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Help me build my first gaming computer... *updated*

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February 21, 2011 1:19:00 PM

I'm sorry Guys' this is another one of those "So I'm building a computer..." posts, here goes.



Location (for shipping prices) - United States of America

Main purpose of build - Gaming with a focus on games with realistic sceneries. Also will be used for graduate research (maybe 40-50 windows open at a time).

Budget - $1500 - $1800 for a complete setup after rebates.



I'm building a computer for myself for the very first time. I have built several computers for friends and family over the years but this will be the first one all for ME (who am I kidding my gf is just as excited about this build.)! And boy is it long overdue. My current system is a Dell Dimension 4400 with a Pentium 4 running at 2Ghz, a Sapphire HD 3650 512Mb (agp no less, rofl) overclocked to 900Mhz, 1gb DDR (the maximum the board can handle of course), an HP 3 button mouse, the original Dell Keyboard, Logitech X 140 pc speakers, and to top it off the stock 17" CRT monitor. Now you see my misery. After you finish laughing if you'd like to HELP ME please continue to read.

Over the next several months (anywhere from 3-4 months, say by the end of June maximum) I'll be slowly building my computer. I'll be purchasing components one or two pieces at a time because of product availability (p67 recall), not having enough cash on hand to purchase it all at once, new hardware coming out, and other personal reasons. I'm going to post the list of components in the order that I plan on purchasing them (feel free to to shoot me advice on changing the order), I will update the list as I purchase each component to let you know I purchased it and the final price of it. I will also be updating the list continuously as your advice and information influence my decisions. The positive thing about buying each piece over time is that I'll be able to occasionally splurge on a better quality component and my budget is more flexible. I know I've set a budget of $1400-$1800 but it's very likely (and ok) that it will get closer to $2000-$2200.

Thanks again everyone who helps! This is one of THE (in my opinion) "go to" sites for it's member's amazing depth of knowledge on subjects such as this.



1. Operating System. No room for negotiation here as I just bought a copy of Windows 7 Professional online for $65 with a student discount. One down, lol.

Purchased - $65



2. Monitor. I'll be buying this first for the simple fact that it's an upgrade I can get some benefits from immediately. I'm coming from an 40lb CRT relic, anything will be better. I'd like something that can handle quick graphics pretty smoothly and be capable of HD. I'm also a big fan of LED backlighting as it's more efficient and usually mercury free. I know the love for IPS screens but to be honest I'm happy with the looks of a TFT.

Current leader - Asus VH238H 23" 1080p 2ms LED Backlit Monitor - PURCHASED - $170 after shipping.



3. Computer Speakers. Again this will be one of the first things I buy for the simple fact that I can use it right away. I don't need surround sound. I just need nice sounding 2.1 setup. Pretty basic.

Current leader - Klipsch Promedia 2.1 THX Certified Computer Speakers - PURCHASED - $100 after tax at a local Best Buy.



4. Mouse. This I'm thinking will be next because of the same reasons as above and also because I don't expect any groundbreaking Mice to come out in my purchase time frame. I have small hands so something not too overly large would be nice. A few thumb keys for macros is a must. I really despise wireless mice and anything with a physical trackball.

Current leader - Logitech MX 518 8 Button Mouse - *Edited* This is just an idea. I'll be going into a store to try the feel of different Mice before I purchase as several people have suggested. I do particulary like the Razer Diamondback if anyone knows where to find one.



5. Keyboard. For exactly the same reasons as the previous components this is next on my list. I REALLY want a mechanical keyboard. I don't need a bunch of media buttons but some extra macro keys would be great. Easily reachable function keys is also a plus. As with with my mice, I hate wireless keyboards. Also a small onboard monitor for gpu/cpu/fan speed would be sweet but by no means necessary.

Current leader - Das Keyboard Model S Professional Silent (mechanical) - *Edited* New keyboard idea from Crazyman2501 and Hero_Lief. 24% student discount!!



6. Computer Case. I was thinking a case next as I would love to have a place to store the components I slowly purchase. A decently large sized case is a must as I plan to put 1-2 large sized GPU's in it (thinking maybe a 570, possibly sli). Good air flow is mandatory as I will be overclocking. Water cooling compatability at this point doesn't matter. I would prefer nothing too flashy, I like a "clean" look. USB's/headphone jacks in the front, a bottom mount PSU, dust filters, and a removable motherboard tray are some of the options I was thinking would be great.

