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SSD boot drive on a prebuilt??

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October 25, 2011 7:46:33 AM

I'm trying to decide between buying a prebuilt system or building one myself. One upgrade I plan on making in the future is to install a SSD and use it as the boot drive. My concern is that I might not be able to do this if I buy a prebuilt.

Here's why I'm concerned: A few years ago I had an HP desktop and the hard drive started acting up. HP was a pain to deal with; they wanted me to send them the HDD so they could determine it was faulty before they would send me another one. I decided I'd rather just buy a better HDD. So I bought a nice one and everything was going well with the install until I tried to load the recovery disk. It wouldn't work. I called HP and they told me that I couldn't load their copy of windows onto a non HP drive. They said I could only use their HDD preloaded with Windows. I argued that when I bought the computer I bought a license to Windows and all I want is to be able to use it. But they stayed firm. I was never able to install the operating system that came with that computer on the new hard drive.

Now I don't know if it's like that with all companies or if I just couldn't figure it out. So, if I buy a prebuilt (Gateway) computer, will I be able to install a solid state hard drive and use it as the boot drive?
October 25, 2011 8:01:20 AM

Most "brand" PCs tend to use inferior/cheap components to maximize profit.

Dell, HP are renowned for being a PITA when requesting service.

IMO, for the same amount as a prebuilt, you could build a rig that lasts longer, has FAR better performance and is readily upgradable in the future.

As to your question, you will probably void your warranty by adding a non standard component and I think you will have the same issues as your HP.
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October 25, 2011 10:04:15 AM

Yeah, if you can, build your own. No question.
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October 25, 2011 12:15:25 PM

My first computer was a "Store" bought system, a 386SX from standard. Just after the warrenttee ran out I had them send me a new bios chip ( 2 chip set) - They were socketed. It Would not work, called and after some telcon troubleshooting they requested I send back and even thuogh the warrenttee was up they aggreed that the problem was probably a old problem and agreed to repair free - they replaced the cpu.. That was the last store bought computer I bought, until my wife need one in a hurry. She bought a low end HP with a free win 7 upgrade when win 7 was released. She used it for about 6 Monthes and I built here a low end I3 Sandybridge sytem and stuch the HP in the closet. My sister's computer died and I sent it. About 2 weeks ago I went over and replaced the HDD - Had no problem. What I did was image the old HDD using windows 7 built in Imaging program and reloaded the image.

That said, I agree with hunuok, They do tend to use lower end components as the components are based on lowest bidder. As to the SSD - it is better not to buy a prebuilt with an SSD as the added on is high and a low end SSD is often used.

Computers have pretty much gotten to the point that assembly is not much harder than assembling kits, just that YOU select the parts.

If you decide to go this route then assemble a "buy" list and check back (open a new thread) and ask what we think of the parts you selected.

For the PSU, do a little research, ie look for a review of the PSU, there are several that are rather poor and should not be used.

My recommendation, Buy a $10 ESD wrist strap and use it. We are getting to that time of the year when Humidity is low. This allows a static electricity charge to easily build up and you take the chance of "Zapping" a component.

PS - Don't count on it being cheaper. You will pick better parts plus you do not get the price break that HP or Dell would get when they buy 10,000 HDDs, MBs, or cases. BUT THE computer will be higher quality!!!
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October 25, 2011 4:42:34 PM

Quote:
My first computer was a "Store" bought system, a 386SX from standard. Just after the warrenttee ran out I had them send me a new bios chip ( 2 chip set) - They were socketed. It Would not work, called and after some telcon troubleshooting they requested I send back and even thuogh the warrenttee was up they aggreed that the problem was probably a old problem and agreed to repair free - they replaced the cpu.. That was the last store bought computer I bought, until my wife need one in a hurry. She bought a low end HP with a free win 7 upgrade when win 7 was released. She used it for about 6 Monthes and I built here a low end I3 Sandybridge sytem and stuch the HP in the closet. My sister's computer died and I sent it. About 2 weeks ago I went over and replaced the HDD - Had no problem. What I did was image the old HDD using windows 7 built in Imaging program and reloaded the image.

