Buying a computer, need help figuring out what's good

By Diremon ยท 17 replies
Jul 15, 2008
  1. Ok, sorry if I picked the wrong board for this kind of topic, I couldn't figure out which board is most appropriate.
    I'm in the process of buying a computer, the kind with the... uh... tower? I'm sorry, I'm not very good with all the technical names. I was thinking of buying the individual parts and assembling the computer myself, or would it be cheaper to buy a whole computer? (I have a budget of around $800 dollars, but I really don't want to spend that much if I don't have to.)
    Also, I was looking at some computers, and they usually come with an OS, always Window Vista. I do not want this operating system, as I'm not very patient with buggy systems still in their practically "beta" stages. How would I get a new computer to have Windows XP? Would I have to (somehow) uninstall Vista and install XP, or what would I have to do?
    I'm looking for a computer with excellent performance, because I will probably play games on it, as well as animating on it. (This would include running multiple programs, rendering (which would take FOREVER to do on a slower computer), creating video files, and veiwing them.)
  2. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,984   +72

    Are there any parts you have from an old system that you would be willing to still use like monitor, keyboard, and mouse?

    If you buy a computer system you will have to do research to find if they can still install XP. If you build XP can still be purchased for $139 + shipping from NewEgg.

    I suggest going to the Other Hardware forum and read Wing-01's thread and then go to Gaming & Consoles forum and read shoot4thrill's thread. Both are asking the same question as you and you can get some ideas there.
  3. EXCellR8

    EXCellR8 The Conservative Posts: 1,835

    I would def. recommend a system with a quad-core processor and a lot of RAM because, as you stated, you are a multi-tasker. A quad-core CPU will allow you to run many applications at the same time and offer great gaming performance. As far as the OS goes, if you find a system that you like that has Vista, you can always pick up an XP OEM disk afterward and install it yourself... replacing Vista. I know that's a little bit extra cash but most stores only sell systems w/ Vista nowadays; it might be a good alternative if you're not looking to build your own system.
  4. Diremon

    Diremon TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks Route44 for the other boards. I had a look, but unfortunately I got lost with all the strange words. :-S
    I did go to that site, as it was mentioned a couple times in the other boards too, and it too was a little confusing. I am smart enough to try the search thing, but when I entered "mother board" for example, I got this list of products. It lists some of the "stuff" that is on the mother boards and whatnot, but I have no idea what's good and what's not, and I wouldn't have any idea what some of the stuff is.
    We do have an old computer with all the parts for it (except mouse, keyboard, speakers, and monitor), but it's barely clinging on to life and everything in it is so old the only thing slightly useful is the case. So, I need everything else. I'm not sure what that includes. Any suggestions for the following?
    Mother board
    Video card
    Sound card
    Hard drive
    Fans (Quiet ones? I abhor noisy computers.)
    Oh wow, I don't know what else goes into a computer.
    By the way, what is overclocking? Is this a concern for me?
  5. nickc

    nickc TechSpot Paladin Posts: 923   +11

  6. Diremon

    Diremon TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the suggestion nickc. A question though: Under the "specifications" section, there are sometimes more than one option, such as "CPU Type: Quad-core / Core 2 Extreme / Core 2 Duo / Pentium Extreme / Pentium D". I'm 99% positive that it wouldn't come with ALL those, but why so many options? And how would I choose? Are these separate parts that I need to buy?
    Ok, so to repeat, (I'm sorry, I can't really get any more specific, thanks to my poor knowledge of the techy side of computers.) I am looking for a computer that won't lag while I multitask, I don't know how heavy the programs are, though. (Adobe PhotoShop might be one of them. I will be using them to make movies, which will involve rendering.) I like to play online, mostly through a web browser, and sometimes (to be specific) StarCraft and Halo. (I might get SC2). I positively HATE lag while playing online, as anyone does. I want Windows XP, NOT Vista. I also like my computers quiet. I only have a budget of $800.
  7. nickc

    nickc TechSpot Paladin Posts: 923   +11

    all that is stating is that the MB could support any one of those processors. the processor has to be purchased separately, and even then some MBs will have to have a BIOS up date for the newer processors of the category. as far as building a machine, u will have to buy a new OS dvd, but XP home oem can be had pretty cheap now. I would recomend getting SP3on the disk or at least going to Windows Update and downloading, and install it as soon as u have the MB drivers installed.

    I do not have a link but the Intel Quad 9450 would be a good and affordable processor.
  8. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,984   +72

    And to add to what nickc said, with so many options you can upgrade in the future if you want/need to.