Current leader - Corsair 650D Obsidian Series Mid-Tower - *Edited* New case idea from Galaganaban

*Changed from Corsair 600T because of concerns over airflow issues... and this new one is the one of the most gorgeous cases I've ever seen. There are also several Lian Li's that I am looking at...



7. Power Supply. This is another component I don't expect to change much, price or technology wise too soon. I'm a big fan of efficiency so an 80 plus gold rated PSU might be nice. I'm planning on starting with one 570 (unless you guys' sway me otherwise) and possibly upgrading to two. I will be overclocking these, as well as the processor (probably a 2500k?). I'm thinking maybe 850w? Is that enough? A modular psu is also something I've really wanted.

Current leader - Corsair 850HX 80 Plus Silver Modular PSU - *Edited* New psu idea from Hero_lief.

*Switched from the gold rated Ax series as this one has more connectors and it shouldn't make much of a differance performance-wise. Several people have also suggested the - XFX Black Edition 850w 80 Plus Silver Modular PSU any thoughts on it?



8. Hard Drive. This will be mainly for video, picture, and software storage. All my steam based games will also be on this drive (Team Fortress 2, Fallout series, Borderlands etc). I will be picking up an SSD for the operating system and the two main games that will be played on the system. 1TB should be more than sufficient as I currently have 100Gb, lol. A large platter size and decent speed would be great. Reliabilty is a MUST. Noise doesn't matter to me. Efficiency again is a plus! It's very possible I'll be picking up a second 1Tb down the road, but no need for it anytime soon.

Current leader - Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB Hard Drive - *Edited* I originally had the business version of this product because of fears of reliability, but SEVERAL people have told me of the F3's reliability as long as it fires up the first time.

*I am also still looking at a - Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6.0GB/S Hard Drive but I'm unsure if I would see any speed increases...



9. Optical Drive. Bluray burning capability would be sweet. Bluray playback is a must. As is DVD/CD burning at a minimum. A decent speed would be great, and nothing to gaudy with all those pre-placed stickers and junk.

Current leader - LG 12x Blu-ray/16x DVD Burner with Lightscribe - *Edited* Placeholder. When I buy a drive it'll probably just be whatever the best deal on the best product is at the time. Everytime I look at Newegg, there is a new drive or a new sale on another drive.



10. Memory. Unless you know better than I, this is next on my list. I don't need anything outrageous but I would like to make my computer a bit future friendly. The most work the computer will see is an online FPS or MMO while using ventrilo and possibly listening to music. Other than that some light graphic design on some days. I'm thinking maybe 8Gb? I WILL not be overclocking the ram.

Current leader - G. Skill Sniper 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 1.5v RAM - *Edited* New RAM idea from Why_Me.

*Switched from Corsair Vengeance kit as I won't be overclocking my ram, I hated the heatsinks, and I like the lower 1.5 voltage on this ram.



11. Solid State Drive. Yay! Finally I'm getting to the fun parts! I've never owned one of these myself but I have worked with them a couple times. Speed is definately the most important aspect of this component for me. I really want to give the new Sata3 (or Sata 6GB/s, whichever it's called) a try. It doesn't need to be very large as it will only be storing Windows 7, Lord of the Rings Online (yes... yes I know, it got me off WoW though), and The Sims 3 series (girlfriend looooves them). I was thinking just something like a 64Gb. Unless the price drops on the 120Gb models a good amount.

Current leader - Crucial C300 Series SATA III 64GB SSD - *Edited* New SSD courtesy of Hero_Lief.

*Also considering - Corsair Performance 3 Series SATA III 64GB SSD and - Plextor PX-M2 Series SATA III 64GB SSD.



12. Motherboard. The current plan is to go for an Intel 2500k Processor (when all this recall stuff is over). I'm hoping to overclock it to a very stable 4.5Ghz. A great Bios is a MUST. Good quality and a decent warranty is always great. I know these are new so there isn't any long term testing on them yet. Also I'm not sure what could be coming out after this recall.

