Help Me Build My PC Catch-All

Soooo....

Seven hours into my first build, I finally get everything put together and the case closed (after installing the HDD the wrong way *twice*, needlessly removing and then having to put back in a 120mm fan because of said HDD, and proudly closing up the case only to and see the unopened box of RAM sitting on the table behind me).

Here's the sad panda part. I get everything situated right and then hit the power button. The LEDs light up, the fans begin to whirl, and then nothing. Everything lights up for a second or two and then immediately shuts off. It then cycles on and then off every five seconds or so, but never staying on and actually booting up.

I live in an older apartment, so I don't know if this is a power issue. My comp and monitor are plugged into an UPS and I hear a little click in it whenever the computer is trying to start up.

Any ideas of what's happening here and, more importantly, how I can fix it?

Could be a bad motherboard or a short somewhere. Make sure the board isn't touching the case in some place.

Malor wrote:

Falchion, I think both those builds will be okay. Just remember that your brother will probably need a 600+ watt power supply if you upgrade his video to anything very power hungry. And be careful about the rails on both machines; remember if you overload either half, the computer stops working. Double-check the 12v draw on your cards to make sure they won't exceed what the power supply can provide.

Thanks for the feedback Malor. So happens that this pass Friday, I had a friend convince me to take a XFX 9800GTX+ off his hands for cheap (left over from a bulk order) & popped it into my system. I was sure a 9800GT would work but I should have checked deeper.

Nothing blew up or cooked; booted ok, but after awhile would get disk I/O errors & random system freezes. Swapped back in the old card & everything was back to being stable. Looking at the requirements on the box and indeed it's over my system spec. Even the 9600GT states it wouldn't run on my brother's system. Then again I'm pretty sure XFX exaggrates the requirements to some degree.

In any case & just tobe safe, looks like I'll be looking at changing the PSU on both systems as well. Much sooner than I expected.

The 9800GTX+ needs 24 amps, which your Coolermaster psu should be able to give. What does the box say?

Ah, the XFX website says 640w, but that's actually recommendation and not necessarily the required amount. It's all about the amperage. Well, mostly, but your 600w should run it fine. Did you do a clean driver install or did you just pop the video card on with the drivers for your previous card? If you didn't uninstall your old drivers and put in fresh ones for the 9800GTX+, I would do that first. I mean, it probably shouldn't cause an issue, but drivers are tweaky as all hell.

garion333 wrote:

The 9800GTX+ needs 24 amps, which your Coolermaster psu should be able to give. What does the box say?

Ah, the XFX website says 640w, but that's actually recommendation and not necessarily the required amount. It's all about the amperage. Well, mostly, but your 600w should run it fine. Did you do a clean driver install or did you just pop the video card on with the drivers for your previous card? If you didn't uninstall your old drivers and put in fresh ones for the 9800GTX+, I would do that first. I mean, it probably shouldn't cause an issue, but drivers are tweaky as all hell.

Hey Garion, yep fresh install of the video drivers. I actually un-installed the old drivers while the "old" card was still inside. Then a fresh install of the latest drivers after the 9800GTX+ was installed. The install ran fine, so i too thought it was good to go. it was only later that the I/O errors came up and steadily got worse.

My Coolermaster PSU only gives around 18A per 12v rail, which is has two. Not to mention the PSU is around 3 years old. If I'm not wrong, the 9800GTX+ needs all of that 24A on a single rail?

So yeah it does sound pretty wonky. But since it's running back to normal after I swapped back my 9600GT, I can't think of any reason other than it being a lack of power issue.

The tinkerer in me wants to just pop in my 9600GT into my brother's system and see what happens.

OG: first thing to do is to take everything out of the case. Plug in just the RAM and CPU (and video card if the motherboard doesn't have one), and see if it powers up. If that works, add stuff in until you've completed your build outside the case.

If THAT works, then usually you messed up a motherboard standoff post, and the board is shorting out. The PSU is protecting you by shutting down. Don't power it up again until you've taken it out, though, because that short may be doing damage.

