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[Computer Build Thread] - Did you remember to plug in the CPU power cable?

AlectharAlecthar Alan ShoreWe're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
Welcome to the Penny Arcade Computer Build Thread!
Visit the Blog!

Welcome to the PC Build Thread, where we don't judge you for spending way too much money on printed circuit boards. Except when we do.

More seriously, the PC build thread exists to provide a resource for PAers who want to build their own computers. We provide advice about component choice, shopping for components, assembling the PC itself, and even a little bit of troubleshooting for new builds, if you're having issues. We also talk about new and interesting components and even dabble in talk about peripherals (mice, keyboards, sometimes speakers and monitors). The thread has a companion blog used to keep a lot of more in-depth informational posts on specific component choices and the like.

The natural question at this point is probably "Why should I build my own computer when I could just have a bunch of underpaid assembly line workers do it for me?" There are a number of answers to that question:
  • Knowledge: Building your own computer is a learning experience. To start with, you'll probably end up doing a lot of research on the current state of consumer computing hardware, along with learning a bit about how various computer components work within a complete system. You'll also gain valuable knowledge about the actual assembly of a PC, something that definitely comes in handy if you find yourself doing family tech support.
  • Quality: PCs from companies like Dell and HP are built cheaply. Sometimes this isn't a huge issue. Intel, for example, doesn't sell a separate "from the junk pile" line of CPUs. Hard drives are generally of fairly consistent quality among manufacturers. However, depending on the PC, you may end up with a fairly anemic, or even cruddy, generic PSU, along with motherboards that are generally pretty limited in their flexibility and feature-set, and don't even get me started on the cases they use. Building your own PC gives you complete control over the quality of the components you use.
  • Flexibility: A prebuilt PC sometimes comes with proprietary components, or in a case with a proprietary form factor with a weird sized PSU. When you build your own PC, you can select the components with an eye towards whatever degree of flexibility or upgrade-ability you deem appropriate. Because retail component design adheres to certain standards, you end up with a more modular system that can be changed more easily.
  • Value: If all you need to do with a computer is browse the internet, consume media, and use productivity software like MS Office, there's admittedly little reason not to buy a pre-built machine. Building your own is usually more expensive than buying a complete system when you're talking about a relatively inexpensive machine. When it comes to a PC with real horsepower, though, manufacturers believe we're willing to pay a serious premium. Building your own Gaming (or Workstation) PC almost always saves you significant amounts of money in addition to the previously mentioned benefits.
If the benefits of building your own PC have convinced you to do so, you should ask yourself some questions. The answers to those questions should be included in your request in this thread, the more information we have about what you want and how much you're willing to pay to get it, the better the advice you'll get.
  • What kind of computer do you need? Maybe it's a standard gaming PC, or maybe you need an HTPC, or a Server, or even a serious Workstation.
  • What's your budget for this project?
  • What needs to be included in that budget? Do you need a monitor, keyboard and mouse to go with it? Are there components that don't need to be included because you're carrying something over from a previous PC?
  • What are your performance needs? For games, what resolution do you game at, and what kind of performance do you want to see there? For professional tasks, what are you doing and what kind of numbers would you like to see?
  • Do you have any partiality towards specific manufacturers, like Intel/AMD, AMD/NVIDIA, or perhaps specific vendors?
  • Do you have any specific needs? That is, are you looking for quiet operation, small form factor, significant upgrade-ability, or other specific features?

It's after you've answered those questions that the real fun begins. Below are some additional resources to help you out. Welcome to PC building!

Where to Buy:

US
Spoiler:

Canada
Spoiler:

UK
Spoiler:

Australia
Spoiler:

Build Thread Component Guides:
Processors and Motherboards
Video Cards
Memory
HDDs and SSDs
PSUs and Cases

Good Online Resources:
Anandtech - A great site with in depth reviews on loads of tech.
Tom's Hardware - Not my favorite site in the world, but their monthly roundups of SSDs, CPUs, and GPUs are useful, and they have some good comparison tools.
[H]ardOCP - Solid PSU reviews, and also some solid motherboard and video card reviews.
jonnyguru - Basically some of the best PSU reviews out there.
Overclock.net - One of my favorite non-PA forums. There's loads and loads of good info here, from optimizing SSDs to overclocking to in-depth information on motherboard VRM setups.

