First post, so I appreciate any comments - I expect to say "What's that mean?" a bunch. Point me to a source and I'll read it. Here's my concept for a home surfing platform, with more details per the template below.
Approximate Purchase Date: 15-31 August 2012
Budget Range: $400 +/-, plus shipping; I don't do rebates
System Usage from Most to Least Important: General surfing, spreadsheets, financial management applications, extending life of box by using Linux after Windows 7 goes non-supportable. We don't expect to game, but keeping the possibility open is a good idea.
Are you buying a monitor: No
Parts to Upgrade: No upgrades; current model is 1997 Dell Dimension 2350 Pentium II
Do you need to buy OS: Yes; Windows 7
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: ncix.com
Location: San Antonio, Texas - USA
Parts Preferences: by brand or type: As much AMD as possible - doing my part to keep them viable
SLI or Crossfire: Maybe in the future, but not important
Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080
Additional Comments: Quiet and capable of some expansion - I keep computers a long time. Will dual-boot with Linux. My chosen optical drive is a placeholder, and I'll take advice on how to go with that, but I do need one for all the legacy cd/dvd's I have.
And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: My computer is 15 years old and now even mainstream Linux distros won't run.
I've never built one before, but have done what I can to optimize the possibilities while keeping things simple, e.g., on-board graphics, case with psu already installed. I don't expect to tinker much with it after it's set up, though I did add a second HDD and additional memory to the Dell when it was necessary.
That system looks fine to me, but keep in mind that an OEM version of Windows 7 will run you around $100.
Probably I'd go with 8 GB of RAM - it's overkill on that system, but RAM is cheap and if you get 8 GB now you can just get the 64-bit version of Windows and not worry about having to change your OS in the future if you decide to upgrade it. The 8 GB Corsair Vengeance kit will run you around $50 - http://us.ncix.com/products/?sku=61961&vpn=CML8GX3M2A16...
Oh and why the microATX board instead of a larger one? You're limiting your future upgrade options considerably, and you're already buying a mid-tower case.
...why the microATX board instead of a larger one?
All I could find was mini-ATX with on-board graphics. I'm willing to consider alternatives, though if they're available on an ATX, though I want to stay with AM3+, as it seems to me to be the AMD future. If I'm wrong, tell me so - I'm barely an amateur at this.
Max budget? Can't say that I have one. If we find something that looks like I need to have, I'll buy it, but I'd have to really want it. (The $400 was hardware only, plus the Win7 OS.) I kind of want to get this bought before Win8 comes out, as I have no desire for a secure boot box that would even slightly prevent my Windows/Linux dual-boot.
For instance, I picked on-board graphics because my needs are small and the whole thing stays cooler, or so I think; again, tell me if I'm wrong. Something bigger with a graphics card? Sure, why not, as long as it's good value and doesn't make me add a bigger psu? I'm a first time builder, though, so I'd like to minimize complications on my first build.
First build is practice, and I may end up giving it away to relatives in favor of a more impressive build later to keep. Or I may keep it... Really, let me know if I need to rethink these things - I researched things as best as I understand, but that's no substitute for experience in the field.