Building a Desktop PC

+3 Patricia Beach · October 22, 2014
Hi All -

I'm thinking about building a PC.  I've considered building from scratch and starting with a bare bones system.  I'll be using this machine for office applications, developing websites, limited graphics editing, and other general purposes - no heavy graphic requirements.

SPECS
Intel i5 or i7 or equivalent AMD
8 GB RAM
SSD hard drive
decent video card which will support multiple digital monitors

Linux mint OR Win 7 Pro - haven't decided
I might want to run virtual machines for testing websites and for running alt OS

Any advice or feedback on which route to choose?  Brands to recommend or avoid?  

Thanks for your responses






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+2 Eugene Botma · October 24, 2014
This first part is going to be a bit ranty, but please, bare with me, I find it important that people understand what they are working with.

first off, saying i5 or i7 doesn't mean much. There are many models of each, some are very good and some are not. 
SSD is short for Solid State Drive. HDD as well as hard drive is short for Hard Disk Drive. A SSD uses NAND chips that can read and write data at extreme speeds. A HDD uses a magnetized spinning disk to store data. There is no such thing as a solid state drive hard drive (common pitfall to call it a sdd hard drive). There are hybrid drives that uses SSD technology as a cache for the disk drive though. If you're on a budget and probably going to have some really big files, you might want to look at that.

Rant over. starting feedback:

You mention no heavy graphics requirements but some minor graphics editing. I would recommend an AMD APU in this case (which pains me, I really prefer the way Intel does things). APUs are cheap CPUs with slightly stronger embedded GPUs than normal CPUs. Great for a budget gaming PC as well as work PCs that might require some graphical power. If you get a decent motherboard, you should easily be able to run 2 monitors, might be able to run up to 3 (I'm not familiar with the most current hardware, correct me if I'm wrong someone).

As mentioned above, you might want to look at Hybrid drives. These can store OS data on the NAND part of the drive, and other less important data on the disk. It has most of the speed of a SSD when booting up, but the capacity of a HDD. Just plain SSDs run out of space very quickly, especially in a development environment.

8GB would most probably be enough for what you want to do, but more ram never hurt anyone (except for their wallets).

Why say either windows OR Linux. It's very easy to set up a dual boot with Mint and Windows 7. You can have both installed and boot into whichever one you need at that moment. Both OS's have capabilities for running VM's.

In my findings, you usually don't have to test a website across OS's but rather cross browser. Firefox in windows and Firefox in Linux use the same engine. If it works on the one, it 99% of the time works on the other.
+1 jan burg · November 11, 2014
From an experienced PC builder someone that's pretty up-to-date, this is what I would recommend:

-i7(4-core or 6-core) minimum (get the lowest clocked one you can find with best overclockability)
-cooler master hyper 212 for the i7
-12GB ram minimum
-fast 10K (500GB-1TB) HDD for main OS files and programs
-Radeon R9 280 or GTX 760
-PSU 1KW

First, you want a processor that's as beefy as possible. Trust me I've learned the hard way, and this is your most important component. It will bottleneck everything if it sucks. With the way of everything going towards multithreading, trust me you want at least 4 cores. Then you need your cooler master to overclock the s*** out of it, so it stays relevant for 5 years. For example, I have a i7-quadcore from 2009 clocked at 3.5GHz and it still owns anything that tries to tame it. When you get your beefy processor, save some bucks and get one that's clocked as low as they sell. Then overclock it to a $600 fierce motherf***er. This is what I did 5 years ago.
COST: $100-300 (you can get a refurbished i7 quadcore down to $100)

You want to have at least 12GB ram because of how ram intensive applications are these days. Period.
COST: $140

You need a fast harddrive that holds a lot of space, so go with a Raptor 10k 1TB
COST: $200

You can go lower on the graphics card, but I recommend what I specified above, which will be your upper limit.
COST:$150-$230

Now the beefy power supply is there to make sure no components ever get bottlenecked, especially your processor and graphics card.
COST: $130


These are the main things that are gonna bottleneck your PC, and that's why I bring em up. The other things like a motherboard, optical drive, case are pretty straightforward: get a motherboard that supports overclocking and has good reviews and get a case that has good FRONT-airflow and has good reviews like an Antec P180*. 
+1 Eugene Botma · November 11, 2014
@jan burg That is great advice for someone with a large budget who's building a heavy gaming or video rendering PC, BUT the OP mentioned that she will be using office applications with some minor image rendering. going all out on a cpu and ram is wasting money. 

An AMD apu has more than enough cpu and gpu power for what she needs. 
There is no need for an after market cooler because there is no need to overclock a cpu for office applications.
you can never have enough ram, but you wouldn't have problems with 8gb
While a HDD is the slowest part of a computer (except for the human using it), getting a 10k rpm HDD is a waste. You'll do just fine with a 7200rpm
while a discrete GPU is usually good, it's unnecessary in this case, especially if you get an APU.
a 1K psu is way too big way this rig, even with the specs you listed. Again, a waste of money when something a bit smaller will do the job just as good. (gpu = 170W, CPU=75W, motherboard+ram+hdd+cdrom=50W. Total=295W). You'd be able to run the rig comfortably with a 500W PSU, even when overclocking.
+1 jan burg · November 11, 2014
Yeah the PSU I listed is a little overkill lol. I was thinking about expansion to multiple graphics cards for some reason. I try to keep my systems future proof as much as possible. It ends up saving beaucoup bucks down the road.

I like your suggestion of an AMD apu. I don't have experience with them so I couldn't faithfully recommend them, but they do seem intriguing.
+1 Patricia Beach · November 14, 2014
Thanks all for the thoughtful replies - I'll spec out a couple and see how they line up.  
I got that rant about the SSD vs HDD - like saying hot water heater - it's common, but not technically accurate.  I have two labs at work with 33 hybrids - they are great for booting fast.

I'd rather over build for a couple hundred bucks, but not looking to build a super high-end system.  The only games I play are scrabble, crosswords, and hangman!  My main memory requirements are Excel, browser windows, Gimp, and local XAMPP server. 

Thanks!
0 Abdullah Nauman · February 3, 2015
Bucky, has tutorials, on how to build a computer. They are are extremely old though
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