Ask Hackaday: Are Gaming PCs Hard to Build?

No. No they’re not. But let’s talk about it anyway.

The endless trenches of digital worlds are filled with hardcore gamers from all walks of life. They can be found exploring post-apocalyptic Boston in Fallout 4, and commanding Sgt. Recker through a war-torn landscape in Battlefield 4 for hours on end. Their portal into these vast digital worlds come via some sort of computer system.

What type of computer system used is a point of contention between many gamers, and is typically divided between console versus PC. I will not dare to drag you into the captious arguments between the two, but instead we will focus on something that has something in common with our world — how does a previously non-technical console enthusiast cross over and build a gaming PC?

Many hackers have built computers from scratch and [Adam Fabio] just covered a bunch of custom laptop builds this morning. People with such skills can easily build a high-end gaming PC. But what about people without such skills? Can a console gamer with no technical background build a high-end PC gaming system?

Inspiration for this article came after reading something [Emanuel Maiberg] published over the summer on Motherboard. Why someone writing for a publication called Motherboard would have trouble building a gaming rig is beyond me. Certainly I think his starting assumptions are questionable. He asserts that you need an unreasonable amount of time and money to attempt one of these projects. But gaming rigs can be purchased fully-assembled — those that build them are doing it out of passion.

The question is this:  How far should engineers go to make a technical product easier to use for a non-technical person?  If I order an engine for a hot rod, it can be assumed that I know to hook up the gas line without specifically being told to do so. After all, a person who’s going to put an engine in a hot rod probably knows a thing or two about engines.

I think that building a desktop PC has never been easier. We’ve now had 30 years of evolution to help weed out the “slow learners” when it comes to manufacturers. The Internet is a lot easier to use for answers than it used to be, and we have faster means of connecting with communities of experts than ever before.

That said, the neighborhood computer store is beginning to go the way of the dodo. There is an entire generation of “mobile-first” users who will give you a blank stare if you start talking about “desktop computing”. And familiarity with the fact that computer customization is even possible is beginning to fade; if all you’ve ever used are tablets and smartphones “upgrade” and “customization” are software terms, not hardware possibilities.

So we turn it over to you. Are gaming PCs hard to build? Have engineering practices and design choices made it easier than it used to be to get into it? What do you think is happening with the average skill level for working with computers now compared to when you had to open the case to add a modem to your machine? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

170 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: Are Gaming PCs Hard to Build?

  1. I’m not a “computer guy” but I built myself a gaming PC about a year ago. It was pretty straightforward. Do a little research, make sure your components are compatible, and beyond that it’s pretty much plug and play. Once I had all my components, it took me maybe 2 hours to get it all put together and another hour or two of troubleshooting to figure out why my video card wasn’t working. Like I said, I’m not a computer guy, but I managed to get it all sorted out on my own pretty easily.

  2. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that generally the compatibility between all the various components has improved leaps and bounds compared to what it was two decades ago. It’s been at least a decade since I last had compatibility-issues with RAM-stick, for example — now, I can just slap sticks from different manufacturers together in the same box and they’ll all run fine. No need for messing with IRQs or DMAs for your addon-cards, either. Then there’s the non-electrical side where PC-cases have evolved from what they were back in the day, with rubber-grommets and screwless drivebays and routing for cables between the motherboard all being standard features now, and so on.

  3. I find it interesting how many programmers and web operations people these days have never built/upgraded a PC, racked a server or have any clue how the hardware in a data center works. This isn’t a rant at the youngsters to get off of my lawn. it’s just the way things are. The knowledge many here take for granted may not be as widespread outside of the ‘people who read electronics tech sites” demographic as they may think.

    1. My not-a-rant is just the opposite. I find it interesting how many programmers and web folks think they know better than the server folks that are elbow-deep in optimization and hardware repair every day.

    2. I hate web developers that think everyone has a quad chip (16 core) mother board, 42 inch 4K display and an internet connection so fast that the whole internet reverberates when they switch offline.

        1. Or auto detecting your browser and platform then forcing you to the desktop or mobile site as they deem appropriate. That’s a huge PITA on a phone when you’ve searched out something and the link looks like it may have what you’re after, but the site forces you to the ROOT LEVEL of the mobile site instead of letting you follow the link directly to the deeply buried content you need to see.

      1. One of the worst things ever online is the use of grey text on a white background, especially when entering stuff into a form. This started around the release of Vista, with its absolutely horrible super light blue “highlight” color that could not be changed. For anyone with even the slightest bit of blue colorblindness it was a disaster, making it nearly impossible to see what was selected in Explorer. Microsoft made the color *very slightly* darker in Windows 7.

        Even worse, in both Vista and 7, the ‘grey’ highlight (on the folders on the left after you click something on the right) is almost indistinguishable from the blue. The 3D effect makes it worse by washing it out in the middle.

        Since Windows 8 and 10 have retreated back to 1990 style, tossing out all pretense of “3D” and all roundness, the two colors are much easier to see and tell apart.

        But I still want a proper *dark blue with white text* [b]HIGHLIGHT[/b] dammit. No having to double check to make certain what’s actually selected because it’s bleedin obvious due to the color of the text being different and boldly standing out from all around it. THAT is what a highlight is supposed to be.

  4. They usually are quite easy to build, some ddr3 ram memories, a cpu, a motherboard with a socket compatible with the cpu, a pci-express graphic card and an atx capable of handling the rest, you can optionally get a cardboard box and some more fancy stuff

    1. this is exactly why people get frustrated trying to build a gaming machine. the thought is just buy some stuff make sure socket and cpu is right, spend all you can on hard drive size ram capacity and cpu speed and get the largest card you can for graphics, then whatever money you have left over grab a power supply… why isn’t it booting after i try to install the os 12 times?

      the fact is you can’t just slap stuff together on a gaming machine you have to be really careful to get a good power supply to handle what you want to throw in there, and by good i mean quality not good meaning 1 kilowatt ultra brand. people look at the wattage rating and figure that is what they need to concentrate on. it’s a good quick weeding out measure but you have to look at the amperage on the 12v rail that is going to feed your gpu. also there’s the issue of quality and bad misleading information on the side of power supplies overrating their abilities. read power supply reviews and find a good one. then budget as much at the graphics card as you can and still be able to fund the rest of the system. that’s my advice to anyone building a gaming machine.

      get a good power supply
      budget as much as you can at the graphics card and still buy the rest of the system

      1. LOL at 1kW PSU. GPU are power hogs these days. Very rarely do you need 1kW of power unless you are stuff all the PCIe slots with GPU trying to mine bitcoin or something.

        There are websites that can calculate the amount of power your PC configuration actually needs. google “PC power consumption calculator” (I haven’t used this one before)

        1. it’s not too hard to spec a system with dual video cards and need 1,000 watts.
          most people don’t realize that 1,000 watts on the box doesn’t mean you have those watts to use wherever they are needed. you have to look at the 12v rails’ amperage ratings.

          there are cards that require over 30 amps and most supplies don’t provide that on a single 12v rail. or worse split the rails and have the pci-e connectors tied into the rails providing power to other parts of the system.

          and worse yet you’ll see things like 850 watts on a box and on the side 4 12v rails and 36 amps per 12v rail and then in the fine print only one rail able to deliver that amperage at a time and 12v amperage total is like 500 watts the other 350 is on the 3.3v and 5v rails.

          1. Sorry, but you are partially wrongwrong. You just cannot look at the 12v amperage ratings. The problems is that those ratings, for low end supplies, are likely to be a pack of lies. Some very cheap manufacturers will take a 350W supply and slap a 600W sticker on it, and call it a day.

            With power supplies, unfortunately, you FIRST need to look at general reviews of that brand (if not that particular model). Do reviewers find that that the labels on that brand approach reality? If so, THEN you look at the amperage, once you have confidence that those numbers are not just fiction.

            With that being said, one of my biggest problems with PC builds is, simply stated, screws. I admit that I have not built a gaming PC in some years (laptops fit into my life better now). However, I find it FRUSTRATING that a screw used to hold a mobo in a case is different from a screw to hold in a expansion card, which is different from a screw for a floppy drive (remember those), which is once again different for an optical drive and a hard drive (as I recall, hard drives and optical drives use the same screws). The environment is the same, the sizes are all roughly similar, and the approximate stress put on the screws is all roughly the same. Why not just standardize on ONE screw for all of these applications.

            Plus, I have purchased a couple of solid-state drives from two brands. Lovely drives, but no screws included! Really? Are appropriate screws so expensive that including them would price the drives so high that people could not afford them?

      2. Wow, I am surprised that GPU cards are using 12V line.

        I assume the core itself is running on 1.8Volts to 3.3Volts so is there a DC/DC converter on a GPU card??

        Maybe they use 12Volts so they don’t need inch thick copper bus bars to go to the GPU card.

        1. That’s about the size of it, a decade ago there was a switch over started from 5V for CPU power to 12V as well, get a high end high watt PSU from early noughties and you may not be able to run much, the 350W it had on 5V it’s useless and you’re struggling to keep inside the 180W it’s got on 12….. and if back in the day you came close to needing much of that power on 5V you were in danger of melting the connector.

        2. More like 1.2 V actually. CPUs are the same. They’ve been below 1.5 V for years. Since 3.3 V is the lowest the PSU supplies, the regulator is necessary irrespective of which rail they use – so the obvious choice is the highest voltage to get the lowest current.

        1. We’re pretty much on the cusp of the change from DDR3 to DDR4 right now, so for a gaming PC, you’re more likely to be looking at something that uses DDR4 than not.
          Last year DDR3 was the most common, next year DDR4 will be the most likely choice (again, for a gaming PC, add another year or two for less high spec’ed machines), this year it depends on how much you’re spending.