That said, I agree with hunuok, They do tend to use lower end components as the components are based on lowest bidder. As to the SSD - it is better not to buy a prebuilt with an SSD as the added on is high and a low end SSD is often used.

Computers have pretty much gotten to the point that assembly is not much harder than assembling kits, just that YOU select the parts.

If you decide to go this route then assemble a "buy" list and check back (open a new thread) and ask what we think of the parts you selected.

For the PSU, do a little research, ie look for a review of the PSU, there are several that are rather poor and should not be used.

My recommendation, Buy a $10 ESD wrist strap and use it. We are getting to that time of the year when Humidity is low. This allows a static electricity charge to easily build up and you take the chance of "Zapping" a component.

PS - Don't count on it being cheaper. You will pick better parts plus you do not get the price break that HP or Dell would get when they buy 10,000 HDDs, MBs, or cases. BUT THE computer will be higher quality!!!


Thank you for the very helpful answer. So I could install hard drive by using Windows 7 imaging software. Is that something that someone with limited experience could do?

As far as the quality goes that is important to me but so is the price. The deal I'm looking at is an i5-2300 system for $400. That's tough to beat. I've been looking at parts for awhile now and the cheapest I could build a similar system for is $540 ($560 if I go with the i5-2500k). Sure the Gateway won't be as upgradable and the parts wont be top notch but that's $140 I can use in the future.

There are certainly things that concern me though. The SSD question for one. Also, I looked at the machine's specs on gateway's website and it says the maximum RAM is 8GB. It has 4 slots (2x2gb,2x1gb). I wanted to replace the 1gb cards with 2 4gb cards to make it 12gb total (I know its overkill but RAM is cheap) Is it possible that the gateway motherboard can only handle 2gb per slot?
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October 25, 2011 5:09:24 PM

If spec say 8 gig max and has 4 slots, then may have a problem with 4 gig modules.

Seems odd for a new sandybridge computer. That is another problem with store bought systems - they tend to limit user interface with the bios. If Gateway has a lve web based support, try it and ask that quest. My experience though is that the individuals have limited knowledge - Not sure about gateway just a general observation.

On imaging:
Just go to control panel -> system and Security. You should see one of the options is Back-up. Select that and then on the left side you will see "Create a System Image. Click on that. You can NOT put the Image on the same Hard drive as your "C" drive. You need an external USB Hard drive, or you can put it on DVDs (3 or More will be required. When done you will be asked to do a restore disk. This will be a bootable DVD.

Side comment - Do Not do an image from a HDD to a SSD, do a clean install.
Reason. is that windows 7 when it sees a SSD will enable Trim and it will also align the 4k boundries for the Partition.
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October 25, 2011 6:11:04 PM

So it sounds like it is entirely possible that the RAM on this gateway motherboard is limited to 2gb per slot. That's pretty pathetic on gateway's part. Talk about cheaping out on parts.. I would contact gateway and ask them but Ive heard nothing but bad things about their support.

The directions on imaging is appreciated and it looks like something I could do. But, you say I should only do a clean install on a SSD which would not be possible on a prebuilt.

After reading this thread I would say the score is selfbuilt 2, prebuilt 0.
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October 25, 2011 6:19:19 PM

Bear in mind you may be able to reuse some of the old computer pars, ie DVD drive (not a real big as new is only about $20->$25), Key board, mouse and Monitor, ect.

You did not indicate what you do with the Computer, if not into gaming you can get a sandybridge CPU and a H6x or Z68 MB and use the Internal IGP and pick up a GPU later.
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October 25, 2011 6:42:27 PM

I already have a keyboard and mouse. The other parts I could salvage are the DVD drive like you mentioned, and I can't think of much else. I guess I could reuse some of the RAM, the 5400rpm 1.5tb harddrive and maybe the processor. The case probably won't work with anything else, the mobo is garbage. The biggest problem with all of this is I feel I would continually run into issues with the gateway supplied windows os.

