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10 things you should do when building a new PC

Building a custom system lets you tailor the components to meet your needs, while holding down the costs. Here are a few things to consider before you get started.

Oftentimes, the only way to get what you really want out of a new computer is to build it yourself. Although there is nothing inherently difficult about building a PC, there are a number of considerations you need to take into account before you begin ordering the parts. This article outlines 10 such considerations.

1: Decide what is really important to you

Even though computer hardware prices have dropped dramatically over the last few years, it is still possible to spend several thousand dollars building a PC. Assuming that you want to keep the total cost reasonable, stop and think about how the computer will be used. This will help you best determine how to allocate your budget. For example, if the computer is going to be used as a gaming machine, you might choose to spend a good part of your budget on a high-end video card or two. On the other hand, if the computer will serve as a virtualization host, you might be better off spending the money on extra memory.

2: Plan for the future

Computers evolve at a feverish pace, and there is no way to future-proof your hardware. The eventual obsolescence of your computer is a sad fact of life, no matter how high end the machine might be today. One thing you can do to help extend the lifespan of your new computer is to purchase a high-end system board. The system board as the one component that arguably limits your computer more than anything else. For example, your system board limits the total amount of memory that can be installed on the computer and dictates the system's CPU architecture. Spending a little bit extra on a system board now might make it easier to upgrade your computer down the road.

3: Don't skimp on the fans

One lesson I have learned the hard way is that heat kills. If a computer gets too hot, the heat can damage the CPU. This can be an issue for almost any PC, but the problem of heat dissipation comes more pronounced on higher-end systems because they generally produce more heat. Consider the problem of heat dissipation when you're designing your new system. Be sure to plan for an adequate number of fans and maybe even some liquid cooling.

4: Determine up front if you will need any extra connectors

While I am on the subject of cooling, I want to mention that it is important to determine up front how you will power the cooling fans. Many of the cooling fans that are available today are designed to attach to a four-pin Molex connector (normally used for powering legacy disk types). However, some of the newer fans use a PWM connector instead. These fans are designed to plug directly into the system board, which can monitor the fan's rotational speed. While this might sound good in theory, system boards have a limited number of fan connectors.

For example, I recently built several new systems. The case I used had four fans installed, but my system board had connectors for only three fans (plus the CPU fan). As a result, I had to order an adapter for each machine that would allow me to plug the fan into a disk power connector.

5: Perform periodic maintenance

As previously mentioned, higher-end systems need plenty of fans to keep the internal components cool. However, installing lots of fans alone isn't enough. It's also necessary to do some periodic maintenance to make sure that the fans are doing their jobs.

To give you a more concrete example, I have a fairly high-end PC that has nine case fans. The problem is that the computer sits underneath my desk, relatively obscured from sight. A few months ago, the computer's air intake became clogged with dust. This prevented the nine fans from moving enough air, and the computer overheated as a result. My failure to keep the air intake clean resulted in having to purchase a new processor.

As a side note, it is also a good idea to periodically make sure that the fans installed in your new computer are actually working. Many of the case fans on the market are cheaply made and sometimes stop working.

6: Choose power supplies carefully

When picking out a power supply for your new computer, you should first make sure that the power supply delivers adequate wattage to power the computer. Unlike the days of old, however, wattage should not be your only consideration.

You also need to consider the types of connectors provided by the power supply. A basic, low-end PC will probably be fine using a power supply that provides only system board and disk connectors. But higher-end systems may require that certain components be powered directly by the power supply. For example, some AMD video cards require a 850 watt (or higher) power supply with two 150 watt eight-pin and two 75 watt six-pin PCI Express power connectors.

Another concern with regard to your power supply is the length of the power cables. If you 're building the PC in a large, full-tower case, you may find that some disk power cables are simply too short to reach all of the drive bays.

7: Shop around for the best price on memory

When I was shopping for parts to build my latest PC, I noticed that memory prices were all over the place. I compared prices with three online vendors and found that one vendor's price for memory was double that of the lowest-priced vendor for exactly the same product. It goes without saying that different vendors will often have different prices, but I was really surprised by just how drastic the price differences were for memory.

