The Tax-Refund PC Build

My sister’s current PC is, as my co-workers would say, hospice appropriate.  It sounds like the PC fan is half dead, it takes about 20 minutes to load a web page, McAfee grinds it to an unrecoverable halt…time to put the ol’ girl down.

Turns out the income tax fairy gave them a little more than they expected.  So they asked me to put together a new system for them from the ground up.  They were on a budget of course, but a flexible one.

More important than performance was longevity and reliability.  While getting an off-the-shelf Dell or Compaq would be easier and even a bit cheaper, the components are often lousy and upgrading is often very limited.

I’ll be detailing the build without going in to the “insert card A into slot C” mode.  All of the parts were ordered through Newegg, which I’ve used in the past and use now for my orders almost exclusively.  Oh – and my 7-year-old will be helping.  Just don’t tell my sister!

PC building is like cooking: prep work is everything.  I didn’t do quite as much comparison shopping and research as I usually do, but I still put a few good days into reviewing parts and specs.  Things just pretty much had to work and not be the fastest or the quietest, so best-reviewed items on Newegg got priority treatment.

The system will be built around the Gigabyte GA-MA770-UD3, an AM2/AM2+/AM3 compatible motherboard.  While it’s basic, it does basic very well.  It offers room for expansion with just the right bells and whistles for someone wanting to build a good, stable system.  It isn’t CrossFire-capable and doesn’t even have a built-in video chipset, so graphics are not going to be a strong suit.  But again, this isn’t a gaming rig.  I always give much more thought to the motherboard than to anything else, so I’m hoping for a good result here.

For the CPU I’ll use the AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor, operating at 2.8GHz.  I ordered the retail version rather than the OEM so I wouldn’t have to order a separate fan for it.  I won’t be overclocking it so the stock fan should be fine.  I love AMD and use them exclusively.  Sure the benchmark snobs shun AMD as not being the fastest out there, but in terms of cost-effectiveness I just don’t think they can be beat.

For memory I’ll use OCZ Reaper DDR2-800 SDRAM, 2 sticks of 2 Gigs each for 4 Gigs total.  Sure I could have opted for 1066, but this was a budget saving move.  For the purposes of this system, the difference won’t hardly be noticed.  The only hindrance is that we’ll initially be installing the old hard drive into this new system.  The old PC runs Windows XP which is fine, but it won’t be able to address all 4 gigs and won’t be able to take advantage of the 64-bit processor fully.  However, in thinking about it, it seemed best to make sure all the hardware works before upgrading to Windows 7 x64.  They’ll be doing that eventually anyway.

The other stuff isn’t quite as important, so suffice it to say that it will have a Rosewill black mid-tower case, 350W power supply, a Western Digital 500Gb SATA drive, ASUS 24x DVD burner and an MSI Radeon 4350 HD video card.  It will also have a floppy drive just for their old floppies, a Logitech webcam for Skype video calls, and a quite enviable 20″ LCD display.

Next, Day 1…


Posted on April 3, 2010, in How To. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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