Current leaders - Asus P8P67 Deluxe Motherboard or Asus Sabertooth P67 Motherboard or ASRock Extreme6 P67 Motherboard *Edited* Added new Motherboards to the list. Thank you to Why_Me and Hero_Lief.



13. Processor. Some hefty power would be AWESOME! Although anything is going to make the single core 2Ghz P4 I'm using seem like a calculator I'm guessing. I would really like to get around 4.5Ghz out of the Processor I pick up (air cooled or one of the Corsair H series sealed liquid units). I think if I'm lucky enough to get a decently binned 2500k I should be able to achieve that. Do you think It would be worth the extra $100 to pick up a 2600k, turn hyper-threading off and go from there? Are the 2600k a much better binned processor? I don't think AMD has anything to bring to the table at the moment maybe when the new desktop fusion/Dozer/whatever cpu's come out.

Current leader - Intel Core I5-2500k Sandy Bridge CPU



14. Processor Cooling. I haven't worked with this socket so I'm just going to stick with brands I've used in the past and liked. Like I said I would like to get to a stable 4.5Ghz. Air cooled. I was thinking of a Cooler Master or maybe a Zalman?

Current leader - COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus 120mm CPU Cooler

*I've also been looking at this - Corsair Hydro H70 120mm High Performance CPU Cooler



15. Graphics Processing Unit. Last but not least! The Video card!! I would like to be able to run Lord of the Rings Online with Ultra Graphics at 1080 resolution (Can anyone tell me about the performance increases they get from SLI in this game? Or what about TS3?). Other than that I have rather eclectic tastes in video games. I really enjoy games with realistic scenery so the more power the better. I WILL be overclocking this GPU so an OC friendly card is a must, also that means I don't really care if it comes factory overclocked unless there is a company that bins their overclocked GPU's (like do the EVGA superclocked models tend to be more stable at higher overclocks?). I'm not a huge fan of ATI as I have had a significant amount of terrible experiences with driver's issues. I will be starting with one card but will possibly be picking up a second card a month after the first so decent SLI (or if you persuade me crossfire) scaling would be cool. A good warranty is bueno.

*Edit*Since this will be my first somewhat highend GPU and I will be trying for an overclock I really think I want to go the EVGA route because of their amazing warranty. I'm even thinking spending the few extra bucks and picking up the superclocked version as it seems like if it's guaranteed stable at the already factory OC'ed levels it would have a higher chance of being able to be oc'ed even more. Any logic in that run-on sentence?

Current leader - EVGA GTX 570 Superclocked



*Edited* - Added a budget soundcard to the build as per the suggestions of many people. Thank you to Deltatux for this particular soundcard suggestion.

Current leader - ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 Channel 24-Bit Soundcard




So that's it! That's my entire build. Besides the thermal compound and maybe a couple new fans and whatnot, unless there are any components I missed?


Any feedback, advice, suggestions, criticism of the build... Anything is very welcomed and would be greatly appreciated!!! Like I said, this is my first personal build. I REALLY want to enjoy it. Help me out here.


Thanks again everyone!

P.S.
Feel free to start the flaming, also tl;dr I know...
a b 4 Gaming
February 21, 2011 1:35:10 PM

fixall said:
My current system is a Dell Dimension 4400 with a Pentium 4 running at 2Ghz, a Sapphire HD 3650 512Mb (agp no less, rofl) overclocked to 900Mhz, 1gb DDR (the maximum the board can handle of course), Logitech X 140 pc speakers, and to top it off a 17" CRT monitor.
from circa 2004?
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a b 4 Gaming
February 21, 2011 1:40:07 PM

While purchasing one piece at a time may seem like a good idea i would suggest saving up and pulling the trigger when u are ready to buy - u lose out in possible juicy combos, promos and might also just miss put on new tech/advancements as well....also best elaborate main usage/apps for rig i.e
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261222-31-build-advic...
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Related resources
February 21, 2011 1:41:47 PM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... - Sapphire Radeon HD6950-2GB

I would opt for that graphics card over the GTX570 for a number of reasons:
-I've seen better benchmark results
-It's cheaper
-It can be BIOS-flashed to an HD6970
-Overall a better "bang:buck" ratio
-Higher vRAM which is a great thing for a powerful card like this one.
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a b 4 Gaming
February 21, 2011 1:51:24 PM

Excellent choice of monitor and speakers.