8: Don't buy more case than you need

When building a computer, it can be tempting to spend a few extra bucks and get a case that is flashy and eye-catching. Sometimes, though, the higher-end cases could end up being overkill. For example, I recently found a case that had 15 Internal drive bays. But a case like that would seriously been overkill since I was planning to install only six drives.

9: Verify that your case has the appropriate USB headers

When picking out a case, you should also make sure that it has the appropriate USB headers. Most of the newer system boards have a connection for USB 3.0 headers. The physical design of this port prevents the connection of USB 2.0 headers. So it's important to look for a case that fully supports USB 3.0.

10: Have a plan for cable management

Finally, make sure that you have a plan for cable management. The more components you install in a computer, the more cables you'll generally have to deal with. For instance, every drive requires a data cable and a power cable, and you might also need power cables for things like case fans and video cards. All those cables can get messy -- and a clutter of cables can restrict airflow through the case, resulting in excessive heat. Develop a plan for keeping the cables neat and tidy before you start building.

See also: 10 things to consider when building your own PC

Other tips?

What else is on your list of considerations for building a PC? Share your advice and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

61 comments
elbori77
elbori77

Well I think that the information given in this post is really good. It doesn't say complete guide in how to build a PC. It say 10 things you should do when building a new PC. The post is a headstart for those who just know nothing or a little bit. http://custompcshop.net

jjackson34
jjackson34

I have built countless numbers of computers over the years working in the IT field. It is really not that hard to do once you have an idea of what each part is doing inside your case and get a good idea of what you are getting yourself into. I have put together a guide on my website, The PC Build Guide it teaches you step by step how to build a computer.

replytoaghar
replytoaghar

I sent the author a private message & posted it here. Don't you think he should reply by now??

leahloughran
leahloughran

I recently built my first PC and I really didn't think ahead about cable management. By the time I had everything installed in the case, I was way too eager to get the machine running to go back and route the cables properly. I'll have to open it up sometime soon and fix that. :L My build is based around a six core AMD processor & I'm very happy with it! If anyone is curious about the rest of my build, it's posted @ http://leleah.com/pc-building-for-dummies/

replytoaghar
replytoaghar

Dear Mr. Brian, I was reading your article "10 things you should do when buying a Building a New PC" and, something struck me. You said in one of your steps: "9: Verify that your case has the appropriate USB headers When picking out a case, you should also make sure that it has the appropriate USB headers. Most of the newer system boards have a connection for USB 3.0 headers. The physical design of this port prevents the connection of USB 2.0 headers. So it’s important to look for a case that fully supports USB 3.0." I have an old Thermaltake Element V case which only supports USB 2.0 headers. I went for an upgrade from an X58 MB to a newer MB "Intel DX79SI". It has the USB 3.0 headers but my case doesn't. Hence, I thought that I will connect only the USB 2.0 headers & leave the USB 3.0 headers/pins unattached to anything. Point is, my USB hub on the case which only supports 2.0 is not working, eventhough that I have checked multiple times it was connected properly. If I plug a thumb drive a message will pop up saying that it had some sort of 'Power Surge....' & wont work. If I plug a mouse, keyboard it says installing drivers but nothing happens. The rear USB panels are FULLY functional. Do I understand from what you have said that I won't be able to attach the USB 2.0 case hub, while leaving the pins of the USB 3.0 alone?? Do I understand from what you have said that the since the Mobo support USB 3.0 I won't be able to use my USB 2.0 case hub?? Please note that USB 2.0 & 3.0 have different pins to be attached to the case. I'm really sorry if I sound redundant but I just wanted to make everything clear. I have been working for days on my new machine & everything is working smoothly except the front headers of the motherboard. Nonetheless, they worked perfectly on my old MB "X58" which only supports 2.0 USB. Sin yours

myangeldust
myangeldust

DON'T DO IT! Only build your own PC if you have a special need in mind: vehicle installation, home theater PC (or similarly rare form factor), or some kind of experiment where you don't want use your own PC. Otherwise, buy a turn-key unit at the store or a custom-spec'd unit online.

