Why Build a PC?

In the next few days I will be doing a 4 part series on my build of a budget PC.  Before doing that though, I wanted to go a little more in depth on why I built my own as opposed to buying a name brand machine.

Lifehacker has a great piece called “The First-Timer’s Guid to Building a Computer from Scratch.”

The cost point these days is a hard one to pin down.  In some cases, getting a Dell or HP might end up being cheaper once software is accounted for, but you have limited to no control over what parts are used to build.  Though I still feel that when getting a mid to high range machine, self building is far cheaper.  Yes, desktops are far less portable then a laptop, but you get way more bang for your buck.  Plus with smartphones etc – I have found less and less need for a laptop and have gone back to preferring the raw power of a desktop.

Plus – this point from the article sums up my opinion”

It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction every single day when I press the power button on my tower, watch it light up, and know that I plugged in the wire that goes from that light to the motherboard. Building your PC takes the mystery out of what’s going on inside that black box you spend hours on per day.

Now I have been tinkering/building/fixing/supporting/etc computers for well over a decade so it is safe to say I am over any trepidation on cracking open a case or installing parts.  Still, there is that sense of accomplishment when hitting that power button after a build and the computer booting up.  Now that I am also doing Hardware reviews, the constant thought is, ok how would this make this machine better for a reasonable cost?  Is the cost worth that benefit?  Balance that against what an equivalent machine from a name brand would be, along with the lost experience of not doing it yourself – and decide what the best route to go is.

Really, with a little research and grabbing parts at the right time, I feel I was able to build a better machine for cheaper, than I would have been able to purchase.  Plus, I was able to have exact control (within budget limitations) of what brands/parts I installed.  I was able to go through reviews for each of the parts I was selecting, debate them, and come out with my own preference and build with that.

Myself, being the editor of SuperGeekBlog, it probably was a given before this article what route I went.  In the process though I have discovered that it is really easier than ever for even a novice to build their own machine.  Part vendors have really gone in the last few years to making parts far easier to work with and install.

As always, please feel free to leave thoughts or comments!

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Link Roundup 7.7.10 Edition

Here are a few links from around the web today that I found interesting:

SSD vs Hard Drives Comparison via Slashdot

I actually found the Slashdot discussion more interesting than the post or linked article itself.  Personally, I am sold on the SSD drive for a primary OS drive.  The performance increase is will worth the money.  (For reference, I am running a 60gb SSD as my OS drive with a 7200rpm drive as my data storage drive.  That is working very well for me.)

Finding the best WiFi Broadcast Channel  via Lifehacker

Tweaking your wireless router settings may increase the reliability of your setup.  Typically I change the broadcast channel from the default as a precaution against any interference, though the number of AP points in range of my house is fairly limited.  It is just good practice though since you should be going into the tools and changing the default password along with throwing at least a basic encryption setting on there.

Win a BlackBerry Bold 9650 via BerryScoop

The contest may well be over by the time I get this posted, but worth checking out.  BerryScoop has plenty of interesting posts on all sorts of BlackBerry related topic.  (As an advid user of my crackberry I enjoy the site.)

Business Casual Comic for 7.7.2010

I love this comic strip though also amused at the hype factor in folks electronics selection.  If you haven’t checked out the strip before – make sure to do so!

Well that is all for now!  Might have a follow up if I see some more good links.

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SilverStone PS05B Case review

Over on OCIA.net we have a new review today.  It is on the new budget model case from SilverStone.  The PS05B.  This is a budget model case that was actually quite fun to review.

Cases have come a long way in the last few years.  Not slicing my hands up when working with cases and the hardware in them is still somewhat odd to me, but goes to show how far case manufactures have gone to accommodate enthusiast builds.  Check it out and let us know what you think.  I have been pretty impressed with SilverStone products and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

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From Windows Vista to Windows 7 and Back

My home desktop is several years old.  I don’t game much, so keeping up with the latest and greatest isn’t really on my list of things to do.  If you’re a gamer, you want the latest and greatest because it gives you a richer experience.  And it gives you an edge over the competition; if you’re playing multiplayer. But, I don’t, so it makes little difference to me what my frame rate is.

But, all of that is really not what were here for.  Which is a tale of an upgrade gone wrong.

About a month ago, I got one of those nasty bugs that it seems a computer will get occasionally.  I thought I got it cleaned off.  Maybe I did and what was left was something else, or maybe it was just a tougher bug than I thought.  Either way, my system was compromised.  I spent about 7 hours (over several days) trying to clean the thing off.  I even pulled the hard drive and brought it to work to scan it as a secondary drive (this is useful because most viruses load into memory on start up, but only if they are on the primary/boot drive), but to no avail.  So, rather than waste even more time trying to clean the thing up, I made sure everything was backed up and started fresh with a format and reinstall.