4&5 Find someplace you can go 'hands on' with the mouse and keyboard. No better way to confirm they're right for you.

6&7 @ $320 a/r this is 20% of a $1600 budget on parts that don't make the system 'faster'. You need a good case and PSU. But you can do just as well with a 15% slice of $1600 @ $240 That $80 savings is half the cost of a great SSD.
CM HAF 932 $120 & XFX XXX Black Edition 850W SILVER Modular PSU - XFX XXX 850W review #1 XFX XXX 850W review #2
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a b 4 Gaming
February 21, 2011 2:41:05 PM

Lose the RAM with the cake cutter heat sinks for the fact it might impede the cpu heat sink.

http://www.madshrimps.be/articles/article/1000116#axzz1... <--- detailed and in depth review of that mother board

http://www.asrock.com/MB/download.asp?Model=P67%20Extre... <---- get the latest bios for that board here

http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P67%20Extre... $155 @ newegg
ASRock P67 Extreme4

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... Combo Price: $251.98 FREE SHIPPING
Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel ...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $99.99 FREE SHIPPING
G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBSR

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $149.99 - $119.99 after mail-in rebate
XFX Black Edition XPS-850W-BES 850W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $64.99 FREE SHIPPING
Logitech G110 Black USB Wired LED Backlighting Gaming Keyboard

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $84.99 FREE SHIPPING
Logitech Z523 40 Watts RMS 2.1 Speaker System

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $109.99
LITE-ON Black 12X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 12X DVD-RAM 8X BD-ROM 8MB Cache SATA Internal Blu-ray Burner 12X Blu-ray Burner with Blu-ray 3D feature Model iHBS112 - OEM
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February 21, 2011 8:28:56 PM

WR2 said:
from circa 2004?


Sadly... I think I picked it up in 2002 or 2003. >.<
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a b 4 Gaming
February 21, 2011 8:44:29 PM

You certainly got good value for your money then. I still have one sitting in the attic myself.
Total price won't be too far off the same amount in $$$ but you'll get a bit more power for you $$$ this time around.
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February 23, 2011 2:09:07 PM

batuchka said:
While purchasing one piece at a time may seem like a good idea i would suggest saving up and pulling the trigger when u are ready to buy - u lose out in possible juicy combos, promos and might also just miss put on new tech/advancements as well....also best elaborate main usage/apps for rig i.e
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261222-31-build-advic...


I would really love to be able to save up and buy the whole thing at once but unfortunately I have a pretty sever chronic illness so when I save money it tends to disappear to medical bills. This way is just easier for me. :)  I know I may miss out on some combo deals but that's ok. And I'm doing my best to buy the components in an order so as not to miss new technologies. :D 
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February 23, 2011 2:12:45 PM

omnisome said:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... - Sapphire Radeon HD6950-2GB

I would opt for that graphics card over the GTX570 for a number of reasons:
-I've seen better benchmark results
-It's cheaper
-It can be BIOS-flashed to an HD6970
-Overall a better "bang:buck" ratio
-Higher vRAM which is a great thing for a powerful card like this one.


Thanks for the input! I know the 6950 and even the 6970 are both better bangs for the buck, but I really and I mean REALLY have had bad experiences with Ati drivers throughout the years in more than a couple builds. I've seen the 6970 beat the 570 in a few benchmarks but with the 570 overclocked it seems like those instances (with the 6950/6970 overclocked too) are very rare. Although in mutiple monitor setups or very high resolutions the 6950 and 70 seems to have a clear advantage, unfortunately I probably won't have use for either benefit. :( 
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February 23, 2011 2:18:20 PM

WR2 said:
Excellent choice of monitor and speakers.

4&5 Find someplace you can go 'hands on' with the mouse and keyboard. No better way to confirm they're right for you.

6&7 @ $320 a/r this is 20% of a $1600 budget on parts that don't make the system 'faster'. You need a good case and PSU. But you can do just as well with a 15% slice of $1600 @ $240 That $80 savings is half the cost of a great SSD.
CM HAF 932 $120 & XFX XXX Black Edition 850W SILVER Modular PSU - XFX XXX 850W review #1 XFX XXX 850W review #2


Thanks for the monitor/speaker choice props! Another person has tried to tell me I was severly overcharged on both the monitor and the Klipsch setup, but I don't see how. But anyways, I love BOTH purchases so far and would buy them both again in a heartbeat for more than I paid.

