Welcome to the Builder's Corner Newsletter
Welcome to the latest issue of The Builder's Corner. As always, I keep the newsletter printer friendly if you prefer offline reading. Simply click File --> Print and you're off and running.
Hard Stuff - The $500 Gaming Computer
This issue I wanted to do a $500 gaming computer build, just to show that it could be done, and to give you ideas if you are on a budget. Keep in mind also, that if a computer can be used for gaming, you can use it for any office application you have. This build will not run today's games at top resolutions with graphics cranked up to maximum, but will be able to play them with some tweaking. Note that this build does not include a monitor or operating system.
CPU - Intel Pentium Dual Core E2160 $68.99 - At just under $70 currently, this processor will get us started on the right foot. It is a very overclockable CPU, and at the price, you can't beat it. This processor runs at 1.8GHz, with an 800MHz FSB (Front Side Bus), and 1MB L2 Cache. Not the best stats, but as I said, it overclocks very well.
Motherboard - Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L $88.99 - The Intel P35 is a great chipset for overclocking, which you will most likely want to do with that CPU. Even if you don't plan to overclock, this board still offers a nice selection of connections, onboard 7.1 sound, and support for up to 8GB of DDR2 1066 RAM.
CPU Cooler - Rosewill RCX-Z775-LX $17.99 - I tried to find a cooler here that would keep the price down, yet perform well enough to overclock the CPU safely. The Rosewill RXC will keep your processor temps below 50C, even when overclocked. It's a great heatsink for the price.
RAM - Patriot 2GB DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $40.99 - I have been using Patriot RAM for years now and it has always performed to expectations. For the price, this is a great pair of modules. With a CAS latency of 5 ms and a speed of 800MHz, it will work well with the overclocked CPU.
Graphics Card - XFX PVT88SFDFU GeForce 8800 GS 384MB $129.99 - The graphics card will be the most expensive part of this build, so I wanted to choose carefully which card to use. At the time of this writing, there is even a $30.00 rebate on the card, but that is not figured into the price. The 8800 GS has proven in many benchmarks and tests that it can outperform some of the higher end ATI cards such as the HD3850. That makes it perfect for our budget build.
Hard Drive - Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500AAJS 250GB $57.99 - With 250GB, the Western Digital finds a great price point. Lower capacity drives will only save you around $10.00, and that takes you down to 160GB, so I decided to pop for the extra $10 here so that you would have a bit of room for more than just games.
Case / Power Supply - Antec NSK4480 With 380W Earthwatts Power Supply $65.00 - Antec manufactures quality computer cases, I have used them many times in the past. When that is paired with an Earthwatts power supply that is 80 PLUS certified for power efficiency, it's a combination that can't be beat at this price.
DVD Drive - LITE-ON Black SATA Drive $22.99 - DVD burners are pretty cheap these days. There's not much to say about this, it burns and plays DVD's and CD's, and will allow you to install your games.
Total Price: $492.93
There you have it - $493 for a budget gaming PC. If you overclock this system, it will even play games like Crysis at medium settings. The key to this build is the CPU, motherboard and graphics card. The CPU / motherboard combination is great for overclocking, which you will most likely want to do if you use this for a gaming machine. If you are not using it for gaming, or only light gaming, you can actually save another $75.00 or so on a lower end video card, and won't need to worry about overclocking it.
This issue's application is not anything that you will download and install, but is nonetheless a very nice little app. Have you heard of or used iGoogle? iGoogle used to be "Google Personalized Homepage", but it has since grown bigger and gotten much better. Here's how it works. Start by going to www.iGoogle.com. If you do not have an iGoogle page, you will see a link that says "Get Started". Do this and you are on your way.
What is iGoogle? It is a starting point for web browsing, a homepage. If you set iGoogle as your homepage, anytime you open your browser, it will go to your iGoogle page. From there, you can head out onto the web, do a search right on your homepage, or check out what is going on in the world using your gadgets.
