General PC Hardware Help

Discussion in 'Technical Discussion' started by Midway the Echidna, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    I went back a few pages on the topic list, and I couldn't help but notice the massive amount of separate PC help topics. There might be some reinvention of the wheel involved as common problems are revisited again and again. I've built 12-15 PCs for my extended family, and I'm an electrical engineer, so I can help sort of resolve most of these problems in one place.

    With that said, if you need any advice or insight on the selection, installation, repair, or on troubleshooting of PC hardware, feel free to ask here; this is a good place to get questions answered if your problem doesn't quite need a big topic. I will probably do most of the help on this topic, but if you want to be the first to offer assistance, please do so.

    This topic includes questions on choosing or installing...

    -CPUs
    -Fans/Heatsinks*
    -Video Cards
    -Power Supplies
    -Motherboards
    -Memory
    -SSDs
    -Hard Drives
    -Monitors
    -Speakers


    *If you really want to optimize heat transfer, this can get into some more advanced thermodynamics topics. My Laplace transforms are a little rusty (might not need them anyway given the limited number of options for heatsink configuration in an ATX mid-tower case), but I can be a big help in the department of moving heat efficiently (please don't read too deeply into those last 3 words). Sometimes, you will want to have more intake fans than one front-mounted intake depending on the CFM your fans can move air, and some systems might involved liquid cooling. I can solve these thermodynamic problems.

    This ought to consolidate general help into an easy go-to place. I'm sure a lot of people know what to do already, but just remember the golden rule: only a rice grain-sized drop of thermal paste on the CPU core (middle of the heatspreader). LinusTechTips/NCIX is usually good about video how-tos and also does a good job of highlighting product features on newly-released PC hardware, but there are times when you might want more specifics.

    Good luck with your DIY projects!
     
  2. Covarr

    Covarr

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    While I certainly like the thought, it seems a bit pointless to start a "just in case" thread for future use. Threads like this about hacks and fangames have a tendency to disappear.

    I suppose I have a question, though. I recently ordered a GTX 660 Ti to replace my old GTS 250; it should be arriving any day now. Now, I know better than to try running these things in SLI, but is it worth keeping the GTS 250 installed for use as a PhysX card (in terms of power consumption, heat, other potential issues)? Are there even any games that use PhysX for anything more substantial than cloth simulation?
     
  3. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    Good question! As an AMD user, I've never used NVidia PhysX, so I don't know if 2xx generation models can support what you want to do, but you can at the very least have a dual monitor setup, even get an S-Video cable and hook up to an old TV.

    The GTS was a budget card long ago, so I wouldn't expect it to offer much help to your 660Ti, which has over 10x the amount of throughput. Even if you succeed in using it for PhysX, it will offer no significant performance improvement. The 250 has only 128 stream processors compared to the 660Ti's 1344 not to mention a much lower clock speed than the 660Ti.

    Your best bet is to use it for another monitor. If you can't find one, you might as well cut power consumption and free up PCI-E bandwidth by removing the card and saving it for the unfortunate circumstance that your 660Ti dies in an OC-related accident.

    One last thing- I'm not sure where you're coming from when you say, "Threads like this about hacks and fangames have a tendency to disappear." I think that might have been a typo given the title and subject of this thread. Either way, this thread might be of some use, and it might surprise both of us by staying on the first page for a long time. Good luck with the 250, and let me know if you don't want it. I'm building a small server, and I just need a "good enough" GPU.

    EDIT: Minor grammar mistakes fixed
     
  4. dsrb

    dsrb

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    C'mon. It was obviously an analogy between general question threads about hacks/etc. versus a general question thread about computing hardware.

    Is this penance for how you reacted to that other guy who was asking questions?
     
  5. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    If you think about it, that really isn't an analogy because the basis for comparison isn't established. I checked the last 5 pages of this forum, and no one is doing this. I checked the trash through 5 pages of depth, and no one did it.

    One last thing- if you're referring to ZX0, no this isn't penance. Instead of banging my head against the wall about how this forum is clogged with PC help topics, I'm doing something to fix the problem. I'll probably just be stuck in PA forever if use my 20th post even if I turn water into wine and donate $10k to this site, so it's all inconsequential as far as what benefits me. That's where other people come in to man the topic! I'm starting the topic to kind of establish the tone and format appropriate to this help discussion...

    If you have a PC hardware question, I would be happy to help. If not, I'm trying to maintain a high signal to noise ratio on in this thread, so PM me if you have more questions and comments unrelated to PC hardware and I'll get back to you.