Alecthar on
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Posts

  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Reserved For Gallery

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  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Reserved For Gallery

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  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Reserved For Gallery

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  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Reserved For Gallery

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  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    Mmmmm that new thread smell.

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  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Smells like...wait...burning silicon? Oh god my overclock!

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  • HandgimpHandgimp Registered User, SolidSaints Handgimp regular
    Well shit, looks like you let the magic smoke out. Guess you'll have to build a new rig.

  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Just in time for Ivy Bridge! Yay!

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  • emp123emp123 Registered User regular
    So fresh and so clean clean.

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  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    My computer is three years old. I think I'll upgrade once I can make a decision about 'dem GPUs.

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  • initiatefailureinitiatefailure Registered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    Smells like...wait...burning silicon? Oh god my overclock!

    that's not even cool to joke about right now. I'm still in mourning.

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    Behance Portfolio I PSN- Subtle_Ties | 3DS: 3840-5210-2008 (Subtle) | FFXIV: Phyla Zuul
  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    Thanks for the feedback given in the skeletal remains of the old thread! Honestly, I am quite happy with how my machine is performing. I might go for some extra ram, now that I bothered to install a 64bit os, but only if I can spot a deal.

    @Pariel - thanks for the Ivy Bridge heads up, hadn't heard about that. And yeah, Shogun 2 is a real time-killer. I've poured more hours into that game than I care to admit. And given the upcoming expansion and an SSD, I feel like I'm getting hooked all over again.

    @bobsbarricades - not sure about price, but for what it's worth, I got one a few months ago, unlocked it, and it's rad. Zero issues so far.

    They're gonna bury you, they're gonna finish. They're gonna stand 'em up six by six by six.
  • RobesRobes Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    So I've got a Radeon HD 6850 and 2 monitors. I typically run youtube for music on one screen and game (BF3, ME2, League of Legends etc) on the other. Sometimes my computer hates this and windows 7 will show a pop up saying it has disabled its' special visual effects because it cannot handle it. Do you think it's the video card?

    Specs:
    Asus p8p67 pro
    i5-2500k
    gskill 1600mhz ddr3 ram 8 gigs (9-9-9-24 timing)
    Radeon HD 6850

    I also have a blu ray drive, and like to watch blu ray movies while playing a casual game or something. So if you think my video card can't handle that, i'm open to recommendation <3

    Robes on
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  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    edited March 2012
    that's odd

    almost sounds like it's getting a little toasty and throttling down?



    I'm about to pull the trigger on my build. I've been brooding over it for two months. I decided to go with a mid-ranged ASRock instead of getting a lower end P8P67 ... not sure if there's a significant difference, but the ASRock can do DDR3 1600 without overclocking while the lower ASUS board can't.

    Also getting a big ass coolermaster heatsink just for giggles

    Jasconius on
  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    @robes the windows 7 aero theme takes a chunk of vram to push, especially with multiple displays going. I think it is conservative with when it warns you, but if you need a fps boost in games turning it off could help.

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  • a5ehrena5ehren AtlantaRegistered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    Just in time for Ivy Bridge! Yay!

    Delayed until June due to "manufacturing issues". Conspiracy theory is that there is a large stock of Sandy Bridge remaining and/or Apple bought the first couple months of production and/or the crappy showing of Bulldozer. I'm guessing this would push Haswell to the end of 2013 (18-month cycle) as well.

  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    @robes the windows 7 aero theme takes a chunk of vram to push, especially with multiple displays going. I think it is conservative with when it warns you, but if you need a fps boost in games turning it off could help.