  5. The biggest problem is memory. It has to be compatible with your motherboard of choice. I was once in a situation where my memory wasn’t working with my mobo even though it was on the approved list of memory. Only to find out after two hours of tinkering that I had to upgrade the Bios on the brand new board for the memory to work. I’ve also had issues with computer case dimensions being off or non-existent which resulted in me having to return my case because it would not accommodate my water cooling setup. It’s also a gamble when trying to pinch pennies. Sometimes you end up with junk. So, would I say building a gaming PC is hard? No, but it does require a little research and patience. Also, I’d have to say the motivation for building my own PC is not passion but rather I have a specific purpose for my rig and I know what I need and what I don’t.

    1. I had a similar problem a while back, only with the CPU. The motherboard I was using was compatible with the i5 CPU – but only after a BIOS update. Which meant getting it running first. Despite having a few random CPUs lying around, none were compatible. Ended up sending it back to the supplier so they could update it for me and send it back (no charge, which was nice of them).

      1. One time I bought a new board to replace a DOA one for a client, but the new board required a BIOS update in order to use the CPU. Fortunately, the shop had a CPU just old enough for the factory installed BIOS to boot and flash the latest BIOS from a USB stick.

      2. Had that problem once, think it was an Intel 440 board I wanted to use a PIII in a slotket on, but base bios support was only PII and I didn’t have one. It was a 1MB chip and I found I had a super 7 motherboard that used the same EEPROM, so the deally was, loosen the s7 BIOS, put strap under it, reinstall, boot s7 to dos, pull out s7 chip, insert socket 1 chip, flash, shut down, put everything back where it belongs. If you want more details, search “Hot Flash” -menopause -timeoflife -women -ovaries -gynaecologist -thechange -womb -period

  6. My 5 cent on the matter is… don’t try to build something in a case that is too small… due to my specific choice of water cooler it doesn’t fit with my RX480. So the water cooler is just hanging out the side at the moment but it all works well at least. I acutally orignally built this it run some Altera Quartus web edition as fast as possible on a budget (since it’s web edition is single threaded)

    g3258 OC @ 4.3 with water cooler
    16GB ram
    RX480 driving a Sceptre UV550 4k TV @60Hz

    1. ROFL, this is the equivalent annoyance for engineers.

      I recently put together a PC that is for general use and also the Altera and Xilinx IDE/ISE.

      I used a small form factor case and now I am having trouble with thermal management. I have good graphics cards here but I am not using them because they contribute to the thermal issues and increase the load on the PSU for no real gain.

      My two cents on CPU’s. Go to a CPU benchmarking site and you will see that CPU’s are no longer increasing in leaps and bounds like they once did. An older CPU with the same number of cores, same speed and a large cache can have a very similar or even higher performance benchmark to a much more modern (and much more expensive) CPU. There are some real gems in the list that are older (and cheap) chips that are up high in the list.

      So the best upgrade is often just more cores and not an upgrade to a more modern chip.

      My system is using a fast core 2 quad with lost of cache and has similar performance to a modern quad core.

      I would imagine thermal management is also a big issue for gaming machines.

      I am using a copper heat sink and a low noise case fan that will fit in a small from factor PC case. There are lots of similar ones that are useless aluminium (aluminum).

      With thermals –

      Aluminum can *store* heat well but is not good at *dissipating* it so it is good where the thermal load peaks briefly but is generally fluctuating around a low average load like in an office PC. In this situation it will regulate what would otherwise be annoying audible speed transitions of the fan.

      Copper can’t *store* much heat at all but it is good for dissipating it so it is good for when you have sustained high loads in performance systems.

      Specific Heat Capacity at 25oC in J/g°C (ability to store heat)
      Copper : 0.385
      Aluminum: 0.900

      Emissivity coefficients in ε (ability to transfer heat to air)
      Copper: 0.023 – 0.052
      Copper with oxide layer: 0.78
      Aluminum raw: 0.09
      Aluminum anodized: 0.77

      Thermal conductivity at 25°C in W/(m K) (ability to move heat away from the CPU and internally)
      Copper: 401
      Aluminum: 205

      Note: The efficiency of transferring heat to air is dependent on the air speed and thermal surface area and therefor dependent on thermal conductivity to transfer heat to that surface area.

      The ultimate expression of complete efficiency of heat sink (and optionally fan) is degrees Celcius per watt (°C/W)

      1. since copper is roughly three times a dense as aluminium the heat capacity of a similar sized heat sink will come out about the same. and copper has higher Thermal conductivity so it’ll more effectively more heat from the hot spot to the fins

      2. The emissivity is radiation heat in the IR. Since the fins are facing each other, basically no effect. The contact with air will do all the heat transfer. If it was a big sheet facing the outside, then a black oxide would be a good thing.

        1. Well I am not so sure. Photonic re-absorption is a quality within a material itself and this is why we anodize aluminum or oxidize copper.

          For example we see the sun as red. Does that mean that the sun has a higher emission of red?

          The answer is no. The sun has higher emissions of different frequencies but it also has higher absorption rates at those same frequencies.

          Red is the frequency at which (within our visible spectrum) the sun has the greatest positive difference between emission and absorption.

          So yes I agree with you about oxidization but that fact that the fins are facing each other has no influence given that in moving air the probability of photons colliding with the elements of air is still the same.

          1. “We see the sun as red”?
            We see the sun as yellow.
            Emission is white, and the atmosphere scatters the blue, thats why we are left with a yellow sun and blue sky.
            Im not sure what you were trying to say. What does the sun absorb exactly?

          2. ” in moving air the probability of photons colliding with the elements of air is still the same.”

            Air is pretty much transparent to the IR frequencies given off by a heatsink, at least over millimeter distances. It doesn’t absorb the radiation, and the heatsink fins are simply warming each other.

            The heat transfer happens by forced convection, literally air molecules bumping against the surface. There’s a viscous boundary layer of air against the heatsink surface that resists being blown off by sticking to any roughness in the surface, and it acts as an insulator. Meanwhile any surface roughness such as from anodizing or oxidation means more heat transferring surface for the molecules to hit, which means heat is transferred more efficiently into the boundary layer.

            It’s an optimization problem. Placing the heatsink fins close together and using a powerful fan forces the boundary layer to move, whereas placing the fins sparsely creates a low-friction channel in the middle that lets all the air flow through without much use, in which case the fins should be polished and smooth so the boundary layer gets picked up and along more easily.

          3. @[arnonymous]

            The sun is most efficient at absorbing the very same frequencies that it strongly emits so you could say it emits the color black.

            Some mixes of frequencies creates harmonics and some of these harmonics are distorted and the distortion results in other frequencies being emitted and some of these other frequencies are frequencies that the sun is not very efficient at absorbing.

    2. 17 years ago I got fed up with mini and mid towers and bought a 12 bay server case to put a new 300Mhz PIII in. Since it was close to 2000 I named it Megatower 2000.

      One item I installed, which had been through every one of my previous desktops since an old Packard Bell slimline 486 with a POD63 overdrive* (I’d had 386, 286 and 8088 boxen before that.) was my very first 1.44M floppy drive with a “putty” colored faceplate, bought it NEW, was $$$.

      Alas, some time later “Old Putty” died of change line failure and got put out to pasture trashcan.

      I still have that massive case, but everything else in it has been changed many times. That and the old floppy drive are the only bits of computer gear I’ve ever given names to.

      *Nope, it couldn’t take an overclock to 83Mhz. First computer I installed original Windows 95 on, from backup copies of an original floppy set.

      1. I have a PC Speaker, from a PC XT that went in every main rig until the middle 00s … got a motherboard with onboard bleep which was the combo breaker… I think its still installed in a box somewhere though. I keep meaning to reinstate the tradition because speaker headers are still around.

      2. P3’s came in 400mhz – 1.4GHZ spec. No 300MHZ p3’s to be had for desktops. Laptop CPU’s were either BGA or weirdo sockets. Those chips were also slot load, which allowed people to upgrade an older slot CPU to a 1.4GHZ celeron Tualatin core chip with much much better performance. P2’s came in 233 – 450mhz range. Still have 1 or 2 sticking around in a box somewhere. I think I will build a CPU wall at some point.

  7. One of the reason that many don’t build PC’s anymore is integration. There’s so much more emphasis on laptops, all-in-ones and mini integrated PC’s like intel’s nucs, Microsoft’s surface e.t.c.

    Android/ios Smartphones and tablets can also do a lot of what casual computer users need to be done i.e. web browsing, checking email, casual gaming, word processing e.t.c. The PC market is generally not as hot anymore.

    And this is not good because more hardware integration gives rise to companies adding all kinds of proprietary software to lock these devices into using specific OS’s and software.

    1. Another reason would be the end of Moore’s Law. I am still running off i5 rig I built 3 years ago because there’s not many that can outperform a 5GHz overclocked i5 2600k and because of this CPU, I haven’t had any reason to replace motherboard. All I’ve done in the last 3 years is replace the 580GTX video card with something modern, replaced one hard drive with a 1TB SSD, added in 2x 3TB hard drives for file storage, and added BD-ROM.

      Most games won’t benefit from any CPU that has more than 4 cores and generally I don’t run more than one game at once. Non-gaming rig can continue to benefit from modern CPU that has “whole lotta cores” for video or 3D image or for multi-boxing games like World of Warcraft but for one gamer, one game I haven’t seen a need for major upgrade or new rig.

      1. My MPC TransPort T2500 (rebranded Samsung X65) from 2008 with its Core 2 Duo CPU, 4 fully accessible gigs RAM, 500 gig hard drive with a 1680×1050 screen runs Windows 10 quite nicely. The one and only thing I wish it had is an ExpressCard slot instead of CardBus. WTH was Samsung thinking? CardBus was DEAD by 2008. I’d had an older Dell Inspiron and an even older Acer with Cardbus. Both were inferior in every way (except the slot) to the MPC/Samsung.

        If only I could hack it to make the TurboCache Mini PCIe slot function as a normal Mini PCIe slot. Then I could add USB 3.0. I got a cheap MiniPCIe to USB adapter and after some clipping and grinding of the USB port’s solder lugs I have a tiny little 64gig USB drive installed under the memory cover.

