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WinXP fanboy with 23 hardware questions, +Win7 for new build??

Last response: in Windows 7
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September 2, 2009 2:42:54 PM

Thank you in advance. Could anyone please tell me if this make a good non-gaming computer? I also have hardware and various questions.

Which CPU?:
Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 Wolfdale 3.16GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$189.99 Free Shipping
or
Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 Wolfdale 3.33GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80570E8600 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$269.99 Free Shipping

MotherBoard:
GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3R LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$119.99 Free shipping

RAM:
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$59.99 Free Shipping

Which Power Supply?:
CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$99.99 free shipping
or
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$119.99 free shipping

Which Video Card?:
GIGABYTE GV-R435OC-512I Radeon HD 4350 512MB 64-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Low Profile Ready Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$34.99 Free Shipping
or
SAPPHIRE 100245HDMI Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$94.99 Free Shipping

Case:
COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$69.99 free shipping

CPU Heatsink/Fan:
XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$36.60 Free Shipping

Hard Disk:
Intel X25-M Mainstream SSDSA2MH080G2C1 2.5" 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD) - OEM (this is the 2nd generation X25-M)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Newegg price: $240 originally, sold out quickly, $500 last, sold out. Sold out at lots of other websites too.

Excluded because I already own:
Windows XP Home 32 bit service pack 2
IDE CD/DVD-ROM drive
Monitor
Keyboard and mouse

Assuming the X25-M SSD is $240:
Total with the $190 CPU, $100 power supply, and $35 video card: $852
Total with the $270 CPU, $120 power supply, and $95 video card: $1012





Hardware / Various Questions:
1. Which CPU, power supply, and video card should I get? Or do you recommend other parts?

2. What is the easiest programming language to learn? Which language lets you get the most done for the amount of time you spend?

3. Are there any monitors smaller than 30" that support 2560 x 1024 resolution? If not, will there ever be?

4. If I don't care about size or heat, which is better, a CRT or LCD monitor? Are CRTs dangerous?

5. If I am going to literally never run any programs that can use more than 1 core, is a dual core or a quad core processor better, if you are spending the same amount on each?

6. Do you know of any good alternative websites to buy computer hardware from besides newegg.com?

7. Will a better video card help non gaming application performance?

8. Are there any input devices better than a keyboard? If you were to put a keyboard on a tablet, could you type faster than you could on a keyboard?

9. Should I update the BIOS of a new motherboard?

10. Should I try to Overclock my CPU? If so, will I be okay if I follow guide that uses the same CPU and motherboard as me? How much thermal paste should I use?

11. Should I get a CPU Heatsink/Fan to replace the stock one if I'm not going to overclock?

12. Should I get get a 64 bit version of windows so I can use 8 GB of RAM?

13. Does putting windows XP on its own little hard drive partition make your PC run faster? Do you recommend any tweaks for making Windows XP run faster?

14. Does windows XP have automatic background defragging?

15. Do you recommend any benchmarking / testing programs to test
that hardware is working?

X25-M SSD questions:
16. Should I try to set up a RAMdisk, or should I get an X25-M SSD? Which is faster? How do I go about setting up a RAMdisk, and should I get 8gb of RAM for that, or will 4 be okay?

17. How long will it take for newegg's X25-M generation 2 SSDs drives to get in stock again and drop down to $240?

18. Will the X25-m TRIM utility work with windows XP?

19. If I change Window's 7 back to the classic window's theme, will I still have to learn a new user interface?

20. Is Windows 7 64 bit or XP 32 bit faster? Which should I get? I would use the old, simple classic theme with both, try to disable unnessessary services, and disable visual gimmicks of Windows 7, if possible.
Windows 7 64 bit pros and cons, as I see them (relative to 32 bit XP):
Pros:
8 GB RAM
possibly better SSD support (but does it make a significant difference?)
possibly better multi-core processor support (but does it make a significant difference?)
Cons:
would it still be slower than XP, even if I changed it to classic theme?
possibly worse, new user interface
have to pay for it (already own XP)

21. With Windows XP, will enabling AHCI mode improve the X25-m's performance? Is it hard to enable it? Do I have to enable AHCI before I install Windows XP?

22. Does the X25-m retail version (SSDSA2MH080G2R5) come with mounting brackets or whatever? Is it okay to just tape it to the bottom of the case?

23. Should case fans and CPU fans suck or blow?

24. Is Anandtech or toms hardware better?
a b $ Windows 7
September 2, 2009 3:54:07 PM

I can't answer all... but will answer some:

1. For a non-gaming computer, whatever hardware you can afford is fine. After all, if you're not using it for gaming, then you don't need a top of the line video card. Do NOT skimp on the power supply though... a good power supply is vital for a stable system.

