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Old 07-03-2021, 12:58 PM   #1
newbiesforever
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I made an experiment of building a computer with a used CPU


From about 2014 to spring 2021, I didn't use a desktop computer. After my last one failed, I started using an old ThinkPad T61 that I had bought not long prior, because it was all I had. It ran fine and met my needs perfectly well; so for most of the next seven years, I used only these. They always failed within a year and a half, so I kept buying replacements--various ThinkPad T models.--and I didn't mind, because they were cheap and it was just easier than putting the time, effort and energy into building myself a new desktop computer. It wasn't hard to find one that looked in good shape for $75. (Less than that, and it was probably junk.)

Anyway, it's just that in fall 2020, I got tired of buying a new laptop sometimes as frequently as every six months, and so decided to finally build myself a new desktop computer. But my success running these used laptops taught me that I don't need new technology or even close thereto; so I decided to build one with used parts to see how well I could get away with it.
Well, some used parts: besides having kept various old components from my last desktop--keyboard, optical drive, wireless access point, the CPU fan--I especially wanted to try a used CPU. Not a used motherboard, though: I thought there were too many things that could be failing but hard to detect failure in. (The capacitors, perhaps.) I just wanted a new motherboard with a CPU socket design old enough to fit a CPU from the timeframe when my last desktop was fairly current. So I went to eBay and bought an old CPU from the AMD Athlon X2 series. Actually several: they cost almost nothing, so I bought several in case one failed. And found a new motherboard at Newegg with an AM2/AM3 socket.

So, I am currently running an Athlon X2 B26 CPU in an AMD M5A78L-M+ motherboard. The old CPU seems to run fine, and shows no sign of being near failure at this time. I wish the board had more than one PCI slot, but...I took what I could find for the money I was willing to spend. What didn't work out at all, so that I wouldn't try it again, is re-using the old fan. I had bought it not very long before my last motherboard failed in 2013, so I thought it would be in acceptable shape; but between the noise it made and the temperature seeming higher than it should be, it was obviously failing; and I had to buy a new one. And it doesn't reflect on my experiment that I chose a lousy CPU case that I now regret choosing. That could have happened if I had bought all new components.

Other than that...I'd do this again. Years ago, I knew a guy who stridently said, "You should use the latest and greatest technology, damn it." I have made him look foolish.

Last edited by newbiesforever; 07-03-2021 at 01:39 PM.
 
Old 07-03-2021, 01:38 PM   #2
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One can do exceptionally well with older gear IF PSU and Cooling are in good shape and ideally, though old, it was at one time, top of the line. I have several PCs and a T61-P as my only laptop. About once a year I clean out the T61 and replace the thermal grease (I removed the stupid foam pad, installed a thin copper shim and greased both sides ... 10-12C cooler) it still runs great and a $16 USD brand new 250GB SSD breathed new life into it AND ran cooler than the 7200 rpm HDD I had previously.

My oldest PC is a single core 64bit AMD FX-57. Upon release it sold for roughly $1200. I waited, watched, and pounced when it sold for $220. It's still very useful. A real shocker is my next to oldest which is an Intel Core 2 Extreme, also around $1200 new but a few years later I got for $300. It is shockingly fast BUT.... and this deserves it's own paragraph...

The major problem with both of these older machines is BIOS and ports bandwidth. They do not properly support NVME, if at all, and are buggy and clunky at UEFI boot. The wifi is agonizingly slow and the USB and SATA are annoyingly old and slow, PCIe is sometimes slow... none have M.2 support.

I'm an electronics guy like at component level so on one hand I decry the inability to repair and maintain at component level but I am blown away and forced to recognize that the "Replace, Don't Repair" economy has resulted in huge advances at ever reduced prices. A high mid level video card I bought around 12 years ago for $220 is now replaceable by cards costing 1/10th that. When HDTV first came out my Mom bought the cheapest offbrand she could find, a 27 inch 720p with crap connectivity and it cost almost $800. It was kinda OK. Today one can buy a TCL or a Sony 43 inch 4K TV that will drop your jaw for ~$100 less. Even $400 modern TVs (roughly half the cost of that 720p) some up to 50+ inches in size make that 720p seem like a weak, lousy toy.

What one wants for a PC or any technology depends on what one chooses to use it for. These days my 94 year old Mom can get by just fine with a cheap tablet or even her phone since all she mostly does is text and look at jpegs.

