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I want to do a build but have a bunch of questions first.

Last response: in Systems
February 6, 2012 3:16:20 AM

So I want I build a desktop but I've only built one comp before and it was over 7 years ago. I had help then so I'm even more out of my element now.

Question 1.

As I recall, most components were pretty easy to put together. Plug the right wires/pins in and put the cards in the right slot. However, I remember I needed to put heat sink compound when securing the heat sink to the CPU. Would I be correct in assuming that in 7 years, that is still something that I need to do? Is there anything else that isn't just stick the wires/pins/cards into the right places?

Question 2.

Why do some people get two cards and SLI them together? I doubt SLI gets 100% of the performance of the two cards now.

Is it a cost-effectiveness issue?

Question 3.

How can you tell whether a case is big enough to hold your components? I remember the first computer I build was stupid large. I would like the next one I build to not be stupid large but I worry that the components won't fit. Especially if a GFX is extra long or something.

Question 4.

I noticed that most hard drives are around 7200 RPM. Maybe my is faulty that seems to be about the same speed as 7 years ago. Is this because having a physical platter rotate any faster is generally unstable or something?

Question 5.

My current idea would be to have a desktop that won't be overclocked (I don't want to screw up something...valuing stability over power) and probably not SLI the GFX cards so I don't generate too much heat or draw too much power. Mostly because I do not want to mess with liquid cooling on my own. I want the computer to last a while so I assume I would want a decent CPU now since adding more RAM and swapping out a GFX card is far simpler.

The desktop will probably be on all the time but I do intend to do stuff like gaming, recording game footage, video processing, and possibly remote desktop'ing. I would like be able to run games at least on medium-high settings while recording with FRAPS or something.

Budget is probably in the $1000-$1500. Obviously, I would to spend less.

Is what I want possible without needing any special cooling? Or am I asking for a contradiction?

In which case, might it be better to use a desktop builder like ibuypower?

More about : build bunch questions

February 6, 2012 3:38:31 AM

1. No - if you use the stock fan, Intel includes its' own thermal paste so you don't even need to do that. The only time you'd need to apply any extra paste is when you install a new cooler - you have to use a degreaser and remove the old before applying new.

2. It's not a cost effective issue as you can do this from the low-end cards to the top of the line models like the 580 and 7970. You will definitely notice an increase in performance if you have two cards vs. one.

3. There's three different form factors - Micro ATX, standard ATX (most common), and some newer motherboards use the XL-ATX form factor but those are higher-end X79 motherboards or the EVGA Classified SR-2. If you use a standard ATX motherboard for the most part you'll be using a mid-tower case. I generally advise people not to use full towers unless they're running like 100 drives or four video cards.

4. That's not necessarily true. There are standard hard drives that are faster than 7200 RPM but you won't really notice that. Where you will is by getting what's called a "solid state drive" - which is a hard drive that has no moving parts and works similar to flash memory. You don't have to do a full format of this type of drive and it will greatly improve your system's read-write times.

5. I can completely not understand wanting to overclock. I like to play it safe with my builds - I only use air cooling, I try not to buy experimental hardware (like liquid-cooled video cards) and I don't mess with liquid cooling or overclocking. You can build a system that will have solid air cooling and it will last far longer than anything you plan to do with liquid cooling. I'd suggest reading this article as it has a lot of good pointers on what to do:

You don't need special or custom cooling as there's plenty of excellent fans and heatsinks that will get the job done for not a lot of money. I generally don't like iBUYPOWER or Cyberpower - their systems aren't worth the money and they still are using a lot of outdated hardware like 1366. Building your own isn't that difficult and you can certainly do it for way cheaper than anything you could with those sites, and you'll get a far better system in the long run than anything you can get from those competing sites. If you don't know how to build a system - chances are good you know someone who does and they'll be more than happy to assist you.
Related resources
February 6, 2012 3:48:34 AM

Take a look at these as a jumping off point. They are the latest Tom's system builder marathins.a(,3...). You always get more value when you build your own. Yes we still use thermal compounds; there have been improvements to HDD's over the years and a limited number of models spin at 10,000rpm but 7200 is still the standard for most applications. These HDD's are the most cost effective for quantity storage. The new solid state drives aka SSD's are faster but the cost is much higher. For your use using one for the OS and maybe selected software would be a performance boost; SLI or Xfire using 2 vid. cards will often add 80%-90% in frame rates. However the better single card solutions offer "maxed out game performance" in many instances depending on monitor resolution; and a good after market air cooler will let you over clock safely a cpu like a 2500k. You can do this without impacting longevity or stability and get a significant performance boost. There are many good vids. on YouTube as guids in the application of thermal compound and building the entire system. Also Tom's Forums will always be available to answer questions.
February 6, 2012 3:49:50 AM

Computers have pretty much evolved so much since 7 years ago. Like. ALOT.

Here are some answers based on experience:

Question 1.

I assume most coolers come with a heatsink right under it. All you have to do is place the CPU Cooler where it should be. A lever, some pushing, and your done! The heatsink is under the cooler.

I think.

Question 2.