4. LCDs are the norm. CRTs aren't dangerous, but they do consume a lot more power and desktop space... and they do emit more radiation than LCDs. LCDs are so good now that I would never recommend a CRT. CRTs have become inpractical, IMO.

5. More cores will allow you to run more programs at once without noticable slowdown... even if the programs themselves aren't multithreaded... Windows can still assign different cores for different tasks... freeing up resources.

13. I don't recommend XP for a new computer. AT ALL. Unless you're running software that absolutely requires XP, it's a waste of a new computer.

14. No.

19. I recommend you try Windows 7's new interface. It is a lot cleaner than XP's.

20. Windows 7 won't necessarily be "faster" than Windows XP. For most tasks, they will perform the same. There may be some tasks XP will do faster, there are others that Windows 7 will do faster... but in the end, they will perform about the same.

21. AHCI is easy enough to enable. I don't know about performance, but there are some features in the SATA interface that are only usable under AHCI. If any of those features improve performance, I'm unaware of it.

23. Front case fans should pull air in and rear fans should blow it out... your PSU will blow air out of the rear, so pulling air in from the rear would really mess up your air flow... as would blowing air out of the front.

24. Matter of opinion. I've never really visited the Anandtech site, so I can't comment on it.
a c 209 $ Windows 7
September 2, 2009 4:24:45 PM

2. What is the easiest programming language to learn? Which language lets you get the most done for the amount of time you spend?
I may be biased, but I find C# to be a really big bang for the buck. Some people prefer Visual Basic, but I find that it has a lot of annoying quircks.


4. If I don't care about size or heat, which is better, a CRT or LCD monitor? Are CRTs dangerous?
If by dangerous you mean "will they explode, sending flying glass everywhere", then no. I've seen CRTs dropped and the glass cracks, but doesn't shatter.


8. Are there any input devices better than a keyboard? If you were to put a keyboard on a tablet, could you type faster than you could on a keyboard?
Keyboards have far, far better tactile feedback. If you're a hunt-and-peck typist it may not make much difference, but take my advice and learn to touch-type - it's an invaluable skill for using computers. For touch-typing, nothing beats a keyboard.


12. Should I get get a 64 bit version of windows so I can use 8 GB of RAM?
If you intend to use your computer for more than a few years then I think it's worth going 64-bit today, even if you only start out with 2 or 4GB. Within a few years you'll likely want to expand, and if you start with a 32-bit OS then you'll have to go through the pain of a complete ground-up install.

16. Should I try to set up a RAMdisk, or should I get an X25-M SSD? Which is faster? How do I go about setting up a RAMdisk, and should I get 8gb of RAM for that, or will 4 be okay?
RAMdisk looses all it's data when you power off the PC, so it's only useful for temporary files like the pagefile. An SSD is much more useful, and actually cheaper than RAM on a cost per GB basis.


18. Will the X25-m TRIM utility work with windows XP?
No, you need Windows 7 to get TRIM.

21. With Windows XP, will enabling AHCI mode improve the X25-m's performance? Is it hard to enable it? Do I have to enable AHCI before I install Windows XP?
I would definitely go with AHCI for a new build, easy to enable in the BIOS as long as you do it before installing Windows. If you really want to run XP then try to find a install disk that includes SP3 as it has the necessary drivers.

23. Should case fans and CPU fans suck or blow?
Doesn't matter that much, as long as they're all moving air in the same direction (ie, if the front fan sucks the rear fan should blow).

24. Is Anandtech or toms hardware better?
Absolutely!
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September 2, 2009 9:05:58 PM

Thank you guys for being so nice and helpful. I have a few more questions, if you don't mind.

If XP 32 bit is not as hardware intensive, will it make up for Window's 7 64 bit's better multicore processor compatibility, better SSD use, and 4 more gigs of RAM?

Anandtech wrote: "TRIM isn’t yet supported, but the 34nm drives will get a firmware update when Windows 7 launches enabling TRIM. XP and Vista users will get a performance enhancing utility (read: manual TRIM utility)."
So does this mean "performance enhancing utility" is not the same as TRIM? And does anyone know if that manual utility will be as good as TRIM?

Is it true that AHCI must be enabled in bios before OS install? And does Windows XP SP2 work with AHCI?

If AHCI requires Windows XP SP3, can I install using my SP1/SP2 disk, and get SP3 after it's installed? Or do I have to use a SP3 disk?

Will warranties let you exchange the part, even if you're not sure there's nothing wrong with it, but you think there might be? And can you exchange it just so that you can get a newer revision?

