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Newbie needs guidance building first PC

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March 20, 2014 11:36:59 AM

Hello all sorry for this post but I've found that asking questions in forums is the best place to get assistance lately. I know in my photography and woodworking forums I always like to help others out.

I would like to build my first computer and need some assistance. The decision is based on trying something new as well as possible cost and ventilation considerations. I currently have an old Dell Pentium 4 that I kind of use as a home server. It sits in my basement next to my a/v rack and runs windows XP Pro and Plex Media Server. I have two large drives on it (one for my photographs and one for my music) and three external hard drives. One external drive has my movie collection and the other two backup my two internal drives nightly. This is wired directly to my switch (which is connected to my router) and seems to work pretty well. This issue I have right now is two fold:

1) moving files from my laptop to the computer is pretty slow (only getting like 12 megs per second) connected directly to a gigabit switch over Cat 6. I figure this has to do with HD speed more than CPU issues.

2) Streaming movies from Plex Media Server to Chromecast is making CPU work at 100% and getting gaps in playback with only one stream.

So that is my current setup (I tried to provide as much information as possible) and here are my options as I see it. I'm a hobbyist photographer and have thousands of pictures and family videos that I'm afraid of losing so hence my nightly backup (I also do a monthly backup to a separate drive that I keep at my parents house) in addition I am now getting into ripping all my DVDs so that I can stream anywhere around the house, outside to my parents house or handheld devices. With three young children this makes it much easier to ensure my parents have my movie collection when the kids are there. So first thing I need is storage, the second thing I need is to be able to trans code movies for streaming to Chromecast and the last is for using handbrake to encode my DVD collection faster (some movies take over 8 hours).

Option 1) I could build a cheap NAS type system for all my files (photos, video, movies, etc). Then build a mid level computer for running Plex Media Server as well as doing my video encoding with Handbrake.

Benefits include lower power consumption with a NAS and I could also setup FTP backup of my families computers to my house as redundant backup. The computer can sleep when not streaming and wake on lan when we want to watch movies.

Option 2) Build a mid level computer in a huge case and fill it with hard drives to do everything including the FTP backup of my families computers.

I would think this option would waste more electricity since I would probably need a better processor and larger power supply.

Option 3) Find a used computer on craigslist, reformat and install new OS then load with internal HDs.

The only thing is most retail cases don't have all the venting that the cases I've been seeing have and if it will be running so much I fear it would cause heat issues.

I don't plan on doing any video or photography editing with these machines. When I get around to finding a place for a desk I will build a desktop specifically for those needs. Right now I use my laptop for editing new pictures on that hard drive and move them to the home server when I don't need to manipulate them anymore. This computer won't be used for any other programs but Plex Media Server and some sort of backup software, it will sit in my basement.

My budget is tight and I don't think I'm doing any major CPU tasks besides the encoding and transcoding (no gaming, etc), so I'm not sure if I need a really expensive i7 processor or if I can get away with something like an i3, i5 or AMD solution. I hear of folks only using like 20% of their CPU transcoding movies streaming with Plex.

What do you think the best solution is? Am I even thinking about this correctly?
March 20, 2014 11:53:48 AM

Depending on how much storage space you actually need, you could get i7-like performance for an i5-like price with Xeon processors, and fit everything into a single case (as long as it has good airflow).

What is your budget/how much storage do you actually need?
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March 20, 2014 5:47:38 PM

Thank you for the response. I would like to keep it around $400 if possible for everything with 1 3tb internal drive to use for my pictures. From the current desktop I can take out the 1.5tb & 500 gig internal drives which will be enough right now for my music and movies. I have several large external drives that I can use until I can afford to purchase more internal drives for the purpose of backing up both internally and the FTP. 1tb external would be enough to back them up right now and I have 2 x 1.5 tb and 2x 500 gig available.

Does that help in guiding me? I would think an integrated graphics card woukd be enough since i will only be hooking ip to a monitor for setup and troubleshooting if the Remote Desktop client can't connect? Thanks again
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March 21, 2014 9:42:05 AM

Is there any other information I need to add?
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March 21, 2014 11:30:54 AM

Sorry, been quite busy here lol Does your $400 number have to include getting a 3TB hard drive? I don't know if that going to be possible lol Unless that $400 number was strictly for a NAS setup on its own. For what you're looking at, you should be able to get everything into a single setup if that's preferable to you. It won't use any more power than a separate NAS system, as it's only going to use the power it needs, and the new Haswell CPUs have a super-low-power state when sleeping. And most mid/full tower ATX cases have plenty of hard drive room for what you need.
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March 21, 2014 11:58:58 AM

HiTechObsessed said:
Depending on how much storage space you actually need, you could get i7-like performance for an i5-like price with Xeon processors, and fit everything into a single case (as long as it has good airflow).

What is your budget/how much storage do you actually need?


