Building Computer, need advice

Discussion in 'Computer Science & Culture' started by Xelios, Apr 8, 2002.

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  1. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    I'm thinking of building my next computer. I haven't done this before, but I heard it saves you a lot of money and you get a better quality system out of the deal, so I decided to build instead of buy this time around.

    Here's the setup I'm currently looking at:

    AMD Athlon 2100XP (1.73ghz actual clock speed)
    Athlon XP Motherboard
    PC 3000 512mb DDR RAM
    EIDE 60GB HD
    GeForce4 TI 4400
    ATX case

    I think I can scavange the remaining parts (CD-ROM, CDRW, Ethernet card and floppy drive) from this computer. This system will run me up about $1500 with shipping (CDN) or about $950 US. Judging from these specs, are there any potential problems I should know of? Approximatly how much cooling would I need (I know the Athlon can have 4 cooling fans and still generate about 90-95 F temperatures)?

    This computer will be mainly used for gaming (hence the expensive 3D card), rendering images in programs such as 3DsMax and normal day to day things. What do you guys think?
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  3. Deus Seeker of Truth Registered Senior Member

    I suggest getting high-quality everything, because it helps out when you are trying to figure out why something isn't working. If you have some faith in your hardware, then you can cut down the number of things you have to look at. Also, if there are problems with the hardware, usually with quality components it is drivers or something and you can usually get fixed versions off the internet pretty quick.

    Heat is always a problem, and you are running a top-end Athalon, so it will be more of a problem. Make sure you get a power supply with a high enough wattage. Part of this depends on how many drives and cards you have in the machine, but I reccomend at least a 400 watt power supply to be safe. Also, AMD recommends getting a power supply dual intakes. Enermax makes several like this, I don't know if there are other companies. Enermax makes good power supplies. The dual intake helps cool both the power supply and the processor.

    Make sure you get a large enough heatsink and a powerful enough fan for your processor. Athalons don't shut down when they overheat like Pentiums, so if it overheats it will just get damaged. Use a thermal compound between the processor and the heatsink to aid in heat transfer. It works, trust me.

    Make sure you get a motherboard that lets you monitor processor temp. This is helpful so you know your processor is not overheating. Gives you peace of mind.

    Use enough case fans. AMD recommends that you have at least 2 intake and 2 exhaust fans in your case. If you use more or less, make sure you try to balance the fans or else you get bad air flow.

    If you are using a 7200 rpm drive it will create a bit of heat. You may want to have a hard drive cooler or just more case fans.

    Space out your cards and drives so they can have air around them.

    Make sure your GeForce4 has a fan on it.

    Round off or fold your eide cables, stow exta power connectors out of the way. Cables in the case prevent air flow.
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  5. Xelios,

    I agree with what Deus said , but here are two more things that will help:

    1. Get a large case. The larger the case the cooler your computer will be.

    2. Get an Asus A7V333 motherboard. This motherboard reads the heat diode that is on the Athlon XP and will shut it down if the temp gets too high.

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  7. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

    My small contribution since most pieces of useful info have already been discussed is to try and aquire plastic coated screws, the sort that you tighten with your thumb and forefinger, so there is no need for a screw driver.

    You see screw drivers are tensile steel, and screws are usually made from a weaker metal, if you screw/unscrew things from a system a multiple number of times, you can end up with the screwdriver chewing up the screwhead and depositing small metalic flakes from the screw into your computer.

    (This can cause short-circuits and board failures)

    If you use dust filters on your fan intakes, it too can save your boards from overheating, afterall a blanket of dust insulates a board and increases its temperature. Dust filter can constrict airflow though.

    When handling the boards and computer, make sure your EARTHED (And that it's unplugged fully, including cables from the case) If you happen to cause a static charge between yourself and a computer board, it might never work again.

    When buying parts, KEEP RECEIPTS and make sure you can return it if necessary.

    If you buy parts you might look for FLASH ROMS as it's possible to change the compatiblity of a system at a later date when the flash has been programmed.

