Building my own

Greetings -
I am a programmer and I’m hardware-savvy enough to install add-in cards, but I’ve never touched the subsystems in a PC.
Having had some rotten experiences dealing with brand-name machines (HP!), I’ve decided to build my own this time. I need some advice.
I’d like to get a BIG box with lots of power and drive bays (and room to get my fingers in around the components!) and install in it a motherboard and CPU, video and sound cards, controller(s) and drives of several varieties, NIC, etc.
I need recommendations for the basic components - the motherboard and CPU.
I’d like to get just the most basic, but high end, motherboard - i.e., no added on-board stuff.
I’d prefer to add my own choices for video, networking, controllers and sound, etc. (Is this odd or unreasonable?)
And I’d like to get the best, reasonably-priced CPU in the range of 1 GHz.
I know - everybody’s going to tell me to get the AMD, but I’d like to be as compatible as possible with multi-OS setups with Microsoft’s Win2000, WinNT, WinME, Win98 and Linux, and Microsoft’s applications and development environments, and maybe some ORACLE.
Are there any issues that would prevent the AMD from performing at least as well in all respects as the PIII? What are they?
Do I need to provide more information about what I’m looking for?
Looking forward to your response(s), woggie
23 answers Last reply
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  1. Well first of all, if you look at Tom's benchmarks you will see that Linux compilation is way faster on AMD thunderbirds than on P3 or P4. I use all AMD now-a-days after being ripped off by Intel. I bought my bro a P3 700 for his bday. $200 CPU and my friend's Duron 700 kicks its ass for $60. But anyways, I can suggest some components that I like. I'm sure others will throw in their 2 cents as well. But hey here is my opinion:
    (note: I have practically no experience with newer intel boards, so I will only discuss AMD boards)

    Motherboard- Abit KT7 (with or without RAID)
    Asus A7V is good too
    Stay away from Gigabyte I'd say
    CPU- Athlon Tbird is the king, if you get a 900 you can easily OC it to 1Gig. Duron is outstanding for the price. Duron 700 for $60 bucks and you can OC it to 900 easy.

    Video- I just bought an Asus V7700 Deluxe GeForce2 w/ video in/out for $223. I like it so far.

    I have an Inwin Q500 case I got off pricewatch. It is a full ATX with 12 bays and a 300W supply. I have my water cooling system in there. Plenty of space. Need any other help drop me a line

    ever think about waiting for DDR boards to come out?

    "Water-Cooled CPU Runner"
  2. Thanx for your prompt reply Jon. And thanx for the benefit of your experience. I understand that Duron is to Athlon what Celeron is to PIII - correct? If so, I'd prefer the full animal and would go with Athlon if I go with AMD. The Inwin case sounds nice and roomy. But pardon my innocence but what is a water cooling system and how is it implemented? I have read a very little about people waiting for DDR but I don't know what it is. Can you expand on that a little?
    Cheers, woggie
  3. What LTJ said is a pretty much much right on..

    Yes, the Duron is like the Celeron, but a faster bus.. and cheaper too...

    But go for the Thunderbird... at 1 Ghz of Course:)

    As for the water cooling.... it keeps your system nice and cool... much better than air cooled ones. However it's more expensive and pretty much only for major overclocking. So if you are not going to overclock, don't worry about it.

    Just get some regular air coolers. ie. Globalwin FOP38 heat sink with delta fan (if you can stand airplane noise in your case) and a few 80mm fans to circulate air in the case.

    One final thought... athlon not being compatible or not performing as well as a pentium whatever is simply not true.
  4. Like the others, I don't know of any AMD-specific issues with any OS or any other software, for that matter. I currently have two Pentium III and one Athlon systems. All use VIA chipset motherboards. I'm not up-to-date on the latest Intel chipsets and platforms. They all occasionally have a glitch, but not one more than the other. Plus, I'm overclocking all of them.

    As you know, the Athlon platform is still pretty new compared to Intel. And there were certain issues with earlier motherboards. I built my first Athlon PC only two months ago because I wasn't confident of the the previous Athlon-based motherboards (I currently have and Abit KT7-RAID).

