Help Me Build My PC Catch-All

It comes down to what a particular component will help with, an SSD helps with loading, so really if 'hectic scenes' are getting you down the only instance where an SSD would help is if that poor performance was caused by the game loading/streaming in something and it chokes the system.

TF2 for one loads everything at the start of a level, so the only instance I can think of where maybe loading could affect performance during gameplay is if a lot of people spawned with new items that you didn't have in memory (and I think if loading a handful of models/textures/sounds affected it so severely then you've got bigger problems). The more likely suspect is that the graphics are set too high for what your CPU/GPU can handle, and you could test this by lowering the settings and see if you still get poor performance, if it persists then it probably isn't CPU/GPU.

That's what EvilHomer3k is getting at, loading times during a game really aren't that much of an issue.

Oh, just to clarify, I'm upping the CPU (currently a Core 2 Duo) and GPU (currently a 8800 GT), but also thinking about making the plunge for SSD. My main concern being the size. Currently debating whether to use 128 or 256. Right now I'm at 140 and can trim it down to < 100 easily, but it means I would have to do more disk management than I currently do.

I'd say the consensus with the thread so far is "get a 128gb SSD if you can manage with the space constraints, otherwise get a 256gb SSD if you can deal with the cost, or nothing at all at the moment".

Yeah, that's probably an accurate statement of our overall feeling. You have to do a lot less space management (a LOT less) in 256 gigs.

cheesycrouton wrote:

Here's a cute 3-part piece about building a PC for the first time.

My favorite quote is from the 2nd part.

PCs truly are like babies. You bring them into the world, and immediately they require all of your time, attention, and money. They can fill you with joy and pride, but not without sleepless nights and a messy house.

If a PC truly acts up all the time even after your best attempts to change its unruly state, you can just give up in exasperation and drop it down at the curb. Nobody willl complain. Heck, somebody will probably even pick it up and take it off your hands.

However, if you try that with a baby ... ...
expect different results.

Just wanted to thank everyone for their advice on this thread. I've just upgraded my my GPU and PSU and a really please so far. In the end I went for an EVGA 660 but it was pretty close between that and the Radeon 7870. I finally decided on the 660 as it was slightly cheaper and seemed a bit less power hungry, but after reading a lot about the two there doesn't seem to be a lot to separate them. For the PSU I plumped for a Corsair TX550. My previous one was a CX400 and that held strong for a couple of years, so figured I would stick with the same brand. The TX550 seems quieter than the CX400 and feels solidly build. Only problem is that it isn't modular so storing the unused cables was a pain, but nothing major.

A few people have asked about Fractal Design cases and Enermax coolers, so I thought I would give my thoughts. I've had an Enermax ETS-T40 for about a year and have no complaints so far. I've only just overclocked my 2500K (didn't feel confident doing it with my old PSU) and after doing various stress tests the CPU stayed relatively cool. It is pretty quiet too, even at higher speeds.

I have the Fractal Design Arc case which again I have been pretty impressed by. It is huge but that's not much of a problem for me, and the space really helps when I have to tinker inside. Cable management is good too so the inside is pretty neat, which I imagine helps with air flow. My one gripe is with the dust filters on the front and top of the case. They work quite well but they are held in place with metal tabs which become weak/snap off when I remove the filters. I've stopped taking the filters out and just use the hoover brush to give it a clean. I don't have much experience with other cases so not sure what others are like, but this seems like a pretty silly design to me. But it is a small problem, and overall I would recommend it. It's built like a rock too!

Hey everyone,

Going to give my gaming PC a refresh. I built it back in 2008 and basically going to gut everything and re-use the DVD drive, hard drive, and CPU cooler. I'm upgrading from a Intel Core 2 Quad and Radeon 4850 so this is going to be a huge leap forward. I'm playing games like Guild Wars 2, Sleeping Dogs, The Witcher 2, Diablo 3, etc. so I'm able to competently play those games but at about medium settings.

Here's the build I've put together, any thoughts or recommendations?


guitarlicks4 wrote:

I'm upgrading from a Intel Core 2 Quad

How fast is it, and how much RAM do you have? And what kind of motherboard? You might just need a new video card.

Hanny wrote:

I've only just overclocked my 2500K (didn't feel confident doing it with my old PSU)

Dunno what your old GPU was, but that was probably a smart move on your part. You should be okay with that 550 with any imaginable overclock on the CPU, plus most any single GPU.

It's a Q6600 @ 2.4 GHz. Motherboard is Abit IP35 Pro. RAM is 2 OCZ Platinum 4GB DDR2 SDRAMs

Well, those things overclock like crazy. If you can get that thing up to 3 GHz, and most of them will do it, then all you really need is a new video card. TempestBlayze has that same CPU cranked up to 3.4, so they overclock like demons. But you'll need good cooling on it.