    As for BIOS etc you could get one with controls for Speed of the processor etc for Overclocking, but overclocking invalidates any warrantees on the processor and boards.
  8. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    Thanks a lot for the info guys, just a couple of questions/comments:

    Dues: The case I'm looking at right now should have more than enough cooling to deal with all the heat this system will generate (now that I think about it, it would get pretty hot in there, what with a GeForce4, top-end Athlon and all). This is the case I'm thinking of: (its the first case in the 100 series list, called XWing). I'd have two 80mm fans in the side of the unit, one fan in the back for the power supply, and a cooling vent up top that can be opened or closed.

    What type of thermal compound should I use between the processor and the heat sink?

    Stryder: Could you touch on what Flash Roms are? I've never heard of them.

    Also, about dust, would it be safe to open the computer every couple of months and either blow the dust out or vacuum it out gently?
  9. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

  10. Rick Valued Senior Member

    Zion to rescue.(

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    Here's an Excerpt from a site,that you"ll find useful,sorry i dont remember the site name.(just copied stuff long time back).

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    Flash Memory is revolutionizing system design with non-volatility, in-system
    reprogrammability, and high density.
    Flash memory is a type of EEPROM chip. It has a grid of columns and rows with a cell that has two transistors at each intersection (see image below). The two transistors are separated from each other by a thin oxide layer. One of the transistors is known as a floating gate, and the other one is the control gate. The floating gate's only link to the row, or wordline, is through the control gate. As long as this link is in place, the cell has a value of 1. To change the value to a 0 requires a curious process called Fowler-Nordheim tunneling.

    Tunneling is used to alter the placement of electrons in the floating gate. An electrical charge, usually 10 to 13 volts, is applied to the floating gate. The charge comes from the column, or bitline, enters the floating gate and drains to a ground.

    This charge causes the floating-gate transistor to act like an electron gun. The excited electrons are pushed through and trapped on other side of the thin oxide layer, giving it a negative charge. These negatively charged electrons act as a barrier between the control gate and the floating gate. A special device called a cell sensor monitors the level of the charge passing through the floating gate. If the flow through the gate is greater than 50 percent of the charge, it has a value of 1. When the charge passing through drops below the 50-percent threshold, the value changes to 0. A blank EEPROM has all of the gates fully open, giving each cell a value of 1.

    The electrons in the cells of a Flash-memory chip can be returned to normal ("1") by the application of an electric field, a higher-voltage charge. Flash memory uses in-circuit wiring to apply the electric field either to the entire chip or to predetermined sections known as blocks. This erases the targeted area of the chip, which can then be rewritten. Flash memory works much faster than traditional EEPROMs because instead of erasing one byte at a time, it erases a block or the entire chip, and then rewrites it.

    You may think that your car radio has Flash memory, since you are able to program the presets and the radio remembers them. But it is actually using Flash RAM. The difference is that Flash RAM has to have some power to maintain its contents, while Flash memory will maintain its data without any external source of power. Even though you have turned the power off, the car radio is pulling a tiny amount of current to preserve the data in the Flash RAM. That is why the radio will lose its presets if your car battery dies or the wires are disconnected.

    Removable Flash Memory Cards
    While your computer's BIOS chip is the most common form of Flash memory, removable solid-state storage devices are becoming increasingly popular. SmartMedia and CompactFlash cards are both well-known, especially as "electronic film" for digital cameras. Other removable Flash memory products include Sony's Memory Stick, PCMCIA memory cards, and memory cards for video game systems such as Nintendo's N64, Sega's Dreamcast and Sony's PlayStation. We will focus on SmartMedia and CompactFlash, but the essential idea is the same for all of these products. Every one of them is simply a form of Flash memory.
    There are several reasons to use Flash memory instead of a hard disk:

    Flash memory is noiseless.
    It allows faster access.
    It is smaller in size.
    It is lighter.
    It has no moving parts.
    So why don't we just use Flash memory for everything? Because the cost per megabyte for a hard disk is drastically cheaper, and the capacity is substantially more. You can buy a 40-gigabyte (40,000-MB) hard drive for less than $200, while a 192-MB CompactFlash card will generally cost you more.
    The solid-state floppy-disk card (SSFDC), better known as SmartMedia, was originally developed by Toshiba.