Once I got the reinstall of Windows Vista done, I went straight to Windows 7 using the upgrade that I had bought for it late last year.  The install/upgrade went incredibly smooth.  In previous versions of Windows, it was always preferable to install the full version of the new OS.  Something about the upgrade process just didn’t work well and you would get some nasty errors.  Windows 7s upgrade process is a bit different.  When you do the upgrade, it gives you the option of doing a format and full install.  Pretty awesome.  Except for the part where I reinstalled Vista first…  oops.

One full install later, and I had a brand new install of Windows 7.  My first impressions were very good.  A lot of the feel of Vista that I had gotten used to, but minus some of the clunky-ness.  Alas, it wasn’t to last.  About a week later, I awoke to a login prompt.  That was weird because I don’t normally log out my home pc.  So, it only gets a login when it restarts.  My first thought, of course, was to think that it was Windows Update that had caused the restart.  Until I came home at lunch and found it at a login prompt again.  [Cut through a couple days worth of technical tinkering]

The machine was set to restart on error.  So, everytime it got a system error, it would reboot.  And, after watching the machine for a while, I discovered that it would get a BSOD after about 20 minutes of idle time.  To shorten the story again, I did diagnostics on everything I could think of to figure out what the BSOD was being caused by.  I gave up after about a week and a half of that.  My assumption is that a update from either Windows or from a hardware related driver replaced a system file of some sort or was causing the problem.  A repair install was no help and I couldn’t do a system restore because it would cause a BSOD if you went into the system restore console.  Once again, I was faced with a format and reinstall.

Luckily, Jake was around to talk some sense into me.  I did the reinstall/restore, but I only went as far as Vista this time.  Perhaps at a later date, I’ll try the upgrade again, but until then, I’m sticking with Vista.  After all, it was pretty stable up until I got whatever I got and had to restore it the first time.  And, maybe, just maybe, Microsoft will fix it with the first Windows 7 service pack.

Either way, I think I’ll likely stick with Vista until the machine needs replacing.  Some of the machines hardware wasn’t just barely good enough for Windows 7, so it might be better to just wait until I need a new machine and get Windows 7 on that.

Authors note: Jake suggested that I should write a post here (somewhat jokingly, I believe) as I’ve largely moved on to other things and Jake has taken full control of this site.  So, I thought I’d call him on his joke and surprise him with a post!  Surprise!  Also, if you like, my blog is over at Thatedeguy.

Posted in Microsoft, SGB IT, SGB Software, SGB Tech, Windows 7, Windows Vista | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

OCIA.net Noctua Cooler Review

I recently had the enjoyable time over at OCIA.net reviewing Noctua’s NH-U9B SE2 heatsink.

The review has gone live today, so head on over to check it out.  There are a variety of ways to approach CPU cooling and this one took the sound approach.  I still haven’t taken it out of my machine because it is pretty impressive.

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Cool down that computer

Over on Lifehacker they had a nice post yesterday on “How to Prevent your Computer from overheating.”

I like this post because it is geared for the average user.  Tech guys, IT Pros, etc generally know about heat issues and how to solve them (or should), but we often forget to mention them to others.  Or if we do, we tend to either leave it too vague or far too specific.  This article does a good job at breaking it down and keeping it simple while giving some links to those who want to know a little more.

Generally though for the average home PC, just making sure to blow the dust out of it from time to time will be the biggest lifesaver you can give to your PC.  Take a look at the back of your computer near the power supply.  Notice a dust buildup back there?  If so, just imagine what the inside looks like.  Like the article explains, dust acts like a blanket insulating the components of a PC.  The hotter they run, the shorter you can expect them to last.  The worst is fans though, dust can gunk up, slow down, and eventually stop a fan.  If this happens to your CPU fan – yea you get the idea.

Head on over and check it out – if you aren’t aware of heat issues, it will be worth your time.  Of course from time to time here on SGB, I will also cover the more advanced topics as well such as aftermarket CPU coolers, case fans, etc for those a little more brave.

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External HDD Skins

Ok, maybe I am a bit off the wall here, but I just don’t see this product being that popular.  I saw over on HotHardware this morning that Iomega is releasing 3 skinned external drive enclosures in the 500gb range.  That is good and all, but drawing attention to my portable data storage is the last thing I would want to do.

Though if you tweak and skin your laptop, maybe it is the device for you.  Worth taking a look at.

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SSD To Under $70???

Saw this over on HotHardware this morning – Corsair is coming out with a 32gb Solid State drive, that after rebate comes in at less than $70.  This makes something like SilverStone’s HDDBOOST which I recently reviewed, much more affordable.

While 32gb isn’t bad for a primary OS drive, it is a little on the small side for me.

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SilverStone HDDBOOST

We have a new review up over on OCIA.net.  I recently reviewed SilverStone’s new HDDBOOST product.  It is a unique product aiming to bridge the gap between aging tech and modern hardware.

Posted in SGB Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Cooler Master NotePal ErgoStand

Head on over to OCIA.net where we have reviewed the Cooler Master NotePal EgroStand.

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