    It does it for me on random games. Rift and Civ disable Aero, but BF3 and Shogun don't!

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  • ParielPariel Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    Shogun asked me if I wanted to disable Aero, as did Cliffs of Dover. I just told them not to and moved on, maybe I'll go back and take a look at it while it's running though.

    Pariel on
  • bobsbarricadesbobsbarricades Registered User regular
    @firewaterworld - you got a sapphire? it's the 2GB models that unlock right? Or do the 1GB's unlock as well. I don't see myself EVER running eyefinity or multi-monitor or even if I get a 27' I'll still run 1080 or 1200p so I've heard going over 1GB is overkill... is that possible with gaming hardware? lol

  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    a5ehren wrote: »
    Alecthar wrote: »
    Just in time for Ivy Bridge! Yay!

    Delayed until June due to "manufacturing issues". Conspiracy theory is that there is a large stock of Sandy Bridge remaining and/or Apple bought the first couple months of production and/or the crappy showing of Bulldozer. I'm guessing this would push Haswell to the end of 2013 (18-month cycle) as well.

    I'm pretty sure the delay is on oem and mobile parts. Last I heard boxed retail chips would still be releasing on time

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  • centraldogmacentraldogma Registered User regular
    So, is it just me or are all video capture device manufactures shady as hell? Of the three capture devices I own:

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  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    I'm betting that most of them get lawyered right in the junk these days.

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  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    @firewaterworld - you got a sapphire? it's the 2GB models that unlock right? Or do the 1GB's unlock as well. I don't see myself EVER running eyefinity or multi-monitor or even if I get a 27' I'll still run 1080 or 1200p so I've heard going over 1GB is overkill... is that possible with gaming hardware? lol

    Yep, 2gb model. No idea about whether or not the 1gb unlocks, sorry. I've been meaning to get a displayport thingy to run a 3rd monitor, but I need to actually pull the trigger on a 27in monitor. The card is probably overkill, and likely bottlenecked by my ram or cpu, but man, it definitely kicks ass. Been playing the Amalur demo, and while it's not the most graphically demanding game, it looks amazing and runs smooth as hell.

    I'd recommend the card, but it's probably more than is necessary. That said, I have no idea where cards are right now, so who knows.

    They're gonna bury you, they're gonna finish. They're gonna stand 'em up six by six by six.
  • a5ehrena5ehren AtlantaRegistered User regular
    a5ehren wrote: »
    Alecthar wrote: »
    Just in time for Ivy Bridge! Yay!

    Delayed until June due to "manufacturing issues". Conspiracy theory is that there is a large stock of Sandy Bridge remaining and/or Apple bought the first couple months of production and/or the crappy showing of Bulldozer. I'm guessing this would push Haswell to the end of 2013 (18-month cycle) as well.

    I'm pretty sure the delay is on oem and mobile parts. Last I heard boxed retail chips would still be releasing on time

    I haven't seen anything that differentiates between OEM and Retail.

  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    I'm going to build my parents a new computer. It should be fairly inexpensive, but I do want it to have at least an okay video card. Something relatively small and light case-wise would be nice. It can have a standard form-factor, but it doesn't need slots for multiple video cards or hard drives or anything like that; they primarily use it for email and surfing the internet, I'd just like to be able to run some games on it when I'm visiting. Ideally, The Old Republic, but if that's not possible, even just LoL or Steam games would be good.

  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    Swtor isn't all that bad on the gpu, especially if we're talking a 1080p or under resolution.

    For general budget performance I'd look to 6850/460gtx/6770, should provide enough graphics punch for less demanding games without breaking the bank. Pair it up with an i3 2100 and it'll be a very sharp little machine on the cheap

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  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    So. The U3011 is really big. I mean really big.

    I think I could get used to this.

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  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    it's so nice to run a display like that

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  • ParielPariel Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    I think my 23" is big. I feel like a 30" would be too big. Then again, that's bigger than my parents TV, so that may be why. I do want to grab another two U2312s when I get the cash, I think it will vastly improve my flight siming experience.