    By the way, I would recommend this if you're doing a DIY server. The single-threaded performance is not as much of a concern for a website, and this is the best value/dollar you can get for making a budget server.

    EDIT: Punctuation error fix
    EDIT 2: Restatement of reply in a later post...
    Me: "I didn't link to the word to patronize you or insult you in any way shape or form, so forgive me if it comes across that way. I included the link only because the definition of what constitutes an analogy can be ambiguous, much like the word, "irony:" a word known for its reputation of being commonly misused (no disrespect to Alanis Morissette, the song was still a staple of my early childhood taste in music)."​
     
  6. Lanzer

    Lanzer

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    Guess instead of making a topic I can post it here. don't think it counts as derailing.

    So a few days ago I was cleaning out my storage and found my first computer, an HP Pavilion a700n. I have some fond memories of this thing as it was my first computer I have ever saved up for when I was a teenager, I even saved up the extra cost it would take for putting in the 9-in-1 memory card slots.

    Good times. Anyways...

    So as a personal project I figured I'd bring my first computer back to its former glory and keep it around as a personal 2nd computer. as it is I left it in a semi-runnable shape, as of now it has:

    ~OS: Windows XP SP2
    ~Ram: 1GB (960MBs its reading though since it doesn't have a video/graphics card)
    ~2 PATA HDDs: 18GB Main HDD & 14GB Second HDD
    ~A Philips DVD8421 8X DVD+RW Drive, Though its shot seeing as the drive's tray is having opening and closing problems. it can still read DVDs though once I force the drive open and shut.
    ~And as stated above, its running on on-board graphics. if I remember correctly, the former video card was an ATI AIW 9600.

    If you guys need anymore specs, here is the product page of it:
    http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?cc=us&​lc=en&dlc=en&docname=c00231096

    So I'd like to ask you fine people at Retro what you'd recommend for upgrades, I've got things in mind but I wanted to see what other second opinions I could get. its obvious that this thing needs Windows 7 at the least, its ram maxed out, and to get rid of those horrid HDDs for better ones. but anything else you guys suggest I'll take into consideration.

    Thanks for the help guys.
     
  7. dsrb

    dsrb

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    I'm honestly not being argumentative for its own sake, but linking me to a dictionary just smells of an attempt to show me up as an ignoramus and yourself as intellectually superior. Correct me if I'm wrong, but an analogy can be speculative without requiring historical precedent(s), right? Covarr is able to raise the possibility that a general thread about [subject that hasn't had a general thread before] might fall victim to the same negative phenomena as [subject that has had general thread(s) before] without committing any logical or philosophical fallacy, is he not?

    I don't want to derail and clutter the thread either, as I have no interest in turning Covarr's concerns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially not about something as trifling as a hypothetical comparison, but I find that reply patronising.

    Fair enough. It might end up being useful.
     
  8. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    Your computer doesn't have much of an upgrade path, but you can still find 2GB of good DDR 333 RAM. You have 2 DIMM sockets, you just need to replace your 512MB sticks with two 1GB sticks. It's a little overpriced considering I got 8GB of DDR3-1600 for the same price, but it will make your PC capable of surviving the next 3 years. I wouldn't honestly recommend paying $40-$60 for a new AGP video card because you really won't be able to do more on your computer with technology that's relatively speaking more modern but still out of date. I would recommend using your desktop as a server. It's a great chance to go on an adventure and join the back end (or as I call it, the dark side) of the internet so to speak. You already have another good computer, so you could maximize utility by using this PC as a household file server or as a server for your own personal website. Long story short: check out the RAM in the link, and try making your own server out of your PC.

    Good luck on your PC revival, and may the force be with you!

    I didn't link to the word to patronize you or insult you in any way shape or form, so forgive me if it comes across that way. I included the link only because the definition of what constitutes an analogy can be ambiguous, much like the word, "irony:" a word known for its reputation of being commonly misused (no disrespect to Alanis Morissette, the song was still a staple of my early childhood taste in music).
     
  9. Lanzer

    Lanzer

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    What do you recommend for the HDDs? I gotta get rid of those. and the DVD drive, should I replace that seeing as the drive's door isn't functioning? I know you don't think it shouldn't have a video card, but what do you suggest anyways just for the fuck of it?

    Trust me. I wasn't making this thing any sort of modern day competition or something though 1 day I'd just like to rip out all the internals and replace it with all new stuff, but for now maxing it out seems to be the cheaper solution. I was just thinking of having this as a kick around second computer I can boot up whenever. a server doesn't sound like a bad idea though. I'll consider it. :)
     
  10. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    Glad I can help! I use this hard drive in my main desktop in mass storage alongside an SSD, but it's more than fast enough to be primary storage. A 1TB Hard Drive might be overkill, but you only save $20 getting a 250GB Hard Drive. You will need this SATA to IDE adapter to make it work in your older PC until you're ready to get a new motherboard.