If an SSD is put in a RAID with a traditional hard drive, will it be slower than just a single SSD?

If I get an uninterruptable power supply, would a RAMdisk be better than an SSD? And does anyone know of any real world tests comparing the two?
a b $ Windows 7
September 2, 2009 11:14:22 PM

Any RAID array will operate as fast as the slowest drive. AHCI must be enabled in BIOS before installing Windows... though someone in one of these threads did say it's possible to enable it afterward... but it's easier to do it before.

Warranties will only allow you to exchange defective parts... the company's tech support must be satisfied that the part is defective before they will take it back or exchange it. You can't simply exchange to get a newer revision unless it was proven the older revision had a serious flaw.

RAM is always faster.... but using it for a hard drive is impractical. Using a UPS is all well and good... but there are still times you'll have to shut the computer down completely. Combine that with the expense and you'll find that RAM drives aren't worth the time or effort.

Windows XP will not perform any better than Windows 7 on new hardware... in fact it may perform worse as Windows 7 has been designed to take advantage of new hardware where XP can only be patched and have drivers written for it.
a c 209 $ Windows 7
September 2, 2009 11:27:39 PM

If XP 32 bit is not as hardware intensive, will it make up for Window's 7 64 bit's better multicore processor compatibility, better SSD use, and 4 more gigs of RAM?
The different OSes won't make much if any difference in the performance of a running application, assuming you have sufficient memory to hold it. You'll see more of a difference in booting and loading times than actual running times once the application has started.

If you're buying a system today, you're better off going with Windows 7 IMHO. I'm an XP user from way back, and I didn't like having to change my ways to use Windows 7. But it's got some good features and it isn't at or near end-of-life as XP is. XP was great, but it's time to move on, in my view.


Anandtech wrote: "TRIM isn’t yet supported, but the 34nm drives will get a firmware update when Windows 7 launches enabling TRIM. XP and Vista users will get a performance enhancing utility (read: manual TRIM utility)."
So does this mean "performance enhancing utility" is not the same as TRIM? And does anyone know if that manual utility will be as good as TRIM?

I think what this means is that a utility will be made available for Vista which will either (a) completely reset an SSD back to "factory new" state, thus wiping out the data in the process but restoring performance to like-new condition, or (b) go through the file system and issue TRIM commands for all of the unused sectors on the drive. The latter would be best, but more complex to implement. Neither solution would be as good as Windows 7, which will supposedly issue TRIM commands each time sectors are freed in the file system.


Is it true that AHCI must be enabled in bios before OS install? And does Windows XP SP2 work with AHCI?
If you don't enable it before installation and then enable it later, the disk drivers loaded into the OS will no longer work and the OS won't boot. There are some ways to recover from this, but it's just a whole lot easier to start out with AHCI enabled. I'm not sure which XP SP level (if any) comes with the AHCI drivers, but even those which don't have the drivers let you include them from a driver disk at installation time. So if you have the foresight to put the drivers onto a disk before starting the installation, you can use AHCI with any SP level of XP.

If AHCI requires Windows XP SP3, can I install using my SP1/SP2 disk, and get SP3 after it's installed? Or do I have to use a SP3 disk?
You need to have the drivers on hand during the SP1 or SP2 install. Without the drivers, the OS won't boot and so there will be no way to install the next SP level.

Will warranties let you exchange the part, even if you're not sure there's nothing wrong with it, but you think there might be? And can you exchange it just so that you can get a newer revision?
Depends entirely on the vendor - you have to check with them. Lots of retail stores have a "no questions asked" refund policy, others are more strict.

If an SSD is put in a RAID with a traditional hard drive, will it be slower than just a single SSD?
Yes. An SSD all by itself will run very fast. But if you put a hard drive and an SSD together into, say, a RAID 0 set, then every other read or write will go to the hard drive, so the average speed is going to be somewhere between that of an SSD and a hard drive. This kind of defeats the purpose of the SSD and so it's something you probably wouldn't want to do.

If I get an uninterruptable power supply, would a RAMdisk be better than an SSD? And does anyone know of any real world tests comparing the two?
A RAM disk will be considerably faster than an SSD since it eliminates the overhead of the SATA protocol and uses DDR memory which is faster than flash, especially for writes. But even with an uninterruptable power supply you still have to shut the system down from time to time (to install patches, etc.) and this is going to wipe out your data since the BIOS clears RAM before each boot. RAM disks are good for temporary storage only, you can't use them for data that you want to keep. There are hardware RAMdisk solutions which include separate memory with battery backup, but SSDs are cheaper and have a lot more capacity. They may not be quite as fast, but for most people they're plenty fast enough.
!