[sclug] New Mobo and processor - help requested

Alex Butcher lug at assursys.co.uk
Tue Sep 3 14:05:35 UTC 2013

On Tue, 3 Sep 2013, Neil Haughton wrote:

> my PC (Athlon, 0.75G mem, NVidia MX440 graphics) is objecting to the latest
> Linux distros (debian Wheezy, Mint 15, Fedora 19, and others). Either they
> won't install properly or they the screens are unusable, I can't easily
> find reasonably priced higher capacity memory sticks to increase RAM, so .
> it appears my PC is due for an overhaul.

Yeah, that's probably a machine from about a decade ago, albeit upgraded
with more memory. I think you'd be flogging a dead horse to try upgrading
it. It might still be a useful server running something like Debian or
CentOS, but even then, it might not be worth the power it uses.

> I'm not looking for a smoking games machine, but something that I can put a
> couple of GB of RAM in, comfortably run a 64 bit Linux distro, supports 3d
> graphics accelleration, and (ideally) allows me to retain my PATA drives
> plus add SATA drives when needed.

All quite reasonable, apart from the retaining PATA drives bit. They're
probably less than 500GB, so only worth about a tenner compared with a
modern 2TB SATA drive. And they're probably a few years old, so I wouldn't
count on them continuing to spin for much longer. And yet they'll still burn
10W a piece, just like a modern, faster, 3TB SATA drive.

Use some USB bridges and migrate the data off them whilst you still can.
Maybe use them as scratch drives for when you need to test things or work on
larger-than-normal datasets. Nothing critical, anyway.

If you must keep them online, get a motherboard with at least one PCI slot
and a Promise PATA RAID card. They're the only ones I found that seem to be
bug-free and (probably) won't corrupt your data.

> I need browsing, GIMP, Digikam and that sort of thing, LibreOffice to run
> at respectable (unfrustrating) speeds.  In other words I want something
> that will clip along nicely and yet not eat my wallet.  Oh yes, a
> reduction in power consumption would be very nice so my wife can leave it
> on all day without reducing me to tears ( :-( ), but a Pi is going too
> far.
> So one option is to replace the mobo and processor with something 'modern'
> that still supports PATA drives (preferably) as well as Sata II and accepts
> a multi core processor, and will run the latest Linux distros.
> Unfortunately I haven't done this for some 10 years now so I am all at sea,
> floundering  in a maze of unfamiliar processors, sockets, SIMMs, boards,
> etc etc.

If you don't upgrade piecemeal about once every year or two, you'll need to
replace everything (RAM, PSU, drives, graphics card) when you do. PCs just
aren't as upgradeable as they used to be.

I spec'ed up a fairly high-end desktop recently, just for fun. It started
off as a cheap Windows games machine and ended up being a replacement for my
desktop. I haven't pulled the trigger yet, for reasons I'll explain later...

?163 Gigabyte nVidia GTX-650TiB-DC2OC-2GD5 2GB DDR5 graphics card
?153 Intel i5-4430 6MB cache, boxed with fan (or possibly i5-4440, or i5-4670)
? 86 Gigabyte GA-Z87P-D3 motherboard
?145 2*Kingston KHX24C11T3K2/8X (2*2*4GB=16GB) DDR3 RAM
? 57 Antec EA-500 500W PSU
?413 2*Western Digital WD4001FAEX (2*4TB=8TB) Caviar Black SATA HDDs, 5yr warranty
?132 Samsung MZ-7TD250BW 250GB SSD
? 12 LiteOn IHAS124-04 DVD+/-RW SATA drive
? 53 Antec Three Hundred case
Startech.com latching SATA cables as required
Antec case fans as required

That's about ?1200 worth of parts, but should easily cope with 3-5 years of
use.  If you're not interested in gaming, the graphics card (?163) is
particularly ripe for economisation.  Similarly the 2x4TB drives - they are
the cheapest per TB from WD's Caviar Black range, but bog standard 2TB
drives are the cheapest per TB according to skinflint.co.uk. Cheap cases are
usually horrible to work on and are a false economy, likewise cheap PSUs
when they zap all your components. This would be my first machine with an
SSD for the OS; that seems to be a common expectation these days.

The Z87 motherboard chipset has a small bug with respect to suspend and USB,
so I'm waiting until at least the fixed revision makes it to retailers.

Whatever you do, start with the best quality and most expandable motherboard
you can afford (I'd suggest something from Gigabyte or ASUS, based on prior
experience). Experience also suggests that Intel-CPU-and-chipset machines
tend to be an easier build with fewer quirks. Check the appropriate
support/compatability list from the motherboard manufacturer to work out
which CPU and memory modules you should use. The rest will probably fall
into place according to your requirements and budget.

> Alternatively a new or 2nd user machine altogether may be an answer, but
> that woiuld mean discarding my nearly new PATA drives, case, PSU etc which
> are all in good nick, so not my first choice.
> I'm not askling anyone to choose for me, but can someone kick me off by
> suggesting suitable possibilities?


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