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Building your own.....(computer that is!)

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sawdustalley

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Hello,

I know i've read umpteen posts on this forum about people buying/upgrading computers or laptops. However, just out of interest - there must be a few of us practical and hands-on people who have actually taken the scary plunge and built one up from scratch?

I'm taking that plunge at the moment and I really would reccommend it to anyone with a bit of PC knowledge (and a fast learner!) - Its really not that hard, i'm getting a pretty top-spec machine for the fraction of the cost if I brought it from say Dell or one of the other respectable firms...

When i'm done, these will be the specs:

Processor: Intel Pentium 4 - 3.0 GHz (with hyperthreading)
RAM: 1024 Mb (1 Gb)
Hard drives: 1 x 60gb and 1 x 120gb


All in all, its costing me maybe just short of £450 - I'm positive that a similar spec machine in retail would be over £1k.


So, anyone else want to share their experience? Its a fantastic project (although no wood involved :()
 

Adam

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I've built and hashed together a few PC's, whilst you may be saving a lot of money, for the average person the hadrware configuration and the cost of software, means it's more cost effective to buy one "ready-made".

I trust you have factored in the cost of buying all that licenced software eh? :wink:

Adam
 

blurk99

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The big thing that makes a difference for me when i build computers (i've never bought one in 15 years) is the quality of the case - i've found all other components are pretty much identical... but a nicely built case that doesn't flex, doesn't have appaling finish to the edges, hopefully 'screwless' and with plenty of room for expansion makes all the difference to me

Jim

(ps - FWIW i've always used www.novatech.co.uk for computer spares, every now and then they dump a line of motherboards or graphics cards etc and get rid of them through their clearance bin)
 

Neil

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Adam hit the nail on the head there - it is the price of the software which makes the difference. A shrinkwrap copy of WinXP Pro would add £230 - as Adam said, I trust you have allowed for this cost :wink:

www.ebuyer.com is a good place to get cheap components.

NeilCFD
 

Alan L

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Over the years I have built a dozen or so PC's for friends, family and myself. But the I do work in IT and woodworking is a hobby and great release for what I do for a living.

For my own use I have never found that an off the shelf PC has the exact spec I want plus I get a buzz out of doing it for myself.

I suppose it is the same reason why we build things out of wood. Either we can not find what we want or we want the buzz/satisfaction out of doing it ourselves.

In either case once you have taken the cost of your time into account not sure you save money but that is not the point. Its the :D at the end with a job well done.
 

Signal

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To many to count but then like a several of us here Im in IT so to be expected.

If building your own pc you can get OEM XP which makes considerable savings. Also for a home PC you dont really need pro, not many home users are going to need to connect to a domain.

However the OEM licence restricts the use of the software to that pc alone, ie if you replace the pc and bin the old one, the licence dies with the old pc.

In actual fact you can get an OEM licence if you upgrade the pc with any non peripheral device, that is a new proccessor etc but not a printer or so on.

From oem licence details...

"You receive a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and a CD containing the program on it. This is a legal OEM version of Windows licensed by Microsoft to be sold with any "non-peripheral hardware component" and is bundled as such."

Signal
 
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Anonymous

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James

Well done o nthe latest project. :) Great fun and very rewarding :wink:

Over the years I have problably built 100+ PCs since 1989 - days of DOS and no Windows!!
In the early days the savings were great.

These days, I find that building your own costs MORE than buying a budget PC.

If you look around you will be able to buy a complete 3.0Ghz PC with a monitor, DVD writer and fast graphics card for £450. You might even get a very cheap printer or scanner thrown in too.

Did you include a monitor, case, power supply, good graphics card and sound card + speakers along with a CDROM or DVD drive or burner? in the £450 What about the keyboard, mouse, floppy drive? Also, as others stated,the operating system. Win XP will only install on a single PC due to the product activation that microsoft built in and Win 95, 98, 98Se etc. belong in a museum for rubbish products :wink:

I agree that building your own is fun (I love it) but it is rarely cheaper than purchasing a ready built box or PC bundle these days
 

Signal

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Tony,

yes agre with you there about budget pcs, was going to say that myself but got side tracked with work and forgot to add when I came back to it.

