I’ve been limping along with the same old Pentium 4 PC for longer than I care to admit. As long as everything was working fine, I told myself, I wouldn’t build a new PC until it finally pooped out. I needed a reason, something justifable to spend any kind of money on a new PC when the one I had essentially did what I needed (which turns out, isn’t all that much these days). Nevertheless, the day finally came about a month ago when ole’ trusty wouldn’t boot up. Now this happened once before, and swapping the power supply that time fixed it right up. This time that wasn’t the case. I tested out another power supply and the PC booted up but the video was a garbeled mess. The monitor showed nothing but a bunch of colored lines, though I could almost make out the Windows splash screen as the PC booted up. Then the video went dead completely. This was it, time to buy a new PC.
Well, not just yet. I got on Newegg and thought I’d go head and buy just a new graphics card, see if that would fix it back up and get me running again for a little while longer. AGP cards are pricey little suckers these days for what you get. I got the cheapest thing I could find that would at least run Areo in Windows 7. The card came a couple days later, I dropped it into my old machine and voila, it booted up with video, and seemed to play just fine. Even with the old power supply back in. I downloaded the latest drivers and thought everything was great. A half hour or so later the PC just shut off. No warning, no nothing. I thought, uh oh, my PC doesn’t like the new card. I turning everything back on and began running some tests. Come to find out any time the PC is excercised even the slightest, it would just shut down. I checked the Windows error logs upon booting back into Windows and found an error message something to effect of “Kernel power failure. Windows has recovered from an unkown or unxpected power failure.”
So the PSU is having issues? I thought the video card was bad. Ah, wait a minute. Now I started piecing the real scenario together. I once again tried out a new power supply with the new video card and this time everything worked great. No issues with unwanted powering down. I ran Prime95 for hours without a single shutdown. So this is what really happened, the power supply took a dive one night, and took my Radeon 9800 card with it. This was my 2nd PSU in this same PC in 5 years. And now it was running its 3rd just to stay alive.
Well, I limped along for about a month, with a PSU hanging out the side of my case, and just last week finally broke down and bough some new hardware. Here’s the play-by-play of what I picked out.
First off, I decided to just do an upgrade. Sot the plan was to keep my Antec case, HDDs, CD/DVD drives, monitor, etc. and only upgrade the PSU, motherboard, CPU and RAM. I wanted to just spend enough dough to get something a little newer and little faster without going overboard. Afterall, what do I use this PC for anyway? Blogging? Yeah right.
The first question any PC builder must ask himself – AMD or Intel? Sandy Bridge had just come out and Newegg was finally getting in stock some decent P67 boards again (after the whole SATA fiasco) but no matter how I configured it, Sandy was going to cost me $100-150 more than almost any AMB-based system. I just couldn’t justify the cost, considering what I’d be using this PC for anyway. Not really into gaming all that much, but I like the option to be available. I ended up picking a Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2 GHz chip and paired it with an ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO 880G-based motherboard (Radeon 4250, USB 3.0, Sata 6.0, etc.). It was a combo deal for about $215, which at the time of this writing was about the best deal I could find on any quad-core setup with a modern chipset. The integrated graphics was a bonus too since I’d really like to save up and get a better card later on, as in, when it’s not getting purchased at the same time as hundreds of dollars worth of other computer gear. So in a month or so I’ll have the real graphics card I want when it’s the only thing I’m buying.
For memory I bought a 2×4 GB pack of G.Skill Ripjaws for the low-low price of just $69. It’s only rated at 1333MHz and not 1600MHz but again, for surfing the web and all this typing I’m doing on this blog, I thought it would be fast enough. Besides, I really wanted 8 GB of RAM for this new machine, but I didn’t want to spend $100 to get it, which is what all the 1600MHz stuff was going for. Lastly, the power supply I picked up a Corsair CX500. Obviously overkill for this system as it is (which consumes a whopping 164W with all 4 cores at 100%), but will be perfect for that AMD 6000-series card I’ll be picking up next month. =)
I had lots of fun dissasembling my old PC, gutting it from top to bottom, cleaning it out, and prepping the case for all the new goodies. I just love opening up the boxes of new computer parts. My son even got in on helping me out. He’s always a good helper, for about 10 minutes, then he usually loses interest. All the components installed without issues and when I buttoned back up the case, it looked just like my old PC. Under the hood however it was rocking some new goodies that I couldn’t wait to get Windows installed on to check out. But alas, that will have to be a post for another day! Until then, the new PC has been running great. For me this was a great compromise in hardware between value and performance and does just about everything I need from viewing/editing photos to videos, to running Office 2010, as well as the occasional game or two. Everything feels snappy and fresh. Hopefully I don’t have to keep it for another 7 years, even though I probably will.