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a bevy of computer parts on the way

imageSome assume that I, being as technically inclined as I am, think that I have the latest/greatest/bestest computer money could buy.

Wrong.

For the longest time I have been a seriously cheap-ass computer user and have no shame in admitting that. I hate spending money on computer stuff and always have.

How I got to be a cheap-o computer guy is that way back in the day I bought a Compaq Deskpro 6000 5200 (meaning Pentium 200MHz CPU) desktop - a "business" desktop PC. It came loaded with Windows NT 4.0 Workstation. Cost: $2,000. Oh yes, I was the type to put seriously good money into computers back then.

I was so proud of that box - at first. Then I quickly realized that NT 4.0 is a piece of crap as a desktop OS and should have went with Windows 98.

Then I discovered the CPU wasn't MMX-enabled so I couldn't play the latest games on it the way I wanted.

Then I discovered the optical drive that came with it was absolute crap. It was a seriously weird-ass thing. If I recall correctly, it would read normal CDs fine as any other optical drive would, but to write data it needed a special disc had to be put in this cartridge which I think if I'm not mistaken was DVD-RAM. If not it was something similar to it. All I know is that I never bought those writeable discs because they were ridiculously expensive back then.

After that experience I always went cheap or at best slightly-above-cheap and never looked back because I vowed never to get screwed like that again - and never have.

The upgrade

It has now come to the point where, once again, I have to upgrade. My hard drive, a Western Digital 250GB, operates perfectly, but it's almost three-and-a-half years old and been through some seriously heavy use. Hard drives usually don't start going wonky until around the four-year mark if you've been beating the crap out of it, but I'm being better safe than sorry here.

I am currently running Windows 7 in 32-bit because the maximum RAM my motherboard will support is 2GB - and that sucks. That needs to be upgraded so I can go 64. I do have the 64-bit DVD of 7, but can't use it because of my RAM limit.

I bit the bullet and decided to buy just about everything needed for the guts of a new computer.

This is the list of stuff I bought, with a total end price of $348.06, shipping included. I hated spending the money, but my computer is how I make my living so it's not like this was something I could put off. Anyway, here's the list:

Now an explanation of each:

Motherboard

I purposely went with the 775 socket because I'm transferring my existing Core 2 Duo over to it. I also purposely chose this mobo because it has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, so when USB 3.0 stuff starts becoming available, I'll have the ports ready-to-use.

Side note: I'm shocked at how many Intel CPUs this mobo supports; the list is huge. Intel used the LGA 775 socket for a good long time (ever since Pentium 4 505!) and still does with the Core 2 line. That's cool.

Thermal Remover

Since I'm transferring the CPU from one board to another, there's going to be old thermal gunk from when I originally installed it. That needs to be removed proper before installing in the new mobo, otherwise there could be problems. I don't like problems.

DVD Burner

Speaking of problems, my existing DVD drive is flaking out. I swear, I wear out one of these every 9 to 18 months. Doesn't matter how little or how much I spend on an optical drive because it will bust, so I go cheap on purpose since it's going to break anyway in less than two years.

500GB hard drive

I figured as long as I was going to get a new primary HDD that I might as well go for a 500 gig'er. I actually do quite well with my existing 250GB, given its "limited" space. However, it's aging and needs to be relegated to storage-only so the OS can run happier on a new HDD.

Yes, I could have gone with a 1TB. I didn't because I don't need it, and all the reasonably priced HDDs of that size are 5400 RPM and not 7200. In other words, slow. I'm not putting 8 eff'ing gigs of RAM in my box only to have it bottlenecked by a slow HDD. And if you're wondering how much more you need to spend to get a decent 7200 RPM 1TB drive, the answer is around 25 to 35 dollars over the price of a comparable 500. That may not sound like much, but if you read the reviews for a 500GB compared to 1TB drives, you'll notice people have way better luck with the 500s.

Concerning the 2TB drives, it's $180 for a decent 7200 RPM. Nope. Too much. 500 is fine for me, speedy, and priced right.

CPU Cooler

The existing CPU cooler fan I have is the one that came with the CPU originally. As most people who build PCs know, the fan provided is adequate but just barely. The replacement fan is smaller and way, way quieter. It doesn't need to be pretty as long as it works, and I believe the one I bought will fit the bill nicely in that respect.

Power Supply

Based on the reviews for this product, I'm either going to get something that works like it's supposed to with nary a complaint, or it will be total crap. No in between about it. It's either going to be wonderful or suck complete ass.

Then again, almost everybody who wrote a bad review for it was trying to do things with their computer that this PSU simply cannot power properly. This PSU absolutely cannot handle the draw of an overclocked system, nor can it handle high-power stuff like big-ass video cards. If the system is "civilized", not overclocked and doesn't have a bunch of high-draw crap in it, the PSU should work out just fine.

If it turns out the PSU is crap, I'll just return it and get something else. Probably this one, but only if necessary.

8 GIGS OF EFF'ING RAM, BABY

Even though I bought a mobo that supports 16GB RAM, I went with 8 that takes up all the banks. Why? Because I have a low-end Core 2 Duo. Besides which, when the time comes that I need 16GB RAM or more, I'll just buy a whole new computer. 🙂

The RAM is the kingpin of my setup. This is what allows me to go 64-bit properly, and even though it bothered me somewhat to pay what I did for it (133 bucks), last year this would have easily cost well over $200. I paid $16.63 per gig of RAM. It would have been nicer if it were $10 per gig (which it will be in 3rd quarter 2011 most likely), but 16.63 is way lower than it was when at roughly 30 bucks a gig - which was truly not that long ago.

It may sound like a waste to give a Core 2 Duo 8GB RAM, but it isn't. The lack of speed in PCs these days is not the processor's fault anymore and hasn't been for some time. In fact the biggest bottleneck is at the hard drive. That will be (mostly) eliminated when SSDs become affordable for everyone, but that's not going to happen for a while yet.

My stuff arrives tomorrow or Thursday. If it all works out the way I hope it does, having a rebuilt and significantly upgraded box for just under $350 is a good deal. Not the best deal, but it's the best I could do in the current market.

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