Basically, that list of yours is probably fine, although we should talk about your monitor resolution versus what video card you've picked. But, if your existing power supply will handle it, you could try just doing an overclock, and adding that card. And then, if that's still not fast enough, keep the video card, and replace everything else.

So: what's your monitor resolution? We need to answer that question no matter what you decide on for CPU/motherboard.

edit: And what's your existing power supply?

So I have an older Linksys E1000 router. I haven't used it for about a year, but with all my new gadgets and doodads, it's shown it's age and cheapness. Basically, it's supposed to be wireless-N, but I don't seem to break 3.5 mB/s on it (that's megabytes) transfer speed. That's wirelessly from my laptop to my WD Network HD connected via ethernet. Seems rather slow for N-speeds, eh?

So I tried a test and hooked up my laptop by ethernet cord as well. 10 mB/s? That seems slow for a new HD I thought. NOPE! 10/100 mbit router only.

It's not a huge problem right now, as streaming content works from the HD, and it's fast enough to top out my 10mbit internet. But transferring large amounts of data between the HD and my laptop takes much longer than it should.

I'm thinking that Fry's has regular sales on Asus routers, those look decent. Their specs look great as well. [i]I'm thinking specifically the line of fancy looking ones. Has anyone had experience with Asus routers, or do people still stand by good ol' Linksys or D-Link?


So my monitor resolution is 1920 x 1080 right now, I'm actually playing on a Sony PlayStation 3D Display.

I currently have this cooling fan:

I think trying to overclock the core 2 quad sounds like a great idea (not to mention cheaper)

Well, there's lots of howtos on OCing the Q6600, so just look around for one you like. 3GHz should be fine for most things, and most of them seem to reach that level. If you got lucky and have a good chip (and are willing to be patient, tweaking and experimenting with voltages and speeds), you might be able to take it as far as Tempest did, up to 3.4GHz. But 3 is enough to tide you over another year or two.

At that resolution, a 660 is fine. If you want to overkill it a little, a 670 will tell you for sure if your CPU is inadequate... at 1920x1080, if you're getting framerate issues on a 670, it's either a terribly inefficient game (Crysis 1, Metro 2033, STALKER) or your CPU isn't cutting the mustard.

Note that you also need to switch to Win7 64-bit, if you haven't already. If you're on XP, there's a 4GB limit on total addressable space, and your video RAM takes up a chunk of that. If you still have XP, you're most likely at no more than 3 gigs available, maybe 2.7 if that 4850 has a lot of video RAM. If you drop a 2-gig card into that system, you will suddenly have only about 1.7 gigs free, which will cripple you.

But, in 64-bit mode, you should actually end up with MORE total RAM, not less -- the OS will hoist the video card to a higher address space, 'uncovering' all of the RAM you already have. Win7, especially 64-bit Win7, takes more memory to run, but you'll be freeing up so much in 64-bit mode that you should end up noticeably ahead. And you can easily run a 2 gig video card.

Oh, as a double-check, what's your existing PSU? If you're close to the limits, a big overclock on the Q6600 could overwhelm it.

I've got a 600W PSU, this one:

I am actually already running Win 7 Home Pro 64 bit, so good to go there. Also planning on doing a clean install of the OS from a new SSD.

Looks like my next steps are to go and get the 660 ti and do some reading on overclocking? Anything else I'll need?

guitarlicks4 wrote:

It's a Q6600 @ 2.4 GHz. Motherboard is Abit IP35 Pro. RAM is 2 OCZ Platinum 4GB DDR2 SDRAMs

I have the same processor and the same motherboard as you and like Malor said I have it at 3.4. I was thinking about doing the same thing but decided to wait for Haswell instead.

Do you know if your Q6600 is a G0 step?

I can post my FSB, voltage numbers, and memory settings when I get home for you.

Also, I went up to 8gb of Ram last year.

TempestBlayze wrote:
guitarlicks4 wrote:

It's a Q6600 @ 2.4 GHz. Motherboard is Abit IP35 Pro. RAM is 2 OCZ Platinum 4GB DDR2 SDRAMs

I have the same processor and the same motherboard as you and like Malor said I have it at 3.4. I was thinking about doing the same thing but decided to wait for Haswell instead.

Do you know if your Q6600 is a G0 step?

I can post my FSB, voltage numbers, and memory settings when I get home for you.

Also, I went up to 8gb of Ram last year.

That would great if you could post that info.

Yes, it is a G0 step. If I could get this up to 3.4 I'd be jumping for joy until Haswell. I could probably shell out a bit extra and go up to 8 as well, the current system is at 4GB

For q6600 3.42

380 FSB
Memory 1:1 760
1.3975 v

Great, thank you. What memory did you upgrade to?