    I wouldn't recommend buying another $20 adapter to make a new $20 disc drive work, so just buy an external DVD Burner to install all of your discs and everything, then you have a drive you can take with you.

    If you want a video card, don't bother buying old AGP cards on newegg- they are much cheaper used. Buy a Radeon HD 2600 like this or settle for a 2400 if you have no other options.

    At the very least, you will have a system powerful enough to play Halo: Custom Edition with me at 60fps. If you want to put that PC to work, I'll host a server, CoolNintendoMods for us to play on.

    Let me know if these parts work for you. With all the money you will spend on the video card, I wouldn't bother trying to replace it.
     
  11. I'm actually glad that this thread is here. Because I have one hell of a puzzler.

    A couple of months ago, I decided to build a new PC since my laptop was starting to show its age. I pretty much cobbled it together with the intention of having a desktop that matches or exceeds my laptop (which was pretty spiffy for 2008 standards). I used a Biostar H77MU3 motherboard and an Intel Pentium G860 CPU with the intention of seeing if I could get by with just the on-board graphics (I couldn't).

    Ever since I built the PC, it's been having a weird issue where on occasion a reboot or pressing the reset button would result in the PC powering down and not coming back up. Since this was very occasional I (foolishly, I guess) shrugged it off as a quirk. Fast forward to the past couple of weeks when I bought a shiny new nVidia Geforce GT 640 card and put it in the PC. Then all hell broke loose.

    It started with what I thought was a monitor problem: the monitor (which is connected by a DVI-to-VGA adapter) wasn't kicking itself out of standby. Usually turning both the computer and monitor off then on again would fix the problem.

    This past Sunday, I start the computer like normal and work in Linux for a couple of hours before realizing that I needed to reboot back to Windows for something. The PC rebooted, but failed to get any signal out of the monitor. I was able to switch back to the integrated graphics by pulling the card out and everything went back to normal.

    Today, I put the cursed thing back into the PC (double checking to make sure that it was seated properly as that was one theory that I had) and it booted right up. Everything was going great until the next time that I had to reboot. Now the PC, will do this thing where it will start up for a second or two and immediately kick back off. Each time it does this, it tries to turn itself back on a few seconds later. It continues to do this until it either boots (and when it does, as far as I know it's stable as a rock) or gives me a beep code indicating that it can't write to video memory. Googling this problem has led me to a dead-end with a lot of possibilities.

    My theories are this:

    The power supply could be going bad. The 350 watt power supply is one that I salvaged from a PC that I built in 2007 and was dismantled for parts after a CPU failure in 2010. Maybe it's suffering from old age. Also, I should note that this graphics card doesn't need to be plugged directly into the power supply.

    The new video card is faulty. This could be possible, but I'm having my doubts as everything runs stable when the PC finally does boot. I did an quick run through both Sonic Generations and Slender with both on max at 720p with no problems.

    The motherboard is faulty. I have the integrated graphics disabled in the BIOS and if there's no video card present it will give the same beep codes that I get before. Could the slot itself be faulty? I do have another PCIe x16 slot down on the bottom of the board, but I thought that was for SLI and whatnot (I've been out of the PC building loop for a VERY long time).

    Am I on the right track with these theories?
     
  12. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    I would say the power supply is failing you. Your video card is crashing because it doesn't have enough potential moving through it, and the rest of your system may still be crashing because of the power supply as well. Your power supply may have wrecked your motherboard. I would recommend not using that motherboard or PSU until you know that they work properly.

    You have a very good theory, but there's only one way to identify the problem and solution: replace the PSU and mobo.

    EDIT: Over time, power supplies lose their ability to output their full rated power due to capacitor aging. Your power supply can probably only support 290-300W by now as it is over 5 years old. A 300W (or even a full 350W) PSU can't supply the necessary amount of current to power a video card in addition to your CPU, hard drive, and case fans. Again, I would try a new power supply above all else first.
     
  13. Yikes! I completely forgot about capacitor aging! That makes perfect sense. I'll try a new power supply (I'll use this opportunity to upgrade to a 450-500W PSU) and see if that fixes the problem. In the meantime, I have the PC completely out of commission to prevent any further damage. Thanks for the advice!
     