netadmin
netadmin

The best thing I did with my last PC build was add a hot swap SATA drive bay. It lets me add SATA drives to the PC without having to open caddy's or dig up a USB drive dock. Just slide the drive and away you go. Having a proper hot swap port on the mainboard (asus in this case) this helps immensely with not crashing, rebooting or hanging between HDD changes.

jmetz
jmetz

Know what the intended usage is! Don't build a high end accounting system, if you need a quality graphics machine. Match the components, their speed and memory speeds with the intended results know what the software is going to need and plan for it. Use the right kind of cooling fans are nice but water or thermocouples may be the best answer for the intended usage. Power supplies are important but if the circuit you are plugging into is a standard outlet ( 1 of 12 ) with a washing machine and hair dryer as well as the kitchen microwave on that circuit your system is in trouble from the gitgo ! A dedicated single circuit should be installed for that super system! You can be in trouble long after you think the job is done, if you skip that part of the service.. Computers need to have the right amount of power, clean power and the correct uninterrupted back up power supply for efficiency of Super high end machines need EEC memory if you are dependent of the quality of the output don't take a chance, no matter how small of corrupted data Build in your redundancy up front, the right raid configuration, combined with a good usb3 external drive and the 1 in a million disaster can be avoided.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Assemble everything on the bench before fitting to the case and test. I've lost count of the number of times components have arrived [b]DOA.[/b] It's always easier to test before you make a series of parts into 1 assembly. ;) Col

TrueDinosaur
TrueDinosaur

I reuse the cases. I build the new PC using one of these. http://www.highspeedpc.com/ I get the new one running with a new boot HD or SSD on the bench. Always have an extra DVD player around to hook up the the new mobo on the bench. Install all my software while system is on the bench. This is normally the longest part of the project! And this way if I get tired I still have the old working system in the case. When all is ready it is a matter of swapping out mobo and boot drive. All my data is on other physical drives that stay in the old case. In a couple of hours I am up and running with a new system in the old box. My latest setup includes the Intel liquid cooling solution and a case with 3 6" fans. Very quiet!

jd_lark
jd_lark

After considerable research I decided on an Asus X79 motherboard. I needed a fast machine for video editing, but not necessarily blazing fast graphics. I naively assumed that I could just use the integrated graphics on the motherboard. Wrong! The X79 does not have integrated graphics. In retrospect, this makes sense, since the X79 is aimed at the gamer market, and no self respecting gamer would even consider using integrated graphics. Unfortunately, it's not easy to find out what a board does not do, at least not at the vendor's website., After the fact, I did a search which led me to a Tiger Direct page which specifically states that the X79 has no intetgrated graphics Live and learn. I'm now the proud ownner of a mid-level GPU..

paradisewebdesigntx
paradisewebdesigntx

Maybe this will show up this time. I am considering building HTPC, but it seems that more reasonable price would be purchase barebones PC, add SSD, RAM, and use current NAS for primary storage. Problem I see is no Tuner/Input to transfer current programs from DVR I am getting rid of (cutting cord)

nick
nick

Note that this is an Australian perspective. For a bog standard mini tower PC putting it together is not much more difficult than buying and assembling Lego. If you want specialist gaming or "whatevering" PCs then you do need to put a lot of thought into it. IN OZ the unfortunate thing is that you build for pleasure not profit. You can buy the same core components in a system, pre built, and cheaper, at your local computer faire. Bummer. My main point is that most of the above comments are adding too much complexity to a simple problem. I have been building tower pc's for years. I have knowledge.

john.hollenberg
john.hollenberg

once a year, i'll bring out all the hardware and clean all the computers with an airgun connected to a compressor. inside and outside. You be suprised how much dust, and parts from yourself, will be everywhere on the motherboard and near the fans. I had computers for repair where all the habbits of the owners came together in one computer. dust, smoke, grease etc.

