Before I Build: Some Questions

After reading my EVGA SLI LE manual from cover to cover, I've come up with several questions regarding computers in general that I feel would be important to get answered at this stage of my life. I hope to gain the answers to these questions; as a result, I hope to have a better understanding of computers and how they work than I do right now.

I feel like what I need is a class, or a well structured article. While reading through my manual, I realized that there were many things I did not understand about computers. As I wish to overclock my Core i7 920, I think it would be important to learn about these things. You may tell me I'm wasting my time; you may tell me that I don't need to know EVERYTHING in the manual in order to have an "understanding" of computers, and how to overclock them. If that's your opinion then please say so, and guide me to a source that may aid me in learning more about what I need to know.


Keep in mind, I don't want to overclock my system initially. I wish to run it stock for a week or two, just to get used to everything, and get myself settled into Windows 7.
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  1. I will list the questions I have here.

    OS Questions:
    Do I need to install a 64 bit operating system before I install my new motherboard and the 6gb of ram I bought for it?

    If I want to leave XP 32 in there (at least until my version of Windows 7 arrives, do I only install 2 of the 3 sticks of ram I have (each stick is 2gb)?

    Hardware Questions:
    How much do I need to know about the "signal" that belongs to each "pin" of the 24 pin ATX power connector. What is it first of all? For example, Pin 1 has a "Signal" of "3.3V," while Pin 3 has a "Signal" of "GND." There are a few other "Signal" acronyms I'm not familiar with, like "PWROK" and "RSVD."

    What do the labels "RX+" "RX-" "TX-" "TX+" refer to when talking about SATA connections?

    What would the "signal" of +5V be referring to when looking at the front panel header pins? Other Signals in this list include HD_PWR, HD Active, PWR LED, STBY LED, Ground, RST BTN, PWR BTN, and empty.

    The Firewire connector pins have signals like, TPA+, TPA-, TPB+, +12v, and GND (ground?)

    What does the usb header "5V_DUAL," D-, and D+ mean?

    The audio connector has many signals as well, what is a signal? Can some "signals" be used to send power to the unit connected to it, and others can be used to send commands?

    I seem to have 4 PCI Express 2.0 slots. They measure in the following timings: x16, x8, x8, and x4. If I only run 2x SLI, will both cards recieve the full x16 bandwidth (as I wouldn't be using the other two cards?) or does it work this way??

    If I "clear CMOS" does EVERYTHING (including the "Supervisor Password" get deleted?) Does that button basically return my motherboard to complete defaults, meaning I'd have to reset my ram timings, and everything?

    Bios Questions:
    Is it best to allow my motherboard to "auto-select" the HDD cylinder, Head, Precomp, Landing Zone, and Sector settings? Because I have no idea what any of those are.

    What is the difference between "CHS," "LBA," "Large," and "Auto," when talking about HDD Access Modes?

    Is it best to leave "Halt" ON? The manual defines it as the component that "determines whether or not the computer stops if an error is detected during power on." Should this be set to stop at All Errors, No Errors, or All Errors except Keyboard errors?

    What is the "Base Memory" that the manual refers to? The manual has this to say about it: "BIOS POST determines the amount of base (or conventional memory) installed in the system. It is a small amound in the screenshot (640k), especially when compared to the "extended memory" of 1,047,552k. What is extended memory?

    For my SATA Devices, which "SATA MODE" do I want to enable? IDE, RAID, or AHCI? AHCI is described as something that "enables advanced SATA features for improved performance with NCQ and Hot-Plug features." IDE is: Use the Serial ATA hard disk drivers as Parallel ATA storage devices.

    Do I want to enable "LEGACY Mode support?" It allows the SATA controller to operate in this mode. It says "Select disabled if you install operating system that supports Native mode. What's native mode?

    What does Realtek GigaLan do? Will this enable me to host LAN events??

    What is the Realtek LAN PXE boot ROM? Manual is not specific.

    I'm guessing I want to leave Firewire enabled, as well as Realtek HD Audio. If I buy a dedicated sound card later on, though, would I have to disable the REaltek HD Audio??