Work always gets in the way dont it ;)

It is fun, it is releatively easy though one other factor that should also be mentiond is support, when it all goes wrong who yah gonna call?

At least with a fully built machine you can fall back on support, if you can get the pippers to answer the phone that is :lol:

DOS, the good old days when men where men and a mouse made you leap onto the table screeching like a wuss :lol:

I still have my original Commodore Pet in the loft, gawd knows why, I just can bring myself to throwing the old gurl out.

Signal
 

woodshavings

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Good grief Signal .... a Commodore Pet ?? thats really taking me back!

What a brilliant machine for its time - had the IEEE Instrumentation bus as standard and I remember hooking it up as a low cost controller.

I seem to remember its Basic language was quite fast (relatively). Oh those were the days with PDP8s, PDP11s, command line interpreters.

>

:D

John
PS Hows the Maxi??
 

Signal

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Yup, zacly what I did and had it controlling my bedroom with loads of MOC3020 Opto isolators and triacs turning the lights on and off and the tv and stereo. Unfortunately there where wires running all over the floor and it all got to much for my mum and she tryed to hover the lot up one day.

Still dont know how she wasnt electrocuted :oops:

Maxi, has to go im afraid, moved now so not in the rented WS anymore, downgraded to single garage and its just to big. Going to get something a little more compact. Shame really cos I did like it and had got it set up and running nicely.

Signal
 

sawdustalley

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Wow - what a response :shock:

Yes, I have brought into consideration about software, I already have a spare copy of XP which won't be a problem.

I know what you're saying about a budget PC being cheaper or the same, I've noticed that several times during my build, however often the quality won't be as good (It may have a Celeron processor for example), when we got our first PC it was a "Time Computer" - Now they may have been cheap, but the amount of time we spent on the phone to them was ludicrous (After about 2 years - they FINALLY fixed the crashing every 20mins problem) which was due to a bad motherboard.

Alot of good companies around, so far i've used www.ebuyer.com , www.overclockers.co.uk (SUPERB delivery - beat screwfix even!) and also i've got a few un-important bits and bobs from Ebay (cheap)!


Also strongly agree with Jim's comments about the case - I only realised that after buying it (luckily I got my hands on a really great case for a good price on ebay).
 

Signal

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yup, i like ebuyer, bought lots of stuff off of them including 6 samsung laptops recently

Signal
 

Charley

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Yes Overclockers are a great company. Sometimes slightly more expensive but the delivery is great.

I have advised James a bit on his new computer so there is a chance it may not work :p

Adam, licenced software? Whats that? :wink: Microsofts Action Pack is a good saver
 
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Anonymous

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Signal":5b01m5sw said:
I still have my original Commodore Pet in the loft, gawd knows why, I just can bring myself to throwing the old gurl out.

Signal
:D

My loft collection has Sinclair ZX81 (1K RAM!!!) - the first and original home computer, Sinclair Spectrum and an Atari 800 :)
 

Martin

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I've build one or two from scratch and upgraded a few as well. The last one was a pre-built purchase.

I very much agree with the price issue - building from scratch yourself is not necessarily cheaper (although substantial upgrades to an existing PC can be), but it depends on what you're building.

The last time I bought ready built because it was cheaper that way (i.e. I wanted a new OS, sound system, monitor, etc. etc.). When your bundling that many components into a pre-built system you definately see savings that you wouldn't get building yourself. I bought from Mesh, primarily because they were open about the components/spec of the PC and allowed me to tailor it (similar to Dell I suppose). That way I got the system I wanted and the components I wanted (within reason).

Next time I'll probably upgrade because I now have several bits in the existing PC that I don't regard as obsolete.