Kevin McClelland
Kevin McClelland

[i]For example, some AMD video cards require a 850 watt (or higher) power supply with two 150 watt eight-pin and two 75 watt six-pin PCI Express power connectors.[/i] Could I see pics and spec of this card that requires 2x8 AND 2x6 power connectors and a minimum 850w power supply? The power hungry 6990 wants 750w minimum and only 2x8 pin connectors. For someone who has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects one would assume that the information given on an article on Techrepublic is accurate.

jk2001
jk2001

I got this great tool called the Kill-A-Watt wattmeter. It'll tell you how much power the computer is using. It turns out that my Athlon II X4 with 4Gigs and one hard disk uses 130 Watts, so the 400 W power supply was overkill. 250 would have been fine. For dust, I found that a small wet-dry vac I got from Sears is the best thing ever. It's powerful, and cleaning out the case is easy. To blow the dust out of the CPU's heatsink, I attach the hose to the air outlet, and then blow into the CPU, right through the fan (which will whirr). The dust flies out - so do this outdoors or in the garage. (and unplug the computer, of course) It's also useful in vacuum mode, to vacuum up the dustballs. Because it's a wet-dry, it's pretty easy to recover small parts that get sucked into it.

jk2001
jk2001

If you want to experience several months to a year of BSODs or lockups, buy the latest and greatest. If you want stability, you should buy older boards, because the software has been (ahem) adjusted to avoid the hardware problems. Surprisingly, you can find motherboards a year or more after they've been introduced. Also, things like memory incompatibilities get worked out, or at least they will have a better list of memory that's been tested. The manufacturers will always push the latest, but you can find all kinds of product in the market.

maszsam
maszsam

Ran my own shop for years. Lost count of how many from scratch customs I've done for myself and customers. I don't just give away valuable information any more but I will say that I don't see key concepts covered here and nothing aproaching what I would consider a complete guide. Some tips: Dont go for cutting edge components. Stick with proven gear. Been building computers since 1996. Every time I tried the cutting edge, I was the one who wound up doing the bleeding. If your build doesn't work and you have tried everyting you can think of, you probably have more than one issue causing failure. Just because a part is brand new, doesn't mean its good. Don't force any parts together. Some might be a bit tight so its really a judgement call: Sorry but no subsitute for experience. And a final buzz kill: Just because two components should work together doesn't mean they will. If you don't really know your hardware, be perparied to pay for your education. Large companies like HP, Dell, Sony, you name it, even Apple, build limited varities of each type. My experience suggests that this is probably due to how many iterations of parts that are built that don't live up to specs. They do R&D find what works consistently and order a batch of them or order a batch of them and test them and then build, but plan on a failure rate. Name a part and a brand and I've had to return a dead one to a vendor that just sold it to me. Bottom line: Building your own gear to get just the results you are looking for is like any other thing worth doing. It takes time, effort and resources to get good at.

willcomp
willcomp

Ensure that all your selected components are compatible. That is especially true with new CPUs. Check mobo specs and see if it supports the CPU you have selected and what BIOS revision is required. It can be difficult to order a specific BIOS revision from most mail order vendors. The mobo manufacturer's QVL is helpful, but it is not all inclusive. Odds are that many other memory modules are compatible but are not listed. Unless you are building a high end gaming machine, a single 12 cm. rear mounted fan will probably be sufficient. A front mounted intake fan blowing over the hard disks may prolong hard disk life.