    From what I've read, it seems that both AMD and Intel have their own share of problems, so I can't say that one platform is better then or more stable than the other.

    There are a number of motherboards out there that are good, but have onboard sound, etc...but you can disable this and add your own. You'd need to make sure that you can disable it before buying the motherboard. Some of the newer Intel-based motherboards even have onboard video and an AGP slot, so you can disable the video and add your on video card.

    You might as well throw away the thought of standardized 24x7 tech support. You usually need to make a toll call and/or send an email for support. You're usually covered only by the component manufacturers warranty and will have to deal with them directly. Many places have some sort of xx-day warranty for bad parts replacement, but I'd certainly want to see their policy in writing before I bought from them. The good ones will try to help you out.

    If I were using my PC in any type of "production" environment, I'd never overclock it, but that's up to you.

    Since you're posting here, I presume that you've hopped around a number of sites looking at reviews and asking advice. A few good review/guide sites to visit are:

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>

    A couple of good sites to find links to other review sites are:

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A> Be prepared for some "interesting" Texas humor (sometimes R-rated).

    You can also find a zillion links to all different computer-related sites at:

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>.

    If I were in your shoes, I'd at least buy the motherboard, CPU, heatsink and RAM from the same place. I prefer to get most, if not all, of thebasic items from the same place...getting support for a problem is a lot easier.

    Two places that I recommend and have purchased motherboards and parts from are:

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>

    You won't get the cheapest prices at either place, but you will get someone who cares about your business. I'm sure there are many others, too. You can also work with PC Nut to pick your parts and they will assemble it for you (for a price). I presume Outside Loop does that same, but I don't know that for sure.

    If you want to check on how good a specific vendor is, see if they are listed on:

    <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>

    If I were to make a recommendation, I'd say go with AMD for the most bang for your buck. You can get a 1-gig Athlon for under US$300. I hope I don't start a war here, but the same speed of either system performs about the same. Differcees depend on the type of apps you run.

  5. If you are interested in cooling and a large case go with the SuperMicro 750A. It is a bit more pricey than the Inwin q500 but it offers a hell of a lot more cooling options. This way you won't have to mess with water cooling.

    It can be found at under Product Catalog -> cases -> Supermicro. They have both the Inwin and the supermicro so you can compare. I have this supermicro case and it is pretty slick. What I lick the most are the four slots for fans on the each side of the 5 1/4" bays and the nine cm fan directly over the processor. The case has a filter over the fans in the front to keep dust and crap out of your box. It was well worth the dime!!

    Also I would say Athlon 1G, but don't buy an ATI card for DVD. I have heard from no one who has had good luck with DVD/VIA/Win2K. Try a GeForce card or something else.

  6. Seems like some pretty good info posted here so far. I would suggest using to find all your hardware. They usually have the lowest prices you will find listed. It makes sense to try and get as many parts from a single vendor as possible in order to save on shipping and make it easier for warranty stuff. As far as DDR goes, there are new chipsets coming out in December and January which have the capability to use DDR (Double Data Rate) RAM. As you have probably heard, AMD athlons/durons use a "double-pumped" system bus which means they transfer data to the system bus on both the rising and falling edge of the digital pulse. This results in an effective Front side bus of 200MHz (100MHZ bus double pumped). Until now the SDRAM only supports bus speeds of 133MHz or so and current chipsets couldn't take advantage of the increased Bus speed at least in the memory transfer. The new chipsets however will support DDR RAM which results in PC1600 and PC2100 (PC-200 and PC-266) RAM. This has been shown to increase system performance by about 10-15% using AMD's new chipset. Many people are waiting for these new motherboards to become available. There is also a new Athlon coming out in the next month or two that will support a 133MHz FSB (266MHz). But enough about DDR, lets talk cooling. If you don't plan to overclock much, a large heat sink/fan combo will work fine. If you want to run one cool CPU you can even buy production water coolers or Peltier coolers. I chose to build my water cooler because I was bored and thought it would be fun. Basically I made a heat sink using a flat plate and copper tubing soldered to it. Connected this to a small car transmission cooler as a heat exchanger and then to an in-line pump. Overkill...probably. Cool...yes. I need to re-design the heat sink cause it is too big right now to fit the CPU well, but I tested the system and it rocked. I held a large propane torch on the heat sink for like 20-30 seconds, and as soon as I turned off the torch I touched the sink. Barely warm at first and then went to room temp in a few seconds. Nice...thats dissipating way more heat than a CPU will throw at it. Depending on how you build it the cost will vary. The car transmission cooler I used was like 30 bucks, but if you don't use that you can easily do it for under $50. But I can be considered nuts for doing is quite overkill :). It was fun though. Should bring my K6-3 from 125F to room temp. Let me know if you have any questions.

