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Eaglerulez's guides to building a computer Version 2.

#11Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:19:46 AMmessage detail
RAM

Now itís time for RAM. RAM stands for random access memory. When a hard drive loads something up it has to store the data on another memory source to hold the transferred data while it is in use, this source of memory is called RAM. RAM is essentially non permanent memory storage, it will hold data, but if the power goes off, chances are whatever was on the RAM will no longer be there. There are also 4 main factors used in identifying a RAMís performance

Size: The size of the RAM is the most accurate and easiest way to tell RAMís performance. In general the larger the amount of RAM, the more the hard drive can store on the RAM meaning less slow downs, and faster loading times. It is recommended to have at least 1GB for todayís standards, but with 2GB you will receive almost no slow downs.

Speed: Like the GPU, RAM also has to communicate with the hard drive, the rest of the components, and the motherboard, to hold and transfer the RAMís data. The speed that it communicates is determined by Mhz. Today ram can range from only 400 Mhz to 1000+ Mhz. Although most RAM is 400, 533, 627, or 800Mhz. Ram at higher speeds usually costs more, but adds extra performance.

Latency and timings: If you look at a RAMís spec sheet you will see its CAS latency and timings. The timings for example look like this 5-5-5-5-12. The timings, and CAS latency represent the time the RAM can receive commands, execute commands, etc. The lower the latency and timings the faster. So RAM at 800Mhz with CAS latency of 4 and 4-4-4-4-12 timings is faster then 800Mhz a latency of 5 and 5-5-5-5-12 timings. Lower latency and timed RAM costs more then higher latency RAM but offer more speed. However keep in mind it would be better to get memory with downright higher Mhz then memory with lower latencies.

Type of RAM: There are two main stream types of RAM right now DDR ram (meaning Double Data Rate) and DDR2 ram (meaning Double Data Rate 2). DDR ram can reach a top speed of 400Mhz, but DDR2 Ram can reach speeds of up to a 1000+ Mhz. If you are picking out RAM it is best to get DDR2 because it is simply better, faster, and still the same price if not cheaper then DDR RAM. So getting DDR2 RAM is the way of the future. Recently though DDR3 RAM has been announced, it of course will feature faster speeds, etc. However I would say it will take atleast a couple of years for it to become mainstream, and to hit reasonable prices.

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#12Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:21:44 AMmessage detail
The Motherboard/ mobo

The motherboard is the thing that every single physical thing you have connected to your computer, is connected to. It is the blood veins of the computer (it connects vital organs (components) with blood/ oxygen (power, and data). The motherboard is what pretty much makes sure the operating system recognizes and utilizes all the components you have connected to the PC. The motherboard has a ton of ports, plugs, and sockets for every component to plug into, I will attempt to explain all these ports, plugs, and sockets.

The CPU socket: The CPU socket is what every CPU goes into. Depending on the processor family, and the motherboard, the mobo/CPU will have a certain number of pins/holes for the CPU to drop into. For instance an old AMD socket 939 motherboard would contain 939 holes in the CPU socket, while a 939 CPU contains 939 pins to drop into the holes. It is vital to make sure that you have the correct socket for the correct CPU.

The RAM slots: The RAM slots are where the RAM plugs into, each motherboard supports a certain standard of DDR or DDR2 ram. For instance old 939 motherboards only support up to DDR 400 ram, while the newer AM2 motherboards support up to DDR2 800 RAM. You can choose speeds that are slower then the standard, as long as the RAM is still the same type (being either DDR or DDR2 respectively). For instance, in a motherboard that supports DDR2 800 RAM in order to save money you can buy DDR2 533 RAM. However, you cannot buy DDR RAM on a DDR2 motherboard.

The Front Side Bus/FSB

The Front Side Bus is an extremely fast data link that allows the CPU and RAM to communicate. Each processor/motherboard will support a certain FSB. For instance most Core 2 Duo processors support either an 800 or a 1066Mhz FSB, therefore most motherboards that support the Core 2 Duo's have the ability to have a FSB run at 800Mhz or 1066Mhz. Generally speaking the faster the FSB the more performance you can yield. However the extra performance gained from a FSB is nominal (like only at max a 5% increase)

The PCI slot: The PCI slot is a regular expansion slot. You can put sound cards, video cards, physics cards, more usb ports, ect all into PCI slots. Most motherboards have several of these slots for expansion.