Falchion: if the card needs 24 amps, and your supply only provides 18 per rail, you're screwed. That's why single-rail is better. My guess is that your supply is more heavily oriented toward 5V than 12V; it's probably meant for servers that run lots of drives, rather than for enthusiasts. Hang onto it if you ever plan to build a server, as it could come in very handy.

By way of comparison, the Corsair 650TX puts out 52 amps on its single 12v rail. Probably, if you compare the numbers, you'll see that your existing supply is better at 5V than the Corsair.

edit: I just went and looked at an Enermax 535-watt unit that I bought as a quick bandaid when a server supply went south. The Enermax provides 18A on 2 12v rails, but 32A on one 5V rail. The Corsair puts out just 30A on its 5v rail, and this is also true of the 850TX. So if you were planning to run a lot of drives on a computer, the 535 watt Enermax would have a little more power available than the 850-watt Corsair. And, probably, the 600-watter you're running would be a little better still.

It's not just rails and amperage, it's also getting the right voltage for what you need. Motherboards and video cards need 12V; many peripherals need 5V. I just looked at the specs on the RE3 units from Western Digital, and they pull half an amp in both 12V and 5V.

Malor wrote:

OG: first thing to do is to take everything out of the case. Plug in just the RAM and CPU (and video card if the motherboard doesn't have one), and see if it powers up. If that works, add stuff in until you've completed your build outside the case.

If THAT works, then usually you messed up a motherboard standoff post, and the board is shorting out. The PSU is protecting you by shutting down. Don't power it up again until you've taken it out, though, because that short may be doing damage.

No joy.

I removed the mobo from the case and just connected the two sticks of memory and the vid card. The same thing happened as before. The CPU cooler and the vid card fan briefly spun and the LED phase lights on the mobo briefly lit up and then everything just shut down. A few seconds later, it cycled again.

Is there another troubleshooting step or is my mobo DOA?

do you have all the power hooked up. Maybe another power supply around?

Edwin, Tom's has verified that the Gigabyte mobo is your best choice for the 1156 socket.

I've been thinking about upgrades this morning (read: daydreaming, as I have no extra cash) and am not sure which socket to go with. I was originally building something that looked very much like Edwin's build, but Malor's discussion about multiple cores has got me thinking about 1366.

I, too, tend to build from an economy standpoint. My AMD 64 X2 has lasted since late 2005 and only really struggled this year with the gaming demands. I would hope that I could get 4-5 years out of my next build with regular GPU upgrades and a new CPU somewhere in the middle.

At this point, I think you shouldn't expect to upgrade CPUs on the same motherboard anymore. It looks like RAM speed is becoming the really serious choke point. It hasn't moved in, geeze, six or seven years now. It gets bigger at the same speed as everything else, but it's not getting faster, and this is choking processors. (DDR2 and DDR3 are ways of multiplexing RAM, which is still physically running at the same speeds that it did in the original DDR1 days.)

What they have to do is go 'wide' on RAM just like going wide on processors, and that means new motherboards. It's quite likely that real 8-core 1366 chips will be badly bandwidth-choked on current 1366 motherboards. They'll either go to quad memory channels or to higher-clocked DDR memory than the current boards can support.

That said, I'm not sure you'll NEED to upgrade CPUs as quickly; they have really hit a wall. For gaming, there isn't that much difference between a fast C2D and an i5 or i7.

Haakon7,

I read a great lengthy article that I can no longer find that convinced me to go with the 1156. I highly suggest you should go ahead and get the cheaper one like I did with my latest list.

I take your points, Malor. That probably means that I'm going to need to upgrade my mobo in a couple years time, but oh well.

Thanks, Edwin. That's the side of the line where I ended up last night.
To reuse your template, here's the build as it stands.

  • GPU: Recycling my 4850, with an eye to a 5850 in the next six months.
  • PSU: Corsair HX520, till I decide to upgrade my GPU.
  • HDD: Recent purchase of a Western Digital 1 TB will do me for right now.
  • Casefans: Recycled
  • Mouse: Recycled Logitech MX3100 mouse & keyboard combo - More than four years old and still going strong.

