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Building Your Own PC. David Stillion CS 147 - Computer Architecture Fall, 2004. The Hardest Part…. Choosing your components The Case This choice will driven by two factors The form factor of your motherboard Your overall computing needs. Form Factor. AT vs ATX

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Building your own pc l.jpg

Building Your Own PC

David Stillion

CS 147 - Computer Architecture

Fall, 2004


The hardest part l.jpg
The Hardest Part…

  • Choosing your components

  • The Case

    • This choice will driven by two factors

      • The form factor of your motherboard

      • Your overall computing needs


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Form Factor

  • AT vs ATX

    • AT is the old standard that has been around since the 1980’s. More importantly these boards are 12’ wide and are too big to fit in a case designed for an ATX board.


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Form Factor continued

  • AT vs. ATX continued:

  • Released in 1995 by Intel, ATX is pretty much the standard today and most cases are designed around this form factor.

    • Some of its advantages

      • Integrated I/O ports - serial, parallel, keyboard and mouse.

      • Better cooling conditions.

      • User friendly power connection to motherboard.

      • ATX motherboard design to accept 3.3 volts directly from power supply negating need for regulator on motherboard.


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ATX - Flex Form Factor

  • These were developed to make the mini pc’s possible.


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Cases to choose from...

  • Cases come in all sizes - mini pc, desktop, mini-tower and tower primarily.

  • Make sure it comes with a power supply.


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Some Recommendations

  • Choose a case that is

    • Easy to open preferably one with a removable side panel that exposes the entire interior.

    • One with lots of slots for additional drives and quick release hard drive cages.

    • Make sure each drive cage will accommodate a fan of its own.

    • Make sure quick release struts for cdrom, dvd drives, etc.


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Some Recommendations cont.

  • Has a design that allows you to place fans at good cooling points.

  • Make sure drive cages are near the data connectors on the motherboard. ATA100 hard drive cables are just 18” long.

  • Buy good fans. Cheap fans are noisy and make your pc will sound like a vacuum cleaner.

  • Make sure your power supply is set to 110v and not 220v.


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Some Recommendations cont.

  • Make sure the case is ventilated well or this will only enhance the vacuum cleaner sound produced by the cheap fans.

  • Get a 300 watt power supply or better. If you are running lots of devices with lesser wattage you will get lots of smoke and the smell of burning insulation.


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One of the Better Cases

  • Antec AMG 1060



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The Motherboard

  • The motherboard will determine pretty much everything else on your computer.


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The Motherboard cont.

  • Intel vs. AMD - best and different manufacturers for each.

    • Asus is very popular and seems stable as a company.

  • For video, make sure you have an AGP slot. If you don’t plan to use an AGP video card then all you need is a pci slot.


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The Motherboard cont.

  • Get as much of the standard hardware - serial, parallel, keyboard, mouse, network, sound - onboard. You can turn it off later if you decide to upgrade to something better or more to your liking.

  • Board layout - this is for easy accessibility. With a tower case this is not an issue.

  • Slots - with PCI 4 or 5. Note all PCI slots are on the same bus regardless of number.


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The Motherboard cont.

  • Chipset - Make sure it will support your hardware - AGP, Sound, etc.

  • Get the manual for the board.

  • Search the internet for reviews of your motherboard.

  • Check out the Usenet forums. A lot of people are willing to talk fairly about their experience.


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The Processor

  • Everybody focuses here. Bigger is not necessarily better. Cooling may be an issue.


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The Processor cont.

  • Evaluate your needs. Don’t need much to do word processing and surfing.

  • For CPU intensive apps like CAD or heavy calculations faster is better.

  • The real performance gains are usually elsewhere.


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Memory

  • Here more is often better.

  • SDRAM - Synchronous DRAM

  • RDRAM - Rambus DRAM(very fast)


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Memory

  • Here more is often better.

  • Newer OS’s(Mac and Windows) require a lot of ram. XP needs 128 minimum.

  • A good rule of thumb - at least double the minimum requirement(I use 4x).

  • Determine the ram type for your motherboard and chipset (SDRAM, RDRAM, etc).


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Video

  • Select a card that suits your needs.

  • Many cards today do great 2D and pretty good 3D.

  • Get the best graphics performance and avoid the bells and whistles.

  • Match the performance to your monitor.

  • Some manufacturers - ATI, Matrox, nVidia.


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Hard Drives

  • (S)ATA vs. SCSI


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Hard Drives

  • (S)ATA vs. SCSI

  • Biggest performance bottleneck is the disk subsystem

  • Best performance - SCSI, high transfer rates on disk subsystem (320 Mb/sec), can put many drives(up to 7 internally) on one bus and another 7 externally.


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Hard Drives continued

  • SCSI very expensive because you need a special controller. Drives are expensive as well(73 gb > $275.00 or higher).

  • ATA transfer rates - 33, 66, 100 , 133 and 150(SATA only) Mb/sec.

  • Check the controller on your motherboard for support of (S)ATA.


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Hard Drives continued

  • For (S)ATA limited to two drives per controller. Usually two controllers per motherboard.

  • Can’t mix transfer rates on one bus. All drives will run at transfer rate of slowest drive.

  • (S)ATA Drives are cheap.(250 gb SATA < $200.00).


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Other Devices

  • Sound - if you want more than the onboard sound delivers look at Creative.com or other manufacturers for a quality sound card. Do get 4-channel support and the speaker system to match for better sound.

  • CD-Rom/DVD - These are very cheap now. Plextor drives have finally gotten reasonably priced. But look around.


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Other Devices continued

  • Mouse and keyboard are your choice. Logitech makes a pretty good optical mouse.

  • Almost any keyboard will do. I use an ergonomic keyboard from M$. These are actually pretty cheap now.


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References

  • PC Mechanic Online

  • http://www.pcmech.com/build.htm

  • Hardware Central

  • http://www.hardwarecentral.com/hardwarecentral/tutorials/109/1/

  • Robert Austin Computer Shows

  • http://www.robertaustin.com/


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