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#13Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:23:04 AMmessage detail
PCI-E X 16 slots: These slots are the most important thing on modern day motherboards (in my opinion) you see as graphics cards where advancing more and more data had to be pushed through the regular PCI expansion slots so video card makers rallied for an expansion slot that was capable of handling more data, and they came up with the AGP X4/X8 slots. These slots could handle 4 and 8 times the data of regular PCI slots respectively. But with even more graphical data coming to the latest video cards a new faster slot was created, the PCI-E X 16 slot. This slot is 16 times faster then a regular PCI slot, and is made pretty much exclusively for video cards. In fact all modern video cards use this slot, so if you are buying a video card for a PCI or AGP slot, I can tell you, itís going to be a weak card that canít handle todayís standards. If you have a PCI-E slot you can pretty much make a decent system out of any computer. However you have to realize that lower costing computers (like the cheapest dells, ect) do not have PCI-E slots, so you are really ruined for upgrading, since you canít get a decent graphics card. Thatís why getting a PCI-E X 16 slot is vital.

Sata ports: The sata ports are small ports that connect the hard drives to the motherboard. These ports are capable of transferring speeds of 3 Gb/s and are supported by pretty much every hard drive out there. Be sure to get at least 3 or so sata ports with your motherboard. And make sure your hard drive uses sata to transfer data,

IDE ports: IDE ports where also made to transfer data, however I do not know the rate at which they transferred data. Up until recently hard drives used IDE ports to transfer data, but since larger and larger hard drives where on the market they had to come up with the beefier, and faster Sata ports to transfer the massive amounts of data on the hard drive. However IDE ports are still used for optical drives, the only thing you should realize though, is that now days motherboards will only have 1-2 IDE ports. IDE cables are the ribbon like cables you see that clog up the insides of your case (I know they do for my old computer) They should be easily recognizable.

Audio Ports: Most motherboards come with onboard sound meaning the sound chip is integrated into the motherboard. In early days onboard sound on motherboards was horrible, and oddly enough stressed CPUís a lot (since old CPUís only ran at 400 Mhz) However onboard sound has become pretty decent, and hardly does a thing to stress your CPU. Each onboard sound chip has its own color coding to determine which speakers go where, however I would like to point out that the actual audio ports appear outside the case in colors like green, blue, pink, yellow, black, brown, orange.

USB ports: Ports that you can attach any peripheral device to, they also appear outside the case.

Case Jumpers: Hereís a tricky one, most cases come with small little 2 pin jumpers that are about the size of a thin lego. These jumpers are meant to be plugged into the bottom corner of your motherboard. These jumpers contain things from the case like the power button, certain LEDís, ect. Infact when I was building my computer it wouldnít turn on because I didnít plug in the right case jumpers in the right area, so be sure to read your motherboard manual to find where to plug in the proper case jumpers.

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#14Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:25:03 AMmessage detail
Chipsets

In each motherboard there is something called a northbridge and south bridge. The north bridge takes care of the RAM, CPU, and PCI-E X16 slots. While the south bridge takes care of the sata ports, IDE ports, Audio, and the USB ports. The combination of the northbridge and south bridge makes up your chipset. A chipset will determine the features, and general layout of your motherboard, since boards of the same chipset will usually have same or similar north or south bridges. For instance take the Nvidia Nforce 650iSLI, a rather popular chipset. In this chipset there are two PCI-E X16 slots (since it calls for SLI) however when utilizing SLI, both PCI-E slots will run only at X8, this is simply because of limitations built on the north bridge. Generally speaking each motherboard with the same chipset, will have the same base features, and limitations, even if the motherboards are made by different manufactures. Nvidia, ATI, and Intel all make chipsets.

Things you should also know about motherboards:

Expandability is key. Always get a motherboard with extra RAM slots, PCI slots, SATA ports, ect, just in case you choose to supe up your computer with extra stuff. Also try to be sure your motherboard has some support for future technologies. For instance make sure your motherboard can support Core 2 Duo processors even though you are getting a Pentium 4.

Stability is vital. Sometimes motherboards just arenít stable, or just plain donít work. For instance some motherboards will just automatically restart every 20 minutes, while others wonít turn on at all. In fact my first motherboard in my computer wouldnít boot up, at all the fans would turn on, the optical drives would open up, the LEDís would come on, but there was no one home. Be sure to read the reviews at newegg to determine if the board is stable. Sometimes it is better to spend an extra 50 dollars on a motherboard just to make sure you get a stable system. Remember your motherboard is what everything in your PC plugs into. You wouldn't tape together the parts for a Ferrari, you would weld them on, be sure you do the same for your computer by getting a higher quality motherboard.

Form factors. Today motherboard makers, and case makers come up with certain form factors in which the motherboard, and components will fit inside the case. As of now we have Micro ATX, Baby ATX, ATX, and BTX. Right now though the one to look at is ATX. Everything will support an ATX form factor, because pretty much every motherboard right now is ATX. So make sure when you are looking for your case/ motherboards both say they are ATX or be sure the case supports ATX.

Thereís your crash course on motherboards.