I might pick up some of the more portable parts when I'm home at Christmas and take advantage of the strength of the pound. I really wish Newegg shipped overseas.

Quick question: Can I set up multiple mirrors of the same drive in Win7?

I've just got my grubby hands on a 150GB Raptor. I also have two additional 640GB 'standard' drives. What I would like to do is use the Raptor as a boot drive, partition the two 640s into 150GB and "the rest", mirror the Raptor onto the two 150GB partitions, and mirror the two "the rests" between each other.

Is this possible? Am I sane?

Haakon7 wrote:

I take your points, Malor. That probably means that I'm going to need to upgrade my mobo in a couple years time, but oh well.

Thanks, Edwin. That's the side of the line where I ended up last night.
To reuse your template, here's the build as it stands.

  • GPU: Recycling my 4850, with an eye to a 5850 in the next six months.
  • PSU: Corsair HX520, till I decide to upgrade my GPU.
  • HDD: Recent purchase of a Western Digital 1 TB will do me for right now.
  • Casefans: Recycled
  • Mouse: Recycled Logitech MX3100 mouse & keyboard combo - More than four years old and still going strong.

I might pick up some of the more portable parts when I'm home at Christmas and take advantage of the strength of the pound. I really wish Newegg shipped overseas.

corsairs website says that psu will run the 5xxx series cards

That Corsair is a triple-rail supply; you have three 18A rails. I think you can probably run a 5850, though. 'Watts' are "volts times amps", and a fully-dedicated 18A rail at 12V should deliver 216 watts. ATI says the max draw on the card is 151 watts, so it should work. Just make sure it's the only thing on that rail.

Quick question: Can I set up multiple mirrors of the same drive in Win7?

I think your scenario will work in Server, but I don't know if it'll work in regular Win7 or not. There's no real reason for it not to, the capability is obviously in the kernel, but Microsoft likes to segment its market to extract as much cash from you as possible.

You can try it yourself with something like VMWare on your current system... make several small virtual drives, hook them all up to a temporary Win7 installation, and see if it works.

Also note that Windows software RAID is notoriously slow, although I think mirroring like that runs okay.

Floomi wrote:

Quick question: Can I set up multiple mirrors of the same drive in Win7?

I've just got my grubby hands on a 150GB Raptor. I also have two additional 640GB 'standard' drives. What I would like to do is use the Raptor as a boot drive, partition the two 640s into 150GB and "the rest", mirror the Raptor onto the two 150GB partitions, and mirror the two "the rests" between each other.

Is this possible? Am I sane?

To answer my own question: it isn't possible to mirror a drive twice, which is utterly retarded. Also, I've been told that mirroring a Raptor on a 7200rpm drive will negate the point of it being a Raptor. So I've shifted my Users folder to the (mirrored) 640GBs, and will be doing a disk image of the Raptor once it's got everything installed on it in case it crashes and burns.

Sigh.

Malor wrote:

That Corsair is a triple-rail supply; you have three 18A rails. I think you can probably run a 5850, though. 'Watts' are "volts times amps", and a fully-dedicated 18A rail at 12V should deliver 216 watts. ATI says the max draw on the card is 151 watts, so it should work. Just make sure it's the only thing on that rail.

Thanks for that, Malor & superslug.
That might save me a few quid, depending on when I upgrade. I've got no plans to run a cross-fire or SLI set-up in my rig, so it sounds like as long as I stick with the single card, I should be alright.

To answer my own question: it isn't possible to mirror a drive twice, which is utterly retarded.

Well, it's quite possible in Linux, I do it all the time. When running software RAID5, Linux can't boot directly from the RAID volume. The new GRUB2 is working on that, but it's a hard problem to solve when your boot sector is only 512 bytes.... there's an awful lot of logic to figuring out how to read a RAID.