    Do you know if the front usb ports on my Antec 900 case are USB 2.0 or 1.0 (once I hook them up to the mobo?)

    In the Power Management menu, it refers to "ACPI Function." It wants me to either enable it or disable it. What is a ACPI Suspend Type?? Options are: [SI&S3], [S1 (POS)], and S3(STR)]. What is S1, S3, and POS, STR?

    What is a Soft-Off?? As opposed to a hard, I'm guessing?

    What is VGABIOS?

    How would a "Wake-up by PCI Card" work??

    If I wanted to enable a "Hot Key Power On" would this mean that the system is always 'listening' to the keyboard, therefore, the system would never be truly off?? Is this an ok thing to do?

    There are MANY different types of voltages that I have the option of tweaking. CPU VCore, CPU VTT Voltage, CPU PLL Vcore, DIMM Voltage, DIMM DQ Vref, IOH Vcore, IOH/ICH I/O Voltage, ICH Vcore, EVGA VDroop control. What in the world?? Where can I get information on this stuff???

    There are also many different Ram settings I have questions about. What does enabling the "Memory Control Setting" do?

    What is the 1600MHz frequency, really???

    What does "Channel Interleave Setting" mean?? Do I want 1,2,3,4,5, or 6 way??

    What should I put in the slot after "Rank Interleave Setting?" Options are 1,2, or 4 way.

    I know my memory has "timings" of 8-8-8-24. What, then are all of these: tCL, tRCD, tRP, tRAS, tRFC, Command Rate, tRRD, tFAW, tRTP, and tWR????

    Do I want Speedstep? What is it?

    Do I want Turbo Mode? What is it?

    What does the CxE Function do??What is a "C state?" What does C1E, C1, C3, or C6 signify? What does it mean to enable or disable this setting?

    What does "Execute Disable Bit" mean or do? The manual says "When this function is disabled, it forces the XD feature flag to always return to zero (0)." I have no idea what a XD feature flag is.

    What is Intel Virtualization Technology, and do I want it enabled??

    Do I want Hyperthreading enabled?

    What is QuickPath Interconnect, and do I want that enabled??

    What is the QPI frequency I want?? Why??
  2. System Specs:

    Running Windows XP
    Asus 25.5" 1920x1200
    Dell 19" 1680x1050
    Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L Rev. 2.0 LGA775 Motherboard
    Intel Core2Duo E2180 Processor
    Hard Drives:
    Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250410AS 250GB 7200rpm Hard Drive
    Velociraptor WD3000GLFS 300GB Hard Drive
    SAMSUNG Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB 7200 RPM
    Xigmatek HDT-S1283 120mm CPU Cooler
    G.Skill 2x2gb (total 4gb) DDR2 800 Ram
    Visionek Radeon HD 3870 512MB
    Antec Earthwatts EA430W
    Antec 900
    Logitech G15
    Logitech G5

    New System Specs:
    Replacing three parts:

    Core i7 920
    Corsair Dominator DDR3 1600
  3. OS, you can install all the ram in running xp. The system will only see 3-3.5gbs, but its fine to wait till win 7. Chances are, you won't even use the ram in there at 3.

    Don't sweat what all the pins do on a connection. They are all key'd so they will only plug in the correct way. Signals are carried over a wire with power and start at the + then do their thing on whatever device, led, speaker, and then the power leaves on the - line (ground) and finishes the circuit. Not needed info.

    Your mobo should do x16/x16/x4/x0 with just 2 cards plugged in.

    I don't know if the supervisor password gets cleared on a reset or not. That should be in your manual.

    As for the bios settings,
    Leave the HDD settings to auto. If everything is Sata, use AHCI.

    This is the sticky for the i7 in the OC section, take some time to read this:

    Well start with that and see how many of your questions that can answer. Most of the definition stuff and what is this can be answered by wikipedia too. Search and see what you can find.

    Also, if you're planning to CF cards, you'll need a PSU upgrade when you upgrade your graphics.
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