Sunday, November 22, 2009

Building a new PC

I've built a new PC recently. This'll be my first AMD PC build ever. Turns out there's a few details that need to be taken care of that I "knew" but have always taken for granted. Cheap PSUs that come with cheap casings seem to have only a single SATA power connector, for example, so I needed to get myself a conversion cable so I can have a SATA HDD and DVD burner.
This PC is meant for work and play. Play as in music playback and Internet surfing so the specs don't need to be too high. Work as in programming but not the advanced 3D kind. Again, no need for overly high specs.

So here's the specs I had planned out, initially:

Processor: AMD Athlon II 240
Mainboard: Gigabyte GA-MA785GM-US2H
Memory: 2 x Kingston 2GB PC2-6400 DDR2
HDD: WD500AAKS 500GB SATA
ODD: Pioneer DVR-A 18L/S18L
Wireless: Netgear WG311 PCI Wireless
Monitor: Samsung 2033SW 20"
Casing: Futura 220 with 450W Standard Power Supply
Video: Onboard
Sound: Onboard

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the local shop didn't have some parts in stock so I had to make some changes. Since I have a copy of Windows XP Professional from my Dell that wasn't being used, I decided on installing that so that's had an impact, too. These are the changes/additions.

Processor: AMD Athlon II 245
Memory: Kingston 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2
HDD: WD500AADS 500GB SATA
ODD: LG H22N
Casing: Futura 250 with Standard Power Supply
Extras: Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000

Turns out the BIOS has some quirkiness with SATA operations. With SATA mode set to AHCI the BIOS doesn't consider the DVD burner as a "CD-ROM" but lists it separately instead. Windows XP also gave a Stop 0x7B BSOD before I could even partition the HDD. That's with the provided drivers, too. I've seen enough of these to not be too bothered with searching for the "correct" drivers so I just switched the SATA controller back to the default IDE mode.

It would have taken much longer if I wanted to hunt for the proper SATA drivers. I'm leaving that for next time when a reformat is in order.

Socket AM3 is going to be around at least for a year or two after 2011 if AMD's latest roadmap is to be believed so hopefully there's many years of service from this new machine with a few upgrades along the way. I'm not too sure about DDR2's lifespan now that DDR3 is getting cheaper but since DDR is still around after so long, I'm guessing I'll be able to take advantage of at least one price drop in future.

So far the PC's performing well. Aside from a few quirks, the system performs to expectations. It's not a gaming rig for sure but that wasn't the purpose of this build anyway. Price and platform longevity are the priorities, in that order. All-in-all this machine came to just below RM1600.