    2. This.

      I’ve been a 3D FPS gamer ever since the shareware demo of Wolfenstien 3D hit the market. What I have noticed lately is that there has been a massive shift from desktop gamers to laptop gamers in the PC gaming side of the market.

      It is really amazing how far laptop cards have come towards being 3D-rendering powerhouses. Many of these gamers are even able to play using “Ultra” setting at a usable framerate. I even bought an off-lease Dell Precision M6600 and the Quadro card it has can play a lot of my games at 60fps. Not bad for $300. Only problem it has is that, while being a laptop, its not particularly mobile.

      My desktop has a couple of GTX 980s in SLI, more RAM, and way more processor than you need for gaming (because when has “enough” ever been enough for a gaming/custom build enthusiast). If you are just going for gaming, though, you can pick up a cheap i5, 8GB of RAM, and a GTX 970 for a PC that can play anything you want at 1080p 60fps, so learning how to build your own PC is well within the reach of a large portion of the gaming market.

      1. Yeah those Laptops chew through some power and are no longer on the 40 – 90 watt range power packs more along the lines of 175 – 250 watt and the laptops last all of 15 mins on battery in performance mode using the accelerated GPU.

        I worked at a computer store in the early 90s along when Wolf3d “damn midi music is now stuck in my head” then Doom & ROTT came along and other titles etc Warcraft then WAR2, we’d have lans and pizza every other night stay back at work til 4 am then turn up at 10am repair peoples junk then play Doom all day with the guy who owned the store and he said to us you will never need more than “32mb ram”
        Never need more than 32mb of ram

        Well hmm

        1. I’ve never been happy with any of the machines I spent “real” money on. Example one, back in the noughties, bought a motherboard that reviewed well, that was supposed to support DDR333, bought a GPU with a manufacturer supported overclocking function, bought top name DDR333 that some people had had up to DDR450…. bought a cooler that was popular on the hottest thunderbird CPUs, and bought an Athlon XP, and a case with preinstalled PSU, now, extreme crap in PSUs wasn’t so endemic then, and this was sufficiently oversized that I did not worry initially. Anyhoo, the expectation was that this could be an extremely high performance system…. nope… it was unstable with the RAM at any other than DDR266… the GPU rapidly artifacted more than a couple of mhz off default clocks, the CPU ran hot with a cooler that was supposed to cope with 30W more than the TDP… I spent months trying to sort this pig out, bought a new cooler, bought a new PSU,… other people were having issues with the board too though, and there was the typical internet diffracted quality and variety of tips and voodoo, the manufacturer was releasing a new BIOS every 2 weeks and it was always “maybe this one…” but then after there was more than 2 reasonable stable ones to choose from, you got divided camps of only this one really really works stable etc, complete with voodoo settings, but of course had to try EVERY LAST FREAKING THING

          Now it seemed like the exact week my warranty was out, news broke that there was in fact a hardware problem with the board and the manufacturer grudgingly admitted to it. Incorrect capacitor value on the 4x AGP, resulting in noise on the AGP and other system buses. Some dudes figured out the DIY fix, I tore my system apart one last time, soldered in a new capacitor, and holy crap, I can now run my RAM at DDR333 and get modest overclocks on the GPU reasonable performance at last….. for last year.

          A few months pass, I’m totally pissed about the whole thing, I want to put the fun back into “messing with computers” again. I’ve got the PSU I took out and the cooler, I go to a “computer fair” with a hundred bucks and pick up a AMD761 motherboard (1st gen DDR) a couple of T-Bred durons, a GF 4200 that “the guy” swears will be fine if I replace the fan. Ungodly cheap tinny case, generic DDR266… I get home, realise the 761 chipset has some insane tuning options, ziptie a 60mm fan on the 4200, unlock the durons, (Only mobile unlock worked at that point) and inside 2 weeks I’m humming along at 2.4Ghz the GF4200 is hitting 4600 speeds the chipset timings are tightened to hell, the FSB is 178, and running bank interleaving, for DDR356 with IIRC somewhere near 3.5Gb RAM bandwidth (It was pretty decent then) 3DM2k1 at a stable everyday ~15k (Though I went higher but can’t remember how high, don’t think I broke 20 though) …. I didn’t care that Dx9 was out, this little cheap bugger, with the reject cooler and PSU made me happy, ran it 5 years. System I spent several times as much on never broke about 9k in comparison,Most parts I used for the 2nd box apart from the tbred durons that were fresh out, were available even up to a year before I bought the other. What did I do with the other duron? Well I built a box for my wife with a used K7S5a, which wasn’t quite so wrung out, you know, fans not so loud, don’t have to run a temp monitor, milder, and that did a good 5 years donkey work for probably $30 invested. Both of those although you might say they were solidly high middle end by the time, that was only middle end by self builder/gamer measures, you’d have been spending over a thousand to get the same performance pre-built…… and that’s if they didn’t gyp you with some complete dog of a part, i.e dell or HP custom version of a GPU that actually runs slower with half the ram etc.

          I’m not much of a gamer any more, go in for more classic stuff now. They totally pissed in the well to my mind when they went to online only, continual validation, i,e, it’s not yours any more at their whim. However, I am talking myself into and out of, about 3 times a minute, trying again with the new Zen cpus. (It’s burning me up I’m not playing Elite 4)

          I can’t say I’ve never owned prebuilt desktop PCs, I have, they’ve remained pre-built for about a couple of hours, then got torn apart and rebuilt. My favorite trick the last few years has been picking up practically discarded machines and working them over to middle endish whereupon various members of teh fam get an average 3 years or so out of them. Example, 1.6Ghz PentiumD Dell got a 3Ghz Core 2 Duo, it’s done it’s time actually, can’t get more than 4GB in it, or better GPU, and it’s starting to hurt. (I know it’s still a nice linux machine, it probably will be, just ain’t nice for the general windoze user now) Similar thing happened to an Acer that shipped with an early slow socket am2, got the ram maxed and an X2-6000 in it. Tip, upgrade the BIOS before you wang the old CPU across the workshop ;-)

          It seems like every single time, I’ve been sad, dissatisfied with something, it was $$$, and every time I’ve been really happy with something, it was practically repurposed junk, or very cheap. Socket 7 Era for example, ended up with a K6-2@450 (Silly buggers at AMD misprinted 333 on it for some reason) crammed into a board that the manufacturers swore would only take a P166, with a Voodoo3 that I got for basically a quarter price with stacked coupons, and that played everything that came out until gigahertz cpus got mainstream (And 3dfx support died)

          1. you make me quite nostalgic when i read all of this had similar experiences with bad board and expensive junk. I think i was just much more adventurous with cheap hardware since it was so cheap or basically junk that i didn’t really care if it went up in smoke after a few weeks and to my surprise most of the time i had an awesome computer for very cheap. even did a bit of bios modding in my days unlocking hidden features and stuff was quite a rush.

          2. Right, always a rush unlocking the hidden menus. Or going as far as lifting support for newer cores from a different BIOS and crossing your fingers it worked. Often that “one last upgrade” was never drop in, had to get down and dirty with the vid pins or multi pins to force FSB, voltage, or multiplier.

            Yes maybe the being braver with cheaper stuff was a factor. Some of the superstar bleeding edge overclockers were either rich enough to be like that with the new stuff or had hardware thrown at them.

        2. I just put together my first full custom desktop about 6 months ago so of course i asked around. I got pretty much the same advice, only this version was “You’ll never need more than 32gb of ram”.

          Ponder that for a moment. In the end though my motherboard and CPU both top out at 32gb, and with one of four 8gb ram chips i’ll get there eventually.

          1. My “gaming rig” (which does double duty as a VM learning testbed and an Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator machine) has 32GB of quad-channel RAM in it already. ;D

            I did exercise at least some restraint, though… The motherboard/CPU support 64GB (though, I did make sure that I populated the 32GB using the largest DIMMs supported so I can upgrade to 64GB in the future, if need be).

      2. I nearly bought one of those super Dell laptops with the swappable video card and optional subwoofer built into the battery. Two things put me off it. First was the weight of a fully loaded unit, pushing 10 pounds. Second was the insanely ludicrous price the best GPU module went for on eBay, and it only had (IIRC) 256 or 512 meg VRAM.

        Nice LCD and awesome (in its day) performance, but too muck like an old ‘luggable’ otherwise.

        1. Haha, yeah… This one was actually meant not to be “mobile” so much as function as a workstation that was capable of being transported easily to a customer site. It does have a beautiful 17.3″ 1080P screen (pretty sure mine even has the IPS display), and the GPU is an Nvidia Quadro 3000M (2GB) so it can play a decent number of games that still have a userbase.

          However, I generally don’t take it with me unless I need it for some Photoshop/Illustrator or I actually plan on playing some games away from my “gaming rig”. Basically, my phone has a big enough screen to watch some netflix up close and it can get me all the info I need from the internet, should I need any. My biggest gripe with it, as was already mentioned, is that you don’t get full CPU or GPU performance off the battery. You MUST plug in the 210W power brick (serious about the word “brick”, here… I ended up finding a thin version of the power supply on ebay, but after wrapping up the long, thick cables on both ends it still takes up a significant amount of bag space) to get full performance.

          But I knew what I was getting into when I bought it. I really did want a “Mobile Workstation”-class laptop. It impresses me that they really did fit a decent workstation into a (somewhat huge) laptop bag, and I appreciate the fact that I can choose to upgrade to 32GB of RAM and a better CPU or GPU down the road. I never would have bought a laptop if I hadn’t found these mobile workstations on ebay, because I have always felt safer with the replaceable parts in my desktop systems.

          1. I wouldn’t wait too far down the upgrade road. Get the best parts you can now, before the thing is discontinued for the next ‘standard’ and prices of the out of production modules go nutzo like a 128 meg SmartMedia used to be right after those stopped being made.

