home.gif button
editorial.gif button
operations.gif button
search.gif button
technology.gif button
projects.gif button
site map.gif button
archive.gif button
search.gif button

BuildOrBuy Group Network
www.buildorbuy.org | www.buildorbuy.net ]

BuildOrBuy News - Building A PC Rev 4
  1. New Spreadsheet Specs with 1394 FireWire! ifiw1394.xls (10/12/2002).
  2. If I were... HTML 1394 of Specs (10/12/2002).
  3. ifiwere2_5.xls Revised 8-29-02
  4. If I were... HTML Version 5 of Specs Revised 8-29-02
  5. ../images/bullet2.gifAssembling your PC (1/26/2002).
If I Were Building a Computer Today… Rev 4
(Revised 6/11/2002)

By Joe Whinery

The purpose of this on going article is to give some guidance on what the average well-built computer contains. This is not the ultimate gamer machine nor is it the ultimate CAD machine or over clocking machine. It is a machine that will do all those tasks very nicely without specializing in any of them.

These are the specifications that will be frozen in time when our next build comes due, which looks like June 2002. All prices and part numbers are for reference only and reflect those prices and part numbers available on the Axion Technologies Web page on the date of each revision of the list. (www.axiontech.com) Keep your eye on the local sales and on any given weekend either hard drives or input devices or something else on this list are on sale at some very attractive prices.

Some of the components are "don't care" pieces, which means I really don't care who the manufacturer is or, within reason, what the speed of the device is. These devices include but are not limited to: floppy drives, and modems. Most of these devices are on their way out, or are at least on the steep downward slope of their live cycle.

Now, for each item on the list I will give you an input on why it was chosen.

Case: Good solid case, no sharp edges inside, two fans, plenty of space for drives, all drives are clipped in (easy removal or changing).

CD-ROM: Here I have substituted the DVD-ROM since this is the future.

CD-RW: The important feature here is Buffer Under Run Protection. Don't buy any CD-RW that does not have this feature regardless of price or manufacturer.

CPU: Athlon Xp 1900 Retail Box. Stick with the retail box because it has a CPU fan included and the CPU has a 3 year warranty (as opposed to a 1 yr warranty for the OEM CPU). Watch this part because it changes as quickly as the price drops on the faster speeds. The Athlon was chosen over the Intel P4 because of its price/performance advantage.

Floppy Drive: Don't care.

Hard Drive: Failure rate differences of IBM, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and the other hard drives are minimal. So that makes this a case of faster and bigger is better. Look for the fastest (7200 RPM or better)UDMA 133 drive with the best buffer size (at least 2 MB) and quickest average access time (8.5ms or less) that is large enough (60GB or bigger if you are into music or photography) to meet your requirements.

Keyboard and mouse: Wireless and ball-less is the way to go. Microsoft has caught up with Logitech and now has a better ergonomic design.

Mother Board: Giga-Byte was chosen here for several reasons. First it has the dual BIOS. This makes it almost impossible to mess up during an upgrade of the BIOS. Second it has two USB 2.0 ports as well as the USB 1.1 ports. Third, it has onboard RAID. Now, I realize that most of us do not need or want RAID, but this board gives us the ability to use the
RAID connectors as standard IDE connectors, thereby allowing more IDE devices. Also included are on-board Sound Blaster 128 sound and 10/100 baseT Ethernet. This saves PCI slots. Thirdly, it has no AMR, CNR or ISA slots. Lastly, this board comes with a nice bundle of useable and necessary software.

Video Card: This is an excellent 2D/3D card. Not quite as fast as some of the $200 to $300 cards on the market, but fast enough for all but the most ardent gamer. It has come to my attention that there are different ATI 7500 Radeon cards available. There are those that are "Made by ATI" and those that are "Powered by ATI". Those Powered by ATI have their own drivers, and updates to the driver set must come from the manufacturer,
not from the ATI web site.

Monitor: This is the best bargain I have seen so far. This flat screen monitor is clear and has an excellent picture and controls. My next choice would to go for an 18 in. flat panel display. Within the next year, the prices on flat panels should come down to an affordable price range.

Speakers: These are good speakers, but I have a tin ear. Use your own tastes to select the best speakers for you.

Operating System: Windows Xp has been around long enough to get several updates and fixes from Microsoft. Stay on top of the security fixes and carefully monitor your setup. Do not let Microsoft get control of your system. Linux, which is worth considering, has a long way to go to be an average users operating system.

Lastly, one should consider how the best way to back up your system is in today's environment. Tape is too slow and a thing of the past for personal desktop systems. With the back up software available today, the best way to protect your data would be to use a second hard drive and schedule a total system back up every other week to alternate backup sets. This way you can never lose more than one week of data. Since we are using this drive for backup only, it need not be the fastest drive on the market. 

images/bullet2.gifHow to Schedule Your Back Ups With Retrospect by Joe Whinery

Memory prices are stabilizing, at least for now. Hard drive prices are slowly decreasing but the Maxtor seems to be the best buy for the buck today.

Your comments are welcome!

IO Back Panel
Trade Shows
WinXP Pro
Windows Help

Copyright © 1992, 1994, 1995-97, 2000-2001, BuildOrBuy Group Network News!
Web Development, Gill Boyd & Team - 1st Edition Posted 12/14/2001; Revised 06/11/2001; Updated 05/20/2003