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Old 03-17-2013, 10:37 AM   #1
largedon
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Building a new computer, looking for suggestions and build critique


Unfortunately my old computer's (Dimension 8300) mobo has died. Considering its age, it's just not worth trying to replace the mobo. I'm looking to build a new computer and want to use Linux (probably Ubuntu) as the OS. This computer will be used mostly for practicing music and some minor recording using a Lexicon Alpha. I also do a little gaming, but nothing to demanding as I tend to play older games like NWN2. I've heard Linux is great for music and really want to try it out. I'm also undergoing a career change so I'm also trying to do this as cheap as possible, so any recommendations as to a cheaper/alternate piece of hardware is much appreciated. The build I have below came in at about $350 with rebates (links go to New Egg). Also, I already have a new HDD as I just recently changed it out on my old computer right before the mobo died.

AMD Athlon II X4 640
ASUS M5A78L-M LX PLUS AM3+ AMD 760G Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
Rosewill CHALLENGER Black Gaming ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
COOLER MASTER eXtreme Power Plus RS500
G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB)
GeForce GT 520 (Fermi) 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card
 
Old 03-18-2013, 10:57 AM   #2
rtmistler
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Find a cheaper the case, and for now get half the RAM, and don't yet get the graphics card, there are graphics embedded on the MB.

Start with MINT or Ubuntu. You can add to it as your finances and needs grow.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 11:08 AM   #3
EDDY1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rtmistler View Post
Find a cheaper the case, and for now get half the RAM, and don't yet get the graphics card, there are graphics embedded on the MB.

Start with MINT or Ubuntu. You can add to it as your finances and needs grow.
Some of if not most of the newer mobos are coming without graphics atleast the ASUS board.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 11:17 AM   #4
rtmistler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EDDY1 View Post
Some of if not most of the newer mobos are coming without graphics atleast the ASUS board.
Maybe true, but also true that I looked at that particular MB and noted that it does contain VGA graphics.

Sure maybe not the best if someone wants to play hi resolution games or watch videos, but merely offering choice options that are not upgradeable in the future if they truly wish to reduce the cost until their career transition resolves to something better.

Last edited by rtmistler; 03-18-2013 at 11:18 AM. Reason: added quote
 
Old 03-18-2013, 11:39 AM   #5
largedon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rtmistler View Post
Find a cheaper the case, and for now get half the RAM, and don't yet get the graphics card, there are graphics embedded on the MB.

Start with MINT or Ubuntu. You can add to it as your finances and needs grow.
1. If I go with half of that RAM should I get 1x 4 GB or 2x 2 GB sticks.
2. Surprised I don't need a video card, guess I'm a little behind the times and am still in the always need a video card mentality.
3. Also, will it make much of a difference not having 3.0 USB? Sometimes I find these upgrades are so minor that the effect is not noticeable.
4. For the case, any suggestions? All the ones I'm seeing are maybe $10-15 less which isn't a huge savings, especially if I'm adding any potential headaches. I picked that one because I've read really good reviews on it.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 11:43 AM   #6
haertig
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Here is a much better CPU for the same price (not saying your current CPU choice is bad, just that you can get better for the same money):

http://www.microcenter.com/product/3...xed_Processor#

Cut the amout of RAM in half.

You will need a DVD burner, which you didn't list. You've got to at least be able to read CDs/DVDs to install the OS. Get a LiteOn brand DVD burner, this brand has a good reputation for reading damaged media.

You will need at least a static wrist strap, and preferably a static mat to build this new computer on. You do NOT want to take chances zapping your new motherboard, CPU, or memory. Best is to use a static mat, do not build on carpet, and take off your shoes and socks (and any wool or other static inducing fabrics). I always plug my systems into the wall outlet when I work on them. Thus they are grounded. The computer to the wall outlet, the static mat to the computer, me to the static mat. All parts are put on the static mat as they are removed from their protective packaging. I have a special power cord I use so that there is no AC power to the computer however. I took a standard computer power cord and cut off the flat prongs that go into the wall outlet, leaving only the round grounding prong. Some work with a file and then a little electrical tape over the cut off nubs of the power prongs keeps things safe.

Get a full sized ATX motherboard, not a Micro-ATX. The case you want looks like a nice choice, and supports full sized ATX. Having more room to work is always nice. Find a motherboard that has four memory slots rather than just two like the one you are looking at. Use two slots now, reserving the other two for later memory expansion (if ever needed).