martymoose009
martymoose009

These are at the top of my list. With Point 3, in my experience cooling is most important for Hard Drive and Video Card (if you go accelerated), not so much CPU. However, the cooler you keep a modern CPU, the more speed you will get due to the fact the CPU's are built to slow down when overheated. The first Server I built had cooling fans everywhere due to a very hot RAID array it housed. When I left the job, the replacement tech failed to replace one of those fans when it died. Two months later, the Hard Drives started to die. Same with accelerated video cards. These don't last long hot. I5 and I7 CPU's also fail early when run hot due to their on die Video Driver - this is a relatively new consideration. The case: Go for the biggest you can get away with - once again for cooling. However, if you are on a budget, stick to a smaller, more rigid case rather than a cheap big case with heaps of flex. Better to have a smaller, more rigid case with more fans than a big, poorly built case. I have seen many motherboards fail early due to case flex. Power: This really is the heart of the computer, try not to skimp here or the computer will be unstable not long after build. If you live in an area with bad power delivery (such as the Gold Coast, Australia), invest in an online UPS that is big enough to cope with the computer and the screen. This will further enhance your stability. Memory: If stability is a big factor, ALWAYS use ECC memory. Better to have 16Gb of ECC than 32Gb of non ECC if stability is key to your build.

sharmaniac
sharmaniac

'A few months ago, the computer’s air intake became clogged with dust. This prevented the nine fans from moving enough air, and the computer overheated as a result. My failure to keep the air intake clean resulted in having to purchase a new processor.' Pretty much every PC out there (and for the last few years) has thermal protection. You will NOT destroy your processor by overheating it, it will simply throttle itself. How about sticking to the truth, rather than making stuff up to get your points home...

breathe
breathe

Enjoyed reading your "10 things" article on BYO PC. I've built several and one of the major irritants I've always struggled with is the inherent noisiness of systems with lots of fans. There are actually some really cool (pun intended) things you can do to minimize the number of fans needed so you can keep your noise levels really low (my system is at 40dB - the only fan is for the power supply). Everything else if passively cooled with copper heat pipe and fins and so there is no high-pitched whine or low-level whirring sounds. The only way you know it's running is the soft blue light on the front panel. If you want to take up the challenge of building a silent PC, check out http://www.silentpcreview.com/ Cheers Robb

ElButcho
ElButcho

What Igmo has nine case fans, puts his machine on the floor where all the dust is, doesn't keep it clean and doesn't program the system to shut down when the proc gets too hot? Newbie.

MusicRab
MusicRab

...backups. Or perhaps that's too obvious? I wouldn't worry about the case size provided it meets requirements (performance and cost).

rtroy56
rtroy56

The case is a very important issue. If you have the room, going a bit oversize can be a very good thing. I have a couple older desktops where it is very hard to get to anything because everything is very squeezed. My Corsair 600T has lots of open space, routes most cables out of site UNDER the mobo, is amazingly easy to work in and stays nice and cool inside. \ A mobo consideration; as soon as you buy one, Intel will likely make it obsolete by coming up with its latest chips in a different form factor. If the CPU you are now buying is from an old line of CPU's, the mobo will quickly become obsolete; though that is even a risk for newer CPU lines. PSU's are very important - not just the total official power output, but their quality. I have a 'gold' 800 or so, that really puts out its rated output power. But what's really nice is that when the system isn't doing much, it consumes far less power then you might expect (about 100 watts idling with 16gb, 2hd's, an AMD video card, and an I7 CPU). Also, my psu does not have most of the power output cables permanently attached, making the inside of the case far less crowded.

cayeaj
cayeaj

I can't believe this has not been mentioned yet. One of the most important rules when building a PC is to consult the motherboard manufacturer's website and look at the QVL. The Qualified Vendor List is a running list of current memory makes and models that have been successfully tested with the motherboard you are planning on buying. Some memory will only work in a single DIMM or double DIMM configuration. If you are planning on filling all 4 DIMM slots to your desktop motherboard, I would STRONGLY suggest reading the QVL on the manufacturer's website BEFORE ordering memory. Not following this guideline could cause you many months of headaches down the road of troubleshooting "flash player crashes" or BSOD's that really have nothing to do with the OS or the software, but came down to the wrong memory for the board. Just because the frequency and latency may match up, does not mean it will work successfully. If you are an expert, perhaps you will be able to tweak DRAM config enough to make it stable. Then again, if you are an expert then you already read the QVL before ordering the memory. DRAM tweaking should only be used to boost performance and should not have to be tweaked just to make the system work correctly.

cwolken
cwolken

If possible, set an alarm for over temperature in the CMOS or an auxiliary control/sensor.