So what I do is usually partition the drives with a /boot at the beginning of the drive. I'll put that same partition on all the drives in the RAID set, and then set up a software mirror across all of them, so that any data written to the md0 device is written to all X drives in the RAID. (usually five or six drives.) That means that the /boot partition exists on all of them. Then I'll install GRUB1 on the MBRs of ALL the drives, each drive aimed at its own mirror... this is tedious and takes awhile. So, that way, if drive 0 fails, I can set the computer to boot from drive 1, and GRUB will usually be able to boot the system successfully from drive 1, and then bring up the software RAID5.

So it's perfectly possible to run RAID-1 across as many devices as you want. I don't know if Microsoft's solution will handle that, but Linux software RAID and most hardware RAID controllers will.

Mirroring your Raptor onto 7200 RPM drives will slow the drive down substantially for writing, but depending on how clever Microsoft's algorithms are, you may take no speed hit on reads.

Win7 has a built in image backup utility, so you can set it to back up to the other drives without much pain. I haven't tried recovering from its backup system yet, though, so I have no idea how good it is.

Okay, here's my current build.

[size=11]Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA78G-DS3HP AM2+ AMD 780G (AM3 capable)
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ Windsor 2.8GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache
Videocard: MSI NX8800GT 512M OC GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
PSU: CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W 60w 12v+
RAM: Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 4GB (4 x 1GB) DDR2 800 4-5-4-11[/size]

I would like to upgrade my CPU and videocard. I'm willing to spend about $300.

As far as processors go, I can't quite decide between the AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition 3.1GHz and the AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition 2.8GHz. I'm leaning towards the X3 because it basically plays games as well as or slightly better than the 550, but it also has three cores instead of two. The 550 uses less power and has the possibility of unlocking all 4 cores, but the X3 seems slightly more practical.

I was considering getting a quadcore, but the price/performance isn't there. I also have nothing against getting one of those in the future.

For the video card I'm going back to ATI. The price/performance there is where it's at. For a long time I figured I'd be picking up a 4870 1gb, but this particular MSI 4890 has a pretty decent rebate right now ($164 after mir) and the cooling solution seems to work really well. The only problem is that NewEgg isn't selling the 1ghz clocked version, but alas. After rebate, this 4890 is cheaper than Sapphire's 4870 1gb that NewEgg is still selling.

My monitor's native resolution is 1920x1200 so that's what I want to be able to play in. Right now, I'm able to play plenty of games at that resolution, but I'm hitting that spot where I absolutely have to bump some games down to 1680x1050 if I want to keep textures higher and/or enable AA.

So, have at it. Got any better recommendations? Should I just wait on the videocard?

garion333 wrote:

For the video card I'm going back to ATI. The price/performance there is where it's at. For a long time I figured I'd be picking up a 4870 1gb, but this particular MSI 4890 has a pretty decent rebate right now ($164 after mir) and the cooling solution seems to work really well. The only problem is that NewEgg isn't selling the 1ghz clocked version, but alas. After rebate, this 4890 is cheaper than Sapphire's 4870 1gb that NewEgg is still selling.

I was gonna suggest the radeon 5770, but you probably have already looked at the benchmarks, the 4890 is the one to get if you don't care about DX11. Good deal on "last gen", and a nice step up from the 8800. With the shortages on the 5800 line, I don't think the 5850 is going to come into your price range anytime soon.

indy wrote:
garion333 wrote:

For the video card I'm going back to ATI. The price/performance there is where it's at. For a long time I figured I'd be picking up a 4870 1gb, but this particular MSI 4890 has a pretty decent rebate right now ($164 after mir) and the cooling solution seems to work really well. The only problem is that NewEgg isn't selling the 1ghz clocked version, but alas. After rebate, this 4890 is cheaper than Sapphire's 4870 1gb that NewEgg is still selling.

I was gonna suggest the radeon 5770, but you probably have already looked at the benchmarks, the 4890 is the one to get if you don't care about DX11. Good deal on "last gen", and a nice step up from the 8800. With the shortages on the 5800 line, I don't think the 5850 is going to come into your price range anytime soon.

Ah, yes, I forgot that. The 5770 is something I am not interested in. The 5800's would be nice, but I can't (or won't) spend that kind of money. I can get DX11 later.

