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Building first Gaming PC! How hard is it??

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February 24, 2006 11:10:04 AM

Hi guys, i will be building my first gaming PC very soon, as i have already ordered the parts, and i've heard so much good and bad things about home building. So basically i would like some advice and opinions on the subject, and how easy/difficult is it? Im kinda worried how it will turn out! Thanks.

Here are the parts ive ordered:

Therm. Armor Case (Aluminium)
Athlon 64 3700+
Asus a8n-sli Premium
Xfx 7800 gtx (256mb, 450mhz, 1.2ghz)
2gig Corsair RAM
Seasonic s12 600W Psu
WD Raptor 150GB
Win XP Pro

More about : building gaming hard

February 24, 2006 11:19:22 AM

Nice, You know, I ordered nearly exactly the same computer about a month ago. I have a Tsunami Dream case, also by Thermaltake, only a 3500+, but also have an A8N-SLI Premium, a XFX 7800GT, and 2 gigs of corsair ram. And I dont want to discourage you, but I'm having huge difficulties with my RAM and/or my mainboard. But my computer worked fine for at least a month or so!

Dont worry about the parts, as long as you can fit them together, youre perfectly fine!!
February 24, 2006 11:27:02 AM

Thanks for for info man, its good to hear other peoples experiences. Preciate it.
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February 24, 2006 11:28:39 AM

By the way, forgot to ask you that. What RAM are you buying? 2 Gb of corsair ram doesnt really tell me which ram it is;)
February 24, 2006 11:33:48 AM

Oh ye its the Corsair Twinx2084-3200 3-4-4-8 Xms RAM. Do you think it would be ok? (anxious for reply, lol)
February 24, 2006 11:52:57 AM

I guess so, I personally went for the 3500LL Pro, which is quite a bit faster, and is 2-3-2-7 or something like that, cant remember exactly.

Thats the ram I'm having problems with, so I cant tell whether you will too.

Sorry I took so long answering, I was moaning on this forum too, about my computer. Nobody's answering to my post tho =( Guess its too long :p 

But nice, 7800GTX. You'll be happy with the performance! What G-card did you previously use? (or are you using right now?)
February 24, 2006 12:05:18 PM

Hmm... I really hope i dont have any probs with my ram but i guess ill have to wait and find out :(  Anyway the card im using now is a lowsy old Radeon x700 256mb so it will be a big jump! 7800 gtx!!!!!
February 24, 2006 12:05:58 PM

Nice System Man !! hope you enjoy it !!
but i say do not overclock your cpu , its really risky , last month i overclocked my 3500+ (939) and it blowed up and now i have a 3000+(but they dont have much different in games)
February 24, 2006 12:09:28 PM

Thanks PX. Sorry to hear about ur CPU, i probly wont try OCing mine for a while least so i cant just get used to my new system.
February 24, 2006 12:51:40 PM

Wise choice bro, building your own is certainly going to be a learning experience, but it will pay off with a system that is 100% better than anything Dell or HP could ever put out there.

Your hardware choices are excellent, and very close to my own. I've got the AMD 3500+, 2Gb of Corsair XMS, ATI X800XTand 2x Raptor 36Gb's in Raid-0, all inside a TT Shark case. Needless to say, even though I built the system over a year ago, it still runs faster than any new Dell I've seen except for their $2000+ uber-systems.

Some advice for you: Take your time. Don't expect to have it running in 2 hours. This could take a whole weekend if its your first time and you run into issues, which are virtually guaranteed. Just remember to post on THG with any problems, these forums helped my extensively when I was starting out, it just took time to whittle down to the right responses.

And don't try Overclocking until you at least have enough money to buy a new processor if you smoke the old one, the performance gains really aren't worth another $200+ chip.
February 24, 2006 1:12:42 PM

Thanks bweir, i really preciate the advice and im definately gonna look to the forums if i have any problems with getting it up and going. The only thing im concerned about now is installing windows xp on SATA as i've heard that it wont recognise it... Can anyone confirm or explain this problem if it exists?
February 24, 2006 1:15:03 PM

This may seem obvious but read the Manuals and install instructions. Also, do not force anything, if something is just not slotting, likely your putting it in the wrong way, not like a car where a hammer can make things fit. Also, if possible, have another computer available to check munufatures web site, especially the MOBO. During my first build using an MSI MOBO, couldn't get the re-set or power button on the case working. Under the FAQ on the MSI site they said they had the wrong info in the manual but corrected it on the web site. As someone else said, take your time and be patient. Remember, building a computer is fun :D 
February 24, 2006 1:47:54 PM

Yup, it's because the original Windows XP image that came out around 2000 didn't have SATA Support because SATA hadn't come out yet. You will need to install a floppy drive in the system, not mounted in the case (more work!!), just plugged onto the mobo and power supply, it'll work like that if its stable and level. If your motherboard came with a SATA driver floppy, you're in luck, if not, you will need to D/L the SATA driver off ASUS' website and put it onto a freshly formatted floppy. Then, make sure the rest of the hardware is set up properly, and insert the XP disk. It will initially install a bunch of files that will take a minute or so, and at some point during this process it will prompt you to press "F-something", I think its F6, to "Install a RAID or Third Party Driver", when you hit the "F" button, it will read the floppy and prompt you to select the SATA driver. Then XP will finally recognize the hard drive and continue the installation without much input from you, sans the occasional mouse click. Oh yeah, it will have to format the drive either way, so that might be another step in this process, but it won't require you to do much except check up on it every 15 minutes or so. I'll keep on this forum today, if you have any other questions! Thx-
February 24, 2006 2:31:43 PM

Some good advice listed here. If I had anything to add, it would be to read the manuals carefully and if at all possible have a computer with internet access at the ready to answer questions for you. Make sure you understand each step before you do it!