Dakota100
Dakota100

Some case manufacturers have gone a bit overboard with fan openings. It's not necessarily helpful. A friend recently bought brought his new PC to me so I could install some additional software. The PC was in a mid-tower case with large openings on the top and the side cover. The openings could each accommodate a single 140mm fan or two 120mm fans but there was no way to mount fans without leaving a significant part of the opening unblocked. No fans were equipped in the openings. The front bezel is equipped with a dust filter as is an opening under the power supply. Here are some of the other details: micro-ATX MB with NVIDIA 7025/630a chipset 2 X 4GB RAM AMD FX quad-core CPU w/fan AMD 6670 1GB graphics card w/fan 500GB HDD Bottom mounted 480W PSU w/80mm fan 120mm rear exhaust fan The PC's cooling needs are modest but the extra case openings would not direct airflow where it was most needed or prevent dust from entering the case. I ended up covering the top and side openings with textured ABS plastic sheeting cut to fit. The airflow is now front-to-back with the extra openings blocked and there is less dust entering the case.

JimBobHarris
JimBobHarris

Sounds like an article thrown together and when 10 paragraphs could be fashioned, hit Send. For example, here is what can be readily provided on just one of the topics mentioned to make it much more useful: The importance of airflow as opposed to "quantity of fans" is not even mentioned. Airflow should be _designed_, and implemented, to keep all components well within their comfort range, and with only the quietest fans that achieve that primary goal. Air should be drawn in (_perhaps_ helped by an "intake" fan) near components like CPUs, hard drives and video cards, and exhausted near the top of the case (assuming a "tower" style of case) through the power supply and perhaps through another fan mounted against the power supply exhaust port to help the fans inside the power supply. (Who thought it was a good idea to make cases that mount the power supply in the bottom?) The power supply should be high-efficiency and rated for enough output for the intended system and reasonable potential expansions, and not a whole lot more. Explain why, and relate it to lifecycle cost, considering electricity usage. Vents that would admit air that would not follow a useful path (for example, into the case through unused fan-installation locations, and right back out through the fan in the next location) should actually be blocked. In addition, care needs to be taken to prevent having so many fans trying to exhaust warm air that the fan(s) in and for the power supply are inadequate to pull the desired amount of air through it and out of the case, because all those other fans are trying to suck air in through any available opening, including backwards through the power supply, thus impeding its fan(s). Hard disk drives (HDDs, including solid-state drives) should not be mounted in adjacent HDD slots, so good airflow goes through the spaces between them. Finally, as in any other "development" activity, measuring the results of actions taken is an essential step to be repeated after each change: Add a fan and measure the airflow. Repeat _only_ until desired airflow (and, hopefully, component temperatures based on actual device internal temperature reports under various test conditions) is achieved. Temperature data is readily available from modern components and displayable with several free utilities. Especially for high-end systems, which are valuable and produce more heat, additional temperature-monitoring stuff, possibly with alarms and shutdown capabilities, can be implemented. Show us how to do all of these steps. Show us pictures of cables that block airflow and cause hot spots; explain why; then show pictures of how to avoid that. This is just one of the “ten” topics in the original article; each of them should be developed much more in order to be really useful. I hope this helps. Jim-MN - end -

spdrcrtob
spdrcrtob

I've seen most mid range and high end require a 550, not a 850 Watt. Eventhough an 850 Watt with a high end card is about what you need if running a gaming PC. Maybe this should be restated better.

