The title has been shamelessly stolen from Photodude.
Last July, I was having a lot of trouble with my Dell laptop. So I wanted to backup the data in my hard drive. I went to Fry’s to get an enclosure for the laptop hard disk so I could connect it via USB to my old desktop. There I started looking at computer components. But in the end returned with only the USB enclosure.
By the weekend, I had decided I wanted a new desktop since my old one was almost 8 years old (Pentium III 550MHz) and the laptop was still not working. The good thing is that Fry’s has people who can help you with selecting the appropriate parts for your computer. I do still recommend doing your own research in advance, but they are helpful.
The question that Captain Arrrgh asked was why build one’s own computer. I agree that it is not really cheaper to do that and requires some research and technical know-how. But it is fun. And it gives me an opportunity to wander in Fry’s for hours. Plus I get the exact machine I want.
So here’s what I got:
- Motherboard: Abit IP35E
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6420 because Quad was too expensive and not useful beyond the number crunching software that make use of 4 cores.
- Display card: EVGA e-GeForce 8600GT 256MB
- Memory: 2GB in the form of two Patriot 800MHz 1GB PC2-6400 DDR2 sticks.
- Power supply: Ultra XVS 700W
- DVD Drive: LG 18x DVD Writer GSA-H42L
- Computer Case: Raidmax Katana
- Hard Disks: Western Digital 150GB Raptor, which spins at 10,000 rpm and hence is super-fast, and Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500GB. Both are SATA of course.
- Monitor: Dell 1907FP 19 inch LCD
The hard disk and RAM are in my opinion critical in a computer’s operation, more so than the processor speed. I did not get 4GB since a 32-bit operating system (Windows XP Professional in my case) is limited to about 3.5GB of RAM. Two hard disks, with operating system and programs on one and data on the other, work much better and the Raptor is really fast. My Windows XP boots up so fast I can’t believe it. And Photoshop is also much faster than before.
There was one important factor in selecting the components and that was for the power supply. Not only did I need a power supply with more wattage than required for the components, I also had to check what the current requirements for the individual 5V and 12V rails were.
Assembly was a breeze. The components, especially the processor, need to be handled properly, but that’s it. If you are interested, here are the installation instructions for Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
I ran into a problem while installing Windows and chipset drivers that came with the motherboard. I was getting the dreaded blue screen of death. At first, I suspected the hard disk, but some testing showed it to be a memory problem. Or more accurately a reading problem on my side. The timing settings of the RAM were being read automatically from SPD EEPROM but the voltage setting was not. The motherboard BIOS was defaulting to 1.8V while the memory specifications called for 2.0V. So all I had to do was change that setting manually in the BIOS and it worked perfectly.
It took me a few days to reinstall all the software and get all my data from my old desktop and my laptop.
Later, Michelle demanded a computer of her own, so I gave her my old desktop. Since I didn’t want to buy another copy of Windows, I installed Ubuntu Linux on it. Now I am searching for all kind of programs for young kids for Linux. I installed Debian for Juniors package, GCompris and whatever else I could find on the Ubuntu repositories. My plan is to keep her computer disconnected from the net unless we need to connect for some reason. This will keep all kinds of issues away, I hope.