I'll be taking your advice on both the keyboard and mouse. :) 

I know it's a big part of my budget spent on the case (I even upped the budget for this a bit more, lol) and PSU but I plan on using both in my build after this (hopefully) so I figured the extra cost (especially for the case since I'll be looking at it for years to come) would be worth it. I will most definately be looking into the XFX and also the Silver series of the Corsair PSU. Thanks again!
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February 23, 2011 2:29:28 PM

Why_Me said:
Lose the RAM with the cake cutter heat sinks for the fact it might impede the cpu heat sink.

http://www.madshrimps.be/articles/article/1000116#axzz1... <--- detailed and in depth review of that mother board

http://www.asrock.com/MB/download.asp?Model=P67%20Extre... <---- get the latest bios for that board here

http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P67%20Extre... $155 @ newegg
ASRock P67 Extreme4

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... Combo Price: $251.98 FREE SHIPPING
Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel ...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $99.99 FREE SHIPPING
G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBSR

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $149.99 - $119.99 after mail-in rebate
XFX Black Edition XPS-850W-BES 850W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $64.99 FREE SHIPPING
Logitech G110 Black USB Wired LED Backlighting Gaming Keyboard

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $84.99 FREE SHIPPING
Logitech Z523 40 Watts RMS 2.1 Speaker System

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $109.99
LITE-ON Black 12X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 12X DVD-RAM 8X BD-ROM 8MB Cache SATA Internal Blu-ray Burner 12X Blu-ray Burner with Blu-ray 3D feature Model iHBS112 - OEM


I got rid of the ram. I hated those heat sinks, I didn't know that set up was mainly for overclocking. I won't be overclocking my ram so yea.. :) 

I added the Extreme4 to the list as a few people have recommended it, thank you!

That looks like a nice keyboard but I really think I have my heart set on a mechanical keyboard... Also I already bought the Klipsch 2.1 setup for $100 bucks, although the Logitech setup I hear is great.

What are the differances in the Burners?

Thanks again!
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a b 4 Gaming
February 23, 2011 2:34:05 PM

fixall said:
I got rid of the ram. I hated those heat sinks, I didn't know that set up was mainly for overclocking. I won't be overclocking my ram so yea.. :) 

I added the Extreme4 to the list as a few people have recommended it, thank you!

That looks like a nice keyboard but I really think I have my heart set on a mechanical keyboard... Also I already bought the Klipsch 2.1 setup for $100 bucks, although the Logitech setup I hear is great.

What are the differances in the Burners?

Thanks again!

Specs on the burners are identical...I just found that one for cheaper. :) 
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February 23, 2011 2:37:16 PM

WR2 said:
You certainly got good value for your money then. I still have one sitting in the attic myself.
Total price won't be too far off the same amount in $$$ but you'll get a bit more power for you $$$ this time around.


Yea... To think this computer has lasted me almost 10 years and still plays most recent games at an acceptable level blows my mind. It's going to be a bit sad when I take it to the recycling facility! If this build I'm working on now can last half as long I'll be considering it a win.
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February 23, 2011 2:40:59 PM

nVidia GeForce GTX560-Ti
That's a great alternative to the HD6950 but I've heard of some problems between the OC versions and drivers.
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February 23, 2011 8:42:07 PM

omnisome said:
nVidia GeForce GTX560-Ti
That's a great alternative to the HD6950 but I've heard of some problems between the OC versions and drivers.


But wouldn't that make having a GTX 570 even nicer? It's seems better stock then an OC'ed 560, not to mention it looks like it comes closer to a GTX 580 after it's been overclocked...
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February 25, 2011 11:23:16 AM

So I'm struggling with the decision on the motherboard. Right now it's between the Asus P8P67 Deluxe, the Asus Sabertooth P67, or the Asrock Extreme6 P67.

Help!
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March 4, 2011 9:59:29 PM

bump for some mb advice lovin'.
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March 5, 2011 5:44:40 AM

Hella updated.
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!