It may not get 100% performance of both cards, but it still gives you what one single card won't. It also relieves stress off of one card, and splits the work on both, so it can operate faster, and doesn't need as much cooling.

Plus, it looks badass.
Question 3.

Check the "ATX" in the names. A FullATX Motherboard needs a FullATX Case. A microATX motherboard needs a microATX case. It depends also on how big your cards are, and really, how big your pieces are. But often, if you have a FullATX or Mid ATX motherboard, a FullATX Case would be fine. The more space you have, the more room you have for cooling..

Question 4.

If it's 7 years old, it's probably just worn out. I have no idea for this one.

Question 5.

You'd need a good processor. No less then Quad Core, or 3GHZ. Something like a Intel i7 QuadCore 2600k would be good.

For Graphic cards, I'm not too great about them, so I'll let someone else handle that.

Air cooling can take you a long way, you just need the write amount. 2-4 fans would be good. I reccomend at least 3 if you plan on leaving it on often, and doing video editing.

RAM, get at least 6GB of RAM. DD3.

Motherboard, well. It has to be compatible with everyhting else.

Hoped this helped!
February 6, 2012 12:15:32 PM

Thanks a lot for all the answers! It helps a lot.

Also brings up a few more questions for me.

Question 6.

I understand that SSD has a more consistent (and generally faster) performance since there isn't a seek time. Seems like that would make it nice to have the OS or some games running from the SSD. However, doesn't each sector have a limit to the number of writes that can performed? Or is the limit so big that I really wouldn't have to worry about it for the lifetime of the desktop?

Question 7.

When talking about the excellent fans and heat sinks, that is basically talking about the heatsink on the CPU and the fans in the case right? Am I able to change those for better performance? Or should I not even worry about it since I don't plan to overclock anyway. Just try to find a case with a lot of big fans?

I was a little confused by what a tower cooler is. Seems like from the diagrams from the guide, a tower cooler is usually put on top of the CPU. Is it an alternative heatsink fan for the CPU? Additionally, most of the fan/vent placement in the guide should be things determined by the case I pick correct?
February 6, 2012 1:01:40 PM

SSD do have a life span as do all components. The number of read/write is considered so large as not to be a factor in their choice of use. There are web based article that speak to this. The entire cpu cooler is in fact a heat sink or if you prefer call it a radiator. No matter there is a contact point to the heat source(flat plate at the bottom with thermal compound to enhance contact area); this is attached to an array of tubes with a coolant inside (think air conditioner design) and the tubes are surrounded by fins which when expose to ambient air and augmented by air flow transfer the heat to the air where it is expelled from the case by the case air flow. Most quality cases come with fan solutions and offer additional fans as options.
February 6, 2012 1:14:55 PM

You probably wont need a a cpu cooler ( heatsink) if your not overclocking it but yeah you can get them and as for the proccesor you probably want to get a intel i5 2500 ( best for gaming with no overclocking) or a i7 2600 ( not as good for gaming but has hyperthreading technology which may be used for video editing or other advanced applications. the k series wouldent really be nessicery because it just means unlocked. unlocked processors can be overclocked without having to flash it, so if overclocking really isent your thing then you can save quite a bit and just get a normal 2500 or 2600 ( I would recogmend the i5 2500, because its better for gaming and generally much cheaper)

Hope this helps.
February 6, 2012 1:15:50 PM

and btw when i say you wont need a cpu cooler , I meant a new one , your processor will come with a basic stock heatsink , I recogmend you definatly atleast use that xD
February 6, 2012 2:35:25 PM

Let me try to answer your questions:

1) The purpose of thermal paste is to fill in the microscopic pits in the mating surfaces between your cpu and the cpu cooler.
Yes, it is always needed. The stock intel cooler will come with paste pre applied. It will look like three grey stripes. The stock intel cooler will perform fine, particularly if the cpu is not overclocked. That said, I recommend you get a $30 aftermarket cpu cooler like the cm hyper212 or Xigmatek gaia. These coolers have a backplate mounting system which is much easier for a first time builder to mount. It is also more secure. The included 120mm fan will cool better and be quieter. The coolers come wit a tube of thermal paste, and instructions. A small drop in the middle is sufficient; it will spread as the cpu heats up. If you use too much, that is not good as the paste will act as an insulator. It is hard to use too little. Almost any method will work fine, don't worry there. Go to the arctic silver web site for a pictorial tutorial.

As to the other parts, they will be keyed so they will fit only one way. Don't try to force anything, and you should be ok.

2) I am not much in favor of cf/sli when one good card will do the job. Benchmarks do show good performance, but there are other issues.

Dual graphics cards vs. a good single card.

a) How good do you really need to be?
A single GTX560 or 6870 can give you great performance at 1920 x 1200 in most games.

A single GTX560ti or 6950 will give you excellent performance at 1920 x 1200 in most games.
Even 2560 x 1600 will be good with lowered detail.
A single 7970 is about as good as it gets.

Only if you are looking at triple monitor gaming, then sli/cf will be needed.

b) The costs for a single card are lower.
You require a less expensive motherboard; no need for sli/cf or multiple pci-e slots.
Even a ITX motherboard will do.