    SmartMedia card

    SmartMedia cards are available in capacities ranging from 2 MB to 128 MB. The card itself is quite small, approximately 45 mm long, 37 mm wide and less than 1 mm thick. This is amazing when you consider what is packed into such a tiny package!

    As shown below, SmartMedia cards are elegant in their simplicity. A plane electrode is connected to the Flash-memory chip by bonding wires. The Flash-memory chip, plane electrode and bonding wires are embedded in a resin using a technique called over-molded thin package (OMTP). This allows everything to be integrated into a single package without the need for soldering.

    The OMTP module is glued to a base card to create the actual card. Power and data is carried by the electrode to the Flash-memory chip when the card is inserted into a device. A notched corner indicates the power requirements of the SmartMedia card. Looking at the card with the electrode facing up, if the notch is on the left side, the card needs 5 volts. If the notch is on the right side, it requires 3.3 volts.

    SmartMedia cards erase, write and read memory in small blocks (256- or 512-byte increments). This approach means that they are capable of fast, reliable performance while allowing you to specify which data you wish to keep. They are small, lightweight and easy to use. They are less rugged than other forms of removable solid-state storage, so you should be very careful when handling and storing them.

    CompactFlash cards were developed by Sandisk in 1994, and they are different from SmartMedia cards in two important ways:
    They are thicker.
    They utilize a controller chip.
    CompactFlash consists of a small circuit board with Flash-memory chips and a dedicated controller chip, all encased in a rugged shell that is several times thicker than a SmartMedia card.
    As shown below, CompactFlash cards are 43 mm wide and 36 mm long, and come in two thicknesses: Type I cards are 3.3 mm thick, and Type II cards are 5.5 mm thick.

    CompactFlash card

    CompactFlash cards support dual voltage and will operate at either 3.3 volts or 5 volts.

    The increased thickness of the card allows for greater storage capacity than SmartMedia cards. CompactFlash sizes range from 8 MB to 192 MB. The onboard controller can increase performance, particularly on devices that have slow processors. The case and controller chip add size, weight and complexity to the CompactFlash card when compared to the SmartMedia card.

    Both of these types of removable storage, as well as PCMCIA Type I and Type II memory cards, adhere to standards developed by the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA). Because of these standards, it is easy to use CompactFlash and SmartMedia products in a variety of devices. You can also buy adapters that allow you to access these cards through a standard floppy drive, USB port or PCMCIA card slot (like the one you find on a laptop computer). Sony's Memory Stick is available in a large array of products offered by Sony, and is now showing up in products from other manufacturers as well.

    Although standards are flourishing, there are many Flash-memory products that are completely proprietary in nature, such as the memory cards in video game systems. But it is good to know that as electronic components become increasingly interchangeable and learn to communicate with each other (by way of technologies such as Bluetooth), standardized removable memory will allow you to keep your world close at hand.

  11. Deus Seeker of Truth Registered Senior Member

    Joeblow93132 said:
    I agree with point number 1 with a consideration, a larger case requires more fan power to generate the same air flow. A large case is good in that it allows for more space between things, but if you don't have enough fan power then the air will just sit there. A smaller case with good flow is better than a big case with no flow; a big case with good flow is the best.

    On the second point, I'd look into whether you can adjust the default overheat temperature for this feature, or whether you can just turn it off. If the diode ever goes bad, this could prevent you from booting. Also, the BIOS will probably have some safe temperature set as default. The overheat temperatures for Athalons were far above what was set in the hardware monitor by default on my motherboard.

    Stryderunknown said:
    I think Stryder is referring to thumb screws in the first paragraph, for reference.

    Earthed is also known as grounded. Buy a grounding strip or make sure you have one hand on the case metal as much as possible.

    Most cards that have BIOSes today use Flash ROMs.

