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ThePerfectCore's PC Building Guide

CD-ROM/Writer

- Do you plan on burning any discs with your new machine? If the answer is yes, do some research and find a burner that would suit you best. There isn't really much to explain here, except that trying to save money by buying a cheap burner is a bad idea. Pay attention to read/write speeds, and make sure you keep track of what you're buying. I've had several people ask me why their new CD burners don't work - come to find out, they accidently bought a DVD writer or a CD reader instead.

Picture of a CD-RW drive:

Yes, this thing actually gets warm.


DEFINENTLY buy an internal CD burner, unless you have a laptop. Avoid USB like the plague. If it has to be external, go Firewire.

 

CPU

- The central processing unit, the most important part of a PC (unless it's AMD - then it's the cooler :p). Obviously, the motherboard must fit the chip - else, you'll have a nice little expensive fireworks show (if the chip even fits in the socket). If I listed what motherboards take what chips, this guide would be dozens of pages long. All I can say is, check the board you're buying, check the chip, and if they match, good for you.

Besides just fitting in the socket, you have to make sure you board can handle how fast or how slow your chip is. A given motherboard may only support up to a 500 mhz Celeron, so if a 600mhz Celeron of the same socket type is plunked in, one of two things will happen - 1) the system won't boot, or 2) the system will boot, but the 600 mhz will be underclocked to 500 mhz.

The two major players in the CPU market are AMD and Intel. I shall outline some points here:

AMD is usually cheaper, the latest chip costing around $450, while Intel's latest is around $650. Hopefully you won't be spending that much on just the processor. Look up and down the speed scale, but don't dip lower than 1.4Ghz (that's what good ol' uncle TPC runs, and he's grown tired of it).

Intel offers better thermal protection, and a faster front-side bus than AMD, however. An AMD chip will literally melt within a few seconds if its cooling system fails, while newer Pentium 4s will step down in speed to keep themselves cool. The fast front-side bus comes in handy, especially for gamers.

Obviously, the CPU will make a major impact on how your system runs. A 1.4Ghz chip with a Radeon 9800 Pro is kind of like trying to run an 18 wheeler on a 4 cylinder. It's not a good idea to skimp on the CPU, so that you have cash for things like faster RAM, or a larger HDD. You'll regret it.

This is an AMD chip, because I can't be arsed to find an Intel:

Don't drop this, all the fairy dust might come out.

 

Cooling Systems

- Although some of the younger folk may not remember it, there was a time when PCs didn't come with mice, or a nice polished version of Windows, or even hard drives. These were the same PCs that also lacked cooling systems, simply because they didn't need them. Come rain or shine, freeze or heat wave, these systems remained stable, even under a full processor load.

What I wouldn't give to have all chips nowadays behave the same way.

A cooling system is an integral part of a PC, especially if you own an AMD. You don't necessarily have to dump a lot of cash into something to keep your system cool, but take a moment to consider where you live. How hot does it get outside? How cold? Does much air move through your house? All of this can factor into what sort of cooling you need.

Air cooling should suit any home user who doesn't plan to do any overclocking. The only problem with air is the noise. If you're like me, and leave your PC on overnight, then you'll quickly become annoyed with two case fans and a CPU fan buzzing away your sweet dreams. When shopping for a heatsink and fan, pick something that will let you sleep.

Next is the heatsink itself. What's it made of? Copper? Aluminum? I recommend copper. How big is it? Is it rated for your chip? Check all of this.

Lastly, for air cooling, is how fast the fan spins (this has a direct relationship with how much noise the thing will produce, obviously). For smaller fans, 5000 RPM is good for the home user, maybe 7000 or higher for those who endure higher temps.

A heatsink/fan unit:

Thou shall let TPC sleep.

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