  8. “The Internet is a lot easier to use for answers than it used to be”


    is it?

    I find quite the opposite, having to wade through piles of BS paid search results and scam sites to try and find what used to be freely offered by enthusiasts. The internet has become materially LESS useful to me in the last few years.

    1. Agreed, search engines have got so dumbed down they are getting useless. I don’t care how many results there are for a subset of my search terms, I wanted results that match. For example try one piece anything anything and get spammed with swimsuits. Yah I know about quotes, have to quote every damn word now.

      1. You can help the search engine by being more specific and adding in keywords. Using your example, if you were to search: “one piece anime”, then you might find it closer to what you are trying to search for.

      2. Or when I search for something for a 1998 Ford Explorer and get “hits” for every other damn year, manufacturer and type of vehicle.

        When someone enters 1998 Ford Explorer into a search engine, every single result should have every one of those three words, in that exact order, really close together. If a page does not, then it damn well is NOT what I’m looking for.

        Anymore what one must do is tack on a string of words with – in front of then to weed out *some* of the useless results. Putting quotes around strings of words is 100% useless. The search engines ignore them.

        They all treat the user as a brain dead idiot who does not know what they want, ‘helping’ by ‘correcting’ your spelling, which is highly annoying when trying to find info on a company or product with a creatively spelled name.

        Back when Games Workshop was attempting to trademark “Space Marine” I found that in the 70’s a company called Fan-Tac Games had an RPG named Space Marine. It was *impossible* to look for any information on Fan-Tac games for a while. ALL the search engines insisted I *must* be searching for FANTASY games and no matter how I crafted the content of what I entered, fantasy games was all they would give me – until I wrote about that BS on a couple of popular forums in discussions on Games Workshop’s greed etc. A few days later, lo and behold, a search for “Fan-Tac Games” would actually bring up results containing “Fan-Tac Games”, but still with the you must be an idiot, are you sure you don’t mean fantasy games? link.

        There are people working for Yahoo, Google etc who do watch for such things, but they’ll never go back to making their search engines as really useful as the used to be for people who know WTH they’re doing.

        I want a web search like it’s 1999! It could be done with a checkbox to enable a strict, do exactly what the user says, no second guessing, no “correcting”, no assuming the user is an illiterate ignoramus mode.

        1. Right on Commander!

          It particularly upsets me that you can’t drill down inside results any more with further keywords.

          I die a little inside though the one time in fifty it correctly corrects a typo and gives me what I wanted.

    2. Actually another factor in that is demise of personal webspace. Death of geocites, aol hometown etc. Stuff posted on facebook more than 3 months ago may as well be lost for all the use facebooks’s search is. At least get a wordpress blog or post on a forum if you want to share tech info.

      Oh last year I had a doozy, as far as it illustrates how fragmented the “web” has become for information, tech-ish company I was trying to find product support for, had a webpage, frozen in time, two or three updates on it, and the last one was “See our myspace page.” I brace myself, go there, crickets, two or three product boosters and last post, “see our facebook” again freaking ghost town, two or three posts “We now have twitter” go to freaking twitter, dead profile again, couple of posts, “Follow us on google plus” GAH! Go there, last post 6 months ago, again some puerile product stuff, no actual info, none of these pages had any info, any customer interaction, just 100% social media ADD and complete failure to leverage presence on any of them.

      1. myspace still exists??? I remember hating the thought of it, then being forced to make an account. Three months later i was banned from myspace. Social media is far less ‘social’ than it should be. I don’t see how anyone can stand a curated news feed and constant repost chatter when there are things to be doing!

        I’ve always wanted my own website so i finally bought a domain name. now i just have to pay for hosting. guh.

    3. Agreed. We really need something finds and removes or blocks questions asked by never answered. They make up most of the list now on a search for everything from hardware compatibility to an OS error or obscure Linux problem.

      1. I want to be a tech forum mod so I can kickban people who fail to actually *read* the OPs and respond by telling the OP to try *exactly* what they said they’d already tried, that didn’t work.

        Worse are the one and done help-seekers who at the end of a thread announce they solved their problem then *poof* gone, never to be seen again, without posting *what the fix was that worked*. Many have been the times of slogging across the web wastelands in search of a solution to an issue, and all I find are repeats of exactly the same thread where exactly the same issue was supposedly resolved, but without revelation of the actual solution.

  9. Oh I remember that motherboard article and I remember raging at the time. That’s a guy who spent £2k on gaming PC parts then complained that they were hard to put together. Thing is spend 30 minutes on watching a youtube video and that’ll clear up the process massively. That guy did not watch one of those videos, if he couldn’t afford to because his time is worth thousands of pounds an hour that’s fair enough but I’m guessing it’s not, making him a fool. The same sort of person who would complain about the price of a tow-truck instead of googling “how to replace a tyre”.

    I built my first PC back in 2007 and the only problem I remember having was that it’s possible to jam a 4-pin CPU power connector the wrong way into an 8 pin socket. Across time I’ve encountered two other problems, one was a dodgy bios which for some reason caused crashes when there was a PCI-E wireless card installed, which would admittedly have been a hard thing to figure out if that card had been essential. Step one of troubleshooting is “update the bios” as youtube would show anyway. The other was some damage on a second hand workstation motherboard. The 4 DIMM slots on CPU 1 work fine but the slots attached to CPU 2 cause memory errors if used.

    1. Makes me wonder what computers will be like in 2040. When I got started with my first computer back in 1983, a computer running at over 10Mhz was truly un-imaginable. I envied the guys a few years older, they got to start at the start of the microcomputer revolution.

  10. As someone who’s built many a PC and a few gaming rigs I still find it hard to spec up a PC if i want one, and I deliberately stay away from anyone looking for someone to ‘just build it’ for them.

    Why? The biggest issue I find is I want the best value for money, so normally sites such as toms hardware or whatever will say ‘card X is great, best value for money’ – I then find no where in the UK actually stocks it; and end up trying to buy the closest thing possible. Repeat this for each component.

    And then I get all the parts, the actual physical building process is easy but after a few weeks / months the ‘wow’ factor starts to wear off a bit, and I’m asking myself how to improve it slightly more. I’ve found at this point I normally end up finding out the components I’ve chosen have got some flaw to them that I never realized was there and wasn’t really mentioned clearly in the researching. Either this, or just plain realising that I haven’t exactly spec’ed out what I wanted due to price constraints or unobtainable parts. Such as my current linux desktop, 12Gb ram simply isn’t enough for the number of VM’s I want to fire up, but I never before really experienced playing with VM’s due to not having enough cpu to do so!

    1. Yeah, that can be where I get into trouble, basic functionality, no problem, but all the performance and advanced features you paid extra for argue with each other. It all works on default, but may as well have bought an e-machine.

    2. I want to get a new videocard to replace my creaky “old” GeForce 9800GT. There’s a few ‘hot’ models out there, amid a ton of them that are not so hot, even some that are theoretically two or three generations advanced but in practice actually perform no better and in some cases worse than the card I have.

      1. The trap, particularly when moving up the DX (Direct X) generation ladder, is that the cheap card of the new gen is probably going to be uglier and slower than the good card of the last gen, because you have to turn all the detail off, whereas if the game defaults to previous DX api you leave all features of that turned on with the old/good one.

        I would guesstimate, that you don’t begin to feel an “upgrade” from a high end previous gen until you get mid range or better on the new DX gen. Slightly confusing because some direct X generations have had more than one generation of GPU in.

        Under nVidia’s naming, the ones to avoid for other than basic surfing boxes, were the x10s and x20s, the x30s were possible gussied up x20 cores, the x10s gussied down with last gen ram or something. When you got into x40s they were getting better, but you probably wanted x60 to really feel like you got something new. This is where x is number not in name of card. However, your big box store might not go beyond the x40 or so because then they’ll have too many returns and problems from customers blowing PSUs etc, because beyond that, they will need something more than generic. …. and if you don’t want to change your PSU out, given it coped with the 9800 I wouldn’t go too far from middle middle end in nVidia, you might not get as much ooomph with AMD for the power they’ve tended to be thirstier.

        1. Would be easier if nVidia would quit completely revamping their naming scheme every so often. Back in the day it was easier. If it had the Ti suffix it was the shiznit, period. The difference between a garden variety GeForce 2 and a GeForce 2Ti was wooowwwwwwo! Look, I can turn all the detail settings to max, and it doesn’t stutter!

          What still t’s me off a bit is if I’d gotten into Bitcoin mining when I first heard about it, the 9800 could have made me some serious real coin. But instead of checking it out, I thought it must be some deal for hacking some in-game ‘currency’ for an MMORPG. :(

          I did get into mining for some other cryptocoins, got on a real good site (this was after the MTGox a-holes took the bitcoin and ran)… and the people running the site decided to be like MTGox. Didn’t lose much… now if only a large amount of POPcoin was worth anything… I just wanted to accumulate one Bitcoin, needed 0.1 BTC to cash out there and I’d mined and traded to (IIRC) 0.09