Skip the graphics card and buy a motherboard with integreated graphics. That will do for now. If you decide to do more gaming later, add a graphics card THEN, not now. Buying a low end graphics card won't get you very much above integrated graphics anyways. I just researched this myself a few weeks ago, and that was my conclusion.

You don't need a super high end power supply, but buy a decent one, not a bottom of the barrel bargain choice. The one you are looking at now appears decent, but I haven't researched power supplies recently.

Since you are looking for both a CPU and a motherboard, you can often get good deals if you buy both of these items as a bundle. Look here for some ideas: http://www.microcenter.com/site/prod...d_bundles.aspx

Definitely stick with AMD CPU's over Intel to stay within your budget. Intels are of course good, but so are AMD's ... and AMD's are a heck of a lot cheaper for equivalent performance.

Don't forget connecting cables for disks, DVD burners, fans, etc. You might need screws for mounting hard drives and DVD burners too. Note: The screws for DVD burners are smaller than the ones for hard drives, if you put a burner screw into a harddrive, it will appear to screw in and be stripped. Then you have a heck of a time getting the undersized screw out. Use the correct screw from the start. The hard drive screws have a coarser thread pattern. Ask me how I know about these jammed screws!
 
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:01 PM   #7
rtmistler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by largedon View Post
1. If I go with half of that RAM should I get 1x 4 GB or 2x 2 GB sticks.
2. Surprised I don't need a video card, guess I'm a little behind the times and am still in the always need a video card mentality.
3. Also, will it make much of a difference not having 3.0 USB? Sometimes I find these upgrades are so minor that the effect is not noticeable.
4. For the case, any suggestions? All the ones I'm seeing are maybe $10-15 less which isn't a huge savings, especially if I'm adding any potential headaches. I picked that one because I've read really good reviews on it.
I would do the 1x 4G so that you can buy another if you decide to upgrade. But of course make sure that the MB will accept that configuration. I think it will.

USB 3.0 is deployed, mainly I see backup flash drives using it, but they also support 2.0. Anything else uses a network which this MB also has.

To me, a case is a case so long as it holds the components. However yes, complete bargain basement may be bad because it will not be as safe and secure (physically) as a more expensive one, and by secure I mean sturdy, not something else.

Sounds like you're re-using a hard drive, probably mouse, keyboard. Do you have an old case for that old PC that died? And what about power supply? It used to be 200W was good, but there "I" may be behind the times; and an old power supply is not always the best idea, they do get old. There are exceptions, but for me, they either die, or live and when mine have died, I've simply needed to buy a new one, not that they've died and damaged anything in the system.

What I've done in the case of a dead PC is replaced the dead component, which would be the MB, so for instance if I had a standard ATX MB, I'd look to find if I could find a replacement, and CPU. Eventually, yes, the enclosure or the power requirements meant I had to upgrade several pieces at once.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 12:17 PM   #8
largedon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rtmistler View Post
I would do the 1x 4G so that you can buy another if you decide to upgrade. But of course make sure that the MB will accept that configuration. I think it will.

USB 3.0 is deployed, mainly I see backup flash drives using it, but they also support 2.0. Anything else uses a network which this MB also has.

To me, a case is a case so long as it holds the components. However yes, complete bargain basement may be bad because it will not be as safe and secure (physically) as a more expensive one, and by secure I mean sturdy, not something else.

Sounds like you're re-using a hard drive, probably mouse, keyboard. Do you have an old case for that old PC that died? And what about power supply? It used to be 200W was good, but there "I" may be behind the times; and an old power supply is not always the best idea, they do get old. There are exceptions, but for me, they either die, or live and when mine have died, I've simply needed to buy a new one, not that they've died and damaged anything in the system.

What I've done in the case of a dead PC is replaced the dead component, which would be the MB, so for instance if I had a standard ATX MB, I'd look to find if I could find a replacement, and CPU. Eventually, yes, the enclosure or the power requirements meant I had to upgrade several pieces at once.
My old computer is a Dell Dimension 8300 which is about 8-10 years old. I thought about using the case, but I read some horror stories about Dell's cases being made to only work with their stuff (ie screw holes being moved a little bit). I am going to use the HDD and the DVD/CD burner in the old one as they are fine, but the video card I have is an AGP. The power supply is also the original and is a top mount. I figure I should just replace it and be safe. If I can stay in the $300-350 range it would be great and since I don't need a video card I may be able to get down to ~$275.

