Does this work?
July 11, 2007 9:44 PM   Subscribe

I am building a new desktop pc for college and am going to leave it on 24/7 in my dorm room so i can just rdc into it from anywhere on campus (only until i get a mbp with leopard later on) Take a look at this hardware and see it everything looks ok. also this system wil work with vista ultimate x64 right
posted by DJWeezy to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would go with a cheaper processor and get an Asus board. Unless you have specific reason you should add another GB of RAM. Also pick up a 500Watt silent power supply from somewhere local. That way you can return it if 500W is not enough.

I would drop the videocard and use the motherboard's video until you can get an AGP or something more modern. You won't be able to run any new games on that card.

I would also strongly recommend going with two 250GB drives and run it in an array. To be honest, if you get above that you'll want to do what I do which is run a dedicated file server (however you want to set it up).
posted by geoff. at 10:19 PM on July 11, 2007

- I thought they had academic discounts for Windows? MIght want to look into it. That said, now wouldn't be a bad time to make the jump to linux. It'll save you 300 bucks at least.

- The case, in particular strikes me as overkill. I didn't see a price, but with a 700 watt supply and an Alienware brand name, I can almost guarantee it's costing you too much.

- Personally, I'd go with less processor and more RAM. In all honesty, you'll never be using the full power of that dual core. It's easy to eat up 2GB of RAM though, especially with Vista
posted by chrisamiller at 10:24 PM on July 11, 2007

why a Xeon? why Vista Ultimate? what are you going to use it for? you're going to pay through the nose for the Xeon+Intel board combination - CPU and board alone there are just shy of $600. you can price out a complete system that will - unless you're doing some huge things on it (and that means things besides gaming) - do what you need it to for $600 or less, even if you stick with Intel. I've been able to piece together 64-bit Sempron machines with more storage for just under $600. you're pretty much wasting the Xeon on that board anyway; just get a Core 2 Duo or something, as that board is a single-CPU affair. also, why bother with Vista Ultimate if you're just going to RDC into it? you won't get Glass when you do that. if nothing else, get the OEM version - you're building a system here, after all - unless you're planning on transferring it to the MBP afterwards. there's not a real compelling reason to do Vista over XP Pro for most users, and newegg will sell you XP. if you do need Vista, you may be able to get it real cheap through the school afterwards (school-sold copies tend to be upgrades).

seconding geoff.'s recommendation on the video card - PCI sucks. PCI Express x16 is what you want. PCI is for people who want to add an extra monitor or bought the very cheapest thing Dell/Compaq/HP/eMachines sells and wants to play a video game now. I'd get a different case - maybe an Antec or a Lian-Li if you're wanting a namebrand - and i'd get it through newegg (along with the video card), since you're getting everything else through there anyway.
posted by mrg at 10:37 PM on July 11, 2007

- Seconding the overkill processor statements. You will not see any noticeable performance improvement over a standard core2duo and will generate more heat and suck more power.

- Buy a second drive, silly. Data loss sucks - doubly so when you have papers due the next morning and no corporate backup service to bail you out. Notice that did not say 'run a RAID array' because A) software raid sucks and B) have you ever tried to rebuild an array after a drive failure?

- Where is your cooling? Yes that's a kick-ass case that will offer good airflow but are you planning on using the stock intel cooler and thermal paste? They suck. Always figure a good heatsink and paste into the cost of a new system.

- Seconding the 'buy more RAM'. 2Gb is fine now but a few years down the line it won't be and non-matching sticks can cause problems.

- Is that video card really just PCI? I haven't seen a 'PCI' (not PCIe, PCIx) video card since like 2001. Im having a hard time believing that. It's probably a typo on CompUSAs part - in which case you're fine.

- @geoff: Am I missing something? I don't see any onboard video.
posted by datacenter refugee at 10:45 PM on July 11, 2007

Nthing the recommendation to drop the Xeon and go standard Core2Duo.

I suggest getting two hard drives and setting them for Raid 1 - Mirroring. With mirrored drives, if one fails, the other is a completely good copy. More complex raiding systems can work, but are significantly harder to restore.

Lastly, if you intend to keep the computer 24/7, it needs to be quiet. The power supply, CPU, and video card fans all shoudl be as silent as possible.

Good luck in college!
posted by Argyle at 11:01 PM on July 11, 2007

I suggested he change to a different motherboard, he should be able to pick up an Asus or what have you for $120 and an AMD chip for significantly less and get more performance. The Intel and Xeon combo is not designed for the consumer in mind. I thought on-board video was pretty standard. In any case he can buy a PCIx/e whenever the time comes.

It is not hard to find a motherboard that is in the $100 price range and has an onboard RAID controller, is it?
posted by geoff. at 11:07 PM on July 11, 2007

Onboard video such as 6150LE will beat out that video card.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:54 PM on July 11, 2007

Get a non-Xeon processor and save about $150. You don't need a 700W power supply if you're not going to use a power sucking video card. If you're not gaming, get a motherboard with onboard video.