tech
tech

What is important is that the fans are of a high quality and that the both bring in and exhaust air at the same rate so you don't end up with negative, or positive pressure that actually impedes air flow. You don't need 8 or 10 case fans, virtually any case can do quite well with no more than 6 total fans. Power Supply Fan, CPU Fan, GPU Fan, HD Cooling fan, Air Intake, and Exhaust. More fans does not mean better cooling it means more mixed air and a louder machine. I have seen cases set up with all fans exhausting which results in poor air flow especially across the CPU and graphics cards. You need air flow, generally front to back (CPUs and graphics cards generally create the most heat) and bottom to top (Hot air rises after all). If you have your intake at the top and try to exhaust from the bottom front of the case it will not work well at all. I have been building high end gaming and video editing computers for 20+ years I have NEVER had a CPU fail due to heat (except if the CPU fan fails AND the Heatsink is either not properly sized or clogged with dust / dirt.

jmouse888
jmouse888

This should be on top of the list, even if you know what you are doing.

dregeh
dregeh

I recently bought a cool case for my new pc build. The wow factor on this case was the number, type and style of drives it could support (4 open bays, 4 SSD slots, 2 SATA slots, and 2 hot swappable SATA slots). Unfortunately, once it was all delivered, I found that the number of SATA3 ports on my motherboard was less than the number I needed. Now I have to purchase another pci card just to be able to connect all of the hard drives, SSDs, DVD drive, etc. I'm new to building PCs from the ground up, so while I thought I'd crossed all my t's and dotted all the i's, I still missed this rather obvious caution.

1DaveN
1DaveN

In addition to the factors mentioned, it's important to buy a good quality power supply. Since the power supply affects every other part of the PC, a poor quality one can invite the premature failure of other components.

Dakota100
Dakota100

You're right that manufacturers and vendors typically don't list the functions that their devices don't have. Such a list might be very long indeed. You may wish to make a checklist to be sure you've got everything you need. Once I've pared down my motherboard choices at vendor sites, I visit the manufacturer's site. I looked at your motherboards specs before replying to your comment. The Asus X79 specifications tab lists the output connections. No graphics output is listed. There's also an image of the I/O panel. (You have to click it to make it large enough to view.) No output connection is shown. If graphics capability was on the checklist, the lack of a connection might have caught your eye. After reading the features and specs, I download the manual and read it. I recently missed a desired feature that wasn't in the manual when a friend asked my advice about a PC he wanted to buy. I recommended it because it met his needs. However, when I checked the manual for BIOS options, I didn't notice that the MB didn't support the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) option. After using his new PC for a few months, he asked me about adding a solid state drive. Without AHCI, SSDs are not recommended. D'oh! I've belatedly added ACHI to my motherboard checklist. He's happy with his PC for now. The other components include an AMD FX quad core CPU, 8GB of DDR3, an AMD 6670 graphics card, a 500GB SATA III HDD, a DVD burner, a 550W PSU, and a nice mid-tower case. I recommended that he replace the MB in a year or two. His current microATX MB doesn't support SATA III or USB 3.0. There's room in the case for a mini or standard ATX MB so an upgrade should be an easy task. He'll get AHCI, USB 3.0 , his HDD will be able to take advantage of the SATA III feature, and he'll be able to expand his RAM to 16GB by adding two more 4GB cards. (His current MB has only two RAM slots.) Prices will have dropped by then so it will be a win-win.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

There are a lot of permutations, interactions and just plain weird. A) Memory - Bus/Speed/Capacity B) Processor - Socket/Family Type/Thermal C) I/O Cards - Bus/Speed/Physical arrangement/IRQ/Thermal D) Storage - Bus/Speed/Physical arrangement/Thermal/Interface type E) Power - Type/Capacity/Physical arrangement On the weird side I had to troubleshoot a stability problem with a brand new custom job and the installer did not tighten all the screws down securing MB to ATX chassis. My assumption was this introduced noise into the ground plane on the MB because as soon as I secured everything the critter was good as gold. I also had a computer that would refuse to boot to the OS when an IEEE 1394 card was added. Had to disable PCI SEER in BIOS to prevent the card from not reporting all was well wrt bus parity.

