical: HP DVD+RW Dual Layer w/Lightscribe
    Keyboard: Logitech G11
    Mouse: Logitech MX 518
    Display: ACER 22" AL2216W
    Display: Acer 20" AL2016W
    Triple Booting: Windows Vista Home Premium/Windows XP Pro/Linux Ubuntu 8.4
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2008
  12. IndyGunFreak


    Jan 26, 2001
    Copycat :)

    My main PC has dual Acer screens also, but both are 19in
  13. Big Al 24

    Big Al 24

    Apr 23, 2008
    I had to bail on AMD and ATI (when they were separate entities) 2 years ago when I built mine when the Core 2 Duo's started getting popular along with the Nvidia 8 Series. I'm not sure what I'll go to next once I farm this hardware over to the wife's rig and buy new stuff. I've been buildin' my own since I was 15 years old (17 years ago) and I did a little time at Microsoft and ADP.

    EVGA 680i SLI AR
    e6600 @ 3.4 Ghz
    2gb Dominator 6400C4d
    EVGA 8800 GTS
    OCZ 700w Gamestream
    1 WD Raptor X 150gb WIN XP Pro x32/ Vista x64 Ultimate/ Linux Changed Frequently
    2 Seagate 120 gb SATA 7200 rpm RAID 0
    Lian-Li PC-V2000
    Gateway FPD2185w
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2008
  14. mitchshrader

    mitchshrader Deceased

    Jun 14, 2005
    stick to XP pro and get better performance per dollar.. better performance period if you tweak it to remove stupid stuff.

    the first list of components is dead solid perfect.. they all work. i'd use exactly that list.. and my 5 machines agree with me.. except I'd put Seagate ahead of WD on drive choice, just for the 5 year warranty.. AND I'll mention Patriot ram, it is very good value.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2008

    $519 + 24.99 3 day shipping.

    Brand Acer
    Series Veriton
    Model VM460-UD4501P
    Recommended Usage Business Desktops & Workstations
    Processor Intel Core 2 Duo E4500(2.2GHz)
    Processor Main Features 64 bit Dual Core Processor
    Cache Per Processor 2MB L2 Cache
    Memory 2GB DDR2
    Hard Drive 160GB SATA 7200RPM
    Optical Drive 1 DVD Super Multi
    Graphics Intel GMA 3100
    Audio Sound card - Integrated
    Ethernet Gigabit LAN
    Keyboard PS/2-style keyboard
    Mouse PS/2-style Mouse
    Operating System Windows XP Professional
    CPU Type Core 2 Duo
    Installed Qty 1
    CPU FSB 800MHz
    CPU Speed E4500(2.20GHz)
    L2 Cache Per CPU 2MB
    CPU Main Features 64 bit Dual Core Processor
    GPU/VPU Type Intel GMA 3100
    Graphics Interface Integrated video
    Memory Capacity 2GB DDR2
    Memory Spec 1GB x 2
    Memory Slots (Available/Total) 0/2
    Maximum Memory Supported 4GB
    Hard Drive
    HD Capacity 160GB
    HD Interface SATA
    HD RPM 7200rpm
    Optical Drive
    Optical Drive Type DVD Super Multi
    Optical Drive Spec Super-Multi drive (DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RAM)
    Audio Chipset Integrated
    LAN Chipset Integrated
    LAN Speed 10/100/1000Mbps
    Front Panel Ports
    Front USB 4
    Front Audio Ports 2
    Back Panel Ports
    LPT 1
    PS/2 2
    Video Ports 1 VGA
    Rear USB 4
    RJ45 1 port
    Rear Audio Ports 6 ports
    PCI Slots (Available/Total) (1/1) PCI Express x16
    (1/1) PCI Express x1
    (2/2) PCI v2.3
  16. Big Al 24

    Big Al 24

    Apr 23, 2008
    +10 on Seagate. I have 5 different Seagate drives that are all running flawlessly in my home and all are out of warranty now.
  17. IndyGunFreak


    Jan 26, 2001
    I've always had very good luck w/ WD drives.. but I've had good luck w/ Seagate to. I generally just get whichever is available in the size I want, and which is cheapest. Never used Patriot ram.

    Generally when I build, I just stick w/ manufacturers, that I've always had sollid luck w/, and my list simply reflects that.... You can probably look at my builds from the past 6-7yrs, and they'll all be very similar, just simply a newer version of that manufacturers product.

  18. tous

    tous GET A ROPE!

    Jan 7, 2001
    Plano, Texas, Republic of
    +1 :thumbsup:

    One thing to keep in mind if you are going to use Linux or Solaris as your operating system

    Be very aware of motherboard chipset (north and south bridges.)
    Often, when the newest gee-whiz boards come out the os software lags behind. The same with video adaptors.

    Best stick with a generation behind the latest and greatest.

    Contemporary Windows software seems to stay pretty current, but I suggest that unless you have a definite need for the bleeding edge chipsets or video adaptors, don't be an early adopter unless you like debugging. :supergrin:
  19. Big Al 24

    Big Al 24

    Apr 23, 2008
    Very true, and your list looks solid. Be cautious not to allow a manufacturer ride on their once good name- 6-7 years is a lifetime in the PC world, and some hardware manufacturers have gotten lazy. Be very wary of online review sites. Anandtech used to be somewhat reliable, now he seems to be owned by Nvidia. The best place for reliable reviews that I have found is another forum...
    Those guys beat the crap out of their hardware in order to prove/disprove manufacturers claims and to get the highest clocks/benchmark scores for bragging rights. There is a guy in their PSU forum (a sub forum of general hardware) named Johnny Guru who tests power supplies and really puts them through their paces. What is often found is that the most popular brands, and most expensive models, are not always the best performers, and I have found this true of other hardware.