  11. I am an advid researcher, I can get my HP printer to print once in awhile, I can work with encrypted PDF files and without unencrypting them make them work for me. I am not an idiot. But I am not skilled in computers either. I have always dreamed of having this crazy computer rig. This dream computer that would rival bat man, Tony Stark, and Captain Power. But I had to move a lot in the past. I only ever had a rented room in a small house as my lair. I never had tools, or a work shop. I never had a lock on my door to keep lousy house mates out of my private stuff.
    I guess my bullet point is, without money, a safe place to work, a safe environment, and stability in ones life, consoles like PS4 or Xbox will always reign supreme because of financial and time and living restraints. If you own your own house, have your own space, and are financially stable, you are able to accomplish more.
    Case in point: my friend the ex tech guy running security for a big German tech company and I had to store his custom rig for the past 5 months while he lived in my van in a different city looking for work. He was smart enough to spend thousands on his hand made custom computer, which currently sits on my shelf in plastic while I’ve gotten to level 47 in Elder Scrolls Online and have read almost every published article from Hack A Day.
    The argument that makes sense is that I have a license to drive air brake vehicles up to Class 3 or DZ. Just because I drive the truck doesn’t mean I need to know how to build it. However, my bone of contention is that I want to learn more. I want to know how to change the tires, change the oil, check transmission fluid.
    With my lap top, I feel powerless to do much with it because Microsoft ensured that with each new operating system, adware would reign.
    I guess I study hack a day, not to build the ultimate PC that will rival Batman or skynet, but to learn the lower end arduino and pi tricks to build green houses and grow food effectively. Gaming rigs don’t put food on the table or pay bills. Food growing systems do.
    So in conclusion, the gaming rig or super PC is dead. The new revolution is now, its food production computers and sensors, water finding rigs, better sensors, and better ways to survive and prosper.
    We’re through the looking glass. The new toys are the ones that shoot things, blow things up, transfer energy from heat to DC, and food. Medical tools will always be in need, but this community missed the killing joke.
    The punchline is despite Steve Jobs brilliance, he never found the cure for cancer.
    The joke? If you Google what it looks like, not what it is, its there.
    The real joke? I can’t understand the definitive book on this subject: the body electric.
    If you think you are going to fight cancer, look up Antoine Priore. College De Bourdeaux in France.
    Cross reference with quantum entanglement.
    Cross reference with Dr. Rife.
    Cross reference Tom Bearden and his notes.
    Cross reference pulsed plasma and rotational fields.
    Booyah! You want the truth? Gaming rigs and games are for amusement. Social media is distraction advertising.
    You can’t handle the truth.
    Despite Bill Gates and his Monsanto ownership, he will never understand the true power of the darkside.
    If you wish to become more powerful than Steve Jobs, you need to understand his failures.
    Games are models to test reality. Gaming rigs are neither here nor there. My phone is more powerful than the Sega genesis. Do gaming rigs matter?
    Arguably, why waste the time to build a gaming rig when you can cure cancer, feed people who are hungry, make eyeglass frames to let people see, create radios to communicate, and do metallurgy to make better tools?
    The computer is disposable! The person is not!
    Vive LA revolution!
    Vive LA resistance!

    Lol! Good rant eh?
    Time to slay some dregmora!

  12. i agree with the concensus on MODERN computer building

    its almost plug and play with a few settings thrown in and should not be made out as being a huge hassle, most of the hassel comes from either sub-standard parts or the effort to ebay/recycle/repurpose/free/ect

    if your interested in a lower-power build (relative to gaming, still fast computer for web/ect) and your budget is large enough to be purchasing new in-box parts from computer-parts stores with WORKING return/refund policys then its super easy and only as expensive as you make it out to be. THE TIME COMPLAINT IS ONLY APPLICABLE TO WAITING FOR AN ONLINE-STORE EXCHANGE OR RETURN, and does not actually require any time out of your day! you just wait two more days (or weeks) for the delivery

    if you have yet to “get-into” a specific game, then the mere one week of waiting will not “kill” you in-game as your level/progress/score/phase/city/ect fades every day you dont play…

    as for costs, remember; the biggest cost in gaming computer building is the SOCIAL BRAGGING “RIGHTS” for people with top-notch FPS while using top-notch graphics andor screen settings!
    if only eliete computer experts could partake, then it would not be a popular or profitable game

    they know you come from a world of one-size-fits-all(game on a system) and are BS-ing you into believeing you need the best possible system to even start, seeing as thats what you were led to believe when purchasing your console (its the newest edition, so it HAS to be the best preformance and cost, right?) but this is not true as PC games are meant to be variable graphics-settings so that a larger audience can buy and play the game but the game not have to be made to suck (graphically) for the owners of better hardware

    if you dont care for that framerate then dont spend on that framerate and use lower (in-game?) settings to achieve decent game-play, usually the default or an auto-detect during install will be playable. … you ARE installing using the ORIGINAL installer, arent you? if not, it means you chose not to pay to play, and the game was copied “pre-installed” with whatever settings were used last, even settings only auto-config during original install. unless the crackers also crack the install and provide a new install/config utility, but i doubt it

    trust me its the graphics, it really is, there are only really three cases where main system CPU affects gaming;
    0) wrong decade
    1) emulators (basiclly compiling/translating while you play… compiling takes a while)
    2) the modern game Stalker (i think) (maybe this “bug” was fixed?)
    3) 90’s games on 90’s computers, like Duke3D (back then, CPU speed affected your score)

    just remember to always ground static from yourself, your computer, and your card, before laying a finger on the bare circuit boards. everything you put into your computer has a large-grounded metal part, that is what you touch before anything else and youll be okay. just dont leave a board laying around with a cable attached! always disconnect all cables before leaving anything laying around and you’ll be okay unless you have cats, then use original anti-static aka anti-cat-static bags and maybe even a cardboard box.
    as for motherboards, modern ones have grounded plugs on the back, when working with mobos from waaay back (ie 1988), you’d probably want to go for the power connector, the side oppisite the powergood/reset signal (pinout back then was universal)

  13. The timing of this article is interesting as I just got done building a gaming rig for my wife.
    For as long as it is possible and practical, I will continue to use desktop computers. Why? Because I built it the way I want it. There’s really no such thing as a custom laptop. I’ve been building my own PCs since I got my first one in 1991. I hope that they don’t die off anytime soon.

  14. Is PC building a thing now? Back in the ’90 and early ’00 it was so easy literally kids like me could do it. The last PC I’ve built was about 10 years ago from some scraps. It’s been laptops only ever since. For one reason or another I have no need for a stationary.

    1. Clevo make some that might fit the bill. Though ‘massively upgraded’ is a relative term. Case in point I bought two of theirs, one 11.6″ on which I swapped the CPU, RAM, HDD, wifi card and LCD, the GPU was soldered though so that stayed. I also bought a 17.3″ with an MXM GPU so that’s replaceable.

    2. They have existed in the past, but they’ve tended to be a secret until they’ve been a year or two in the market and people start tearing them apart. You need a crystal ball to know how long given sockets and interfaces are actually going to live. There’s been instances where you could have bought a low end pentium laptop in 1996 and put a K6-III in it in 1999, or a low end 1.1 ghz mobile athlon in 2001 and put a 2.5Ghz mobile barton in it in 2004 or bought a sempron in 2005 and put a Turion X2 in it in 2007, some pentium Ms could get core 2s.

      Then sometimes you find out the graphics hardware was modular but proprietary and you figure you can switch the best available in the range, for what you had in the stripper. But those options only get cost effective off eBay in maybe 3 years after it was “good”, and at the point you buy the stripper you’ve maybe got no idea that that will even exist. Also you could get the reverse of this, turns out that the good deal model you get is using the 3 year old system board that started with CPUs at less than half the speed, and this is the pinnacle of what it will support…. but on the plus side if you ever drop it, you can part it out for nice money.

      1. Oh by the way, as a general rule, you probably have to go up 2 or 3 steps off base graphics to have any hope in hell of having a model with a swappable module, so, not intel or amd onboard (in CPU) or the base level nVidia or AMD onboard discrete. …. and once you get to that one, that’s what Best Buy is treating like the Ferrari, probably doubles the price because it’s the best GPU they’ll actually have sitting in the store (even though it’s still dire) … then there’s surprisingly little incremental differences between the “real” GPU options, as compared to the desktop counterparts, and they try to hide it in the model specs by loading up the next one up with double the RAM and SDD size (Hence really $150 of the difference is for those at commodity pricing, seeming like you only really pay $50 for the better GPU)

        I’ve also seen the odd case where you need to swap GPU module and CPU at the same time, because in the low spec model, they give you the cheap 35W CPU and the high spec model has the much faster but super low power 15W model, and the thermal solution (and maybe the power adapter) won’t handle the 35W cpu plus the thirsty GPU.

  15. i think people are typically overthinking their gaming rigs. sure there is sli and water cooling, neither are worth the hassle imho. i built a budget gaming rig 2 years ago with a $600 budget and i still cant justify upgrading it. it runs everything at 60+. or you can spend 3 times that on a rig that is only marginally better.

    1. But that’s always the case. After a certain point, there is diminishing returns. You can keep spending money, but only incremental improvement. Same with hifi systems. The reality is some people see it as an end in itself, so spending money on those golden phono or USB connectors no matter how small an improvement (they have to believe there’s an improvement) is acceptable.

      The real trick is figuring the balance, “good enough” but also more than enough to allow for the future, without overextending. If you buy low, you will have to buy again sooner. Buy too much, it’s not doing anything, but by the time you need it, it likely will be cheaper.



      1. thing is when you get that far into the whole gaming rig build scene, you are no longer building a gaming rig, you are pretty much in the same group of people as those who put a post market spoiler on their car to make it faster. it just gets silly somewhere between $1.5k and $3k bulds.

        as for the balance part, its gone from a year between upgrades and 2 years between builds, to somewhere around 4 or 5 years between builds and no reason to upgrade, since the builds are in the $500-800 range. my old rig is still good enough to play most of the games i play without much of a performance hit and that was a $900 build.

        there are some exceptions though, you start getting into 4k and vr, then you need a bit higher end video hardware. multiple screens, same thing. but thats still well in the sane zone as far as build budgets go.

        1. I am solidly GRM rather than Tokyo Drift.

          I guess that’s kinda why I drifted away from the overclocking “scene” online, got a bunch of n00bs who were more interested putting lights on things than making them go fast.

    2. That’s all true and has been like that since the 286 was better than the 88, get the first 90% of fastest possible for X dollars, get 95% for 2X dollars and 100% for 4X dollars… Where I always liked to be was at 80-90% stock and try and clock it up to 105% :-D Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I found things out later I wish I’d known “in the day” like I found P75 chips that would do 166 (2×83) … though kinda hard to tell when they started implementing the 2x on them, the older gold cap ceramics didn’t have it. Every other celeron was sometimes a good bet, 300A and friends, good, coppermine, bad, tualatin good, willamette bad, northwood, well okayish, prescott based, meh, allendale good,

    3. Depends on what you are playing. I play a couple of games regularly that you would not get 60+ fps out of $600 and two year old parts. I know because I have had to upgrade THAT machine to get more than 15+ fps out of certain games.