That's kind of an odd supply, with two 18A rails (pretty meh) and 1 28A rail, for the graphic card. (much higher than any single card would need, but not really high enough for two. Just a strange decision, IMO.) But, according to what I'm reading, the G0 stepping of the Q6600 stays pretty cool even under a high overclock, so you're pretty unlikely to overload an 18A rail with it.

If the secondary power connection from the power supply is an 8-pinner, instead of a four-pinner, it's most likely routing both of those 18A rails to the motherboard, and there is no way you could get a Q6600 to pull that kind of juice. Just could. not. happen. Overclock freely.

If it's a four-pin, then it's probably sending 18A to the motherboard, so if you start seeing any real heat issues, you might want to back off a smidge. The default TDP for the processor is 105 watts, and you'll need about another 25 watts to run the memory and motherboard stuff, and the supply will deliver about 216. So that would give you around an 85 watt margin, which is probably going to be okay, unless you go absolutely nuts. But, from the descriptions online, I think a G0 is probably going to have tons of room, possibly as much as 120 watts or so.

Just watch the temps, and if you see a spot where the heat goes up rapidly,that's often a sign of the power supply not delivering enough current.

Good to know, I'll definitely keep an eye out for that. I've ordered the parts and I'll give an update once I plug everything in.

As far as a guide to overclocking, does this look like a sound beginner's guide?

Thanks for the help!

That looks like an excellent guide -- I haven't OCed a C2 for several years, but that hits all the points I remember as being important.

Queueball wrote:
EvilHomer3k wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:

120GB is fine if your only looking to install the main OS, and perhaps a productivity app or two.. games will suck up the 120GB fast as will photos and mp3's. In terms of raw gaming performance boost.. its not really going to improve your Frame Rate or allow extra details.. and in fact unless the game is an MMOG or something will lots of loading of levels you wont really notice any improvement and even then the improvement is marginal.

I disagree to some extent. In single player games I don't think it makes a difference. I find it makes a big difference with online games where levels load and you start playing as soon as your level has loaded. I bought one specifically because I was one of the last people to load a level in TF2. A new graphics card makes virtually no difference for me in that game but the SSD made a huge difference (and in COD as well). I went from joining after everyone else had started to being one of the first to begin playing. Sometimes that makes the difference between winning the round and losing. I used a program (steamtool, iirc) recommended by Brainz to manage my steam games and which drive they are installed on. I will say my old drive was really old (250gb drive) so a new drive may not have made as much of a difference.

Homer, how big is your SSD? The thread has been recommending ~120 gigs, but I was curious as a pro-SSD user how it felt size wise. My current HDD is a 500 gig which would likely get relegated to a data drive, so having a raw amount of space isn't really an issue.

I'm looking to upgrade my gaming box (only productivity app is chrome...). It's about 4.5 years old now and starting to struggle with TF2, and hectic scenes in BL2 and D3. Currently my HDD is at about 140 gigs, which I can get down to probably 100 easily.

Mine is a 120gb. I struggle keeping the size down. It made a big difference for me in TF2 load times and getting rid of intermittent slowdowns. I make sure to move all my data (images, video, etc) to another drive. I have any single player games on a secondary drive as well. It fits windows and half a dozen steam games (right now I know I have TF2, COD, Borderlands 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and The Walking Dead on it with another one or two I can't remember). I think it's quite workable as long as you don't have a lot of games on there.

guitarlicks4 wrote:

Good to know, I'll definitely keep an eye out for that. I've ordered the parts and I'll give an update once I plug everything in.

As far as a guide to overclocking, does this look like a sound beginner's guide?

Thanks for the help!

That looks like a decent guide. Get a good aftermarket heatsink. The stock one won't handle the over-clocking well. I have the same processor and it was not stable at 3ghz with the stock cooler. I bought a better heatsink and run at 3.2 without any issues now. I am only running 4gb of ram. I'd upgrade to 8 but my motherboard only takes 4gig of ddr3. It will take 8 of ddr2 but that is about the same as a new i3 and motherboard. So I'm at 4gb of ddr3.

guitarlicks4 wrote:

Great, thank you. What memory did you upgrade to?

I just got 4 more GB of CORSAIR XMS2 DDR2 800 PC2 6400

When you're stuck with relatively low amounts of RAM like that, so that there's not much available for caching, that's where SSDs really shine.

You don't actually NEED more than 4 gigs at the moment, it's just been cheaper to put a ton of RAM on the system than to add an SSD, while giving many of the same advantages. But SSDs are getting cheap enough that big RAM totals are looking less interesting.

It was sort of the poor man's SSD, but now that you can just buy the real thing for a reasonable amount of money, why not?

Last question: I originally was thinking about doing a clean install of Win 7. Is that recommended if all I'm doing is upgrading the graphics card? Would it be easier to just migrate to the SSD? My only concern with that is that I'm currently running an AMD card and Windows might freak out on me once it detects the new 660ti.