Last edited by enorbet; 07-03-2021 at 01:40 PM. Reason: tyypo
 
Old 07-03-2021, 02:02 PM   #3
eight.bit.al
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet View Post
They do not properly support NVME, if at all, and are buggy and clunky at UEFI boot. The wifi is agonizingly slow and the USB and SATA are annoyingly old and slow, PCIe is sometimes slow... none have M.2 support.
I recently posted on another board how to use NVMe drives on an older mobo.

https://forums.bunsenlabs.org/viewto...114183#p114183

HTH

8bit
 
Old 07-03-2021, 02:46 PM   #4
enorbet
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That's a decent article. eight.bit.al, but the fact and obstacle still remains that just because an M.2 SSD can work on a PCIe sled does not mean one can boot from it. That requires a BIOS/UEFI that actually "sees" it as a storage device and many do not. There are some sleds that include a translation layer that can workaround that issue but it's hardly ideal and this issue denotes a BIOS/UEFI that is already clunky in several areas.

My Intel Core 2 Extreme system saddens me that the CPU is so potent but the support and peripherals are weak enough that it is almost useless. One major problem also associated with BIOS/UEFI is that there is some sort of corruption within the BIOS that flashing does not solve and the chip is solo and soldered in place. Good quality modern boards often have dual BIOS chips and both are socket connected - easily repaired or replaced. The cheapest decent quality motherboard that supports LGA 775 are currently around $90 USD, have only 1 PCIe x16 and 1 x PCIe x1 (no PCIe x4 for a sled) USB 2.0, Gigabit Nic, 3Gb/sec SATA and poor UEFI implementation and nonexistent native NVME support.

For $15-$25 less I can buy an Asus or MSI LGA 1155 mobo that has USB 3.1, 6 Gb/sec SATA, multiple M.2 slots and solid, modern support for UEFI and NVME as well as much faster RAM. I really can't justify 90+ bux on what is admittedly a truly superior CPU but crippled by the available support systems. It does irk me but it is also the way things are.
 
Old 07-03-2021, 03:00 PM   #5
eight.bit.al
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet View Post
That's a decent article. eight.bit.al, but the fact and obstacle still remains that just because an M.2 SSD can work on a PCIe sled does not mean one can boot from it.
Maybe you didn't read all of it. The boot solution is there.

edit; I'll go get that for you.

"If your motherboard won't boot from PCIe, use any regular hdrive, or SSD for the ESP partition/boot partition (and also swap) with root & home on the NVMe SSD."

8bit

Last edited by eight.bit.al; 07-03-2021 at 03:27 PM.
 
Old 07-03-2021, 03:38 PM   #6
enorbet
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eight.bit.al View Post
Maybe you didn't read all of it. The boot solution is there.
8bit
I not only read it, I did it a year ago. It was still a huge PITA made vastly easier and more efficient by just one generation upgrade.

Please understand me. I'm a guy who used a 440BX system (circa 1998) well into 2006. I got a Slotket to run a socket 370 Pentium in it at 1.6GHz, a Promise x2 IDE card so I could overclock the bejeezus out of the FSB without data corruption, and a USB 2,0 addon card, and more. It would run amazingly modern software, even some games, but it was still severely crippled by a max of 512MB RAM and a BIOS, that even though I modded it with Modbin, still had severe limitations.

Ultimately it's greatest value was that I learned an expensive lesson - Get the best most modern PC gear you can for what you think you will want to do for about 5 years. Then, move on... maybe use your old gear for something else.

Last edited by enorbet; 07-03-2021 at 03:40 PM.
 
Old 07-03-2021, 04:03 PM   #7
eight.bit.al
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It was still a huge PITA
Sorry I was trying to help. Won't make that mistake again.

8bit
 
Old 07-03-2021, 05:15 PM   #8
enorbet
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eight.bit.al View Post
Sorry I was trying to help. Won't make that mistake again.

8bit
???? I don't understand. Did I offend you in some way? That certainly was not my intention.
 
Old 07-04-2021, 07:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newbiesforever View Post
So I went to eBay and bought an old CPU from the AMD Athlon X2 series. Actually several: they cost almost nothing, so I bought several in case one failed. And found a new motherboard at Newegg with an AM2/AM3 socket.

So, I am currently running an Athlon X2 B26 CPU in an AMD M5A78L-M+ motherboard. The old CPU seems to run fine, and shows no sign of being near failure at this time.
I ran an old Athon 64 X2 for about 12 years. I was reluctant to part with it and venture into Core arch and UEFI, etc but my new box was given to me for free and the problem with the old Athlon X2 box was the motherboard - thermal problems.
 