tech
tech

Power Supplies have to supply power at several voltages, and the wattage available at each voltage has to be above PEAK actual needs by at least 20% for stable operation. Most modern ATX Power Supplies need to provide +12V, +5V, +3.3, -12V and perhaps -5V as well. Each of these may be provided by one or more "Rails" and if the rated amperage of any rail is exceeded the voltage will drop. So your 400W power supply may provide plenty of power on the 12V rail, but fall short on the +5 or +3.3 V rails. Things like fans and hard drives may pull 2 or 3 times more than their running amperage during startup, if that is exceeded the systems gets low voltage for that power rail and either shuts down or behaves erratically. A good example of this is a system that was recently brought to me which would not start the first time you turned it on, You would get a BIOS beep code for Video Failure. The problem was a power supply, that did not provide quite enough power on the +5V rail. By turning the system on, then after the BIOS error resetting the system, it would start normally. The point is, you need to use a power supply that is approved for your processor / motherboard combination, or you need to have a complete understanding of power supply in order to choose a power supply that will work properly with your system. I would not use a shop vac the combination of materials and design could well result in static discharge. Canned air is your best bet. Also not a good idea to blow 'right through the fan (which will whirr). This can cause dirt to be blown into the bearings of cheap fans and shorten their life.

HaydnWVN
HaydnWVN

The majority of vacuum's will create static which will short your components - EVEN WITH THE PC OFF.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

[i]Don't force any parts together[/i] About 15 years ago was working on a Novell server upgrade and one of our new techs was watching me. I still recall being startled when he made the comment [i]you are awfully gentle with that aren't you?[/i] Mind you he used to do hard drive repair for Wang.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

worse than useless through various thermal events. In the case of "throttling" that would be a function of the motherboard chipset supplying clock signals to the processor. Those can be overridden, that's why I don't overclock. The CPU itself will trip the equivalent of a circuit breaker to the clock input during a thermal event (HALT state), but more often than not you've already done the damage when that event triggers internally. And by worse than useless I'm talking about transistor failures on the die that don't render the CPU inoperative. Just unreliable... ADDENDUM: I thought Speedstep was only for mobile products, a majority of desktop processors support them too. Thus you are correct and I am behind wrt modern intel CPU's! A little more research shows you can disable it tho... So it's still very possible to damage your CPU thermally through BIOS settings.

john.hollenberg
john.hollenberg

i had bought motherboards and memory what was not compatible: results: lots of instabilitie and frustration. always buy ram drom the QVL list. very important!!

Worth2Cents
Worth2Cents

Don't get me wrong...your points are right on the money, if you are talking to people who were super-serious about building championship rigs. But the article struck me as geared toward someone who is just starting out or is still learning. (Many of these articles seem to be for endusers who want to know just enough to be dangerous.) If I was a driveway mechanic, simply trying to get more life out of the family car, advice from Autozone would be very helpful. But to a NASCAR engineer, that Autozone guy wouldn't have a clue.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Specialized CUDA hardware simulation boxes will load as many Nvidia cards as possible. An upscale gaming system using Crossfire or SLI + PhysX could have a minimum of two maximum of four cards @ 300W per card... TDP implies very good air or liquid cooling in those types of situations!

jk2001
jk2001

If you snag a free case, check out the power supply. They often have terrible Bestec power supplies. If you have a scope, you might be able to test the power and see if it's smooth. I've heard stories of cheap power supplies destroying motherboards.

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

Don't force it -- get a bigger hammer. Years ago, I saw a lady put a 3.5 floppy into the drive upside down, and when it didn't go in, she whacked it with a dictionary.

jk2001
jk2001

If you are into stability, one somewhat expensive approach is to buy faster than what you need, and then underclock a little bit. It's cooler and quieter.

Slayer_
Slayer_

We have gotten to the point that even a current generation mid range card is enough to run modern games at max levels and still get 40-60fps.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I sometimes wonder at the claims of 4GHz+. I'm sure that's what the external clock circuit is pushing, but I wonder if the internal adaptive clock modifiers are really allowing that many cycles. I guess it depends on how much heat you can dissipate off the processor. :)

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Except for the numerical method/simulation folks. They still like to load up on as many DSP/CUDA units as possible! :)