Martin
 

Martin

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Opps, almost forgot - I'd recommend you get a static mat if you're going to be tinkering often with the internals (and definitely if you're building from scratch).

This allows you to protect against static damage which can ruin your components (basically by touching the connectors of any of the components with your fingers runs the risk of damage through the static electricity that is present in us all).

Basically this is a mat with 2 leads - one attaches to a bare metal part of the case to earth you (or some other earth - perhaps a radiator or something) - the other attaches to you through a wrist strap. I normally leave the case plugged in but with the power supply switched off (assuming it has a separate switch) so as to earth it properly.

If you don't want to go to that expense, you can pick up static straps which to the same job (they often come with motherboards etc anyway), but I prefer the mats because they give you something to lay the components on whilst you work...

Martin.
 

sawdustalley

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Thats good advice Martin, i'll have a look - seem's a bit overkill, but I can see where you're coming from.

I've ordered the Motherboard, CPU and RAM (All at once *ouch*) - so they should arrive monday/tuesday YAY! :D

Then I can get it working 8)
 

Martin

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I suppose you could see it as overkill, but static damage is a funny thing - the components seem to work OK for abit and then at some point fail on you.

Even if they are still in warranty I prefer to take the extra precautions (the hassle of having these things fail is not worth risking IMO - and it isn't just the components - memory errors for example have a habit of causing BSODs, and can cause Windows to currupt the system disk - resulting in loss of data and potentially you having to re-install all your software, including the OS....

Just my 2cents...

Cheers,
Martin

PS BSOD = Blue Screen of Death, if you've never come across it. Blue screen with lots of garbage and a message saying that Windows couldn't continue and has therefore stopped your computer...
 

sawdustalley

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Interesting, I will now think twice and ask a few people about this.

Must admit, since i've been using XP - I've had not 1 BSOD :D
 
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Anonymous

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Good advice about static mats - do not leave home without one!

I spent several years on the road repairing HP computer systems and they made sure all their techs were fully aware of static and what it can do. If a tech was seen handling boards without anti-static measures in place he was roasted (by the powers that be, not by the static).

One of the things I remember from those days is some electron microscope photographs of circuit boards that had been hit with static - you can't see that sort of damage without very high power equipment. Basically if you imagine an airport runway that has been strafed by a passing B52 you'll get the general idea. That can cause damage which causes premature failure at some later point in time, so there's not necessarily a direct link between handling sensitive equipment and failure taking place.

One thing I take issue with in previous statements though. What is important is that YOU are at the same potential as the equipment you are working on. If that happens to be earth potential that's fine. But if the equipment happened to be sitting at 10 kilovolts and you wandered in being strapped to earth then sparks will fly. Remember - you have to be at the same potential as the equipment you are working on, forget about being at earth potential because that might be different!

Anti-static measures depend upon something referred to as equipotential bonding (ever wondered what those green and yellow leads connected to the copper pipes are under your kitchen sink?), which means that everything in the vicinity is at the same potential. The difference doesn't have to be very much at all - just a few volts will create a circuit where current can flow, and the current does the damage 'cos it heats everything up.

If in any doubt whatsoever earth yourself to the frame of the PC, never mind whether it's plugged into the mains or not, nor whether it's at earth potential. Do NOT earth yourself to the local mains supply if the PC isn't connected to the mains - because the PC might have become statically charged at a different potential to the mains earth.

And before you remove any boards from the antistatic packaging (the black bags these things are always wrapped in), take the whole shooting match and place it onto the case of the PC before opening the bag. That way any potential difference between the board and the PC (and you...) will be equalised and there's no chance of static.

A good idea for your Christmas present list (it's getting to that time now) is some cotton underwear. Forget the nylon stuff - nylon generates static charge as you squirm in your seat.....alternatively keep to a plan of doing all PC repairs whilst stark naked..... ;)

Andrew
 
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