Well, transferring hard drives is kind of painful. The easiest way without spending any extra money would probably be to use Windows Backup to make a full image backup to an external drive of some kind (perhaps a laptop network share, if it has enough space), replace the drive, and do a bare-metal restore using the rescue mode of the Win7 install CD. I think I had trouble the last time I tried to change drive types, though, so this isn't guaranteed to work. (basically, the image I'd made on an SSD refused to restore to a real hard disk, but I don't remember why. Very possibly user error. It restored fine to the same SSD. ) But, even if this doesn't work, it's not like backups are ever a bad idea.

A clean install is guaranteed to work, but it will certainly require reactivation with Microsoft. A restore plus video swap may or may not trigger a reactivation.

As far as drivers go, one of the big changes in Win7 was better separating the driver stacks for different companies' video cards. And ATI did a good job of fixing their installer so that it did a truly clean uninstall, a few years back, and as far as I know, it's still just as good at removing itself completely. So, just use Add/Remove Programs to dump the ATI drivers, shut down, swap cards, boot back up, and install the NVidia drivers. Things will likely be just fine.

Oh, I just thought of a reason you might want to do a clean install: if you hold off on the reactivation (you'll have 30 days), you can test to make sure that the overclocked system is fast enough for you. If it isn't, you can still upgrade the motherboard and CPU without burning an activation. Makes it more likely you won't have to call into Microsoft.

If you have an OEM Windows license, that's tied to the motherboard you have now. Microsoft will only officially let you transfer to a new board if the old board breaks, though you may be able to get away with a second automatic activation. You might also have to call in, at which point if you tell them that the old motherboard is still working, they will deny the request.

A retail license transfers freely, as long as you use it on only one machine at a time. Even if the old machine still works, you can move the license, you just have to delete it off the old machine.

This is not precisely building a PC, but partially rebuilding a laptop. Some months ago, I felt my laptop was overheating, and so decided to replace the CPU heatsink and fan. I was not receiving errors (that I recall), but felt it was heating up and the fan was running very frequently even without load.

Since replacing the heatsink/fan, I feel it kicks on much less frequently and my CPU tends to stay within its heat spec. At roughly idle, right now, running only Chrome with fewer than 10 tabs open, on Linux, each core if this T2370 C2D chip is running 105-110 degrees F. Playing Minecraft bumps this by roughly 45 degrees. Watching Flash-based full-screen video like the edX/MITx 6.00x lectures kicked 'em up to 180 degrees F the other day; doing the same now is pushing at 120.

The issue, now, is that I'm consistently getting fan errors on boot. For a week or so, maybe longer, I've hit two or three fan errors before finally successfully booting. Today, I hit about six or seven errors before a successful boot. I think this heatsink/fan is not long for this world. I bought the replacement on eBay, and it seemed in good, clean condition. It has worked as well as one might notice for six-to-nine months. However, I'm a little leery of buying another replacement. Could be I didn't install the heatsink with appropriate thermal paste, but I'd guess that'd be a different error.

Is there a more reliable source for parts like this? Even if (fingers crossed) this is the final harbinger for building a new machine, I think I'd like to keep this guy around and working. Is it merely a matter of finding a for-parts laptop somewhere (CL or eBay) or the fan by itself, or are there known-good alternative sources?

The recent "X-COM doesn't run on XP" issue was the last straw as far as my aging PC is concerned, and I'll received the okay to upgrade my AMD 3200 X2 / 8800 GTS rig to something a bit more recent. With kids and all it's rare these days that I can justify spending on a PC, so I'm building this one to last a while. It's time to put the SuperMicro SC 750A out to pasture as well, in favor of something a bit smaller and quieter, so I'll be losing an end table. The case is built like a tank though, and I want something that's going to last similarly well, so I'm leaning very heavily towards the SilverStone Fortress FT02. It's spendy for a case, but if lasts me even half as long as the 750A I'll have gotten my money's worth. And I need something with as few knobs and buttons as possible so little fingers don't find things they shouldn't. So here's the current lineup:

Intel Core i5-3570K Ivy Bridge 3.4GHz
Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3
ASRock Z77 Pro4-M LGA 1155 Intel Z77
ARCTIC COOLING 120mm Freezer i30
Intel 330 Series 120GB SATA III
Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s
SeaSonic X Series X-850 850W
SilverStone Fortress Series FT02B

I opted for an 850W PSU in the off chance that I might go SLI at some point, and I'm still waffling between 16GB and 8GB of main memory. The price jump between a 660 and a 670 is too steep for me -- I'd rather replace the 660 in a few years than spend up now. Seems like the 660 is a solid choice for running at my monitor's 19x10 resolution anyway. I'd originally been looking for a blower style GPU, but the Gigabyte reviews so much better that I opted for that one instead. The airflow through the FT02 shouldn't make that a problem either.