The best manual to start with is the mobo manual, if you follow the steps listed for the order to plug things in the build should proceed in a methodical manner. With each step it has you do, refer to the manual for that part (PSU, HD, DVD, case, gfx card, etc...) to make sure you don't miss anything specific for the part you bought.

Always think twice before plugging something in and ask yourself if it is the right cable and the right connector. Having everything assembled properly will make troubleshooting any issues you may encounter that much easier. You always see that one post where the reboots or non-post issues someone has is becuase they used the wrong RAM slots or forgot to plug in the 12V CPU from the PSU.

Then the fun begins in configuring the software! Good luck!

:D 
February 24, 2006 2:32:40 PM

If your copy of XP includes Service Pack 1 or better, then it will recognize the SATA drive. You shoud not need to install third party SATA drivers unless you're going to set up a RAID system.

I built my first rig about a month ago and did a lot of reading and researching on what to do (and what not to do). I found this bit of advice to be invaluable:

Quote:
One of my tricks is to install the cpu, HSF, and ram on the motherboard before I install it in the case.
I put the motherboard on a piece of cardboard on that nice flat well lit work area that EmilyB has already covered. If the cpu doesn't drop right in like it belongs there STOP. Somethings wrong. If you apply ANY force here there is no warranty and you'll spend hours straightening pins on your brand new cpu. Using a lint free cloth(I use "lenswipes")clean both the top of the cpu die and the bottom of the heatsink(HSF) with isopropanol(rubbing alchol).
Spread your thermal paste on the cpu die(That little square piece in the center) and mount the HSF. Now you have alot of room to install the HSF without the screwdriver slipping and the motherboard is fully supported to keep from flexing because some HSF's require considerable force to install.
Seeing it's right out there in the open I put the ram in also. Going back to that nice flat surface and room to work etc. I almost never have to reseat the ram to get my first boot.


I also did a minimal boot (minimal components installed with everything outside the case to see if it would POST. It worked first try.) Then I put everything into the case.

There's also a pretty decent guide Here (6th post down). I'd seen this guide posted elsewhere as well, but can't remember where.

Bottom line is: research. Make sure you know and understand what to do. I read guides and tutorials and did research for about 3 weeks before buying all my parts and building my rig. I got it up and running without a hitch on the first go (thanks to a lot of reading on this site and on the Motherboards.org site).
February 24, 2006 2:49:13 PM

Cool, glad to know the fixed the lack of SATA support. My OEM disc is from pre-SP1, so I wasn't aware that it was fixed.
February 24, 2006 2:56:10 PM

Quote:
Cool, glad to know the fixed the lack of SATA support. My OEM disc is from pre-SP1, so I wasn't aware that it was fixed.


Yeah, I was really confused on that point when I was researching my build. My OEM disc has SP1a and I got so many contradictory answers about SATA drive compatability, it was really frustrating. However, it turns out SP1 added the SATA support. My install went smooth as silk.
February 24, 2006 3:36:42 PM

From what I understand.

SATA is not supported by Service Pack 1.


SATA is supported by Service Pack 2.


I do understand that if you have a cd writer.

You can download service pack two and use a program to basically make a xp service pack two version that you may do a clean install with. I hope somebody can explain what program and how to do it. This would be your best bet for it would cover all basis with a clean install.
February 24, 2006 4:32:22 PM

I say it is easy and most people who are technically inclined should give it a try.

Buying

Get a good motherboard from a very reputable company with a chipset that is known to have few issues.

Buy good and compatible ram.

Buy a good cooler that will fit

Make sure the other stuff the right interfaces.

Although most DVD/CD burners will read and burn disks -- The better ones will be compatible with more media and produce fewer correctable errors. Even the same kind of media (CD-R DVD+R...) is usually slighly differrent from different manufacturers. The drives can recognize differences and adjust thier writing parameters to suit. Even the best drives work much better with some media than others.

Buy the better ATA-133 cables as needed.

Buy a good power supply.


Building.

Carefully install each peripheral in the case, reading the manual for each first, setting jumpers and attaching one end of the cables -- unless there will be a clearance problem when installing the mboard.

The motherboard standoffs have to be placed correctly and your case has more holes than the motherboard -- make sure that the standoff maches a "landing" pad and hole -- free of circuity -- otherwise damage is likely.