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#15Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:26:14 AMmessage detail
The BIG 4: There are 4 main companies in computers, I am going to give you a brief list of their products, what they are doing, ect.

Intel: Intel is one of the first processor makers. For awhile it was declared the king of all performance, however in the days of the Pentium 4 AMD took that crown. Now though, they are dominating the market with their crazy fast core 2 duos. Intel also makes motherboard chipsets that support their processors. The core 2 duos are socket 775 as well as some of their older Pentium models.

AMD: AMD is intelís long time rival, and although they really werenít a rival to intel, theyíve gained a lot of ground until now with their cheap high performing Athlon 64ís. Recently AMD merged with ATI to make ATI/AMD. The fused company still makes processors, while the ATI part still makes video cards. Right now their supported socket is Socket AM2. Look out for the Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2, and the FX series. AMD does not make motherboard chipsets

Nvidia: Nvidia is a graphics card company that designs graphics card chipsets, and motherboard chipsets. What happens is Nvidia creates the technology, and allows certain manufacturers to buy the chipsets with the technology and manufacture the cards. For instance one will see an Evga, Nvidia 7600GT video card. Evga happens to be one of Nvidiaís manufacturers. The same goes for Nvidiaís motherboards. Right now Nvidiaís strong graphics cards are the 7600GT, the 7800GT, the 7900GS, the 7900GT, the 7900GTX, the 7950 GX2, the 8600GT, 8600GTS, 8800GTS, the 8800GTX and the 8800 Ultra. Nvidia creates the Nforce chipsets for motherboards, with their latest release being the Nforce 6 series. Getting an Nforce chipset is always a good choice if you are planning to use an Nvidia card with the motherboard, however Nforce chipsets will still work with ATI video cards as long as you donít plan to use cross fire. The 8000 series is Nvidiaís newest (and as of this publication) the fastest video cards in the world. These cards support the new DirectX10 standard of graphics, which will raise graphical computing to a whole new level. Besides these few 8000 series cards all of Nvidia's other cards support the DirectX9 standard of graphics.

ATI: ATI is Nvidiaís rival mainly in the graphics department. ATI also uses manufacturers to create their cards, their best manufacturer being the Sapphire company, since they release ATIís cards the cheapest (but with still some of the highest quality). ATI supports crossfire, and has designed a few motherboard chipsets to support their crossfire configuration. There best graphics cards right now are the X800, X850, X1800, X1900, X1900GT, X1900XT, X1900XTX, X1950 Pro, X1950 XTX and the DX10 Compliant HD2900XT, HD2600, and HD 2400.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#16Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:27:17 AMmessage detail
Alright I am going to take a little break from posting this, I will finish this up in an hour or so, for now though

PLEASE DO NOT POST
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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#17Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:51:26 AMmessage detail
Power Supply

The power supply or PSU is perhaps one of the most important components of your computer. What the PSU does is draw power from the outlet and distribute the power amongst the various components of the computer. There are several important factors that I will discuss.

Wattage

Wattage is essentially how much power the PSU can draw from the outlet and deliver said watts to your components. Nowadays high end gaming PC's usually require around 600 watts, and perhaps a bit more if you are doing SLI. I personally don't see a need for 1000 watt power supplies unless you are the kind of person that likes to be over the top.

Amps on the 12V rail

Amps on the 12V rail are very important since the 12V rail is what supplies your video card (usually the most power hungry component in your computer) with power. Most high end cards nowadays require around 28 amps on the 12V rail. Some power supplies will have two or more 12V rails, to assist if one is running multicard configurations.

To find out how much amps you have altogether across your various 12V rails find the combined power that the 12V rails are capable of producing and divide it by 12.

(http://www.ocztechnology.com/drivers/GameXstream_600W_chart.jpg).

Notice that in this picture the combined power of that power supplyís 4X 12V rails is 580W. Now we simply divide 580/12 which equals 48.3A amps which is the maximum power sported by the 12V line. Keep in mind though, you most likely wonít find the combined power of the 12V rails on the side of your PSU, so you may have to refer to your PSUís manual, box, or the manufacturerís website to find this.

(Huge thanks to FermiDirac for properly explaining this for me)

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#18Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:53:01 AMmessage detail
Cables

Your PSU will have a variety of cables, and it helps if you understand what each cable looks like.

24PIn- The 24 pin cable is the cable that directly supplies power to your motherboard. Sometimes a PSU will have a 20+4 pin cable. All this means is that if your motherboard happens to have a 20 pin power connector, you can draw back the extra 4 pins leaving you with 20 to fit perfectly into your motherboard.