    "Water-Cooled CPU Runner"
  7. Thanx, guys (assuming Jojo is a guy and none of the rest of you are women with male-style names :-) ), for all the excellent responses! If anyone has anything to add, please jump right in! (If you're not a guy, Jojo, please pardon me!)

    The following summarizes your recommendations. Are there NO advocates of the Pentium class?

    LTJLover :
    = Abit KT7 or Asus A7V
    = Athlon Thunderbird 900 or Duron 700
    = Asus V7700 Deluxe GeForce2 video w/ video in/out
    = Inwin Q500 case & water cooling
    = DDR?

    jojo :
    = water cooling only for over-clocking (OC-ing)
    = Globalwin FOP38 heat sink w/ delta fan [Noisy - not desirable to me; I'm in a small office]

    mikem :
    = VIA chipset motherboards [Q: VIA is a chipset as opposed to a motherboard?]
    = Abit KT7-RAID
    = onboard sound - disable to use PCI card
    = onboard video - disable to use AGP card [Q: This disabling thing - would I not be paying for stuff I'm not using? Can't one find an MB without the add-in stuff?]
    = don't overclock for production machines
    = [About "hopping around other sites", I haven't read that much yet but I'm certainly getting an education now! A friend has pointed me at Tom's Hardware and I'm just learning about other similar sites now, including some of the ones you've mentioned.]
    = buy MB, CPU, heatsink, RAM at same place [at same time?]
    = [You say "Differences depend on the type of apps you run." What types of apps produce different performance in the different chips?]

    breed33 :
    = SuperMicro 750A case (more exp than Inwin but more cooling options)
    = Athlon 1G
    = NO ATI DVD. GeForce instead. [Any specifics on the ATI's poor performance? How about ATI video and TV cards?]

    = - Jon, I'm in Vancouver, BC, Canada and there are issues with cross-border shipping involving our Provincial Sales and federal Goods & Services Taxes, not to mention various hoops that must be junped through regarding exports from the US. Do you know an equivalent-concept web-site for Canada (he asked, knowing the answer - why would you know something like that? :-) )
    = DDR -Double Data Rate RAM (Definitely sounds worth waiting for - so I will.)
    = (Sounds like your water cooler could air-condition the whole building!)

    Does anyone have any other recommendations for cases? Very quiet would be good, as well as the specs in my first post.

    Another question : IDE vs. SCSI - I understand SCSI is more expensive, but much faster than IDE. I'm a little confused about how SCSI is deployed in a PC. I know one can buy a SCSI controller card and install it in a PC, but I've heard of SCSI on the motherboard and I wonder if this is done the same way as IDE is done - that is, the IDE is not part of the core motherboard components but is added onto the board as sound components or video components would be. It seems as though I might have heard of a "SCSI bus". Is this completely off the wall?

    Cheers, woggie
  8. yep, i'm a guy..heh... just a shortened version of Joey joejoe...i'm gettin pretty lazy these days

    With the base A7v and abit Kt7 (or Kt7 raid **) there is no onboard audio and/or video (although you can get an onboard version for audio on those mobo's , but not video) .

    So u have to get a separate video card and sound card...which is what i believe u are asking for. (ie asus 7700 video card and sb live value)

    Just make sure to ask which type of moboard you are getting so u don't accidentally get one w onboard sound (most are without onboard sound anyway)

    I live in Victoria so I know what it's like seeing all these online stores... but hating the shipping , taxes , dollar conversion and all that stuff...

    There are 3 stores in the Vancouver area that you can check out... ( <- just bought a good heat sink from these guys)

    All of these places are pretty good... there is also an online store in TO for

    As for the CHipset question...all mobo's have a type of chipset that integrates ram, pci, agp and others with the cpu... the one that is being used on the asus and abit are the VIA KT133 (correct me someone if i'm wrong pleez) and this is a great chipset. (other chipsets out there are intel (for intel obviously) amd, and a new one ALi)

    As for the ** by the kt7 raid.. there is the base abit kt7 and then there's the kt7 raid (which is a little more expensive) but the raid version allows u to use raid (duh) to setup your hard drives. (if u have 2 or more) Allows them to function as one big one (providing they are the same) and give better performance.

    Hopefully that helps out some.
  9. Thanks for asking this question, I'm in the process of building my first AMD system as well. One poster suggested buying the ram from the same place as the mobo and proc but I would suggest going through Crucial. You can't beat the low price on Micron memory plus they have free shipping, although I don't know how long that will last.
  10. Yes, as long as there is free shiping order form as many places as you want... Just order from 1 place to cut shipping (That's what I do most of the time. You don't save much though)
  11. SCSI vs IDE - Go with the IDE. A standard SCSI drive spins at 7200 RPM and has a 1MB buffer (I think the buffer is that big). There are a lot of IDE drives out now that spin at 7200 RPM and have a 2MB Buffer. They are getting better and better performance out of IDE. So my suggestion is to save your money and go with IDE. The IBM drives work quite well.

    As to the ATI TV cards I had bought an Asus A7V/Athlon 1 GHz and an ATI All in Wonder. I got most of the features of the AIW to work with win98SE, but only the TV Tuner worked in Windows 2K which pissed me off. I paid $300 for the ATI card and it would not work in the AMD system with win2k. The real pisser was that it works great in my Celeron box with Win2K.

    So there it is ATI, Win2K, and VIA are not a good combination. There are plenty of complaints on these boards about it.

    Sorry, I had to rant about it. ATI won't acknowledge there is a possible problem with Win2K and VIA.
  12. tone & grizely -

    I'm in Canada so shipping and ordering products from the States is a bit more problematic. many hardware manufacturers have a modified product list for Canada, usually a subset of their master list which is available in the USA. Canadian taxes, provincial taxes, and added shipping costs to cross the border make it less than worth to to order from the States unless the item cannot be found in Canada and is allowed to be exported to Canada from the US.
    However, grizely (how would one pronounce that?), the general rules of thumb which you advocate apply within Canada as well.
    Cheers, woggie
  13. hey woggie, did u see my 2nd post?

    in vancouver (i think that's where u said u live) there are 3 stores at least that i got o on-line..
  14. Dont worry woggie, I'm in Canada too.

    Also you pronounce Grizely just like you would Grizzly in grizzly bear. Just different spelling ( i dont know why i made it like that, but ive stuck with this name for over 4 years now.. )
  15. Brian -

    IDE, it is then! (Unless there are dissenting and compelling arguments from other quarters ļ)

    WRT ATI, I've been using the All-in-Wonder Pro 8MB PCI in my 4-year-old HP Pavilion (no AGP back then) and, since upgrading the OS from 98 to 2000, cannot use the TV at all and can't get any sound in any other function of the "ATI Player" - so it looks like a new card is needed for 2000.

    I note that you say "ATI, Win2K, and VIA are not a good combination." Noticeably absent from that list is the Athlon CPU itself. Is it just the VIA chipset in that combination? Will things work well with a different chipset in the same combination? Is the CPU neutral in this mix?

    Jojo -

    Yes, indeed, I did see your very helpful post. Nice to have a fellow canuck in this thread!

    I have been aware of ATIC and Netlink (NCIX) for several years now, but had never seen the AMK site. I am investigating. Netlink, I actually went to in person once when I was upgrading my Dad's hard drive, and I found the place jammed with customers, and boxes to the ceiling. There was not enough staff and they were so over-worked they were short-tempered and not very helpful. We went elsewhere. I love their site though. They have a very good "system-builder" section.

    WRT RAID in the KT7 - How much more expensive is it and, aside from the drives themselves, are there any other expenses (hardware, software, training, etc.) involved in implementing RAID?

    Cheers, woggie
  16. with the raid... i've seen it for $240, without raid it's probably around 210...

    no other costs besides having 2 hard drives... although i don't know much about setting them up, but i heard it's fairly easy.

    I was thinking about giving my a7v to my parents (building them a system) and giving them my 30gig 7200 maxtor hd as well, then i could buy the Kt7 raid and have 2 15gig 7200 hd's in raid.... or maybe even 2 20's :)

    just a thought though...
  17. Of course I cannot prove that the problem is with the CPU in teh win2k, ATI, and Via equation. The thing I see is that Via is responsible for writing the code that talks with all of the hardware devices at the lowest levels, the AGP Drivers and PCI to host bridges, etc.

    I cannot say that it is all VIA either. ATI may have fallen short on their testing of VIA systems and Win2K. There really isn't another MB for athlon out right now. I can't even throw out a gues son how the chip will work with a DDR solution. I can only relate my experience. And by the way my AIW is a Radeon, not the Rage 128 or Pro.

    Good luck in your endeavor. It sounds like you have done a lot of research and have been given a lot of good ideas.

  18. I would recommend that you look at the Aopen H08 or the new H series tower case. Love it, tons of room, easy access, very quiet even with (4) fans running. Buy a T-Bird with either the Abit or Asus board. Check, they usually have more selection that any other outfit. You buy duty free right off of the boat at City of Industry in L.A. Good policies and pricing. I am running an ATI Radeon with 32mb ddr and Win 98 SE. I think the colors and display is just plain better than my buddies ASUS or my In-laws Nvidia cards. The ATA-100 Promise on board controller has been as much of a hassle as anything. The SB live is a real kick too. Once everything comes together though, it's just beyond words! I just love it. Stick with the people on this board for advice. They helped me a ton! Good luck!
  19. Hi Woggie,

    Wow, it's looks like this post is growing and most of your questions are already answered. I'll just answer the specific questions directed toward me from this post. I had previously typed most of this in a text editor until I had time to post it...then I forgot to post it (doh!) some of it is a duplicate of what other guys already answered...

    <b>= VIA chipset motherboards [Q: VIA is a chipset as opposed to a motherboard?]</b>

    Yes, VIA makes the chipset on the motherboard. As a matter of fact, I think you'll find that all current "hot" Athlon motherboards use VIA's chipsets, including the Asus A7V and the Abit KT7. Many Pentium III's also use VIA chipset motherboards.

    Briefly, until recently, Intel had controlled the chipset market for a number of years. Intel made some BIG blunders that allowed VIA to grab a much larger part of the market share. So VIA and Intel basically control the chipset market. There are others, but none nearly so popular. Most big motherboard makers like Asus, Abit, Soyo, etc., offer different Pentium III motherboards that use either VIA or Intel chipsets.

    <b>= Abit KT7-RAID</b>

    That's just my current Athlon motherboard. And I'm not using RAID, although I'll probably play around with it at some point. As someone else pointed out, there's also a board without RAID for a little less. I'll point out that when I first put the system together, I had a problem with really poor hard drive performance. I spent days loading differnet drivers, versions of Windows, hard drives. I was really burnt out and then I realized that everything was working okay at one point. So I don't even know what I did right or wrong!!!! If you want to learn more about this board, go to the KT7 FAQ at <A HREF="" target="_new"></A>. After my experience, I can't wholeheartedly recommend it as the best, but I don't have anything better in mind. There are a lot of good motherboads out there. I have Pentium III boards from Asus and Soyo and really like them both.

