Happiness. Short-term, stupid, self-interest.

Upgrading Your Computer

inside.jpgIf you aren’t technically capable to take apart a computer and put it back together, this article isn’t for you. If you are, but are on the fence of whether to build your own, or order a Dell or Alienware, this might be interesting.

I’ve always built my own computers. I originally did this for several reasons,
1) upgradeability
2) overclocking
3) cost
4) customization
5) fun hobby (no really, I actually like it!)

Options #1 and #2 do not seem to matter anymore these days. Upgrading doesn’t work out as much as you would think it should. For instance, I am limited on how I can upgrade my CPU because of the socket type. The technology has changed and for $85 I could go from an AMD 2500+ to an AMD 2800+; but, that doesn’t help that much. I would have to change out the motherboard as well which opens another whole can of worms. However, I could upgrade my video card because I put in a nice 380W power supply when I originally built it. But even then, my choices are limited because AGP is no longer the trend. I will do this anyway to extend the life of this computer, but building your computer for upgradeability just isn’t a strong reason to do so.

Overclocking simply doesn’t make or break it like it use to in the 486 days. In those days, if you didn’t have the latest processor, you couldn’t play the latest game. Period. So, building for overclocking was important. These days, most games let you play with the settings so you can tune most games to run even you are running a fairly outdated system. Being able to crank up the Hertz a couple notches, just doesn’t matter.

The cost situation has changed as well. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy and entire system rather than to buy it piece by piece, but it is a tough comparison because it is usually comparing apples to oranges. A case is not just a case, a power supply is not just a power supply, etcawhtpc.jpg. Plus, you can spend more on the things important to you, and less on the things that don’t matter. While you can do that with a Dell, Gateway, etc, for the main components like the video card, CPU, etc, you are also paying for a warranty, an operating system, marketing, pre-installed software that you probably don’t want or need, etc.

In the end, I always say, you get what you pay for. (You just sometimes may not know what that was exactly) In the case of a warranty, I don’t care so much. If a part is going to fry from poor manufacturing, it usually will within the manufacturer’s default warranty period. As happened to my motherboard a few years back. Now, it was a pain to RMA the thing, and I did pay $20 for shipping, but it worked out in the end. The convenience of Dell’s turn around time would have been nice, but what exactly would I have paid for that? You don’t know, because it is wrapped up in the total cost of the computer. So cost may, or may not, be a good reason to build your own; it depends.

That leaves customization and the fun of it. I do love to build my rig, though I get nervous playing around with delicate $400 CPUs. A bent pin could mean the end of it. But the excitement of a clean built system that runs so smooth is great.

For instance, I’m planning on building a Vista computer for a Windows Media Center/Gaming Rig for the new HDTV I will eventually own. But I have some specific requirements that I can’t get from other manufacturer’s without paying for lots of things I don’t need and making concessions on features. As a matter of fact, this will be an extremely complicated design and build making a boutique PC more attractive, but I’d hate to pay $10,000 for a PC. (Did you know that some high-end ones go for $30, 000?)

I plan on blogging my journey to my new HTPC (Home Theater PC) so you can see the difficulties I might will run into, plus maybe you can help out as well by leaving a comment. Together we can learn about those new technologies (DirectX 10, HDCP, etc)  as I start to lay out the specs for the new system. I need to figure out how I’m going to get this whole thing to work. It may just turn out that in the end with the cost of Vista and a lot of high end components, I may be best off getting something from one of the boutique PC dealers.


February 2, 2007 - Posted by | Home Theater, Tech

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