      Some games will run like shit with a GTX980 or greater if you don’t have a modern and fast CPU with 16GB of RAM.

      Some games will run great with a GTX660ti and an i5 running at 2.8Ghz and 8GB of RAM

      Some games will play fine with a GTX550 and an i7 OC’d to 5GHz and 4 GB of RAM (why wouldn’t you have 32GB and the newest GTX GPU as well at this point, but whatever)

      It depends on a lot of factors, which game engine the devs used, the machines they were using for testing, does it have support for multithreading, does it support SLI natively etc etc.

      So for YOUR games of choice, you are likely spot on, but for what I play, you would be hurting when the action gets intense and your frames drop to nothing. Its all variable

      1. Yeah, like right now I have my trusty i7-3930K, 32GB DDR3 at 1866MHz, and two GTX 980s in SLI, but Deus Ex: Mankind Divided won’t run at better than 40fps at max settings. They have mentioned that the game “will support” SLI in an upcoming update, but right now my extra GPU is just sitting there generating heat.

        I really hope that the Nvidia drivers are smart enough to assign PhysX tasks to the unused GPU, but there isn’t any way of finding that out that I know of. Anyway, that does just go to show that not all games are going to make use of your extra $400-1000+ investment. Luckily, I managed to buy two GTX 980s from a friend for $100 each when he upgraded his Folding@Home machine from 8 GTX 980s to 8 GTX TITAN Xs. I sold my Asus GTX 970 Strix for $280 with shipping included on eBay a month before the 1000-series hit the market, so I will get to enjoy a PC that is well outside my normal price range for a little while, anyway. But I also get to deal with the disappointment I feel when I get a lower framerate with SLI 980s vs. a friend who only has one 980ti.

          1. No, no one NEEDS to play at max settings, and I have spent the vast majority of my gaming “career” (no I don’t make any money gaming) playing at a mix of mid and high settings (when I could get by with a ‘high’ setting without dropping below 60fps very often). Most of that PC was purchased to play with virtual machines (as in, a whole networked VMware lab worth of them), which explains the 6-core i7-3930K vs a much more sensible i5-2500K and 32GB of RAM vs the normal 8GB used in most gaming rigs. I was chugging along quite happily with a GTX 470 until about a year ago, and I finally got tired of the enormous amount of heat that thing was constantly hosing into my bedroom. That was when I upgraded to the GTX 970, and that 970 was absolutely all I would have needed to run at high settings at 1080p and 60fps. When two GTX 980s presented themselves for $100/ea, I wasn’t going to say ‘no’.

            Now, as to playing at max settings: 3D video games are our culture’s way of creating an alternate, virtual, or fantasy reality into which we can escape for an hour or so a day to help unwind from the tedium and frustration of real life. The reason AAA games sell as well as they do, and why GPU manufacturers can sell cards that cost over $1K each, is because the more convincing that world appears, the more immersive that virtual universe becomes. I don’t see any reason why a person with the money to spend shouldn’t do so. As a side effect of that sale, everyone’s GPU hardware costs less over time and the technology is pushed forward to the next level.

            All I can really say is that I will be disappointed when it comes time to upgrade from these 980s, because I will have to go back to mid-high settings and won’t be getting the full effect anymore… I’m going to be stuck with the level of immersion that I currently have for probably the next 7-10 years, until GPU prices are driven down enough for me to lag along 3-5 years behind “full effect” once more.

        1. Maybe they are. Forgot what I was fiddling with the other year, had a machine with a nVidia PCI card installed along with a Radeon and to my surprise game demo I ran used the nV card for physx, even though display was on Radeon.

    4. This is absolutely true. The biggest difference between someone knowing more and building a pc and someone new to the process is how much people value particular parts. Someone new will go out and buy the latest and greatest and often end up wasting a ton of money. You don’t need an i7, or a 4k monitor, or a gtx1080 to run AAA games. You don’t need to run AAA games at the highest settings.

      People look at building their own pc and they think it costs too much, but it costs less because you don’t end up paying for what you don’t need.

  16. personally, I find the world of computer building to be overwhelmingly complicated, I’ve spent years trying to wrap my head around the art of computer building. I know that there are sites that help you pick parts, but just to dip my toes in the water last year, I spent 3 or 4 hours trying to find out if the graphics card and RAM I was looking at were compatible with my cheapo small desktop. the RAM I was 90% sure of based on crucial’s website saying “yeah, that RAM will work!” It did, and I was happy.
    I was 99% sure on the graphics card because one of the parts selector websites said “yup, this graphics card will fit” and some of the reviews said “yup, it’s made for small computers” well. .it wasn’t, yeah it fit into the PCIe slot, but the metal bits didn’t fit in the back knockout slot area (no idea what the technical term is). I was so pissed by that point I just started cutting metal bits off until it fit and by george, I got it, and it works great. but now my DVI and VGA ports are zip tied to the frame rather than securely bolted in place. I was sad.
    But! one day, I will have money to spend on a decent computer, and I will just copy a build by someone else, which is easy to find.

    1. I never understood the point of building the typical “gaming” pc.
      I have built dozens of computers from low end cobbled together spare parts up to the high end eye wateringly expensive.
      The one single thing that i have never understood is paying twice the price for a 5% improvement.
      I have never had to overclock something, and i favor amd over intel because i can get a top of the line 8 core amd processor for $300(?) last check? The next best intel is what? $500+?
      I have just picked an x core processor, bought a board from a good brand, usually asus for the good history, and then put in as nice a card as i could afford for $200, with as much ram as i could afford for $100.
      I have not been riddled with compatibility issues, and they have all run well for 5 years? After which they get repurposed as something else.

      I will agree on the thermals though. I have had tough times with microatx boards and cases. Seems to be too hard to cool them well.

  17. Technically its very easy if you have some patience. If you don’t know where to put what, watch a YouTube video about it and you’re good to go.
    I’ve build many many PCs in the past 10 years and the only thing I still get trouble with from time to time is RAM. In 80% of all cases you can just get DDRx memory that is running at a from your CPU supported clock and your good to go but in some cases where you buy some less standard CPU model and not so often bought motherboard, RAM can be a real shit show, even today. I had to return quite a few memory kits because they were simply not compatible. It boggles my mind that this is still the case in 2016. I would have thought that standards would have eliminated that kind of stuff.

    When it comes to design choices I think they only real design flaw is the design of the “P4” plug that provides power for the CPU and the 4 Pin plug that goes into your GPU. They are the same standard and on some PSUs they don’t have the extra 2 pins for the 6 pin variant that could help identify them.
    I had quite a few people who mixed up these two cables and I can’t blame them. They often look exactly the same.

  18. Probably the biggest factor here is the amount of time spent doing research on what components are out there. This is an area that I’ve noticed is in decline: the ability to do research. It’s not just in building gaming PCs, it’s in lots of areas.

    Rather than dive under the covers and see what can be figured out, the first instinct is to give up and call someone else. Reading documentation is something that “other people do and I’ll just ask those other people”.

    I rather think that building a computer has become easier than before. These days, most devices are plug-and-play, compatibility is good and components reliable. Years ago, you had to understand what peripherals were allocated to what I/O addresses/IRQs which were set by jumpers. You had to set the appropriate jumpers on the motherboard to tell it what speed front-side bus to run for your CPU. Then there was the software side, messing about in configuration files to get so much as a squawk out of your shiny new sound card. CD-ROM drives were another world of pain, as they often hung off the sound card.

    Even then however, no soldering iron was necessary, it was all plug-in modules.

    So things are evolving. The complexity has shifted to other areas, but it’s not unworkable. The thing is, having the patience to study the problem. That patience seems to be very thin on the ground these days, and this might be the actual problem we’re seeing. Not that, building the computer is “too hard”, but doing the research into how to build the computer is “too hard”.

    1. I lived and worked through those years. I called it Jumper-and-Stay. It worked much better than the early Plug and Play stuff. Just set all the jumpers and if I read the directions correctly (and they had no errors) it would power up and all the hardware would play nicely together.

      After a few tries I gave up on the “optimizers” that were supposed to be able to organize the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files to have the most free memory. A load of crap they were. I just stuck to typing them myself because I’d learned what to do to have them the best.

      Then along came Windows 95. It always had a bit of a beef with certain hardware, especially soundcards, the proprietary Mitsumi CD-ROM interface and LPT1. I’d have all the jumpers and configuration files setup so everything had its IRQs, DMAs and memory ranges just fine. But 95 would insist on assigning the CD controller or the sound card the resources for LPT1, completely ignoring all the completely not software twiddleable jumper settings it *should* have been able to read. 95a was slightly better at it, but for 4 years most PCs were a bit of a fight to force Windows 95 (and 98 original release) to work properly. It got better as both Microsoft and PC hardware companies shook the bugs out of PnP and pre-1995 hardware fell out of use.

      98 Second Edition was *excellent*. I put it on many PCs that 98 original absolutely could not even install, let alone run on. It had far better resource management and handled non-PnP hardware quite well.

      1. Yes, if you could trust yourself, it was far better than trusting anyone else.

        You’d get these PnP cards, that could auto configure just a couple of IRQs and memory addresses, so you’d manually rearrange everything to open one of them up, and the damn thing would pick the other and cause a conflict. Then maybe if you were lucky there was a util to force it, then if that worked there was no guarantee it wasn’t going to jump back next week due to the phase of the moon.

        I used 98SE way longer than I should have. Got a bit “interesting” to install in later years. “Are you sure you want to set 512MB swap file size, windows will never ever ever use more than 24MB scouts honor cross my heart.” then you’d have to put up with it “resizing swap file” every few hours the next couple of days.