    As far as overclocking, I'd forget it. In my experience it is a lot of problems and it generates more heat for only a little performance boost.

    Xelios said:
    First of all, the case looks cool.

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    Secondly, there are a range of thermal compounds out there. You can get one called Arctic Silver, which is about the best, for $10 a tube. You can also get some from Radio Shack for about $3 a tube. I used the Radio Shack brand and it worked fine for me, but I'm only running a 1Ghz T-bird.

    Zion's answer to your question, although technically correct, is probably not what you're looking for. Basically, Flash ROMs allow you to reprogram, or "flash" the BIOS. I've had to do it once for my motherboard, but I haven't had to futz with it at all for my video card.

    Yes, you can blow out the case every once in awhile. If you use a vacuum, don't actually touch it to the components. Also, you can just blow into the case, but watch out for the dust coming back at you! You can also use canned air to blow out fans and get that sticky dust off of cards.

    As far as heatsinks are concerned, there were no stats on those on the site, so I really can't say. Sometimes you can get an AMD approved heatsink/fan when you buy your processor, otherwise, there is a list of AMD approved motherboards/heatsinks/fans/power supplies on their site.
  12. Rick Valued Senior Member

    Aww come on Deus,Overclocking is good for 100MHZ systems...

  13. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    I've got a friend who overclocked his 450mhz to 451mhz

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    Thanks the the info guys. I think I've got the cooling system hacked now. I'll probably go with that XWing tower, two 80mm cooling fans on the side, a fan on the power unit and that open vent on the top of the machine. For the CPU I'll go with a cooling package from here:

    Probably the dual fan system for the AMD Athlon series (and a thermal compound). Then another dual fan kit which is shown here: for the case.

    That plus a basic fan on the GeForce4 and I think I'll be all set. 8 fans and a heat sink should be enough I think, as long as they're arranged for good circulation. I'll need a good power source though, probably at least 450 watts. Maybe even 500 watts.

    Now all that's left to do is find the money

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    Oh, one more question, with that dual case cooling system that you slide into one of the free compartments in the front, would i only need one compartment for it? Because as it is I'll have a CD drive and a RW drive, that leaves me one compartment. But in the picture it seems they use all three?
  14. Rick Valued Senior Member


    I have a friend who clocked 100 to 130...

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  15. Deus Seeker of Truth Registered Senior Member

    You only need one bay. They are showing off three different drive bay coolers there. Keep in mind that the drive bay cooler you are looking at will probably only cool the drive above or below it, and not much else. Unless you have a fast hard drive, you might want to rethink the drive bay cooler, considering it will drain 3+w and cost you $24. There are also other drive bay coolers, one of the ones they are showing in that picture one of my friends bought and it blows into the case, and you can put a hard drive in that bay still, unlike the one you are looking at, which seems to take up the whole bay.

    Let us know how it goes.
  16. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    Yeah, I was thinking that's what would happen. I do need at least one extra fan though. As it is, without the driver cooler I'd have 2 80mm fans on the side, one in the back, one fan+heatsink on the CPU and one fan on the GeForce4. I want at least one more, maybe a smaller fan like this one:

    I'm not sure though. If I go with the dual fan/heat sink system on the CPU that should effectively deal with any heat it will put out. Then all I have to worry about is the GeForce4 (which shouldn't be too bad with the one fan on it) and the HD (I believe it will run at about 5400 rpm so it shouldn't cause too many problems. On second thought, I think I'll be ok with 6 fans instead of 8, should work, then I don't have to worry about the drive cooler or a fan card. And the blow hole at the top will let out some heat too.

    But ya, once I get everything together I'll let you know how it goes. Might even take a few pictures =)

    Thanks again for all the help.
  17. Rick Valued Senior Member

    Wait for a couple of years and a crisp 10 terrabytes memory will be inside your pocket computer.ALA Holographic"ll know what i mean if you check out,intelligence and machines...

  18. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    What would you want with 10 terrabytes of memory? No program on Earth requires that much memory (not one you can use at home anyway). But geez, I though 2gb was a lot...

