Random Access   chris, kp & rob
In The Lab
Build Your Own PC Chapter 1: In Pursuit of a Processor
by chris & rob
Chris: How does one start to "Build Your Own PC " (BYOPC)? One might start with a couple of left-over parts to create a new system or take the "Dream Machine" approach and start from scratch. With all of the high-speed processors and fancy system cases now on the market, building a custom system totally from parts has its own appeal. No matter what, I think it is still important to think ahead to what you want to use the system for. This can make a difference both in cost and in part selection as you proceed. A serious business system would not need all of the bells and whistles (neon and LEDs?) that a monster gaming or multimedia system would use.

Rob: I'd want to use it for the latest games like Halo and to be able to create cool multimedia projects like making my own DVDs. A cool-looking computer with lights wouldn't be so bad either, so I'm guessing we'll be going the "Dream Machine" route. What do we need to pick first? The case or the motherboard?

Chris: My own tendency is to over-engineer. I always want lots of expansion capabilities in any system I plan to use myself. Any system I build generally will have lots of drive bays, a big high-wattage power supply, and extra case fans. (Quiet operation has never been on my BYOS feature list.) Before choosing a case, I need a CPU and motherboard, since these directly dictate the minimum requirements for case, power supply and cooling.

Rob: Well, for the processor, I'd say the more power the better so that means an Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor 3.2GHz with Hyper-Threading Technology. (For information about Hyper-Threading Technology, see this month's Tech Term.)

Chris: A 3.2GHz P4, Good choice! We should have a good selection of system boards to choose from. To get the best performance from this system, we want one that supports Dual Channel DDR memory. Since most DVD video applications involve manipulating large amounts of data, starting with at least 1GB of DDR RAM would be indicated, but 2GB would be even better. The Dual Channel architecture allows the CPU to split its access between the channels, giving us another performance boost on top of the P4 Hyper-Threading features.

Rob: On microcenter.com there are a whole slew of Socket 478 System Boards. One that caught my eye was the DFI LANParty Pro 875. It'll support a P4 with HT, up to 4GB of Dual Channel DDR SDRAM and it even lights up in orange and green.

Chris: Oooh, and its even got onboard RAID support for extra data security!

Rob: Well, it sounds like a plan. Next we'll have to choose a cool case to put our motherboard into.

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