Old 07-04-2021, 09:55 AM   #10
newbiesforever
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Ugh, I said "AMD M5A78-L+"? I meant Asus--it's an Asus motherboard.
 
Old 07-07-2021, 03:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cynwulf View Post
I ran an old Athon 64 X2 for about 12 years. I was reluctant to part with it and venture into Core arch and UEFI, etc but my new box was given to me for free and the problem with the old Athlon X2 box was the motherboard - thermal problems.
And the board model was irreplaceable?
 
Old 07-07-2021, 03:38 PM   #12
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To anyone with thermal issues or who wishes to NOT have them (always a wise concern in electronics excepting actual heaters) please allow me to point out that CPU fans appeared on more than just the PSU back in days of Pentium I. Still many after came without fans up until mid to late Pentium IIIs. Those fans were commonly 40mm or less in size and many were LOUD.

These days even the chipsets need substantial cooling and that began with 10mm fans in many cases back in late Pentium III days (there may have been a few in enthusiast Pentium II days) but small and failure prone. To get power out, we must have power in and that means heat.

I am utterly pleased to report that the current use of 140mm fans that turn at slow (quiet) speeds are common, cheap, and extremely efficient and probably should have been around since P IIIs, certainly P4s. If you can find a spot to mount a 120mm - 140mm fan just do it, especially if your motherboard has 4pin fan connectors and this applies to a CPU heatsink or actually some better in most cases, to the case itself. All it takes is good thermal transfer and moving air is THE prerequisite with or without heatsinks.

Get some air moving across those motherboards!
 
Old 07-08-2021, 02:24 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by enorbet View Post
To anyone with thermal issues or who wishes to NOT have them (always a wise concern in electronics excepting actual heaters) please allow me to point out that CPU fans appeared on more than just the PSU back in days of Pentium I. Still many after came without fans up until mid to late Pentium IIIs. Those fans were commonly 40mm or less in size and many were LOUD.

These days even the chipsets need substantial cooling and that began with 10mm fans in many cases back in late Pentium III days (there may have been a few in enthusiast Pentium II days) but small and failure prone. To get power out, we must have power in and that means heat.

I am utterly pleased to report that the current use of 140mm fans that turn at slow (quiet) speeds are common, cheap, and extremely efficient and probably should have been around since P IIIs, certainly P4s. If you can find a spot to mount a 120mm - 140mm fan just do it, especially if your motherboard has 4pin fan connectors and this applies to a CPU heatsink or actually some better in most cases, to the case itself. All it takes is good thermal transfer and moving air is THE prerequisite with or without heatsinks.

Get some air moving across those motherboards!
Agreed. I actually remember when having 120mm fans was 'cool' or 'enthusiast' when most pre-built/OEM machines had the tiny little whiz-machines you mention here.

On the chipsets thing - I've seen it come and go over the last 10 years. Around the end of the last decade it had gotten pretty insane, with most northbridges having equivalent TDP to the CPU they were connecting to (I think the nVidia ones were the worst offenders in absolute terms, but Intel wasn't far behind), but later Intel and AMD (nVidia appears to have packed it in) chips successively improved and around the mid-2010s it wasn't atypical to see even higher end motherboards only needing a minimal heatspreader for the 'chipset' (which has since given up most of its functionality to the CPU itself), and very low TDPs (a few watts). But that seems to be going the other way again, and I've seen a number of recent motherboards bringing back the 30-40mm fans...

I imagine in a few years they'll rediscover heatpipes and setting up finstacks that protrude through the I/O shield area too.
 
Old 07-08-2021, 11:46 AM   #14
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The board was probably replaceable with, something used, but as I'd received a more modern PC for free I decided not to bother.

Regarding the "thermal problems" I never managed to pin it down, but it wasn't CPU or RAM. Possibly the northbridge chip, yes. It also had a loose PCI-e 16x slot and dead onboard ethernet. So it's time had come...
 
Old 07-19-2021, 09:00 PM   #15
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I doubt this was already asked or answered, so ... what the heck are you doing with the laptops that you're replacing them every 6 months?

Quote:
Originally Posted by newbiesforever View Post
I knew a guy who stridently said, "You should use the latest and greatest technology, damn it." I have made him look foolish.
You're right, that is a foolish statement. Only people with the latest and greatest cash say that. I understand the school of thought, but tech moves quickly, so a 6mo old machine costs 1/2 the price of the just released "latest and greatest", and there's often not much distinction in performance.
 
  


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