HiTechObsessed said:
Sorry, been quite busy here lol Does your $400 number have to include getting a 3TB hard drive? I don't know if that going to be possible lol Unless that $400 number was strictly for a NAS setup on its own. For what you're looking at, you should be able to get everything into a single setup if that's preferable to you. It won't use any more power than a separate NAS system, as it's only going to use the power it needs, and the new Haswell CPUs have a super-low-power state when sleeping. And most mid/full tower ATX cases have plenty of hard drive room for what you need.


Thank you so much. So I was visting the microcenter website trying to figure some things out based on your last email. Since I've never built a pc before let me see if this list of items here is what I need before I talk specific models:

* motherboard (with built in graphics card, serveral USB 3.0 ports, gigabit lan)
* CPU
* thermal paste for CPU?
* Power supply
* Case
* A couple of additional fans for the case to keep it nice and cool
* Operating System
* SSD (64GB should be more than enough for Operating System and Plex Media Server I would think)
* 3TB hard drive for my pictures
* 1.5TB hard drive for my ripped movies (already have this)
* 500BG hard drive for my music (already have)
* 3TB external drive USB3.0 for my backup (already have and will replace with internal when funds become available)
* 8GB RAM (I've read that Plex transcoding is CPU intensive not RAM)

Ok so I think that is the list of items I will need. Lets increase the budget to $500 which includes the new 3TB drive and SSD. Would an AMD CPU/motherboard bundle be acceptable for my needs?


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March 21, 2014 12:18:28 PM

Yeah, AMD is fine for mulithreaded applications, and you can get a 6300/8320 + motherboard for a heck of a deal at the Microcenter store if you have one nearby. At $500, without the SSD it's doable, you'll have to go over a little for the SSD to be included.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor ($109.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: Asus M5A97 R2.0 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($49.99)
Memory: A-Data XPG V1.0 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($61.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: A-Data Premier Pro SP600 64GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($49.99 @ TigerDirect)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive ($108.00 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 1GB Video Card ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill REDBONE ATX Mid Tower Case ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Antec Basiq 350W ATX Power Supply ($24.00 @ Amazon)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $538.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-03-21 15:16 EDT-0400)

I don't know if 2 USB 3.0 ports is enough. You could go a tad cheaper, but I don't want to recommend crappy products lol

This setup won't generate enough heat to really warrant the need for additional fans.
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March 21, 2014 1:16:47 PM

HiTechObsessed said:
Yeah, AMD is fine for mulithreaded applications, and you can get a 6300/8320 + motherboard for a heck of a deal at the Microcenter store if you have one nearby. At $500, without the SSD it's doable, you'll have to go over a little for the SSD to be included.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor ($109.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: Asus M5A97 R2.0 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($49.99)
Memory: A-Data XPG V1.0 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($61.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: A-Data Premier Pro SP600 64GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($49.99 @ TigerDirect)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive ($108.00 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 1GB Video Card ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill REDBONE ATX Mid Tower Case ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Antec Basiq 350W ATX Power Supply ($24.00 @ Amazon)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $538.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-03-21 15:16 EDT-0400)

I don't know if 2 USB 3.0 ports is enough. You could go a tad cheaper, but I don't want to recommend crappy products lol

This setup won't generate enough heat to really warrant the need for additional fans.


Thank you. I do happen to be lucky enough to have a Microcenter about 30 minutes away. I just noticed they have an AMD FX 6350 for $129 with a free ASUS M5A78L-M LX Plus or Gigabyte GA-78LMT-USB3 or the AMD FX6300 with the same free motherboard selection for $109. Are these bad motherboards?
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March 21, 2014 1:24:02 PM

They're on older chipsets, don't have some of the newer features, and don't include any SATA3 ports. They also don't have the recommended power delivery for a 6+ core processor. It would be doable, but since you're a big fan of data safety, I don't want to recommend a low quality board to save a few bucks. 3TB of pictures would be a helluva lot to lose lol It would probably be just fine, as Gigabyte and ASUS make solid boards, but still.
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March 21, 2014 1:29:16 PM

great thank you. Would I need a bigger power supply if I add 2 more internal hard drives?
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March 21, 2014 6:39:58 PM

No, that build will use maybe 125w at full power, hard drives barely do anything. You could load that thing up double what it can hold and be fine lol
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March 22, 2014 9:24:37 AM

HiTechObsessed said:
No, that build will use maybe 125w at full power, hard drives barely do anything. You could load that thing up double what it can hold and be fine lol


Ok, so far I think I'm understanding this. Slight change to things. I spoke with my parents and they offered to pay for half ince I'd be doin their backups. So I was thinking of increasing he budget to like $650. I'm not sure if I should put the additional budget into storage so I'm not using as many externals or should I be adding it in CPU/MOBO?

The only change is I will be housing all their movies as well as my collection. The suggested setup should be good for ripping and encoding to mp4. The question I have is how would it be for streaming like 4 movies at the same time? I get 101down and 35 up from my isp so I'm not worried about that side of it if streaming outside the network. It would be the transcoding I'm concerned about. I know nothing about what a CPU or MOBO can handle. The streaming of movies and backing up will not be happening the same time. My backups will be running in the middle of the night so the setup suggested should still be good for that.
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March 22, 2014 7:12:28 PM

Bump
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