Help me build a new computer

The old computer is painful to use, and since I built it five years ago, I’d say it’s definitely time for a new computer. Any suggestions on components to buy?

I’ll probably go for a newer Sonata case, intel CPU, nVidia card, Zalman CPU fan, etc., but I’d appreciate any insights or tips y’all might have to offer. I’m not particularly interested in computer hardware, so I have no idea what’s out there, what’s good, etc. Nor am I that interested in scouring Tom’s Hardware to find out. Yep. I’m lazy.

As was the case the last time around, I’m not really interested in getting something that can play the latest video games flawlessly, just something that will give me decent performance for the price. I don’t intend to scavenge parts off the old machine except maybe the optical drive, and I’ll use my old monitor with the new machine. Overall, I’ll probably feel pretty good about the whole thing if you keep my budget around $550.

Related: The New Poker Machine

21 thoughts on “Help me build a new computer”

  1. I just put together a new machine, though with a budget about twice yours (and a $300 video card, so you’ll save some money there).

    I don’t think I could keep it under $550 and be happy with it. Most of the stuff from Newegg:

    Antec Sonata III $120 ($20 rebate)
    Intel Core i7 860 $230 (microcenter)
    Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3P $160 ($15 rebate)
    8 GB RAM $255 ($20 rebate)
    1 TB HDD $ 75
    Video card $ 50?

    $885 + tax – $55 in rebates = $830 (+tax)

    If you’re not overclocking, you don’t need a third party CPU fan, the Intel stock fan will be fine.

    Can save $60 dropping to a Core i5 650, probably another $150 getting 4GB (2x2GB) RAM. Can likely get a cheaper motherboard, too, but I’d get something with USB 3.0 as you’ll probably want it in the future.

    Let me know if you have any specific questions about anything.

  2. Much better to build it yourself. I haven't bought a new preassembled desktop since 1995 and I have no idea why I would, especially since these days it's so simple to put the parts together (swapping memory slots notwithstanding​). It literally took less than half an hour to get our initial office development server up-and-running,​ /including/ installing Ubuntu.

  3. Much better to build it yourself. I haven't bought a new preassembled desktop since 1995 and I have no idea why I would, especially since these days it's so simple to put the parts together (swapping memory slots notwithstanding). It literally took less than half an hour to get our initial office development server up-and-running, /including/ installing Ubuntu.

  4. Earlier machines were a little more difficult, I agree. In fact, the first computer I assembled, back in 1995–Phil, I think you remember that one–wasn't exactly easy. It required all kinds of research and then pin configuration just to boot. I built it for my operating systems class, but I don't think I used it much beyond that. Nowadays, however, things have changed drastically–so​me parts are even color-coded. I wouldn't recommend that path to most people, just like I wouldn't recommend Linux for most people, because most people just want their computer to shovel content their way; but for others (e.g., Cory and Phil), those more powerful, if more challenging, options are always worth considering.That said, I wouldn't necessarily discount pre-build computers for certain purposes. From a bang-for-the-bu​ck standpoint, they're not very good compared to self-built, and one of the reasons I never buy them is, in fifteen years I've never seen one configured the way I'd want. (/Sometimes/ they can be with options, but then you have the price issue.) I have five regular use desktops here (including servers and workstations). Two of those are pre-built units, which I acquired used. Over the past 25 or so years I've worked with countless desktops and notebooks and I've found the reliability, between older and newer computers and between pre-built and self-assembled units, it about the same. The same parts fail most frequently (power supplies winning by a substantial margin), but mostly all the computers just chug along. (The warranties are often better with self-assembled systems, but I've rarely made warranty claims.) I've also had examples of possessed computers in both pre-built and self-assembled-​-I think you know what I mean.I agree, Cory, that they're not as bad as some self-assembly advocates say. In fact they're perfectly adequate for most purposes and the extra dollars spent pay off immediately for the typical user who doesn't know RAM from CMOS.

  5. Just some random responses and side notes…I haven't bought anything from Dell since 2003-2004 because their employees lean Republican in their campaign contributions. Of course, that kind of thing will only guide me so far–Apple is heavily skewed toward the Democrats, but I probably won't be getting a Mac any time soon, unless I can buy it for half off.One thing I like about getting the computer in pieces is that I have more of a sense of where all the pieces came from. Thank god SATA has replaced IDE. Am considering wasting $25 on an optical drive just to get rid of the IDE cable inside the case.This is how far things have advanced/degrad​ed: My motherboard has four buttons on it: power, overclock genie, speed up, speed down.

  6. I'll throw my voice in here just to be the devil's advocate, if by the devil you mean prebuilt machines.I have had two major desktops in my life. The first I built myself. Granted, I bought the parts at a computer show (before Amazon Prime, New Egg, etc). I had no end of trouble with it. It crashed constantly and I ran test after test and we could not find anything wrong with it.And the Dell (see above). It ran until the hard disk crashed a year or two ago, but I bought it before my house (I've lived here 8 years). And come to think of it, that wasn't the original drive, I replaced it with a bigger one to hold all of my valuable data (games)Sure, you save some money, and I won't argue that here. But really the machines are not as bad as people say they are.

  7. Earlier machines were a little more difficult, I agree. In fact, the first computer I assembled, back in 1995–Phil, I think you remember that one–wasn't exactly easy. It required all kinds of research and then pin configuration just to boot. I built it for my operating systems class, but I don't think I used it much beyond that. Nowadays, however, things have changed drastically–some parts are even color-coded. I wouldn't recommend that path to most people, just like I wouldn't recommend Linux for most people, because most people just want their computer to shovel content their way; but for others (e.g., Cory and Phil), those more powerful, if more challenging, options are always worth considering.That said, I wouldn't necessarily discount pre-build computers for certain purposes. From a bang-for-the-buck standpoint, they're not very good compared to self-built, and one of the reasons I never buy them is, in fifteen years I've never seen one configured the way I'd want. (/Sometimes/ they can be with options, but then you have the price issue.) I have five regular use desktops here (including servers and workstations). Two of those are pre-built units, which I acquired used. Over the past 25 or so years I've worked with countless desktops and notebooks and I've found the reliability, between older and newer computers and between pre-built and self-assembled units, it about the same. The same parts fail most frequently (power supplies winning by a substantial margin), but mostly all the computers just chug along. (The warranties are often better with self-assembled systems, but I've rarely made warranty claims.) I've also had examples of possessed computers in both pre-built and self-assembled–I think you know what I mean.I agree, Cory, that they're not as bad as some self-assembly advocates say. In fact they're perfectly adequate for most purposes and the extra dollars spent pay off immediately for the typical user who doesn't know RAM from CMOS.

  8. Just some random responses and side notes…I haven't bought anything from Dell since 2003-2004 because their employees lean Republican in their campaign contributions. Of course, that kind of thing will only guide me so far–Apple is heavily skewed toward the Democrats, but I probably won't be getting a Mac any time soon, unless I can buy it for half off.One thing I like about getting the computer in pieces is that I have more of a sense of where all the pieces came from. Thank god SATA has replaced IDE. Am considering wasting $25 on an optical drive just to get rid of the IDE cable inside the case.This is how far things have advanced/degraded: My motherboard has four buttons on it: power, overclock genie, speed up, speed down.

  9. If you're going to waste the money, waste slightly more and get a Blu-ray drive.OC buttons on the motherboard? Ugh.I feel the same way about Dell, although it's hard to keep up with that sort of thing–I know I probably miss quite a few. As for Macs, I wouldn't use one as a primary computer if you paid me. Well, actually, there probably is /some/ amount you could pay me, but it's probably higher than you think.

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