Usually it is best to install the cooler and memory outside the case and then carefully place the motherboard in the case without scratching the bottom of the pcboard with the standoffs. Yes the backplate can be tricky -- practice lowering the mboard before the cooler is installed.

Always touch the case to rid your self of static electricity before touching the mboard, memory, cards, cpu -- those billions of tiny transistors can be fried. Someone one said this works best if the pc power supply is plugged in (but not on) because of the earth ground wire in the cord. Power supplies now supply "standby power" -- dont add or remove items from the mboard while standby power is on. The switch in the back of the power supply should be turned off and wait a 5-10 seconds.

The cpu cooler must work and must cool. Make sure the thermal grease is good quality. There cant be too much or too litle or have air bubbles when quashed by the cooler. A dot that is flattened by the cooler probably reduces the possibility of bubbles. Dont contaminate other parts of the system or the socket with the grease. Ceramique is probably safer than silver compounds. Dont allow it to contaminate the inside of the socket. (In general, dont touch the contacts of the cpu or socket -- or even the heat transfer surfaces with your fingers)

Plug in required extra power connectors to the pc board, video card and make sure the cpu fan is plugged in.

Startup

The cpu fan must start.

If you have your own video card or sound card, then manually disable any onboard video and sound to prevent any confusion. Serial and parallel ports are might not be needed either. If you might need it, dont disable it untill after you install windows.

Check out some bios guides. Dont overclock or do aggressive memory timings until later. I usually set plug and play os.

Install windows

I like to install windows with all cards and peripherals installed because I think it helps windows install all necessary parts of the os at once and to configure them. If I had something questionable, them I might wait.
Windows that has been patched to the latest service pack is best.

Then install all the extra "windows components" that you want now rather than later. When you microsoft update later, those will be patched.

Upgrade the mboard bios -- as needed / desired.

After windows boots install and upgrade the drivers. Intel or AMD chipset, video, sound, network then others. Usually the latest drivers are the least buggy but sometimes this isnt the case. Most of the big name video and audio cards are ok. I dont know about networking.

Sometimes it is critical to obtain drivers before you start installing -- if you are tearing down your working system to build the new one. In the past, sometimes you had to create floppies with drivers on them -- I havent had to do that since 95. Nowdays I usually can wait till after boot and use a finalized CD-R.

Upgrading the firmware on CD/DVD drives can improve performance.
February 24, 2006 6:39:05 PM

Thanks guys for all the great advice you've given me so far. You've put all my main concerns to rest and im confident now that i know that my Windows Op.S will have Sp2 pre-installed and should be okay with my SATA HD. So thanks again and keep the info coming :) 
February 24, 2006 8:15:48 PM

The guys at Corsair put together a great step by step guide to building and configuring a new computer here-

Corsair Build Guide w/ Pretty Pictures

The pics should help you and pay attention to the BIOS explanations he uses.

My last piece of advice is to have a local computer shop's number handy (NOT COMPUSA) in case you need their assistance.

The last thing you're going to need which I'm shocked no one yet has suggested is plenty of beer.

(assuming you're 21 of course)
February 24, 2006 9:54:19 PM

By the way is my 2gig corsair RAM's latency (3-4-4-8) gonna be holding my system back gaming wise and in general?
February 24, 2006 10:05:15 PM

Okay thats a relief.
February 26, 2006 9:30:17 PM

I am sure that there are very good guides out there, I tried to short list the important stuff.

I would add that you should establish that your cpu cooling is working effectively.

Modern cpu have thermal management (throttling) that should prevent catastrophic damage unless the cooling failure is complete.

High temps and high spikes in temps can occur with marginal cooling and this may cause damage, shorten the life of the cpu as well as affect performance (throttling).

Some bioses have thermal monitors -- this means you can check it on first startup. Once windows boots, one can install thermal management software that the mboard manuf gives you or some other trusted freeware. Unfortunately, there have been "issues" in the past with calibration of monitoring software resulting in (of course) incorrect readings. woof

I have noticed that booting and/or bios mode results in relatively high temps -- due to the memory check? and/or the bios mode screens are in a busy polling loops or dont use cpu features to lower temps during waits.

My temps never seem to be as low as some people report but I look at the recommended temp range for the particular cpu and try to keep it a safe margin away from the throttling point.

If it is unsatisfactory, reinstalling the cooler may help fix the problem as the thermal grease may spread better, or the cooler may seat better. If reinstalling, you should follow a proper cleaning procedure of the existing grease.

Make sure that the cooler is seated completely flat. Allow no contaminates such as hairs, dust, sand in the grease no matter how small..... The cooler should be placed on the cpu in a single correct straight down movement with the contact surface parallel with the cpu... After that some say that some slight wiggling can help. Usually it doesnt go as smoothly as you like -- sometimes it makes a difference. There are longer cpu mounting guides out there. If you buy a good cooler, lapping shouldnt be necessary and you could make things worse or leave grit other materials on the surface yet it could help if done correctly and the surface wasnt flat or was rough.

Otherwise re-evaluate the cooler and grease you are using.
!