[Nottingham] Making PCs from parts

Duncan John Fyfe djf at star.le.ac.uk
Wed Mar 23 16:13:39 GMT 2005

On Wed, 2005-03-23 at 14:22 +0000, James Gibbon wrote:
> Hiya everyone,
> Apologies if this is considered a bit off-topic, but I'm planning to
> put together a couple of PCs from parts, as a sort of project; not 
> something I've done before. Can anyone recommend a supplier of (new)
> motherboards, power supplies, processors, cases and so on?
> Additionally, is there a useful guide to DIY PC building on the net
> anywhere, or can anyone recommend any published material on the
> subject?

I've used all of these in the past.  Few gripes but these things change
- caveat emptor.

	Last time I placed a guts of a PC order with them it took ~ a month for
them to get an item in stock and since they don't hold items in an order
by the time it arrived other items were now out of stock. 
And by the time they arrived - you can see where this is going :)

	They were fine but their courier's were useless !$^%s.


Shop around for a good price but take care that you don't loose out
because of shipping.

Some random notes ....

Have a look around (eg. www.tomshardware.com) for component reviews.
You don't just want to know how good a component is but also if you will
have any problems using it.  Motherboard designers are notorious for 
arranging components to make life difficult.  You can often live with
the quirks but just sometimes it stuffs you up.
Eg. The position of the CPU stops you using a full length PCI card
or a well placed capacitor stops you using a bay with a full length PATA
device (DVD/CDROM) etc. Or even that some Intel 865 series motherboards
have a single bit volume control for the onboard sound (ie. loud or

Make a check list of what you want/need of your new system:
	CPU fan
	Hard disk(s)
	Optical disk (DVD/CDRW )
	Other disks (floppy, zip)
	Hardware modem
Are there any components you are happy to salvage from your existing
system (keyboard, monitor , mouse) ?  Maybe a KVM switch would be worth

Do you have any specialist requirements that might limit your choice of
components (eg. ultra low electronic noise if you do a lot of sound

Decide on specific components you are not willing to live without (eg
3.2GHz AMD Socket 939 Athlon 64 , MrAnonymous Shithot9000 PCI-Express
graphics card with whistles and bells and Firewire). This will refine
your choice of motherboard (ie. it must have Socket 939 with PCI-Express
with firewire).  Make sure the CPU comes with an adequate fan or buy a
good one.

Then then find the motherboard you want.  This will determine what other
components you need to be looking for.
eg. 	Does it have onboard ethernet/graphics/sound/RAID etc. Are you
happy with what it has onboard or do you want better graphics/sound etc.
	SATA/PATA/SCSI hard disks
	Type, speed and maximim size of memory modules

Now choose the rest.

The CPU and Graphics card largely determine the power supply wattage
(PSU) you need.  They also generate shed loads of heat so make sure your
case has hardpoints for extra fans.  I'd recommend the biggest case you
have room for just to let air flow more freely.
If your buying PATA devices some rounded (and longer) cables are usually
worth it.

Now you know what you are going to order start doing some research on
how to install them.  Download what relevant manuals you can.  These
days most orientation dependant components (PATA cables, CPUs) come in
'will only fit one way' packages but it is worth checking.

Last but not least, the 64p question - will Linux have a problem with
any of the components you have chosen ?

Have fun,

Duncan John Fyfe <djf at star.le.ac.uk>

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