Gadgets - that is what makes iGoogle so great. A gadget is a tool or utility that puts information at your fingetips. Everything from weather forecasts, to the day's comics. From the latest news at CNN, ABC, NBC, Reuters, you name it, to keeping an eye on the Stock Market - chances are you can find a gadget for it. You can also setup multiple tabs. I have my main tab that includes news, weather, comics, etc., and my RSS tab, where I keep all the RSS feeds that I am interested in.
iGoogle is what I use as my starting point for hopping on the Internet. It gives me a quick overview of the things that are important to me. The great thing about it is that no matter what computer you are on, it will follow you. Just go to iGoogle.com and login, and your homepage is ready and waiting for you.
Q & A
Our question this issue comes from Gary in Topeka, Kansas. He asks: I want to build a 64 bit computer, but am unsure about which Operating System to use, and what versions of software I need to run. How does it all work?
Thanks Gary. Here's the scoop on 64 vs. 32 bit.
The first thing to understand is that software is written for either 32 bit, 64 bit, or both. That includes your Operating System. For example, Windows Vista comes in two versions, 32 and 64 bit. This is independant of your processor, which also comes in two flavors. Most of the newer processors are all 64 bit processor, but not all of them. That said, in order to run 64 bit software, you must have a 64 bit processor.
Second, you can run 32 bit software on a 64 bit system, but not vice-versa. 64 bit operating systems include what is called 32 bit compatibility mode which allows them to run 32 bit applications. So where do the problems come in?
The issues that you may run into with a 64 bit computer and opertating system will usually be with the device drivers. Say you are upgrading your system, but have an older TV Tuner video card that you want to continue using. It is very possible that the company that produced that card has not written a 64 bit device driver for that card, which means you will not be able to use it. Hardware device drivers cannot run in 32 bit compatibility mode like software can.
Having said all that, if you are building a new computer, with new hardware, you should be pretty safe going with 64 bit. The vast majority of hardware produced after Feb. 2007 is 64 bit compatible. That doesn't always apply to software, which is still catching up. However, with 32 bit compatibility, you will be able to run almost anything you need.
Gary, I hope that answered your question. If you have computer questions, feel free to send them to me and I will always get back to you as soon as I can, and may feature it in my newsletter.
Tips and Tricks
This issues trick is all about the Windows Run command. You see it everytime you click the Start button on your desktop, but what does it actually do? As with most things in Windows, there are multiple ways to do things. The Run command is one of them.
To access it, either click Start -> Run, or the keyboard combination of the Windows key and the "R" key, will bring up the Run window. It's a simple window that consists of a text box to type in, and 3 buttons: Ok, Cancel, and Browse. Almost any built-in Windows function that you can access through the menu, you can also access through the Run command. Try this, type in "notepad" - without the quotes. Wala - up comes Windows Notepad. Type in "calc", again no quotes, and up comes the calculator. For those who prefer using the keyboard more than the mouse, it is a very useful little window. Here is a list of common commands and what they do:
- appwiz.cpl - brings up the Windows Add/Remove dialog
- cleanmgr - starts the Windows disk cleaning wizard
- control - opens the Windows Control Panel
- defrag - starts the Windows defrag tool
- dxdiag - opens the Windows DirectX tool that will show you useful system information
- explorer - opens Windows Explorer
- logoff - logs the current user off the computer
- msconfig - opens the Microsoft Configuration tool that allows you to control start up programs and services (be careful messing with this one that you don't exclude needed services)
- mstsc - starts the Windows Remote login dialog - you can also use mstsc -v remoteComputerName to do it all in one step
- powercfg.cpl - brings up the Windows Power Managment properties box
- shutdown - will shutdown Windows - adding -r at the end will restart Windows
- spider - starts the Spider solitaire game
- taskmgr - opens the Windows Task Manager
- winword - starts Microsoft Office Word
- winver - shows which version of Windows you are running
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