I'm currently looking at the Microcenter website that haertig linked to, didn't realize there was one near me. I may try and put together a good list from there and drive down there. I'll throw up a new parts list here in a bit once I can compile it.

Thank you to everyone for the insights and suggestions. This is my first build (been wanting to do this for a while now) and I'm trying to avoid any costly/stupid mistakes.

Also, should I completely erase my old HDD before installing Linux or can I just overwrite during the install? It currently has Windows XP on it.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 12:27 PM   #9
haertig
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As far as USB3.0 vs. USB2.0 ... Do you have any 3.0 periphereals? And if you do, is it critical that they operate at the absolute fastest possible speed? Typically you are talking about external hard disks for backups, flash drives, a camera or MP3 player, etc. The only thing there that I can see might matter would be the external hard disk for backing up things. But even then, does it matter to you if your backup takes 2 hours rather than 1-1/2 hours? I would expect that a new motherboard would support USB3.0, but if not, that certainly wouldn't worry me personally. To be honest, it wouldn't even factor into my consideration. Other things are much more important. Like you will want DDR3 memory slots over DDR2. DDR3 is faster (but would you even notice?). However, my bigger concern there would be for future memory upgrades. You can already buy DDR3 memory for less than equivalent DDR2 memory. And that price difference will only get worse as time goes on. The pricing for older technologies usually takes a dive when some new technology comes out, but then the price for the old goes back up and eventually becomes much higher than the new as availability of the old goes down.

Chances are, you won't be needing to upgrade above 4Gb for Linux anytime soon. However, if you decide to dual-boot to Windows, what does that OS need these days? 16 terrabytes just to give you a command line prompt? Something ridiculous like that!

Last edited by haertig; 03-18-2013 at 12:32 PM.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 12:51 PM   #10
largedon
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Alright, here's my choices from Microcenter using everyone's suggestions.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0 Socket AM3+ ATX AMD Motherboard
AMD FX 4100 Black Edition 3.6GHz Quad-Core Socket AM3+ Boxed Processor
BitFenix Merc Alpha Mid Tower ATX Computer Case
Cooler Master Elite Power 400W ATX Power Supply
Corsair XMS3 Series 4GB DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800) CL9 Desktop Memory Module

Now for prices, the Mobo & CPU are bundled for $145, the RAM is $35, the case is $40 and the power supply is $38. So this build comes in at $258. Not bad at all.
I will also pick up the static guards that haertig mentioned and will check cabling before I leave the store. Hopefully all said and done this will come in under $300. Any other suggestions, tips, whatever?
 
Old 03-18-2013, 01:01 PM   #11
largedon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haertig View Post
As far as USB3.0 vs. USB2.0 ... Do you have any 3.0 periphereals? And if you do, is it critical that they operate at the absolute fastest possible speed? Typically you are talking about external hard disks for backups, flash drives, a camera or MP3 player, etc. The only thing there that I can see might matter would be the external hard disk for backing up things. But even then, does it matter to you if your backup takes 2 hours rather than 1-1/2 hours? I would expect that a new motherboard would support USB3.0, but if not, that certainly wouldn't worry me personally. To be honest, it wouldn't even factor into my consideration. Other things are much more important. Like you will want DDR3 memory slots over DDR2. DDR3 is faster (but would you even notice?). However, my bigger concern there would be for future memory upgrades. You can already buy DDR3 memory for less than equivalent DDR2 memory. And that price difference will only get worse as time goes on. The pricing for older technologies usually takes a dive when some new technology comes out, but then the price for the old goes back up and eventually becomes much higher than the new as availability of the old goes down.

Chances are, you won't be needing to upgrade above 4Gb for Linux anytime soon. However, if you decide to dual-boot to Windows, what does that OS need these days? 16 terrabytes just to give you a command line prompt? Something ridiculous like that!
I'm not planning on doing a dual-boot as I have the family computer for Windows stuff. This computer is almost completely for music learning/recording so no need for Windows and it's resource hogging. I also don't feel like paying for a license since I probably can't use the Dell Windows reinstall disc because it's a whole new computer.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 01:19 PM   #12
haertig
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You need some 120mm fans. The case doesn't appear to come with any. I'd get two, minimum. And unless you already have a DVD burner to canniblize from another system, buy one of those too.

Mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, router, etc. - I assume you already have those and appropriate cabling. You already said you have the new hard drive. Since it's new, I assume it's SATA, not PATA. But if it is a PATA drive, you will need a PATA-to-SATA interface convertor for it, since this motherboard does not have a PATA controller/connector (nor cables). I have use SATA-to-PATA convertors successfully in the past. I assume they make the reverse PATA-to-SATA convertors as well.

When you order, you might want to consider ordering a spare SATA cable or two, some spare Molex power plug extension cords, etc. You may not think you need them, but if you do it really sucks when you have to go back and buy one seperately, only to find that the shipping charge is 5x the price of the item. So I always throw a few "spare things" in with any online order, or pick them up at the store if I'm buying locally. The extra cost is usually insignificant compared to gasoline cost or shiping charges to get them after the fact.

For cable management inside the case, get a bunch of those locking plastic ties. Get enough for plenty of replacements as you move things and cut/replace ties over time. Things are easier to work on when it's neat inside the case. Ventilation and cooling are better too.
 
Old 03-18-2013, 01:33 PM   #13
haertig
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I would recommend "Linux Mint" as a good Linux distro for you to install, since you are new to Linux. Heck, I've been doing Linux/Unix for decades and Mint is what I run on my home desktop. Mint is built on Ubuntu, so all the software in the Ubuntu repositories is accessible by Mint. The nice thing about Mint, for people coming from a Windows environment, is that all the DVD playing and multimedia stuff is already there. In Ubuntu, for example, you can certainly play commercial DVDs, but not out of the box. You will learn about having to install things like "libdvdcss2" before commercial (encrypted) DVDs will play. It's not difficult, but that stuff comes already preinstalled on Mint.
 
Old 03-19-2013, 03:31 PM   #14
largedon
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I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for helping me get my new computer bought. I pretty much went with my last listing above, with a couple of upgrades on the case and power supply because of in store deals. I will give "Mint" a try haertig, since I was planning on using Ubuntu anyway, a better UI is always welcome.

I guess the last thing is if someone has a good link to a copy of "Mint" that would be great. Otherwise I can just Google it up.
 
Old 03-19-2013, 07:59 PM   #15
haertig
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http://www.linuxmint.com/oldreleases.php

The current newest release is 14 (codename: "Nadia") The previous release is 13 (codename: "Maya"). I would recommend you get 13 instead of 14. The reason is because 13 is a LTS version ("Long Term Support"). What this means is that software will be updated and security patches will be available for 13 until year 2017. For regular releases, like 14, these updates will not be available for as long. 14 will only have updates available until 2014. Of course, it is not difficult to update your system to a new version whenever you want. After all, this is Linux, not Windows.

The next question after "release version" (i.e., 13 vs. 14) is which "flavor" of Mint you might want. This has to do with the desktop that is installed. "desktop" = "user interface" = "GUI". For flavors, you get to choose between "Mate", "Cinnnamon", "KDE", "Xfce". Mint is based on Ubuntu, so it uses Ubuntu repositories. There is also a flavor of Mint that is based on "Debian" rather than Ubuntu. However, Ubuntu itself is based on Debian. Confusing, huh???

One more point of confusion. Do you want 32-bit or 64-bit? With your new CPU, I don't see why you would not choose 64-bit. I see no reason for 32-bit for you.

My personal choice was Mint 13 Xfce 64-bit. Xfce is a lighter weight desktop that gives you what you need without all the clutter and bells and whistles. If you want all the flashy bling-bling to make your new computer more like something you'd expect with Windows, I'd recommend KDE. I have no experience with Mate or Cinnamon to be able to comment, but I believe they are also flashy desktops. There are a few things that will be missing in Xfce if you choose to get that flavor. Namely, a few standard "KDE apps". These are apps like "K9copy" which is like DVDShrink for Windows, and allows you to copy DVD's. You can install K9copy and the other missing "KDE apps" onto an Xfce system, no problem. But if you think you might be wanting these, it might be better to just start out with KDE from the beginning. What you will find, is that to install K9copy on a KDE system (if it is not there by default), will probably only require installation of K9copy itself. However, to install K9copy on Xfce, you will have to install a bunch of KDE "libraries". Don't worry, this is all handled for you automatically. But just be aware that on Xfce if you say "install K9copy", it will come back and tell you "OK, but I also have to install these 100 other KDE libraries too". That's not a problem, and they will install just fine at the click of a button, but just be aware something like that will happen if you start out with Xfce.

Last edited by haertig; 03-19-2013 at 08:06 PM.
 
  


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