You've already got a dual-core 2.8Ghz processor. A Phenom will be better, but not that much better. I'd personally just buy a 58XX and not touch the CPU just yet.

There aren't many games that are badly CPU-bound. It's usually the GPU that matters. The only exceptions I can think of offhand are Supreme Commander and Dwarf Fortress.

Malor wrote:

You've already got a dual-core 2.8Ghz processor. A Phenom will be better, but not that much better. I'd personally just buy a 58XX and not touch the CPU just yet.

There aren't many games that are badly CPU-bound. It's usually the GPU that matters. The only exceptions I can think of offhand are Supreme Commander and Dwarf Fortress.

I think the cpu is going to be a moderate bottleneck on the new gpu (see these charts, the 6400+ is the same cpu I have but clocked higher), but more importantly after Christmas I'm going to be building a cheap rig for a friend that really only needs it to surf the web and do office work, so she's more than happy to take my old processor off my hands. So, that's part of the reason I'm upgrading the cpu. Otherwise I probably would wait until I can get a good quadcore for ~$100.

Perhaps I should still just do that.

Okay, so I'm trying to find a suitable around $500 box to buy and I don't want to assemble it. Any thoughts? Certis smacked me down for my Letter to NewEgg post because we already have a thread. Since it's November of 2009, I know that the data I collected 6 months ago is obsolete.

I've read this thread, but I just don't have the patience to build with a prohibitive schedule.

docbadwrench wrote:

Okay, so I'm trying to find a suitable around $500 box to buy and I don't want to assemble it. Any thoughts? Certis smacked me down for my Letter to NewEgg post because we already have a thread. Since it's November of 2009, I know that the data I collected 6 months ago is obsolete.

I've read this thread, but I just don't have the patience to build with a prohibitive schedule.

Go to Dell!

After much searching and an amazing amount of comparison, I've essentially gone with the current Ars Technica budget box:

GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
$79.99

OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ600MXSP 600W ATX12V V2.2 / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC ... - Retail

AMD Athlon II X4 630 Propus 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Processor Model ADX630WFGIBOX - Retail
$122.99

Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model CT2KIT25664BA1339 - Retail
$88.99

I'm going to take these items and use them with my case, my GeForce 9600 GT, and my drives and re-do my PC. I will cross my fingers. Sadly, I can't start my computer's life with Windows 7 yet because I don't have the cash for the OS. In time, though, I want to use all that 64 bit coolness.

If your applications prefer clock speed to more cores, the dual-core Phenom II X2 550 is a few bucks cheaper and is clocked faster (3.1GHz).

What's most important to you? Gaming or multithreaded applications? If it's gaming, I'd look at different processors. Personally I think the 620 is a better price/performance option than the 630 if you aren't worried about gaming. There are no L3 caches in the 620 and 630 (hence why they're cheaper), which hampers the chips a bit for gaming.

Again, it all depends on what you're planning on doing.

Good luck Doc. I built my first computer a few weeks ago, and it only took a few hours time. Other than a few glitches I'm still experiencing, it was a great experience.

Thanks Bullion,

I'm trying to wreck my current bad luck. For the past few years, PC builds have not gone well for me. I'm going to clear off my workbench, get the case ready and take it slow and measured - do this thing right for a change.

I'm really hoping I can find some student who could buy Windows 7 for me at the student rate since I'm going to have a 64-bit rig. Currently, I only have XP pro.

Here's a question that makes me feel dumb. My recent upgrade included:

ASUS M4A79XTD EVO AM3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ - Retail
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor Model HDZ955FBGIBOX - Retail

In the BIOS the ram is set to auto-detect and is running at 1333. I'd like to set it to run at 1600, its native speed, but just changing the speed makes the system crash. I think that I need to bump the ram voltage up to 1.6v from 1.5v, or at least I've read something to that effect.

Is there a guide someone can point me to that will help me understand what I'm doing here? I don't want to overclock, I just want to run things at their native speed. My machine runs more than fast enough for me just as it is, but I don't like being defeated by ignorance, especially if my ignorance is relatively easy to cure. Any help?