    Again, can you tell us what parts you can - if any - from your old system that you can use in your new build, i.e. monitor, keyboard, case, etc.?
  9. nickc

    nickc TechSpot Paladin Posts: 923   +11

    also another note if u are using a 32BIT operating system there is no need to go above 2 GIGs of mem.
  10. Diremon

    Diremon TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Ok, your responses answered some questions and created more. :p What is a BIOS update? What do you mean by the "MB drivers". Is that just the MB or something attached to it? (And what is that something?)
    And to clear it up, the parts from our 10-year-old computer are no good, so I have no parts I can use for a new build. That computer has only 2 USB ports! lol.
    How would I know if I'm using a 32bit OS?
    I'm thinking of doing this step by step, part by part. I started with fans, thinking that would be an easy start. I came up with two different fans that looked good, judging by the reviews. (I can't put up links. It said something about post counts.)
    ZEROtherm ZEN FZ120 120mm CPU Cooler
    ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler
    I'm leaning towards the cheaper one, as I've not a lot of money. Also, in the reviews, some suggested this:
    Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
    ...what is it? Would I need it? Would I need fans? I live in Canada, it does get fairly hot here... well, the max is 40 C, and that only lasted a week or so lol. However, we have a bad habit of stuffing the computer in a cupboard where it will not be seen and heard. (We like our rooms looking nice and orderly without a big box with wires sticking out of it lol.) Would I need the fans if I left it out?
  11. insoman

    insoman TS Booster Posts: 102

  12. nickc

    nickc TechSpot Paladin Posts: 923   +11


    ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler would be fine for u, and yes u definately need Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound, or there will be compound come with any cpu heatsink, which will work but is not as good as Arctic Silver 5 although there is a new one that I know nothing about, that is suppose to be better.

    for us to give u what u need, we need u to give us exactly what the computer is going to be used for and a budget.
  13. chrissof

    chrissof TS Member Posts: 59

    here is the stuff I would buy if I had 800$:
    core 2 quad 6600
    a p45 mainboard
    a video card like the 4800 series from ATI or 9800 from nVidia
    2 gigs of ddr2 1066 ram
    a psu of 500watts and high efficiency
    use old stuff like hdd/dvd(make sure mainboard supplies at least one ide connection)
    use stock cooling on cpu and gpu

    after maybee a year or so (in mid 09) you might want to change the stock cooling
    to aftermarket/better cooling and start overclocking to "keep up"

    check for best prices before buying,
    and you are good to go
  14. tragicallyhip

    tragicallyhip TS Booster Posts: 91   +13

    Right here at techspot there are reviews and how to's that will give you a good idea about what you would want for a new computer .
    good luck and keep posting
  15. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,443   +38

    Check out the TechSpot system buying guides. They've been recently updated and will enable you to get the best system for your budget range.
  16. Diremon

    Diremon TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thank you, Rage_3k_Moiz! I had a look at the guide, and I must say, that one that just so conveniently happens to be $805 is quite nice for what I need. I'm still worried about how it will handle multitasking, although I'm pretty certain dual-core and 2.5 GHz is ok.
    The only thing I object to is the hard drive. Only 250 MB would last me about... half a day. :p I did check out our hard drive from the old computer and discovered there's actually two (but one wasn't plugged in) but I'm afraid to use it, thanks to the rest of my family. I'm convinced that the problem with the computer is the mother board, but they insist that the hard drive, which I think is fine, is the problem. I'm too afraid to check the hard drives on my friend's computer, maybe someone could give some input into this?
    The problem is this: First of all, it is a very old computer. I'm not sure how old, I'm guessing shortly after Windows XP was released. Second, we aren't very nice with it. Most of the time, it is very hot, and we tend to leave it running for days at a time, because start-up is SO SLOW. We've had bad problems with it before. 50-50 it would turn on, sometimes we would press both the power and the restart button and one or the other would eventually work. (Yes, the restart button turned it on, of all the oddities!) It would run a little while (most of the time, 0-5 minutes.), then freeze. My dad found the problem, which was the little square behind the fan was shot and over-heated. Cleaned the fan and replaced the square, which I believe is the "brain" of the computer. CPU, maybe? So that thing has been replaced. I'm pretty certain that little battery on the mother board is not at fault, because we've replaced it at the time of the CPU problem, thinking the battery was the problem. (That was a couple months back.) Then, just recently, I did the stupidest thing anyone could do to an old computer; I turned it off using the power switch in the back. Since then, it has started up, but then it would eventually freeze, usually lasting, at the very most, an hour. I think I must have damaged the mother board or something, but it has been declining (in other ways, such as being slow) for quite a while now, leaving the possibility (or myth) that there's something like a virus in the hard drive. In your opinion, are the hard drives ok to use?
  17. Diremon

    Diremon TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Oh! *slaps myself in the face* I forgot to add: Is it possible to have two hard drives on one computer? I really would like 50GB lol... (One of the hard drives is 20GB and the other 30GB)
  18. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,984   +72

    Yes, you can have two harrdrives on one PC. If space is an issue many people use external harddrives for storage.
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