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  19. Rick Valued Senior Member

    As Bill Gates once promptly said,250KB was enough for any man on the earth...

  20. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    True, but that was like 10 years ago, are you really gonna wait 10 years with your 10 terrabyte memory until you may finally be able to use a good portion of it at once? I dunno, I suspect it'll be about a decade before 10 terrabyte becomes as common as 128 mb RAM.

    Then again, you never know nowadays...
  21. Bobby Lee member Registered Senior Member

    Tech Advancements

    When I started my computer training the IBM XT with the blazing 4mhz 8088 chip was the thing, and if you where a real computer buff it had a 40meg

    That was about 1981.......

    Now I hear that there is a 20gig chip!

    Terrabyte memory may be a reality sooner than we think.


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  22. Clarentavious Person Registered Senior Member

    Ok, I'm too stressed at the moment to read everyone's responses, but.....

    Processor sounds fine.

    On the motherboard, I would wait and get VIA's KT333A chipset (the A version, will be a revision of the original 333, just as the 266A is a modification of the 266 - I don't know if it has been released, but if not, it should be out in a month I would imagine).

    I would go with either Asus as they recommend, or Abit (Abit did a better job with the 266A).

    Though some reports claim SiS has supposedly been turning up the heat against VIA in the motherboard chipset battle (though that's been with Pentium based boards).

    512 RAM is fine. I don't know about the number "3000" (it sould be 333MHz, true 166 on double data rate, that's what DDR stands for). I would really wait though until the CL 2.0 RAM comes out for 333 (I think the CAS latency for all 333 RAM out right now is 2.5 - there may be a slightly lower nanosecond time when they come out with the new RAM too)

    Forget about "overheating" (just don't overclock anything), go with a 7200 RPM drive. 7200 is barely enough to reach the maximum burst rate for ATA 100 (which is why no one is bothering with ATA 133 from Maxtor, there's probably a MB different at best for normal read and write speeds).

    If you go with a cheap 5400 RPM drive, say by Samsung, you're loading times will be terrible, and it may actually clog it up if you are doing some really intense transferring.

    I would go with a 40GB drive (not 60) by Western Digital. With 40, you will only have 1 platter. Plus you'll be less likely to crash, and I doubt you'll need 60 gigs worth of space anyway.

    On the video card, if you are going to go that high (a high end GF 4), forget the 4400, go with the 4600. And make sure you get a LeadTek card (that's my opinion at least).

    Are you going to rely on the integrated audio in your motherboard? If not I would recommend getting a Sound Blaster Live 5.1 X-Gamer (the new Audigy chipsets are not worth the price, and you don't need one for your kind of work anyway).

    On the cooling fan issue. I have some sort of "volcano" fan for my Athlon XP processor. It is like a freaking 7,100 RPM It is incredibly noisy, but it keeps it cool. I have an 80mm ball bearing case fan as well on my tower.

    Oh, on the processor issue, I suppose you could try for the lowest clock speed on AMD's new Hammer CPU (the Operton I think it is called, a 64-bit processor), though that would still be pretty pricey. But it could accompany your 333MHz FSB (I think the processor runs at 333).
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2002
  23. Deus Seeker of Truth Registered Senior Member

    Ummm, I'm going to have to go ahead and uh, disagree with you there, yeah...

    I don't know what you're loading, but I've used computers with both 7200 rpm and 5400 rpm drives and the difference in load time, if any, is small. I also know that 7200 rpm drives do get hot to the touch much faster than 5400 rpm drives.

    I also don't like Western Digital. I had one, and it crashed on me without warning. I had it on and working, shut down the computer, opened up the side, put in a new RAM chip, turned the power back on, HD didn't spin up. It really sucked.

    I doubt you will save much money going with a 40 GB HD instead of a 60 GB HD these days. I don't know why you think that a 40 GB is less likely to crash than a 60 GB, and I'm sure that all modern HDs have more than one platter.

    I agree with you on the sound card, although any SBLive 5.1 will do, since they're not really tweaked at all, they just include different software.
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