Take a look at the Ars Technica system guide.
posted by demiurge at 12:56 AM on July 12, 2007

I must say that your proposed setup looks quite awesome. However, if you really want to leave this thing on 24/7, and you do not want to reboot more than once a year, you should consider an Apple (and if you check my history here you will see I am no real fan of Apple, but on this point there is no argument - their operating system is orders of magnitude more stable than anything from MS).
posted by caddis at 1:05 AM on July 12, 2007

If you aren't gaming go with Linux, Vista is truly a POS. If you really want Windows just get XP If you must go Vista, I would strongly advise against 64-bit because 64 bit driver support is still horrible and Ultimate is a complete waste of money, Home Premium is all you really need.

Again, get more ram, 2GB at minimum, matching Dual Channel DDR. Alienware is overpriced and not that good, like others have said get a Lian Li or Antec case. Core 2 Duo, not Xeon.

If you don't want to build it yourself my personal favorite custom builder right now is AVA Direct, they have a huge array of choices, fantastic build quality and when I bought my last system from them I paid $50 more than I would have to buy all the stuff from newegg (no I don't work for them).
posted by sophist at 1:36 AM on July 12, 2007

Personal opinion (and backing up what others have said):
- Ditch the Xeon for a C2D, it'll be cheaper, and probably faster for normal desktop tasks. Plus all C2Ds overclock like hell even with stock cooling, so you'll be even faster if you want.
- The 975 chipset is top quality, but getting on, perhaps consider a P35 (shiny new Intel chipset) based board like an Asus P5K. For the money you've saved not getting a Xeon you can buy a new PCIe video card. (Or get a G33 based board with on-board video). Actually does that MB take a Xeon? It's not listed on the Intel website as accepting Xeons.

- Consider getting two drives and mirroring them so a drive crash doesn't loose all your data.
- If it's going to be in your dorm room running 24hrs have a think about noise. Quieter CPU cooler, quieter power supply, fanless video cards. You don't have to go silent, but you don't want to sleep next to a jet engine.
- 2Gb of RAM is fine. But more is always ace.
posted by markr at 4:09 AM on July 12, 2007

You can probably save some money on the case and power supply. 500 watts will do fine, and buying an Ultra full tower off tigerdirect has got to be cheaper than an alienware case. And case roominess is a huge plus if this is your first time building a pooter. You'll have to get the chip fan and case fans separately, though, I imagine. Don't forget the thermal grease!
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:21 AM on July 12, 2007

you don't want to sleep next to a jet engine.

Some people can live with the noise (fishtank, city noise, etc), but it's a good point, and reminds me of another:

I had in an apartment in college with 4 roomates. One built a massive $6k tower for a dormroom that was very very small, and it ended up heating his room significantly. One night us other roomates woke up to sniffling noses and frigid air in the summertime and found that he had cranked the air conditioning down as far as it could go to try and make his room bearable. God I hated that guy. Don't be that guy!

(Not to mention the massive subwoofer dealing out counterstrike weapon sounds at 4 in the morning grumble grumble...)
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:33 AM on July 12, 2007

i just built a system very similar to this, using newegg as i see you are:

Core 2 Deo E4300: kicks ASS (and cheap!) stock is 1.7Ghz, mine overclocked to 3.0Ghz with stock voltages and cooling. This is not uncommon -- see the comments on newegg.

Gigabyte 965p-DS3: Solid mobo, cheap, overclocks like a dream. Solid-state caps ensure long life.

I see that you already plan on having 2 gigs of ram, which some people seem to be overlooking. Perfect for Vista (I too am running Ultimate x64).

For RDing in, PCI video card is fine. Who cares. You can easily upgrade later, I ended up going with an eVGA Geforce 7600gt, which is cheap and awesome.

I just used my old case so I don't have any recommendations for power supplies or cases. 700 watts is defnitely overkill tho.

I got the same hard drive as you, just the 160 gig model instead. It works well, nothing spectacular but its solid.

Good luck!
posted by lohmannn at 6:54 AM on July 12, 2007

You want to buy the OEM version of windows, not the retail. This alone will save you 200 dollars.

Seconding the cheaper cd2.

That video card wont support Vista's Aero interface very well. Google around for more info.

Also, I think you could save a crap load of money by going with Dell and get a better video card.

Stop here for upcoming deals:
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:41 AM on July 12, 2007

You really don't want to blow your budget on the highest of high end gear right away. Much better to use some of that money next year, to get yourself a sweat video card, or more drive space.

That said, I do like the idea of spending big on the motherboard. Most intel boards are terrible choices, because they lack overclocking options, but the BX2 is supposed to be an exception. Still, I'd look to Asus first.

Anyone know the difference between the Xeon and a standard C2D? Seems like there is none whatsoever (you can read a little FUD suggesting that the Xeon is more reliable in high temperature "server" environments, in the newegg reviews, but that is just silly. Unless it has a bigger heat spreader or something).

Intel stock heatsinks aren't bad at being heatsinks, but they are pretty damn loud. I'm very frugal (really!!), but I just couldn't stand the jet engine in my room when I was still using the stock heatsink on a Pentium D, for ~$25, you should definitely consider switching it out.

I wouldn't worry about getting more RAM right away. Sure there is a tiny possibility that two different brands will conflict, but it isn't likely. Also, when you do need a RAM upgrade later, the price will be a lot lower.

Almost any cheap power supply will do fine. Just get whatever budget ~350W supply the store recommends. C2D uses less power than previous generations of processors!

I'll quite there, but read this comment for a couple of other thoughts..
posted by Chuckles at 3:25 PM on July 12, 2007

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