I'm not into gaming but if I had the machine for it I would probably get into it a little bit. My plan was to add a mid level card like a radeon hd 6670 if I went with the gateway. The best build Ive come up with involves an h67 mb with sata 6 and usb 3.
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October 25, 2011 10:59:27 PM

So I just saw that newegg has a mobo for $40 today only. It's an h61 micro atx.. would that be OK for me?

http://www.techbargains.com/news_displayItem.cfm/273343

reading through the reviews it sounds pretty good. Someone suggested updating the bios, is that hard to do?

If I went this way I could then buy a micro atx case for $30 that includes a PSU. The reviews are not good on the included PSU but one person mentions that its because the default voltage is wrong. That person doesn't say if or how the voltage can be corrected.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Then I could get 8gb of kingston RAM for $25 here
http://dealnews.com/Kingston-8-GB-PC3-10600-Desktop-RAM...

I can get a DVD drive for ~$20 and a HDD for ~$50. Then say I go for the i5-2500k for $200. Windows 7 $100.

That puts me at $465 for an i5-2500k, 8GB ram, 500GB 7200rpm HDD, USB 3.0 machine
vs.
$400 for an i5-2300, 6gb ram, 1.5tb 5400rpm prebuilt gateway.

I would only have 2 pci slots but i dont think i would need more. (video card, wireless card)

What do you think?
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October 26, 2011 2:04:55 AM


I'm always leary of buying "the Cheapest".

The MB:
It is very limited and you may regreat it later.
(1) NO sata 6 ports. does have 4 sata II.
(2) Only one PCI-e x 16 slot and one x1 slot. Unless you plan on running to GPU in Xfire do not need the 2nd x16 slot. However if you ever need to run a x4, or x8 card you are out of luck.
(3) My MBs of choice are Gigabyte, Asus, and Asrock.

Your choice is ram, I can not say as for my last several builds I've used G-Skill

I think you will find that here at Tom's. The PSU that comes with a case is only bought for the case and the PSU is removed and used as a door stop. You do not get something for free. The quality of the PSU is very important as a cheap/low ed PSU can turn all that nice new system to useless electronics.
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October 26, 2011 4:39:50 AM

+1 Retired Chief's comments.

I would get a P67 motherboard minimum. It sits between the H67 and Z68 series.

In general, I try not to skimp on motherboards and PSUs when doing builds.
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October 26, 2011 5:26:37 AM

As far as it being the cheapest, it isn't really the cheapest. It's cheap because its marked way down right now. I agree that I may regret its limitations in the future, but i could also just buy a new mobo at that point if im only dropping $40 on this one now.

sata 6 to me seems overrated for the average user. How many hdds, or even ssds, can max out sata 3? I dont think ill ever need more than one video card. Can't think of any uses for an x4 or x8 nor have i seen many other mobos that have those slots. I would like more than 2 pci slots though. I'm sure the ram is OK, it has alot of positive reviews.

I started a new post about the build and you're right, everyone tells me to spend alot on the psu.

There are some better cases available:
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...
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October 26, 2011 12:30:07 PM

Your correct on Sata III, currently only the newer Sata III SSDs benifit from Sata III.
Sata III HDDs is more a marketing tool as the only gain they have on a Sata III interface is burst rate - not a biggy.
The points you brought up are all vailid, I mentioned them so that you do consider the limitations.

Not sure what GPU you will end up getting.
For the PSU, I would recommend a 400->450 Watts and one with a good review, It does not have to be the "best", just not fall in the "junk" catagory.

An I5 with a midrange GPU (ie a 5770) will draw close to 250->300 Watts. The PSU, even a good one, should be atleast 20 % grater.

You case listed first comes with a "Throw-a-way" PSU.
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