First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

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First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby scarecrovv » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:15 pm UTC

I've got a laptop, which was an upper-mid-range business model 4 years ago. I love it to pieces and want to keep using it forever; unfortunately it's been repaired under warranty 3 times (twice were motherboard failures), and the warranty has now expired. With that track record, I fully expect it to die within 3 years. When that happens, I'm thinking of switching to a desktop as my primary machine, and a netbook for mobility. Also, more immediately, I want a machine to run mostly headless as a file server/compute server/http proxy/whatever I need it to be that day.

I want to build a machine now (it's my first time, so I'm simultaneously excited and terrified), with the option of upgrading it later; towards this end, I'm thinking of building the following:

Processor: Intel Core i5-2450P Sandy Bridge 3.2GHz (3.5GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623i52450P - $199.99
Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD80 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - $199.99
Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL7D-8GBXH - $47.99
CPU cooler: SilenX EFZ-100HA2 100mm 3rd generation fluid dynamic bearing Effizio CPU Cooler - $12.99
Case: Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $59.99
Power supply: SILVERSTONE SST-ST40F-ES 400W ATX 12V 2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $48.99
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda Green ST1500DL003 1.5TB 5900 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive - $99.99
Optical Drive: LITE-ON DVD Burner - Bulk 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM Black SATA Model iHAS124-04 - OEM - $17.99
Graphics card: Some Nvidia thing given to me by a friend of mine (a gamer) when he upgraded to a ridiculous monster of a graphics card. I think it's an Nvidia 7 series of some variety. All I know is that it was satisfactory to him as of two years ago, but he got a nice birthday present, so he gave me the old one. - $0.00
Monitor, keyboard, mouse: Already got them. - $0.00
Audio output: I already have headphones. - $0.00

Total cost: $687.92

When my laptop eventually gives up the ghost, I plan to throw in a solid state drive, buy a couple of nice monitors, maybe a better graphics card if I feel it's necessary, and make it my primary computer. Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Coming from the world of laptops, it seems like a lot of computer for not very much money. Am I missing anything obvious here?

I also have some specific questions:

1. I've never bought a processer before. Do they come with sufficent heat sinks/fans/cooling equipment? I'm assuming they don't, which is why I picked out the cpu cooler above.

2. Is a 400W power supply reasonable for this computer? Is it overkill? Not enough?

3. The motherboard I picked has a feature called "OC Genie II". I've never done any overclocking before, and I'm generally leery of trying to exceed spec sheets. Is overclocking safe and common? How likely am I to destroy the processor if I try it? The processor I picked should be enough for anything I'll want to throw at it for quite a while, so if there's any risk I don't see the need to push it.

4. Does anybody know of any linux compatibility problems with the above parts? I haven't used a windows box in years, and I have no intention of starting now.

Thanks for your help!
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby bluejello » Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:07 pm UTC

I will help for what I can

1) All of the comptuers I have build came with a fan that was fine, better cooling system may mean less noise and cooler temperatures and is a nessisary for overclocking to my knowledge.

2) Check how much power the graphic card needs if you can figure it out. If the graphics card only requires 400W or below you should be fine but wait for other peoples opinion on this matter.

3) Overclocking does have risk of killing the processor for good, either by overheating it or incorrect voltage. If you do not need to overclock I would advise against it. However, I have no experience with overclocking.

4) The parts should work just fine, but you will probably want to wait for anothers person advice.

Upgrading a grahpic card is simple enough, take out the old one and stick the new one in, you just want to make sure you have the correct ports for it. Looking over the list I see nothing ovious missing from it. You might want to get speakers for better sound but that is personal preference.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:14 pm UTC

To answer your specific questions:

1. Retail CPUs like that one you have picked come with a heatsink/fan that is perfectly adequate for the CPU at stock settings. If you plan on overclocking, you'll certainly need something better. You can confirm this by clicking the "Details" tab on Newegg.

2. Dunno. Can't say without knowing what your GPU is. Probably, though. I don't know anything about that brand, though, and power supplies are something you do NOT want to cheap out on. (Not to say it's bad; I just don't know. Someone with more knowledge might be able to help out.)

3. Overclocking is relatively safe, as long as you take it slow. CPUs are typically capable of more than they're sold for just due to how they're manufactured, especially with early-run parts as they're working on improving yields. There's certainly *some* risk of ruining a processor, but it's difficult to do. You'll more likely run into system instability well before you get to the point of damaging the chip.

4. No idea.

One note: You might want to wait a month before doing this. Intel is expected to release Ivy Bridge parts at the end of the month, which will offer you better performance for little or no increased cost OR you can buy the parts you're already planning on for less.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby scarecrovv » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:27 am UTC

Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it.