    <b>= onboard sound - disable to use PCI card
    = onboard video - disable to use AGP card [Q: This disabling thing - would I not be paying for stuff I'm not using? Can't one find an MB without the add-in stuff?]</b>

    You wouldn't necessarily be paying more, believe it or not. It depends on the board. I was thinking more along the lines of a Pentium III motherboard, where onboard items are more common. Athlon boards usually cost more than a Pentium III board, but the Athlon CPUs are much cheaper than the equivalent Pentium III. You can certainly find good boards without all the extras. What I really meant though, was if you found a motherboard that you really liked, but it had onboard sound or whatever, you may be able to disable it and get the board anyway. I've got a Soyo Pentium board like that.

    <b>= don't overclock for production machines</b>

    That's just my personal preference. I work in a an area supporting various servers providing realtime data. Even a little down-time can mean the loss of more money than I'll ever see. The rule of thumb is never, ever, ever... run out of spec. Regardless of how stable it may seem, it's not worth the risk.

    = [About "hopping around other sites", I haven't read that much yet but I'm certainly getting an education now! A friend has pointed me at Tom's Hardware and I'm just learning about other similar sites now, including some of the ones you've mentioned.]

    <b>= buy MB, CPU, heatsink, RAM at same place [at same time?]</b>

    I don't know how old your current system is. I'm just *assuming* that you are starting with new everything. If you put it together and something doesn't work, you avoid bouncing from one vendor to another to troubleshoot. You know what that's like with software.... I added the heatsink becasue Athlons run much hotter than Pentiums and a number of people have gotten into trouble using inadaquate or incorrect heatsinks...trouble like destroying their CPUs.

    <b>= [You say "Differences depend on the type of apps you run." What types of apps produce different performance in the different chips?]</b>

    I don't remember off hand. If you go to Tom's Hardware or Anandtech and look at the different CPU reviews, you'll be able to find out.

    FYI, I see that Anandtech has a new Athlon/Duron motherboard roundup.

  20. Hi
    I also live in the Vancouver area and would be willing to help in ur search
    the asus a7v with a duron at 950 256 ram soundblaster live and ati rage pro is what I have and it works flawless
    I use
    Win 98 se
    Mandrake 7.1
    email me if ya like
  21. This thread is starting to remind me of the old Beegees hit "I Started A Joke" :-)
    As a result of the fantastic responses I've gotten during this conversation, I've narrowed down my choice for a case to
    AMK Computers OCD-3344 24"
    In-WIN Q-500A ATX 24" 300W
    SuperMicro SC760-A ATX 300W
    AOpen HX08
    … ; I'll have to check them out physically and see what I like.
    I'm going to wait to see what impact DDR has on motherboards.
    I think that a 1Ghz Thunderbird CPU sounds like the way to go.
    I'll look at cooling once I've got a system put together and find out if I need more than the case already offers.
    I'm leaning toward
    Matrox G450 32MB DDR Dual Head
    ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon DDR 32MB
    Creative Annihilator 2
    for my video, although I might try to research some of the higher end cards used for CAD & animation.

    Thank you all for all your help. If anyone has any further comments, I've got this forum alerting me to additions through e-mail so I'll stay in touch.

    Cheers, woggie

    P.S., Interesting that not a soul claimed to advocate the Intel systems. Maybe they're intimidated by all the AMD bigots on here, eh? (Yes, I'm Canadian!)
  22. If you want the best case to hold yer precious system safe from the envious eyes of yer drooling friends, then I'd recommend the Tornado 1000. You can find it's homepage at It's an overclocker's dream if you are interested in that, and if's just the best. Also, you can find the water coolers mentioned above along with many more coolant options. Hope this helps.
  23. Wow what great information you recevied! I suggest that you go to AMD's web site ( They have a good installation guild, FAQ and recommended component sections. I have been using AMD chips for the last 5 years and have had very few problems. Good Luck!
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