  14. Lanzer

    Lanzer

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    If I wanted to, would 2 of those 1TB drives work on my machine assuming I buy the SATA to PATA adapter?

    I think I'll go with the external. I wouldn't mind hearing your reccommendation on a internal drive as well. I'll have to replace it 1 of these days.

    I don't know man, I have had problems buy used cards in the past, I was honestly just gonna go with 1 of these cards. there cheap and new, I can afford around this range. what do you reccommend out of this list?

    Thanks, one of the main reasons to get this machine maxed out is to have it as a gaming computer of sorts, nothing OMGITCANRUNZCRYSES but something so it won't lag when I'm playing a DS emulator. and I love my Halo! :)
     
  15. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    2 of the hard drives would definitely work provided you have another adapter and another PATA socket on your motherboard to accommodate it. I wouldn't mess around with a RAID 1 connection, though; it's been proven that the striping of data does not improve data access speeds significantly for gaming, and if just one of the two hard drives fails, you are ruined.

    The Radeon HD 4670 in there looks like it will give you respectable framerates in Halo, and it's the best thing you can put in that PC, but it costs about the same amount of money as a card with 8-12 times the capability (eg. Radeon HD 7750). If you want to max out that PC though, get a Radeon HD 4650 or 4670. In this case, the extra $20 for the 4670 might be worth it to you. Just remember that the biggest limitation in emulation of any hardware is the quality of the emulator. I have a tricked-out machine with 8GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, a Radeon HD 7770 overclocked from 1000MHz to 1120MHz, and quad-core i5 3570k overclocked from 3.4GHz to 4GHz, but Perfect Dark still manages to hiccup badly; so badly, that I settled for playing the game in 320x240 on my N64.

    I guarantee this setup will make you capable of at least running Halo 1, Call of Duty 2, Microsoft Flight Sim X, Sonic Heroes, and SADX, but I wouldn't expect much more than that. One last thing- don't forget to buy a pair of 1GB sticks of DDR-333. RAM is your biggest limitation right now, and an upgrade to 2GB is fundamental to making your PC usable.
     
  16. Aerosol

    Aerosol

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    What's to stop me from ripping my the hard drive out of my laptop and using it for a new computer build, with the OS installed on it and everything? I have a vague idea of what stops that from happening, but I figured I'd just ask for a proper explanation. One that would hopefully be accompanied with a workaround. The HDD I chose for my new PC dropped off the face of the earth. I was getting ready to choose a replacement and I saw that, as a result of that HDD no longer being available, the total cost of my new PC is $282. I kinda like that.
     
  17. It completely depends on what operating system you are running and how that operating system got there, e.g. oem install, you bought windows xp and did a clean install etc.

    Windows 7, vista, and xp are all tied to the motherboard and if that changes by either replacing the motherboard or putting the hdd in another computer, then you may some troubles getting it to reactivate, as in you may have to phone up Microsoft and say that your motherboard has been replaced.

    Here is a site which may help you a lot more about that subject.

    Now, if you are using some form of Linux with everything installed on just one hdd then you can easily swap it out with little problems, if any at all.
     
  18. Aerosol

    Aerosol

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    Yea I figured. Still, didn't hurt to ask.
     
  19. Midway the Echidna

    Midway the Echidna

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    That's no reason not to buy an SSD to store all of your operating systems and virtual machines and then just take the usable data off of your laptop hard drive. You can still use that other hard drive as your mass storage device and keep your files in it where they are accessible to your desktop and laptop. If you're like me and run Ubuntu and Windows 7 with XP, 98, and 95 VMs, this will help out greatly. 128GB is all the space you will ever need, but it only costs about $30 more than a $70 60GB SSD. You probably want to pinch your pennies, but I would focus on the storage and maybe save a buck by making my own case. You can do some cools things with a case that you make for yourself. All you really need is a drill, some bolts or screws, some nuts, and a fish tank. A budget computer doesn't need a big ATX Mid Tower, so why not make your own smaller, better case. I have 2 extra PWM fans if you want them, and I'd be happy to help you do the job in PM.

    I'm glad you brought up that point because that leads me to a big huge red flag: MIGRATING WINDOWS IS A MASSIVE PAIN IN THE NECK! The OS is tied to the motherboard AND the hard drive, so migration is a pain in the neck. Replace the OS on your laptop with something else first (clean install) and connect to the internet to register the new OS so Microsoft knows your licensed copy of Windows isn't on that laptop anymore, then try putting the OS on your new computer.
     
  20. Aerosol

    Aerosol

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    I could buy an SSD. And still might. I don't even need 128GB. 64GB does me just fine.