1. Oh, you're right, it does say "Heatsink and Fan included". If the stock heatsink and fan are really sufficent for running the CPU at 100% for hours on end (something I do occasionally, and might do all the time if I decide to run Folding@home or something similar) then I'll skip the 3rd party one.
2. Ha, I figured out what GPU I've got. It's a GeForce 7900 GS. Given this information, a power supply calculator I found suggests a 367W psu. So 400W would probably be good for this machine? Or should I be safe and go for a 450 or 500W power supply?
3. Hmmm, I think I'll skip the overclocking for now.

Re: Ivy Bridge - Thanks for the tip, I think I'll take your advice, wait a bit, and see what the market looks like a couple weeks after Ivy Bridge comes out.

I've got another question for you folks. Here's a picture of the graphics card I'm planning on putting in it (spoilered for size):
Spoiler:
Image

I'm pretty sure the bottom is PCI Express x16 (which the motherboard has three of), but what's that card edge connector on the top? Does it look familliar to anyone?
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby EvanED » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:58 am UTC

The Intel heat sinks are supposedly quite decent. The only reason I went with an aftermarket cooler on my Core 2, at least until evidence surfaced that I needed something else, was so that I could stick a 120mm fan on a better heat sink and have it quieter.

I'd guess the ribbon connector on the top of the GPU is for SLI, but I don't know for sure.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:15 am UTC

Yeah, that's a SLI connector.

Re: power supplies: I think they're best not running more than 80% of capacity, so you might want to step up to 500W with that card if the calculator is showing 367W.

I can't promise that the stock heatsink fan will be okay for running at 100% for hours on end, but it *should* be okay. I will say that it will be loud, so a third party one isn't necessarily a bad idea, anyway.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby starslayer » Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:03 am UTC

I'm not sure how you managed to get 367 W for that system. Using a similar calculator (also by Outervision), I manage ~300 W at full load (which the computer will almost never hit) and assuming a fairly old PSU with aging caps. I'd say a 400 W PSU should be just fine. Good brands include Seasonic, Corsair, and Antec's Earthwatts line. Avoid OCZ.

I've heard that the Antec 300 is a fairly cramped case to work in, so you may want to look around some more for a better case at around the same price. As mentioned, you shouldn't need an aftermarket CPU cooler if you're not overclocking.

What drew you to that motherboard? You can get serviceable options for a good $30-$50 cheaper if you can get by with a smaller feature set. What features do you need/want in a mobo?

Everything else looks fine, though I wouldn't get a green drive, since they're slower and not much more energy efficient than regular 7200 RPM drives. The only thing the GPU's guilty of is being really old at this point.

Everything you have listed should work with Linux. The only thing I'd really be worried about is video drivers, and IIRC NVidia has fairly well developed packages for Linux.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:09 am UTC

Thoughts:

The stock heatsink Intel ships with their CPUs is perfectly adequate for anything you might throw at the CPU, so long as it's not overclocked. Running it flat out for a while it likely to get pretty noisy; if that's a concern, I'd suggest a somewhat beefier aftermarket heatsink.

Silverstone makes some average power supplies, and some fairly good ones, but I think that particular one falls into former category. 400W should be plenty - I can't find the actual TDP of any of nVidia's 7-series cards, but the 7900GS won't be more than 150W (to meet PCI-E spec - 75W from the slot, another 75W from the 6 pin connector). Using a GTX560 as a point of comparison (as it has a TDP of exactly 150W), the system shouldn't break 320W under load. All that said, I'd suggest paying the extra $7 for a 430W EarthWatts.

I'm not sure why you'd bother with that video card at all, though, as another point. The 7900GS is pretty long in the tooth by now and I can't think of any particular reason to bother including it. If you need graphics performance, it would be worth it to get something new, as it's only just barely faster than integrated graphics are these days, and if you don't, it's awfully power hungry (and if it's anything like my 7900GT was, not particularly quiet) for no particular gain. I'd go with a more reasonable motherboard (do you really need 3 16x PCI-E slots, dual GigE ports, and voltage check points?) like the Asrock Z68 Pro/Gen 3 (which will also support Ivy Bridge CPUs down the road if you want), and put the a bit savings either towards an i5-2500 and use the onboard graphics, or towards an actually modern video card.

I'm also surprised no one else mentioned the hard drive. "Green" drives as your primary system drive is a WTF-no sort of idea. 7200RPM drives are slow enough, there is no way in hell you want to use something even slower if you have any choice at all in the matter. Either go 7200RPM, or SSD+something.


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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby EvanED » Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:26 am UTC

starslayer wrote:...though I wouldn't get a green drive, since they're slower and not much more energy efficient than regular 7200 RPM drives.

Oh I third this suggestion.

I have one, and it's fine and I don't regret it... but I use it for my media drive! Even when the computer is otherwise in use, it will spin down and take several seconds to spin back up. And that's not to consider stuff like access times, which I haven't measured.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby Carnildo » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:03 am UTC

PhoenixEnigma wrote:I'm not sure why you'd bother with that video card at all, though, as another point. The 7900GS is pretty long in the tooth by now and I can't think of any particular reason to bother including it.