Your psu costs are less.
A GTX560ti needs a 450w psu, even a GTX580 only needs a 600w psu.
When you add another card to the mix, plan on adding 150-200w to your psu requirements.

Case cooling becomes more of an issue with dual cards.
That means a more expensive case with more and stronger fans.
You will also look at more noise.

c) Dual cards do not always render their half of the display in sync, causing microstuttering. It is an annoying effect.
The benefit of higher benchmark fps can be offset, particularly with lower tier cards.
Read this:

d) dual card support is dependent on the driver. Not all games can benefit from dual cards.

e) cf/sli up front reduces your option to get another card for an upgrade. Not that I suggest you plan for that.
It will often be the case that replacing your current card with a newer gen card will offer a better upgrade path.

3) Motherboards come in different sizes. A full ATX motherboard will have 7 expansion slots, a micro-ATX motherboard will have 4, and a mini-ITX will have only one. Each will have at least one pcie x16 slot intended for a discrete graphics card. You can install a smaller motherboard in a large case, but not vice versa. A normal gaming pc will have one or two hard drives, a dvd burner, and a graphics card. Most graphics cards will be 10.5" long or less. Some high end cards may be as long as 12" Google "length" plus your card, and you should find the length. If you want a small case, a ITX case is possible. For example, the lian li Q08 case can hold any graphics card I know of:
It will need a low profile cpu cooler, like the intel stock cooler which is not quite as effective as a large tower type.

A good micro-atx case is the silverstone TJ08-E. It also will hold any graphics card along with a full size tower type cooler.

I have used both, and can recommend them.

If a case has a 140mm intake fan or better, it will provide adequate cooling for a single graphics card. Size of the case is irrelevant, it is a decent airflow that matters.

4) 7200rpm is the norm for desktop hard drives. You can buy a 10K velociraptor, which is a bit faster, and there are 15k enterprise hard drives. Faster rpm generates heat, which is why the performance benefit seems to be outweighed by heat and power issues. The higher rotation speeds reduce the access times, but do not generally add much to the data transfer rates. It is the density of the platters in conjunction with the rpm that determines the sequential transfer rates.
For performance, look for a SSD for the os and some apps. Any ssd will be 50x faster in random i/o, and that is what the os does mostly. Any ssd will also be 2-3x faster than any hard drive. If all of your data can fit on a SSD, just get that. A 80gb ssd will hold the os and half a dozen games. If you will store lots of data, like video's, SSD storage will be too expensive, and adding a large hard drive for storage will fix that problem.
5) At your budget, a 2500K based pc will probably be best. The "K" suffix denotes multiplier overclocking capability. You do not have to use it, and the price premium of a "K" is minor, so you should preserve that option. If you overclock, the normal 3.3 clock rate can go to 4.0 and perhaps higher conservatively.
The hard part is selecting the parts, not assembling them. The experience you gain is priceless, I urge you to do it.

6) Yes, there is a limit of the number of writes that a ssd can take. For a normal desktop user, the limit will be reached long after the ssd is obsolete, perhaps 10+ years or so. Intel has a 5 year warranty on their 320 series. It is just not a real issue today. For reliability, I would look to Intel or Samsung.
There are server SSD's that can take many more writes, but they are also much more expensive.

7) Fans, for the most part are standard, in their sizes and attachments. It is easy to change the case fans out for different ones. There is a trade off. Higher cfm fans will push more air, but will do so at higher rpm's and will be noisier. I suggest that you try the default case or cpu cooler fans first.

Ram is cheap. Get a 8gb kit of 2 x 4gb for normal work. If you are a very heavy multitasker, or will run 64 bit enabled apps like photoshop, then gat a 16gb kit of 4 x 4gb.

Do not go cheap on the psu. My short list of quality psu's would include Antec, PC P&C, Seasonic, Corsair, and XFX. You can buy from any one of them safely.
The size of the psu you need is really determined by the graphics card configuration.
Here is what EVGA recommends for their graphics cards:

GTX550ti needs 400w with 24a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin PCI-E power lead.

GTX560 needs 450w with 24a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX560Ti needs 500w with 30a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX570 needs 550w with 38a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX580 needs 600w with 42a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI-E power lead.

GTX590 needs 700w with 50a on the 12v rails plus two 8-pin PCI-E power leads or 4 6-pin power leads.

To see what is involved in assembling a pc, I suggest you download and read, cover to cover, the motherboard and case manuals.
February 7, 2012 12:05:23 AM

Alright, thanks a lot. Just one question. When I did my computer 7 years ago, I had to use nlite so my harddrives would be recognized by the windows XP installer (I didn't have an A drive). Would I have similar concerns now? Or are drivers pretty good on the Windows 7 install disc?
February 7, 2012 12:11:38 AM

Gauze said:
Alright, thanks a lot. Just one question. When I did my computer 7 years ago, I had to use nlite so my harddrives would be recognized by the windows XP installer (I didn't have an A drive). Would I have similar concerns now? Or are drivers pretty good on the Windows 7 install disc?

The HD controllers on Windows 7 are vastly improved over what XP used - you won't need any additional drivers as it's pretty much plug-and-play.