    Pariel on
  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    Bought'ed
    Spoiler:

  • minor incidentminor incident a crow, a scavenger type Registered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    So. The U3011 is really big. I mean really big.

    I think I could get used to this.

    I hate you so hard right now. I also demand photos so that I can plant the seed in my head that my 27" is just too small and I need to upgrade. Again.

    My sister needs some help. She just had to rush her cat to the emergency clinic because he was peeing blood. The little guy needs a $2500 surgery to survive, and she has no money left after paying for major car repairs last week. If you would consider sharing this on your twitter/facebook/whatever, that would be greatly appreciated. If you have a few dollars to pitch in and help her, that would be even more amazing of you. http://www.gofundme.com/clq06k
  • emp123emp123 Registered User regular
    Yeah, you guys are making me feel like my 24" is too small, even though I just bought it and a larger monitor wouldnt fit on my desk.


    I have kind of been wanting a new desk...

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  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    So. The U3011 is really big. I mean really big.

    I think I could get used to this.

    I hate you so hard right now. I also demand photos so that I can plant the seed in my head that my 27" is just too small and I need to upgrade. Again.

    gonna post up a shot of my desk to get you back for planting this sound card idea in my head.

    @pariel I once thought it'd be too much, but trust me it grows on you fast

    m6eoUgQ.jpg
  • minor incidentminor incident a crow, a scavenger type Registered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    So. The U3011 is really big. I mean really big.

    I think I could get used to this.

    I hate you so hard right now. I also demand photos so that I can plant the seed in my head that my 27" is just too small and I need to upgrade. Again.

    gonna post up a shot of my desk to get you back for planting this sound card idea in my head.

    @pariel I once thought it'd be too much, but trust me it grows on you fast

    Oh man, do it. This thread (and the workstation photo thread) have been sorely lacking in eyecandy lately.

    My sister needs some help. She just had to rush her cat to the emergency clinic because he was peeing blood. The little guy needs a $2500 surgery to survive, and she has no money left after paying for major car repairs last week. If you would consider sharing this on your twitter/facebook/whatever, that would be greatly appreciated. If you have a few dollars to pitch in and help her, that would be even more amazing of you. http://www.gofundme.com/clq06k
  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    Jasconius wrote: »
    Bought'ed
    Spoiler:

    This should be a kickin' rig. Make sure to post build pics if you can!

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  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    So. The U3011 is really big. I mean really big.

    I think I could get used to this.

    I hate you so hard right now. I also demand photos so that I can plant the seed in my head that my 27" is just too small and I need to upgrade. Again.

    A photo will have to wait until my room looks a bit less like a scene from Hoarders.

    But seriously. It's so big. I have to turn my head a little bit to look from the top right to the bottom left. I'm in love.

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  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    good way to actually push your 580s a bit too!

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  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    So. The U3011 is really big. I mean really big.

    I think I could get used to this.

    I hate you so hard right now. I also demand photos so that I can plant the seed in my head that my 27" is just too small and I need to upgrade. Again.

    gonna post up a shot of my desk to get you back for planting this sound card idea in my head.

    @pariel I once thought it'd be too much, but trust me it grows on you fast

    Oh man, do it. This thread (and the workstation photo thread) have been sorely lacking in eyecandy lately.

    I'll make it happen once I'm home

    m6eoUgQ.jpg
  • ParielPariel Registered User regular
    The really nice thing about the U3011 is that it's 2560x1440. I think that's a really strong point in it's favor at that size.

    The one thing I would use a 30" for would be watching a movie from my bed. 23" is wayyyyy too small for that. But I'm not gonna have $1,000 to drop on a monitor anytime soon (well, I guess I could, but I think certain females in my life would complain, possibly by shanking me).

  • Day of the BearDay of the Bear The Qun demandsRegistered User regular
    Pretty sure the u3011 is a 2540x1600 panel.

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