4 Pin CPU cable- This is a cable that most people don't know about and thus don't realize it is vital to get your computer to boot. The 4 pin CPU cable supplies power directly to your CPU, it must be plugged in for your computer to boot. Some motherboards also have 8-Pin power connectors for the CPU, if your motherboard does, be sure that your power supply also has an 8 Pin CPU connector.

6 Pin PCI-ExpressX16 connector- The 6 pin PCI-Express connectors is the connector that powers your video cards. Many times a PSU will come with 2 of these in case one wants to run SLI. However keep in mind cards like the 8800GTX will actually need 2 of these connectors to run.

4 Pin Molex- The 4 Pin Molex is what powers your optical drives, hard drives, and most AGP cards use 4- Pin Molex cables for power. I personally find 4-Pin molex connectors to be the most useful since if you don't have a PCI-Express connector you can combine two 4-Pin molex connectors into a PCI-Express connector using an adapter.

There are a few other cables that you will find, but these are the most vital, and common ones.

Pictures of cables

Various cables all labeled- http://tinyurl.com/2zphtf

20+4 Pin Motherboard Connector in action- http://tinyurl.com/28z5jm

All the cables labeled- http://tinyurl.com/25pwjn

Modular/ and Sleeved Cabling

An important factor to look for in a power supply is to see whether it has modular or sleeved cabling.

Sleeved cabling consists of cables that are wrapped around in sleeves, to make them easy to place/ deal with. Sleeved cabling generally makes it easier to hide your cables, and will give your case a more organized and tighter look. Sleeved cabling also offers better airflow.

Modular cabling shares the same advantages as sleeved cabling in the sense that most modular cables or sleeved. However modular cables can actually be disconnected from the power supply. The advantage here is that most power supplies come with more then enough cables for an average PC, and thus many of the cables are left unused. The problem with that is that the cables not only block airflow, but they make a mess in your case. With modular cabling you can pick which cables you need, plug them into your PSU, and you will be good to go.

I highly recommend modular or sleeved cabling, it makes things much easier to deal with, and it is actually beneficial for your computer's performance since modular/ sleeved cables allow better airflow.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#19Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:53:51 AMmessage detail
The importance of a quality power supply

Believe it or not your power supply is perhaps one of the most important parts of your PC. You see if you don't have a good power supply, your power supply may not be delivering enough power to your components causing them to under perform. Furthermore some low quality PSU's can offer tons of watts and amps, but since they are low quality they will either die, or surge, causing various components of your computers to either fry, or be damaged.

DO NOT GO WITH BUILT IN CASE POWER SUPPLIES, THEY ARE LOW QUALITY, HAVE LITTLE CONNECTORS, AND WILL USUALLY DIE OR SURGE, TAKING YOUR COMPUTER WITH IT, JUST DON'T DO IT.

To find a list of recommended PSU's refer to the ďList of recommended manufacturers section of the guide.

This video is also very helpful for understanding power supplies, it explains just about everything in more detail, and even covers some more things that I did not cover.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X80Hso2VE9A


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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#20Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 11:54:53 AMmessage detail
Hard drives

The hard drive is the component in your computer that stores all of your data. A hard drive works by having a small rewritable disk spin at fast speeds. While this disk is spinning, the hard drive accesses, copies, and changes data already on that disk. Unlike RAM, when you store something on a hard drive it will still be there until you delete it. When you want to use a program, your hard drive will upload the program and all of its according data to the RAM. Once you are done using the program, the RAM will send the program, as well as any other data that has been changed back to your hard drive to be saved, and stored.

Size

Size is most likely the most important factor you should consider when buying a hard drive. Hard drive space is measured in Gigabytes (GB's) the more GB's the larger the hard drive. I would suggest getting around 250GB or storage, since it is ample storage for most people. However if you are music guru, or if you like to edit movies, then a larger hard drive would be necessary.

RPM

RPM determines the rate at which the small disk in your hard drive spins. The faster the RPM, the faster your disk spins, meaning the faster data, can be written, accessed, etc. Most common hard drives have an RPM at 7200RPM which is a perfectly fine speed. However some hard drives can hit 10,000RPM or even more. These hard drives generally have faster performance over their 7200RPM brethren, however hard drives that run at high RPM, generally cost more, and have less storage space.

Cache

Cache is a small cache of memory that your hard drive uses for recently accessed data. Say you accidentally close a program. Instead of having to have your hard drive, spin for awhile gathering all of the data the program holds, the program is already on the cache, meaning it can be instantly uploaded to the RAM. Most hard drives have a cache of around 8-16MB. The larger the cache the better, however keep in mind caches aren't all that vital in determining a hard drive's performance. but they certainly are a factor.

Sata

The sata cable is what connects the hard drive to the motherboard. A sata cable can transfer 3GB/s and is the fastest and best means of delivering data to the motherboard. Be sure your hard drive uses sata.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA