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Quick Step by Step Guide to Building a Computer

I ran across this guide to building a computer awhile back – while the guide is old so the parts themselves are no longer applicable (and some of the pictures don’t load), the steps to take are still instructional.  There’s some good little tips for things to do along the process of putting together a system to make sure you don’t run into snags (like handling the CPU).

  • How To Build A Computer From Scratch (With Pictures) | Francis … – Building a PC is fairly easy and if you’re like me it’s simply the only way to get what you want. Granted you may have to jump through a few hoops to do so but the result is a more powerful machine for the money than you can buy from the store and you’re friends will think you’re an uber geek with magical powers (well maybe just a geek). * Antec NeoPower NeoHE 550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply Retail $118.

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Ivy Bridge is Around the Corner – Should you Build Now?

We are in sort of a lull right now – the beginning of the new year brings change, and having just passed the holidays, some of us may be in a situation to build a new gaming computer. CES this week is showing us some really awesome technology that will make it’s way to PC gaming over the next couple years. So you might be asking, should I build a new system right now? Let’s consider what we have:

Last year brought us Intel’s Sandy Bridge. The preferred processor for gaming right now is the i5-2500k paired with either a P67 or Z68 board. My recommendation for mid-range video card is the nVidia 560ti (I would also consider the 560ti 448 cores). Ram is incredibly affordable right now. SSD prices have dropped dramatically and manufacturers have churned out many new models – there is lots of competition there, and some very find options. We have also seen the introduction of hybrid HDD drives with SSD attached for caching. In the meantime, HDD prices have remained high after the Thailand flooding disasters.

Now we look forward to this year, and what is coming to us in April. In April we will see Ivy Bridge plus a new motherboard chipset supporting this. Ivy Bridge looks have a 70% boost in cpu graphics support over Sandy Bridge – what this means in terms of gaming is not quite known yet. Simply put, the i5-2500k equivalent in Ivy Bridge is going to be the new king of the hill. Along with this we will see PCIe 3.0 and USB 3.0 – possibly even some Thunderbolt support.

The new platform brings us a lot of new goodies – it’s not every year that you see an upgrade in gfx support architecture – so I would say this next tech upgrade is “significant.”

The question if you are looking to build right now is, do you wait 4 months for a new system?

Any system you build right now is going to be a fantastic system – it is safe to say a mid range sandy bridge system built right now will likely last you 3-4 years, as it will take a couple years for game manufacturers to start producing en masse the type of games that will take advantage of PCIe 3.0. However, if in two years you want to play the newest games at max settings, its possible you may need to upgrade again then. Right now it is difficult to tell the route which video games will take considering the new technology we are about to come into – it’s safe to say that a couple companies will make games pushing that tech to the limits (think Crysis when it first came out).

I’m actually in this boat right now – I’m looking to upgrade (I would also like to bring y’all some cool video of the process), but I would prefer to do so with the Ivy Bridge system – I’m just not sure 4 months is worth waiting for. As is said, you can always wait for the next tech upgrade, but then you will be left sitting there doing nothing.

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Liquid Cooling for you Gaming PC

When building a computer, the subject of cooling often just gets glossed over – “buy an after market fan.” It’s a pretty simple solution, and is quite effective. The other option is Liquid cooling – and for a long time this has been a somewhat complex and involved solution. There are now liquid options that are just as easy as Air, and diving into the custom liquid solutions is actually not that difficult. First, the differences between air cooling and liquid cooling:

An air cooler is basically a metal block with finned radiator design on top – usually with fan mounted to it. The heat dissipates up the fins and is then distributed to air via the fan (and/or other moving air components). You will notice RAM often has a metal “heatsink” on it as do certain chips on the motherboard – these usually don’t have fans because the amount of heat being distributed is typically not too great that the moving air in the case can’t take care of it. A typical liquid cooler is a metal block with hollow section that has tubes attached to it. The heat dissipates into the metal block and is then transferred to the liquid which is flowing in a specific direction through the metal block. The basic reason for going liquid over air is that liquid transfers heat much more efficiently than air, allowing for much higher levels of cooling.

corsair h100 060211 thumb 251x300 Liquid Cooling for you Gaming PCThe easiest way to do liquid cooling is to purchase an all-in-one unit, typically made for the CPU – such as the Corsair H100. These units are installed very much like air cooled units, but they come with tubes attached to an external fan (typically attached internally to an external port). These are basically the cooling block, pump, and radiator all in one. They are designed to not need a reservoir.

Those CPU units are excellent if you are looking to do some decent overclocking with your CPU (though there are air units which handle this just fine as well). They are also well suited for processors like the Sandy Bridge E, which naturally runs hotter than regular Sandy Bridge – as a note, you can just look at the wattage of a CPU to determine roughly the level of heat it produces. Sandy Bridge E is a 130W CPU vs the Sandy Bridge i5-2500k which is a 70 Watt CPU.

Aside from those premade CPU units, if you want to also use liquid cooling for your graphics card, RAM, motherboard, and even hard drive, then you want to look towards building a custom liquid cooling solution. Here I want to touch on the basics of this. Once understanding the basics, it is not that difficult to dive in – so to speak.

The Liquid cooling systems is typically comprised of four core components.

  1. The water/heat block to transfer heat from the component
  2. The pump to move the liquid through the system
  3. The reservoir to hold the liquid used by the system
  4. The radiator to exchange heat from the liquid system to air

Once understanding this, the critical detail to figure out is how much you are going to cool with liquid. As previously stated, you could easily acquire a stand alone CPU liquid cooler and be done with it – you could also put together a custom liquid cooler for the CPU which would no doubt be able to provide higher levels of performance. The real reason to put together a custom liquid setup is to cool multiple components.

reserator 1 v2 01 300x249 Liquid Cooling for you Gaming PCLet’s say we want to do this for the Ultra Dream machine build. To start, we would want liquid cooling for at least the CPU and the two graphics cards. The way you handle multiple components in a liquid cooled system is quite simple – this involves setting up a loop for the liquid to travel. In this case it would be from reservoir to cpu to gpu to gpu to radiator. You might wonder – won’t each successive component receive heated water? This conundrum is handled by acquiring the proper type of pump for the amount of components you are using. A larger pump moves more water faster, increasing the rate of heat exchange, increasing the amount of heat that can be exchanged.

This means that you can create extremely customized system setups. For a fully liquid cooled system – including chipsets – it isn’t uncommon to build multiple loops. The company I prefer for looking into custom built liquid cooling is Koolance – while I have not used them personally (as I have not custom built liquid cooling), they have been around a long time, are well reviewed, and well respected.

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The Ultra Dream Gaming Build

intel sandy bridge e 300x200 The Ultra Dream Gaming BuildWith the release of Intel’s Sandy Bridge E series CPUs, I can now take my Ultra Gaming build dreaming to the next level. Previously I have presented realistic gaming builds, in the ‘mid-range’ and ‘budget’ level categories – these have been based on developing systems of value that will allow you to play video games for many years while staying within a specific budget. In this article, I’m skipping over the ‘high-budget’ build and going straight for the Ultra Dream system.

There is no reasonableness in this build. If you want a build that gets you the best performance value for your money, check out the mid-range budget build. This Ultra Build here is simply an incredibly awesome system, made with the most powerful hardware available. It takes advantage of the increased memory and video bandwidth using all four slots of quad channel ram, and using both 16x/16x SLI video slots. I suppose I could go all out with 4 video cards, but then I wouldn’t have room for the PCIe based SSD, and the unnecessary, but still surprisingly appealing Killer gaming NIC.

I would take it a step further and go all out with custom liquid cooling, but I honestly don’t have the experience with extreme custom liquid cooled systems. I’ve always used air cooling, because unless you are overclocking to the extreme, or using a system like this, air cooling is fine. In this system, I will be using a liquid cooling block for the CPU only. In the near future, I plan on writing up an article on custom liquid cooling, as I started researching it for this article.

The CPU choice is obvious – the i7-3960X is the most powerful. It’s also over $1,000 for the processor alone – but here we aren’t worried about that. The CPU will be cooled by the excellent Corsair H100 As previously mentioned, Asus provides yet again another superb quality motherboard. For the RAM, I chose the Corsair Dominator because of the higher speed (DDR 2133 vs DDR 1600) – also we don’t NEED 32 GB RAM, but we CAN use 32 GB ram, so we take 2 packs of 4.

For the GPU – as it is the ULTRA system, one could easily plug in two GTX 590s for the set. There are two main reasons I am not going with the 590. First, the 590 runs hot – or at least there were problems with this at the release of the card. The performance of the 590 is undeniable, but two 580s is absolutely amazing. If I were going to go with two 590s, I would only do so with a custom liquid cooled system – I wouldn’t want to do so with air.  I also chose the 3GB memory version of the 580 vs the 1.5, as we are going for a large 30″ monitor – possibly two.

small revodrive3x2 The Ultra Dream Gaming BuildThe SSD you might find odd. First off, I’ve always loved the Revodrive concept – it’s basically an SSD slotted via x4 PCIe into the system. The result is you end up with twice the read/write as a normal SSD. The downside is price. I picked the 240GB for operating system and games/programs, with a set of RAID HDDs in the background for storage. I have on the list 2 1TB WD Black Hard Drives to be set in RAID – I would actually go with 5 1TB drives set up in RAID 5, giving the perfect combination of speed AND security. Hard Drives are expensive right now though, so starting with 2 is fine.

The Killer NIC is something that a lot of people might call a way to throw away money. While I wouldn’t recommend the NIC to someone building a “regular” gaming system – benchmarking has shown that Killer’s NICs do have an effect on lowering latency. If I were a hardcore gamer, or “pro” gamer, I would probably look at adding one to a mid-range or high-range gaming build – every little bit helps.

The case I chose because I always wanted the Thermaltake Level 10 – which runs in the $800 range, is difficult to work with, and doesn’t have amazing cooling – but my oh my does it look sweet. The Thermaltake Level 10GT has a lot of improvements. It’s lighter, cheaper, and has excellent cooling. It also can easily fit the Corsair H100 CPU radiator block. It also looks awesome. Check out the Gaming Case article for some other options.

Thermaltake Level 10 GT Snow Edition Case 1 300x276 The Ultra Dream Gaming Build

The Monitor is the 30” I selected on my Gaming Monitors article. You could also go with two 30”, or two 27”, or three 27” – remember this setup has 2 GTX 580s in x16/x16 SLI. Super.


That about wraps up this splurge of an article. I surely do love dreaming about systems like this. The total for the above listed is $5000 without the monitor and $6200 with it, so if that looks like spare change to you, then you should definitely indulge. In the future after I put together the liquid cooling article, I’ll likely revisit this and update for full liquid cooling.



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The Budget Gaming PC Build

The release of Bulldozer showed us that for the meantime, Intel is the king of the castle – for the mid range build (and top end), Intel holds the cake with the i5-2500k for gaming. Now we can take a look at the budget range and consider what sort of budget gaming pc system can be built for those who have a constricted budget.

A quick word: The easiest way to save money building a system is to cannibalize old systems – using partsCorsair Vengeance dark blue radiators 1 300x207 The Budget Gaming PC Build from previous systems. This of course only works if you have built systems in the past, or want to take apart an old premade system. Parts I like to cannibalize are hard drives, optical drives, sound cards, and sometimes RAM (new RAM tech is cheap these days) as these components can be used for a long time. One word of caution; Hard drives can last a long time, but when building a new system it is recommended to acquire a new hard drive as these WILL die eventually so they are better as secondary storage drives in the system (they won’t be accessed as much, so this lengthens their usability).

With all that said, I’m going to lay out the specs for a Budget Build. Similar to how I set up the Mid Range Build, the Budget Build isn’t just the cheapest components available – this is about value. I still want to build a system that will last a number of years and will have the least amount of problems (again, picking well rated manufacturers with good return policies).

In order to reach a ‘Budget’ level, we have to sacrifice somewhere – that area is going to be in higher level game performance. The goal with this system is to be able to play any current game – not necessarily on the highest levels – but also to be able to play most games for the next 3 years or so. This is of course speculative, but it all comes down to finding the best performance for the price range we are looking at.

In the Bulldozer article I mentioned that I was going to look at AMD for the budget build – this is because AMD tends to lend itself to the lower range of spending. While their CPUs are excellent, Intel’s Sandy Bridge offering still tops AMD at the lower level – not just with individual performance, but also with the potential to upgrade to the supremely powerful i5-2500k.

antec 300 beauty 282x300 The Budget Gaming PC Build

I gave you a choice between the H67 and the P67 – this depends on your desire to upgrade in the future. If in 6 months (when Ivy Bridge comes out and the Sandy Bridge prices drop) you decide to upgrade to the i5-2500k – and you want the ability to overclock – then you will need the P67. If you don’t see yourself taking this future upgrade to overclocking path, the H67 will serve you fine.

Changes 1-25-12:  After reviews, reading experiences and feedback, as well as Tom’s Hardware’s charts, it is clear that the HD 6790 is head and shoulders above the 550TI – so I have removed the 550TI.  At this budget level, the money is better placed with the HD 6790.  I have also switched the Antec 300 with the Antec 300 Two – newly released upgrade to this great budget case.

Just as with the Mid Range Build, this doesn’t include the monitor and other peripherals. One can of course interchange between this Budget Gaming PC and the Mid Range Build, and this system is easily upgradeable.

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The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Choosing among the vast array of gaming pc cases is a very personal decision – it is quite easy to find one which has excellent cooling and sound ratings, which is liked by many people. However this is something that you will live with for quite awhile – which will adorn your desk (or floor) and thus should be something you really feel excited about having. I was originally going to avoid making recommendations on gaming cases, but I have since realized that this website is a complete representation of my feelings towards building computers – so I should just throw it all out there.

Remember: The case is one of the least important in terms of performance, there are just a few overall points to keep in mind.

Things to consider:

1) Unless you are going for liquid cooling, airflow is important. Having a case that allows good cable management is key.

2) Cases made out of aluminum are AWESOME. Very light and Very strong. Cases are commonly made out of a combination of steel and plastic. The more plastic a case is made out of, the less sturdy the case will be overall. Most cases will have the front/outside panels made of solid plastic, so disregard the visual architecture (the plastic molding).

3) Some cases also come with interior lights. IF this computer is going to be in the same room that you sleep – you may not appreciate the interior lighting. Don’t let that dissuade you from buying a case you like though, as you can always disconnect the LEDs if it becomes a problem.

4) Accessibility: This is the overall word I use to describe the ease of accessing sections of the case while being able to fit all your ‘stuff’ (cards, drives etc).

I like Antec because their cases are extremely solid, usually with excellent airflow and easy accessibility. Antec will be on my list a lot. Second behind Antec, I tend to like NZXT – they rate well and look good. Following that there are a couple cases from Thermaltake and Cooler Master which I like. One of my favorite off-character cases that I like is the Cooler Master Cosmos (the original) – mainly for its tremendously sturdy design (it is really heavy) and it’s negative airflow (at least in the first version). I like it mainly as a liquid cooling case. That particular case is rather expensive for what you get, so I haven’t found it worth going for myself – I just kind of…like it.

My Personal choice for Mid Tower is the Antec 900, although I am interested in the Antec Lanboy – which isn’t for everybody. If I was on a budget I would go with the Antec 300. I used the Sonata series for a long time – it is very compact and well built.

One thing you will note is that I did not list cases that include a power supply. As I previously noted, the power supply is one of the most critical components and not to be taken lightly – so I always prefer to purchase separately and from a very small list. See my article ON POWER SUPPLYS IASERKNA



Antec Three Hundred Two The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Antec Nine Hundred Two V3 The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Antec Eleven Hundred The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

NZXT Apollo  The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases << Comes in multiple colors

(Honorable Mention) Antec Sonata Elite The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases<< This is a good alternative to the 900 if you absolutely hate the blue lighting and don’t want to deal with it.

(Honorable Mention) Antec LanBoy Air Modular Case The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases << I love the concept, I just haven’t had the opportunity to form more than a visceral opinion.


Changes 1-25-12: I’ve added the Antec Eleven Hundred here – this is now my preferred case.  It is about the same price as the 900 V2, has amazing performance, looks awesome – and includes great built in wire management capabilities.  Here is an excellent review at Overclockers.  I’ve also replaced the Antec Three Hundred with the Antec Three Hundred Two – a recent update.  Read more about the Three Hundred Two at Anandtech.


I usually don’t go with a full tower system. When would you need this? Typically when you plan on having a large number of extra stuff in your system. If you plan to go SLI, then you may want to look here – though most Mid Towers (such as the 900) can take 2 video cards, if you want to expand to 3 or 4 then you will need a larger case. Also, if you have an inordinate amount of hard drives (I actually have 3 in my system currently, as I tend to reuse old ones), then you need more hard drive space – ditto for optical drives (multiple blue ray burners, card inputs etc).

As you can see, Full Tower is usually not necessary – if you are going by my mid range build suggestions, then you won’t need this.

If, however, I was going to get a Full Tower case – I would go with the Antec 1200. The Silverstone I included because it tested so darn well – if I was going purely on numbers alone, I would probably go with the Silverstone – but I love Antec’s Cases too much for that.


Thermaltake Element V The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Antec Twelve Hundred V3 (Black) The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Silverstone Raven 2 The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Cooler Master Cosmos II The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases


You will have noticed throughout this article that I constantly used words like ‘feels’ ‘love’ and ‘like’ to describe my decision for choosing one case over another. That’s simply because it is a completely personal decision.  While it is naturally important to make sure you have a case that will fit your components (mid tower at least for a standard motherboard) There are too many good gaming pc cases (in terms of treating the components right – airflow and accessibility) to say that certain cases are ‘the correct choice.’ The ones listed above are what I would chose from, and that is that.

Changes 1-25-12:  I’ve added the Coolermaster Cosmos II to the list – the original Cosmos was one of my favorite cases, and this new version carries with it some of the things which I loved about the original.  It also has one of the things I don’t like – a ridiculous price tag of $350.  If you don’t have a limited budget, you would love this case.  Check out the review at Kitguru.


Also, if you aren’t a member of my Build a Gaming PC Facebook Page, you should check it out – I publish industry news and reviews on a daily basis.  Every now and then I come across cool new case reviews and share them there.



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Why I Learned to Build a Gaming PC

I just wanted to take a moment to tell a little story of how I got started building gaming computers. My story is probably like many, beginning when I was in high school – actually with the release of Starcraft and Diablo 2 (I think it was starcraft first). I met my best friend in freshman Marine Biology – we sat around the same table and I overheard him talking about Starcraft and BOOM, best friends.

The wonderful thing about building gaming computers is that it makes it possible for so many people to have these sorts of experiences. If I couldn’t build my own computers, it’s likely I wouldn’t have been into computer gaming as much as I am. Having an up to date system is necessary for playing the latest games, but if you want to be able to play the latest video games with good quality experience you don’t need to spend a boatload on a premade system – simply build a gaming pc.

I got into building gaming computers when I was in high school. I wanted to keep having the ability to play new games, and often times that requires upgrading your system (especially if your system is a prebuilt paperweight from Gateway). I learned all about building computer systems in a high school class – had loads of fun destroying circuitry by fumbling around with cheap spare parts (a friend of mine actually blew up a system by forgetting to unplug it from the wall…screwdriver met motherboard attached to power supply) – and eventually learned everything I need to build a gaming pc.

Early on, I was in the segment of people who want to play video games, but don’t have a powerful enough system and not very much money. Now, I am in a position where I can save up – spend a little bit more – and build really solid systems of value that will last for years. This is what I preach now – if you can save up a little bit more ($1,000 instead of $600 for example), it is worth it to produce a system that can last you easily 2-3 times as long and be a better overall experience during that time.

When you are in the state of needing to build less expensive systems however, you limit your choices. This is actually where I recommend looking at AMD. They provide quality powerful processors, but at lower prices than Intel. It’s a basic trade-off – you get what you pay for. Actually in terms of extended value, you get slightly less than what you pay for with AMD (as you will have to upgrade sooner), but game playing ability compared to price, they are pretty comparable. If you have the ability to cannibalize some basic parts like hard drive, cd drive, case, and power supply – you can easily build a new system for a $200-$300. This was a pretty darn good deal when I was younger.

So what about you, my faithful readers? It would be cool if y’all would share your experiences getting into building gaming computers.


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How to Build a Gaming Computer – Research Phase

This is my first video in what I hope will be a whole series of videos on the entire process of building a gaming computer – from information gathering, to purchasing, to construction, etc.

This video is my process for evaluating what hardware I am going to spec out for a computer plan. In particular I am going to be looking at my process for determining a video card – this process is the same for motherboards, CPUs, ram, etc. I use primarily Tom’s Hardware – this is probably the most reputable source for hardware reviews and analysis. The site can be pretty information intense, however, so I’m hoping I can guide you through how I come to my conclusions.

As a brief rundown:

I reference both the Charts and the Articles section with respect to graphics in a gaming build.

In the Charts section, I use both the enthusiast and gamer charts primarily. If I am building a computer to play a very specific game, then I may reference specific charts – but as I build and make recommendations with different types of games in mind, I prefer to reference the general enthusiast and gamer charts.

In the Articles section I reference the ‘Best of -Month-‘ articles. These articles will help you get a general idea according to price for what card you may go for. Keep in mind that prices change however, and this can influence our overall valuation.

After narrowing my choices down to a couple options, I’ll take a look on Newegg and amazon for prices and reviews. If price is similar, I’ll lean towards the best reviewed product. The process really is quite subjective – but after going through Tom’s charts and articles, any decision you make at this point is going to result in a fantastic card – we are just being rather nit-picky in finding the best value (and why shouldn’t we when its our money?).

That is the essence of my process when finding components to build gaming computers. Beyond this, I’ll also look at specific card reviews – taking into account different manufacturers and models. I’ll also look into forums (such as Tom’s Hardware) and see what individual people are actively talking about in terms of those cards. The initial process of going through Tom’s charts and articles helps us narrow down to the best choices.


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Select a Hard Drive to Build a Gaming Pc

“Solid State Drive or Hard Disk Drive? Typically hard drive choice is not terribly high on the list of critical components for someone who wants to build a gaming pc. The Hard Drive stores your information, but when you are in the game – for the most part – your hard drive speed won’t affect too many things. It certainly doesn’t affect your video quality or your ability to run high end games. So usually when building a gaming computer all you want to look at is the quality of the Hard Drive – and as I like to preach, the manufacturer who makes it. However, we have entered the age of the Solid State Drive.

300px Hard disk Western Digital WD740 1 %28dark1%29 Select a Hard Drive to Build a Gaming Pc

Image via Wikipedia


In a quick overview: Your traditional Hard Disk Drive is literally that – hard platters in which the data is physically stored within a case. Technology has advanced naturally on these to a certain point – quantity of information being put on one disk is ever increasing, but the speed of transfer can only get to a certain point. Solid State Drives store information on NAND Flash memory. This setup is similar to how information is handled in RAM – there are no spinning components, no needle that has to seek out the physical information. Input/output speed is INCREDIBLE by comparison.


So how does this fit into a typical gaming computer build? In terms of computer games, if you use an SSD over an HDD, games which load information from the “hard disk” will load that information much faster than vs an HDD. Games like World of Warcraft have much faster load times between zones (where local information is accessed). Once a local level is loaded however, the benefits of the SSD over the HDD are moot – they have no effect on video quality or capability to play the game once information is loaded.


 Select a Hard Drive to Build a Gaming Pc

Image via Wikipedia


In terms of overall system performance, file operations will be completed much faster – so your overall experience will likely be smoother. I should say at this point that I don’t yet run an SSD in my system – so i don’t have first had experience with the speed improvements. However, going by Tom’s Hardware analysis we can see that “a file operation completes 85% faster on a low-end SSD than it does on a high-end hard drive.”


So deciding between an SSD and an HDD when building a gaming pc comes down to personal choice. SSDs will give you faster load times, which can greatly improve your computer using experience – however in terms of playing games, you may not see an improvement.


When choosing a drive, consider 3 gb/s vs 6 gb/s. If you don’t have a newer motherboard, then you probably don’t have a board that supports 6 gb/s. While you can still run the 6 gb/s HD/SSD on a 3 gb/s, it could be an inefficient use of money (unless the price was the same). Consider the Vertex 3s – they are 6 gb/s SSDs. This is one of the main reasons for their insanely high transfer rate. If you don’t have a 6 gb/s connection in your system, then spending $500+ on an SSD when you would get the same performance out of a $200 SSD doesn’t make any sense. The only situation I could see doing that is if you were upgrading piece by piece, and wanted to do the SSD first – with the intention of upgrading to P67 or Z68 or later in a couple months (even then, I would probably just wait for a price drop on the Vertex 3s). One should also take into account that, going by the Tom’s Hardware article, there is only a 3% difference is improvement over an HDD when going from a lower end SSD to a higher end SSD (like the Vertex 3).


This is where your personal preference is going to play a large role. I can tell you that having an SSD will boost your load times, which will improve your overall computer “experience” – however from a general gaming perspective, you probably won’t notice a difference past starting the game up. Its going to take some personal monetary valuation. On top of that, one can always upgrade in the future (and you will probably in most situations have an HDD alongside an SSD, so starting with a good quality 1-2 TB HDD is a good route.


Here are a few recommendations to get you started. They are based off a combination of benchmark analysis and consumer reviews. I can say that as far as hard drives go, you cant go wrong with either of the three main manufacturers – Seagate, Western Digital, and Hitachi. I use Seagate in my main system and Hitachi in my network storage drives.


Consider taking a look at the Tom’s Hardware article for different sized SSDs. Any of the SSDs on the list would be an excellent choice when upgrading from HDD – considering the 80+% speed increase. You will want to keep in mind the total size – as you will want to be able to install your OS and programs…I don’t think I would go below 80 GB if you are building a gaming pc.


Hard Drive: Western Digital WD Caviar Black 1 TB SATA 6 GB/S 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache Internal Bulk/OEM 3.5-Inch Desktop Hard Drive Select a Hard Drive to Build a Gaming Pc


SSD: OCZ Technology 80 GB Vertex 2 Series SATA II 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive (SSD) OCZSSD2-2VTX80G Select a Hard Drive to Build a Gaming Pc



QUICK UPDATE!! Tom’s Hardware just updated their recommended SSD list by $$ range.  I like also how they classify the different categories – “boot drive”, “system drive” etc.

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Build a Gaming PC – the Mid Range System Build

So I’ve been backed up on work and haven’t been able to churn out my analysis of each area of the computer like I wanted too. Since I’ve been setting up different builds for friends who are going to build a gaming pc, I decided to just put together my recommendation list.


This is a “mid-range” gaming pc build. That is, I’ve chosen the parts to be the least expensive for the most amount of usage. This sort of system could last you several years without any tweaks or upgrades. It costs a little bit more upfront, but again – you probably won’t need to make any changes to keep playing the games that are going to be coming out over the next few years. I of course can’t guarantee any of those statements, but this is the system I would build for myself if I were to build a new computer right now – though my four year old system is still doing just fine…I might upgrade the video card for Diablo 3…but I won’t spend more than $150 on it, and thats after 4 years of use.


This setup is not including Monitor, keyboard or mouse – there are too many options for each of these for me to say ‘Thats the one you should get.’


I have included links to both Amazon and Newegg – these are the places I prefer to purchase computer parts.  I have both sets of links because the prices tend to fluctuate, and getting whichever is cheaper from either place works just fine.


The Critical Components – these are difficult to interchange without falling into another category.



Amazon: ASUS P8P67 PRO LGA 1155 SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 Supported Intel P67 DDR3 2400 ATX Motherboard Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build


Amazon: Intel Core i5 Processor i5-2500K 3.3GHz 6MB LGA1155 CPU BOX80623I52500K Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build


Amazon: Corsair Vengeance 8 GB ( 2 x 4 GB ) DDR3 1600 MHz (PC3 12800) 240-Pin DDR3 Memory Kit for Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and AMD Platforms SDRAM CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9 Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build


Amazon: Seasonic 560W 80 Plus Gold ATX 12V/EPS 12V Power Supply – X-560 SS-560KM Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build

Video Card:

Amazon: EVGA nVidia GeForce GTX560 Ti FPB 1 GB DDR5 2DVI/Mini HDMI PCI-Express Video Card 01G-P3-1561-KR Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build


Amazon: Western Digital WD Caviar Black 1 TB SATA 6 GB/S 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache Internal Bulk/OEM 3.5-Inch Desktop Hard Drive Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build


Amazon:  Zalman CNPS9900MAX-R CPU Cooler Red LED  Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System BuildOR   Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooler, RR-B10-212P-G1 Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build >> I prefer the Zalman based off better cooling ratings, and I’ve used zalman in the past with the best experiences of all other coolers I’ve used. I also prefer their mounting system (it uses a back plate on the back side of the motherboard, but there is no chance of your heatsink dismounting this way – which I have had with non back plate mounting HS).


Non-Critical Components – these components can be interchanged based on your own taste.


Sound Card:

Amazon:  Creative Labs SB0880 PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Sound Card Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build >> I am only familiar with the X-FI cards, but they are fantastic – just make sure you have a quality speaker or headphone set before spending the money.


Amazon:  Antec Three Hundred Gaming Case External 3 X 5.25; Internal 6 X 3.5 2*Usb2.0 Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build OR Antec Nine Hundred Steel ATX Ultimate Gamer PC Case (Black) Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build >> With a couple expensive suggestions, I simply think that Antec makes the best quality cases out there.


Amazon: LG Electronics 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Internal Drive GH24NS50 (Black) Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build



SSD: SSDs don’t really fit into a value based gaming pc build – simply because the hard drive itself has little effect on gaming performance (and the price is high).  You would only see an improvement in games which load information frequently from the hard drive (you would see quicker load times between zones in World of Warcraft for example).  This particular SSD is the best out there right now.  It is also wicked expensive at $530+.  HOWEVER, I think the performance that you get from this drive, plus the future potential means that this SSD would last you for YEARS.  Check out the link I just posted on my Facebook.

Amazon: OCZ Technology 240 GB Vertex 3 SATA III 6.0 Gb/s 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive VTX3-25SAT3-240G Build a Gaming PC   the Mid Range System Build



Just remember, when you are ready to build a gaming pc, think value, think longevity.  Keep in mind the warranties that come with your parts – these will save you if you have a problem (hey, its a computer).  Pick manufacturers that are highly rated and reviewed by other people.  Go by those ideas, and whatever computer gaming build that you chose will do you well in the long run.

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