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New Computer Project



Sharing a post I made to Livejournal just to potentially get more responses. I'm mostly just looking for suggestions and opinions at this stage, I'll be doing my own research throughout the summer anyway before I start trying to buy components likely 1/month.


I've been thinking about it for years now, but I think I'm soon going to start trying to build a computer piece by piece. Essentially to make sure I have the hardware I want to have in it. I've got two computers right now, both of which are fairly old, have similar levels of power, but each have their own problems.


For instance, the first computer does quite a bit of the standard stuff I do. Except it crashes Minecraft randomly all the time. Under linux it does it even more spectacularly.


The second computer runs minecraft just fine, at least within it's level of power which... but there's a list of software I prefer to use that will reboot it spontaneously when I try to start the program. (As just one example: Emerald Editor.)


Neither of them are perfect at running games either, although that can vary with the OS being used. The first computer can run Terraria in XP for instance, the second can't.


Anyway, getting back on topic, one of the big problems with me trying to build a computer is that I'm not very savy at computer hardware. Most I've done in hardware upgrades is install a usb expansion card, upgrade ram, and swap harddrives. That's... about it.


Additionally looking over hardware I find myself fairly clueless over the reliabliity of various brands - although there are some brands I'll stay clear of entirely due to past experiences. :P Don't worry about which ones I'm avoiding, suggest what you think is best.


And so, while I'm likely going to spend the rest of the summer at least trying to read up on shit on my own, I'd like anyone reading to give me their opinions on their own preferences keeping in mind the following!


1. Ultimately I may want to dual-boot this thing with Windows 7 (preferably. I don't really care to try Windows 8. :P) and Linux. (Various installations most likely) As a result I'll be making sure hardware suggestions will work under both OSes.


2. It's likely going to be a 64-bit system, as I'm going to want to load up on the ram. I plan on having 8gbs minimum.


3. I'd prefer it to be a system that can run quietly. Suggestions towards this end is a bonus.


4. I'd like a case that's easy to upgrade/exchange parts. One of the two computers I currently have for instance doesn't look very upgrade-friendly for the harddrive. Unless I'm missing something, it looks like I'd have to remove the ram, etc from the motherboard just to get the harddrive out in the case of a failure. I'd like to avoid this kind of thing. :(


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While I custom built quite a few PCs (286, 486 & Athlon) my last two PCs (not including laptops) have been a Dell & an iMac. I just found a Dell to be quite price competitive for what I needed. (The iMac was because my wife converted to a MacBook back in the "I'm a Mac" days and I've gotten tired of dealing with Windows - although I still have a netbook with Win7 SE & my corporate laptop also runs Win7.) Even if you decide to still "build your own" or buy retail, there's still value in checking out Dell for price & features.


I'd also recommend checking out the Ars Technica System Guides (most recent: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/04/ars-technica-system-guide-bargain-box-april-2014/ ).


I also lean heavily on http://www.cpubenchmark.net/ to compare CPUs - you probably don't need an Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2, but you probably want to avoid an Intel Pentium E5200.


For Linux compatibility the easiest way to check is with a Live CD or USB of your distribution.

These days going 64 bit is a no-brainer. I also recommend buying the best you can afford today. You might upgrade RAM & hard-disk but probably not. Also budget in a big external drive & use it for backups. And while it might be difficult to upgrade your current system - how often are you going to?


My last Dell was practically silent (and the iMac is silent). However, for really quiet computers, check out http://www.silentpcreview.com/

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Dell is a favorite of most service centres. Consumer class HP machines are junk as well. Windows 8 machines feature UEFI technology that can make repair and recovery a pain.


I'd say custom build a machine using known good brands like Intel and Asus. The Intel NUC barebone machines are small and capable while needing just a few user installable parts (memory, HDD)

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If you want a system which can run quietly and efficiently, you would be better off getting an Intel CPU (Possibly i3 or Pentium?) and a midrange Nvidia or AMD graphics card, I've found the Nvidia's to run quieter and at lower temps than the AMD's but that's just my experience, both are about on par from a performance standpoint.


My computer is very quiet, I use this case: http://www.fractal-design.com/home/product/cases/discontinued-products/define-xl-usb-30-black-pearl


It is a very large case, but it has soundproofing material around the inside of the case which makes it run very quiet. That is an older version though, it is still available in stores but there is a newer version of that case available now, but I have the older one.


As for motherboard brands, I've found ASUS to be very reliable I've had a couple of their boards over the years and they still work fine today.


Intel/Nvidia hardware seems to be the most well supported under Linux. AMD CPUs are fine with Linux also however AMD Graphics Cards tend to have driver issues and performance problems under Linux while Nvidia graphics cards don't have this problem. It's usually driver problems with the AMD's as they never cared to support Linux as well as Nvidia did.


Watever you do though, don't buy a Creative sound card if you want good support in Linux... I made that mistake.

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