The reason is very simple: he got it for free.

it's only just barely faster than integrated graphics are these days

Yes, it's almost six years old. From a pixel-pushing standpoint, it's still a solidly midrange card; the only real limitation is that it doesn't support any standards newer than DirectX 9 or OpenGL 2.1.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby scarecrovv » Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:09 pm UTC

Hmm, I think you're right about the motherboard being overkill. What initially drew me to that one was the large number of usb 3 ports, but thinking over it, more than a couple is probably unnecessary. Also, I had envisioned a future use for the dual ethernet ports, but I suppose I can always get a NIC to go in a PCI slot if I actually find myself wanting it in the future. The same goes for more usb 3 ports if I need them. After the release of Ivy Bridge I'll pick a processor and then re-evaluate my motherboard choice.

I was thinking of getting a slow drive because it was cheap. But I'll probably take the money I save by switching to a more reasonable motherboard and put some of it towards a better disk.

I was going to put the 7900GS in it because I already have it, and the motherboard I was considering didn't have integrated graphics. Since the Asrock Z68 has integrated graphics, and I don't plan on doing any gaming on it for a while at least, I can leave out the old graphics card.

I don't know jack about cases. I picked the Antec 300 because the power supply mounting was on the bottom (I'm figuring that lowering the center of gravity can only be a good thing), because reviews said the cooling was excellent, and because there's no shortage of drive bays if I want to put in a RAID at some point in the future (though I don't see a need at the moment). I didn't really pay attention to the dimensions at all, the fact that it said "ATX" made me think it was fine in that regard. What should I look for to find a case that's not cramped? And do you have any other advice about cases?
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:35 pm UTC

The Antec 300 is a perfectly fine case from a good manufacturer. If you like it, get it. Anything short of a full tower or server case is going to "cramped." The only thing that might be useful is a removable motherboard tray.

Also, lots of current Intel CPUs have integrated graphics on-die. I'm pretty sure all Ivy Bridge chips will initially. The previously mentioned i5 2500K is a bit more expensive than what you picked, but includes integrated graphics that are perfectly fine for basic desktop stuff, and even some light gaming.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby starslayer » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:05 pm UTC

I wouldn't call most mid-towers cramped either.

Anyway, it's just an annoyance when assembling the system. After that, it doesn't matter. As long as the airflow/cooling's fine, and your fingers/hands have room to maneuver (looking at pictures of the inside, they should) so you can put all the parts in, it should be fine. I unfortunately don't have specific recommendations at that price point, since I usually spring for mid or full tower cases that are twice that price.

A case saying it meets ATX spec means any ATX motherboard will fit; most motherboards are ATX. You wouldn't want to buy a microATX case and an ATX mobo or something like that, for example, since they're different form factors.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby Carnildo » Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:00 am UTC

scarecrovv wrote:I don't know jack about cases. I picked the Antec 300 because the power supply mounting was on the bottom (I'm figuring that lowering the center of gravity can only be a good thing),

Unless you've got a small aluminum or plastic case, the center of gravity will be dominated by the mass of the case itself: moving three pounds of power supply won't change much when the case itself is 15 pounds of steel.

starslayer wrote:You wouldn't want to buy a microATX case and an ATX mobo or something like that, for example, since they're different form factors.

Going the other direction is fine, though: most smaller-than-ATX mainboards use the ATX placement for the I/O panel, the card slots, and (a subset of) the mounting screw holes, and they usually use an ATX power supply connector. Basically, an ATX case can hold any non-server mainboard currently on the market, and an EATX case can even handle some of those.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby TranquilFury » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:15 am UTC

If you live near a microcenter you can get a 2500k for 180.

with the savings you can get a better CPU cooler.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby Endless Mike » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:08 pm UTC

starslayer wrote:I wouldn't call most mid-towers cramped either.

Yeah, this is why I put it in quotes.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:51 pm UTC

For the hard drive: If your thinking of putting in an SSD you'll probably want to do that sooner rather than later since you'll want the OS on it. Most of the cheaper SSDs are 2.5 inch (laptop size) but a bay converted cost about 5$ and can hold two laptop drives. One for your OS drive and one for your old laptop drive.

On the power: I'm not very experienced, but I'd look for a higher margin to be safe, especially since you're thinking of future upgrades.
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Re: First time builder looking for sanity check and advice

Postby scarecrovv » Sat Jul 07, 2012 2:49 am UTC

Thanks for your advice, but I've decided to put off this build until some point in the future. It was educational to plan it, but I think I'm going to spec out new parts and actually build it sometime later (and spend the money on other things (like food) right now). I'm not sure when, it could be a couple years from now.
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