      2. Lol, I miss Win95; I actually knew what my computer was doing and why!
        I’ve reinstalled Windows95 more times than I can remember. What a learning experience that was. :)
        I shoudla left the registry settings alone, hahaha.

    2. Oh! I just remembered another thing about the “olden days.” Remember when your CPU, motherboard, and RAM all had to run at the same base frequency? You’d decide which CPU you could afford, then you’d look up its front side bus frequency, which told you which selection of motherboards you could buy. Then you’d find out you couldn’t afford the CPU/MB combo you wanted because all the 100MHz FSB motherboards combined with your CPU choice cost too much together… Then you had to figure out not only which SIMMs (back before the Dual Inline Memory Modules and DDR memory had hit the market) ran at that FSB frequency, but whether they were compatible with the MB/CPU based on some unspoken inter-manufacturer juju.

      Now the CPU controls its own base frequency and multiplier on the fly and has its own internal memory controller that is run off that base frequency. On top of that, the memory doesn’t have to run at any specific frequency… it just has a maximum stable frequency (which is the maximum guaranteed stable frequency for that run of modules, not necessarily the max for that specific module in your case with your cooling hardware), so as long as you get memory that matches or outperforms your CPU’s memory controller you are good to go (for the most part) because the memory will underclock to match your other hardware automatically. Even in the Core 2 days you just had to match the memory to the motherboard’s supported memory speeds. I was amazed that I could buy DDR2 at 1066MHz and use it at 800MHz after you couldn’t find 800MHz DDR2 anymore (or maybe it was 800MHz in a 667MHz board?). You can even mix and match different speed memory and they will all automatically run at the highest speed that all the sticks support. That would have been magic back in the 386/486 days!

  19. I’ve built dozens of computers, several gaming PCs over the years. Assembling them is fairly easy, its a lot harder now to incorrectly connect parts. Choosing the parts though takes experience, since picking parts that complement each other well can be complex. My advice is never skimp on the motherboard or power supply. These affect reliability and upgrade ability the most. Motherboards are a hassle to replace so get a quality brand with plenty of room for upgrades. PSU is very important since a bad one wastes electricity, generates heat and risks damaging the rest of components. I always get modular gold rated psu.

    If you are on a budget spend less on CPU, ram, and gpu. Later when prices drop or better parts come out you can upgrade to max out your motherboard. Then buy a cheap mobo, PSU + case and build a second pc with the old parts, to sell or use for pfsense or home server.

    Choosing a case can also be tricky, there are some pretty bad ones out there. Make sure there’s space for everything, especially GPU. Consider airflow and cable management.

    Previous gen Xeon workstations make great gaming PCs. My dell precision t5400 is almost 10yr old and can play modern games on high settings, since I maxed it out with SSD, 32gb quad channel ram, modern GPU and 2x quad core Xeon. All this for about $400. Only reason I want to upgrade is it doesn’t support VT-d for HW virtualization, and the case + PSU are proprietary preventing me from using a large beefy gpu

    1. Definitely agreed on the older xeons making great gaming PCs. Got a pair of E5-2670s in mine for £80 each, 8 cores @ 2.7-3.3GHz. The motherboards tend to be expensive but I’m all set for CPU power in games. I can reach its limits with heavy workloads like video encoding but it’s actually a challenge, generally have to have two jobs running at once. For that sort of thing it could be beaten by a modern chip but those cost more than the entire machine did :P

        1. For socket 775, yes cache is usually higher, but also they mostly support only the higher FSBs 1333 and 1600, also they have a pin assignment difference to desktop core 2s and you either need to pin mod them or get a socket adapter, if your board does not specifically support Xeons… Dig around this site, yes they’re selling the adapters but there’s lots of info there also…

        1. It’s maybe not a very general problem, just the boards I come across opportunistically/cheap where they have onboard Rage XL or Rage Pro graphics and there’s not an option in CMOS setup to turn off the onboard and use PCIe. (You’d be surprised how long Rage family GPUs have held on in server market). Really just the first thing I thought of. Also things like you can find desktop cases that “support” eATX form factor for width, but really don’t support actual server boards very well because a CPU will end up under the drive cages or something. I guess mostly my frustration when I think I found a cheap way to go Xeon, and it isn’t, or won’t work.

          1. I don’t know if it helps but I will mention that you can buy stick adapters so that you can put a socket 771 xeon into a socket 775 core 2 socket. I haven’t researched it all yet so check, yourself. That is what I have been considering.

          2. Right, wasn’t thinking about those ones at the time I posted that. All the 775 boards I’ve got around are supposedly some kind of marginal or fussy with the C2 Quads, so I’m hesitant to add another complexity in the mix. Might run that by google again, see if it there’s fixes.

          3. It looks like the biggest difference between Core2 quad and Xeon quad is price. So if you already have a core2 quad (like me) then it’s not worth the bother.

            The next difference is that the Xeon’s only run at the higher FSB’s – I am guessing 1333 and 1600 MHz.

            Then the next difference is the the BIOS must support Xeon’s or it’s not going to work anyway.

            So it might be worth it if you have a fast MB and the BIOS supports Xeon (or can be upgraded) and you only have a Core2 Duo.

            The hardware changes are to add the stick on adapter to the 771 CPU and to cut two plastic key pins out of the socket 775.

            I didn’t check the thermals. I would imaging that a quad Xeon is about the same as a quad Core2 so you may have to change the heatsink/fan just as you sometimes need to when going from core2 Duo to Core2 quad.

            I have a Core2 quad in a small form factor case and it was a challenge to fit a case fan and find a CPU heatsink/fan that would fit.

  20. I am not a geek by any stretch rather just an old nurse. I have had 2 desk tops in my life and built both just because I could get a better one cheaper that way. My last one was the fastest workstation I could afford to use for CAD. I am currently building a house and that is a lot harder than building a computer😀 all it takes is the ability to fail and then try again. A common skill on Hackaday.

  21. I’d say both yes and no and the no includes a but.

    First the yes part, while it is easy to research if your graphics card will fit your case, it is harder to research if your cooling will, not problematically so, but for a first timer or even someone who has been out of the loop a while might make mistakes here. But the nigh impossible thing to research is how well the mounting holes for motherboards, both for the case and the motherboard line up to the ATX standards, and having a hole being 0.5 cm wrong in total between motherboard and chassis can mean not only that it’s hard to mount stably, but hard to mount at all and short circuits may arise, this is actually fairly common even on high end brands though they tend to align in their errors better since one uses the other to measure. This is highly problematic and should not at all be around since there actually is a standard, but not following it doesn’t even remove your right to call it ATX so it’s not that strange that the problem is still around.

    For the no part, everything usually works out of the box, and aside from mounting it’s not much research to be done which will lead to a non functioning system, but, errors from faulty hardware are not unknown, and when it takes hours to find the problem for an electrical engineer to find the error, a beginner might not be able to get warranty without getting in contact with the manufacturer, never mind that they might not now what hardware actually caused the problem.

    1. Even seasoned homebuilders can run into trouble if they make an early leap to a complete new generation of parts, next version of DDR, next socket, next PSU mobo connector etc… because if something doesn’t work, you don’t have a different one to try, your buddies don’t have a different one to try, or a functioning system based on those standards you can try the parts in.

  22. Computers stopped being “hard” to build back in the ought’s….

    When PATA connectors got keyed so you didn’t have to worry about the red wire being closest to the power connector, and case USB port connectors got keyed so you didn’t have to figure out which individual pin went to which pin on the computer…
    SATA took care of the whole potential master slave mess around the same time…

    Building is easy. Buying parts can be a challenge, has to be compatible sockets, memory etc. (though you don’t need to install it as pairs any more… so there is that.) but even that seems to have standardized a fair amount…

    But once you have the parts you just need to put things together where they fit.

    Back in the day you had to make sure the hard drive was a size that would work with t he hard drive controller on the machine and the OS… that’s hardly even a thing any more…. (I once had some 10 2 or 4 Gb partitions to use a drive larger than the OS would support…)

    1. Come to think of it, I mostly found all those efforts to key PATA connectors to be a pain in the arse. I was always having to drill or gouge out the blanked pin or use sidecutters on the lump on top. (Because not all equipment was designed that way.)

    2. Using DEBUG to access the MFM controller BIOS to low level format the hard drive. Using EDLIN and COPY CON to write AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS Hex editing COMMAND.COM to rename commands.

      Ahhhh, those were the days… I’d never want to revisit. ;)

  23. I would say that the most difficult part of building a PC is picking the parts. Balancing performance with budget is a challenge.

    A good rule of thumb I have realized over the years is to expect up to half the cost of the PC to be put towards the video card. Also, expensive performance motherboards usually aren’t worth the money; they come loaded with lots of features, but you really have to look at whether you will actually *use* those features. You can potentially save some serious coin by dropping back to a midrange motherboard that is still overclocking capable.

    If you are careful about how you distribute your money, you really can build a capable gaming rig for around $700. Sure, it won’t run triple A titles on ultra settings, but they will be playable at lower settings. If you want to play everything at ultra settings and have a jealousy inducing beastly gaming rig, expect to sink at least $2000 into it.

  24. The biggest problem with building “gaming” systems like this is the need that so many feel to be on the bleeding edge. The game that most “gamers” who build these “gaming” systems play most is the ready, set, upgrade game. Ask yourself, do you spend more time actually playing games or reading about all the hot new hardware that’s about to be released? Ask yourself, do I spend more time gaming or more time debating that my video card manufacturer can whip your video card manufacturer in online forums? The hardware manufacturers play this game as well for obvious reasons. They profit from it greatly. Anyway, this is what leads to the “issues’ of assembling these systems. Your dealing with bleeding edge parts that are rushed out the door by manufacturers and likely haven’t had all the compatibility issues discovered and worked out yet. To make matters worse there are also faulty parts that may get shipped for the same reasons. So, when you put together that new “gaming” rig and push the power button and it doesn’t come to life, You sit there wondering. Did I get all the connections properly seated? Is there some parts in my build that have a compatibility issue with each other? Is one of my parts faulty? Which part or parts are at issue? If you have older known good parts you can swap, then you have a means to troubleshoot. However, what if your using a new processor that also uses a brand new socket and this is the first time your using this new socket or a new type of memory and again this is the first time you’ve built such a system? In that case, your not likely to have parts on hand that you can swap. The bottom line is, it’s the price you pay for being on the bleeding edge. So, take a word of advice, let other people play this game for you and sort out these issues ahead of time. To do that simply buy at least one generation below the “bleeding edge”. This will save you quite a bit of money, but most importantly it will save you time and trouble because others who’ve gone before will have already sorted out many of these issues.

    1. Yes! I agree with what you are saying. It rings true with my previous comment about sticking to your budget, because bleeding edge usually fetches the highest prices. Always be thinking about what is going to give you the most bang for your buck rather than giving you the most bang regardless of the price. Like you recommended, but for different reasons, the price vs performance sweet spot usually lies one to two generations below the bleeding edge.

  25. Its definitely never been easier. Youtube is full of assembly/disassembly videos so that not only can you find general instruction, you can often find videos of people installing the exact parts you have.

    I can’t speak for other countries but in the UK there is even a web retailer that even offers a type of pc builders insurance. Last I checked It costed about what postage does, and means they will collect by courier anything you break and ship out replacement parts no questions asked. There are some great other retailers that effectively do this for free anyway, but I think its nice that they are explicit about it. I think a lot of people build their first machine on a tight budget to save money, and this takes away the worry that you will mess everything up and end up spending more.

    A not particularly technical friend asked me about pc building recently, and I recommended it and told them to call me if they had any difficulty. I got one email asking me to double check the parts list, and one email saying “i got it all working no problem, thanks!”

  26. With anything technical you’ve got to have someplace to start. You can’t assume that the operator know absolutely nothing. Engineers can idiot proof it enough so that you can’t plug in the wrong type of memory (within reason) or something of that nature. But you still have to do your research. Like with anything I have ever done, I never go all in with no information. I will make an attempt to educate myself on the subject.

    My college Dean once told me that in the real world not everything is spoon fed to you, so you have to make an effort to educate yourself when all the facts aren’t present.

  27. It’s as easy as it’s ever been by a lot, but there are still a bunch of details to contend with. Some of them are obvious, like getting all the power connectors where they belong (without finding a novel way to key one in, or managing to force something where it doesn’t belong), or the switch and led header connection. Some things are just fussy like making sure all your DIMMs are seated (I screwed that up last week, about 25 years into using SIMM/DIMM memory), or installing the heat sink. And you’re not actually guaranteed to have the relevant network and touchpad drivers in Windows 10, or to have a BIOS that supports your CPU when the motherboard supports your CPU. And maybe your BIOS doesn’t want to run the RAM at its speed just ’cause (another issue from the past week).

    It’s easy for the sort of people who read hackaday, but it’s not exactly easy.

        1. I confess to once mixing up the 24V and 12V bricks for a Dymo Turbo 400 printer and an external hard drive. Dumbarse Dymo engineers should NOT have used that size plug for 24 volts. Dumbarse hard drive USB to SATA adapter engineers should have included 12V overvolt protection along with the 5V overvolt protection. Great job guys, protect the cheap adapter but not the expensive drive full of data.

          The adapter in the case was fine, but the 12V protection diode shorted. Unsoldered that from the drive and it was OK, but not for another double-shot voltspresso.

  28. I started upgrading and building desktop PCs around the 486/Pentium era. At that time i was only about 12 years old, we did not have the internet, and we lived on a farm, so not a lot of people around knew about computers and how they work at all. I’ve learned a lot from the old PC magazines back in the day, and even more by trial and error.
    Compared to the challenges back then, building a desktop PC has gotten a lot easyer over the years. The only thing that changed a lot, is that there is just so much more different stuff on the market today, making it harder to actually pick something that fits all the performance/cost requirements. In the early days, you did not have a choice of 10 motherboards for a single cpu socket and 10 graphicscard models just from one single manufacturer.
    Today, i still build my own systems from parts, but the upgrade-frequency has dropped A LOT over the last decade or so. Performance gains from new technologies are just not that big anymore.
    As a side effect of my early experiences with computers back in the day, i’m now working as an electronics engineer designing embedded systems. I did have a small “side business” as computer supporter for some time, basically paying for my extensive personal computer upgrade expenses…

    1. You grew up in the bad old days of having to track down that jumper to physically set the IRQ channel for your sound board (been there, done that). Thank God those days are behind us!

      I too learned by trial and error: I’ve learned that you ALWAYS BUY RETAIL parts, which have factory warranties. Stay away from OEM and the dreaded electronics liquidator show at the convention center. I lost count of the times I’ve been burnt there.

  29. Years ago the various techniques for spearing out thermal paste made it something only a few wanted to do. Now that CUPs have heat spreaders, you drop a grain of rice worth and slap on the heatsink. Everything else just clicks in to place.

    Combined with tools like pcpartpicker that check compatibility, you can click together a parts list and make sure that everything is compatible.

      1. Yeah, and if you happen to have some adhesive thermal compound, check that you have not taken the wrong tube…
        That has happened to me, twice. Though I must say that they happened on the very same day. Luckily they were old computers so it was not much of a loss. For a new computer I would have used better stuff anyway.

    1. How you apply thermal transfer compound is still important and especially so for higher dissipating chip like multi cores.

      I have even seen kits with thermal paste and a tool to spread it out and that technique is the worst.

      If you spread the compound out then you get peaks and troughs that trap air when you assemble the heatsink onto the CPU and air is a good thermal insulator. Exactly what you don’t want.

      Just place a large blob in the middle and let it push the air out as the heatsink is put on and the paste expands outwards.

  30. I find it tremendously easier to build a gaming computer now :

    1- There are a lot of good parts around, and even for cheap. There was times when there was a lot of CPUs, GPUs, and stuff that were just garbage for gaming. Think about all those CPUs in the Cyrix era, or all video cards that had no 3D capabilities at all…
    Now you can grab mid range CPU, motherboard, graphics card (hell for 200$ you get a RX480 that shames any “next gen” console), a reputable brand, but not expensive PSU, a case, almost any ram sticks, storage (i don’t think that many flawed storage, HDD or SSD remains on the market nowadays), and you are good to go… If you made a less than optimal choice on a part, you’re still likely to have a good enough computer for gaming. In fact, i wonder what it would take to have a computer that can’t play games, appart from the worst video card ever? heck, even CPUs have a good enough 3D chip to play games!

    2- You can’t plug it wrong : If it fits, it goes there. All connectors have things to prevent you from pluging the wrong way, or at the wrong place. Ports are obviously different, so no plugging sata into PCI-express port.

    3- SOOO much less incompatible formats : CPUs have different sockets, and that almost about it. Any correct PSU will be able to be plugged on your computer, Almost all good radiators have mounting plates for all current sockets, fan are standard size, without the odd 70mm fan that you can’t buy anywhere that existed in the past; There is ONE and only one video card format for desktop, any graphics card fits any motherboard that has a port for graphics card;
    RAM is mostly only DDR3 for now, and soon will switch to DDR4, but no rambus or various concurent standards, everyone includes USB3 ports nowadays, so no hunting for the board with parellel port for your printer, DB9 for your joystick, and X or Y for your other weird device…. Monitors are either displayport or HDMI now, and video cards have both, and video cards support any resolution you can throw at them, and monitors have a few very common ones that are well supported….

    4-you plug, you tell the system to find drivers, and you play… Ethernet always works out of the box, so you can always download drivers. IF drivers are needed for download, they are unified ones, so you just D/L the big file, and it detects what you need….

    5-hardware is mostly powerful enough to enable you to enjoy high quality graphics without having to spend hours tweaking. Since games are often multi-platform, they’re limited by consoles, and thus your hardware is likely to be more powerfull and run at ease. Some games include ultra mega tera settings, but yiou rarely have to play on “ugly” to get acceptable performances, or spend hours tweaking stuff (except with pooorly optimized games).

    6-hardware is protected : if no heatsink is on, it will thermal throttle, or even shutdown. CPUs have heatspreader, preventing you from chipping the corners of the CPUs as you could do with socket P3, or Athlon XP, hard drives are often hot pluggable (not that all mainboards support it, but they’re likely to survive unplugging while running)

    All in all, nowadays, i’d say :
    -you buy reasonably priced stuff, they are generally in the sweet spot for price/performance ratio;
    -you plug things where it fits, and it will be good;
    -you install your system from a USB thumbstick, in 15 minutes, and 15 minutes after for light configuration, if any needed (and you can even play a lot of games from linux, and configuration is even easier);
    -you get great performances out of the box, without tweaking, overclocking, etc
    -you almost can’t fry or destroy anything without actively try to do so

    SO yeah, i think it’s pretty easy to make a gaming computer nowadays. The only major pitfall would be for someone to overspend, thinking that a GTX1080 and a I7 6 cores extreme is required to play games, whereas a lot of much cheaper options will deliver really good performances for a fraction of the price.

  31. Yes they are. Between finding parity or non parity ram. Fdisking the hard drive. Finding a hard drive that matches the bios cylinders heads and sectors. Hoping your copied version of Dos is OK, And the wait for windows to install. Drivers for the soundcard. Good thing your mca graphic card is compatable.

  32. The actual building is like Lego. If you can wire a plug, you can build a PC. The knowledge required is in what to actually buy. The same basic principles have stood since the first clone PCs, you just need to keep your knowledge up to date about the current components, but they’re all just faster, bigger versions of what they were 20 years ago.

  33. The last time I built actual gaming rigs was 2010 IIRC. My late fiance and I found a stack of seemingly out dated Hp’s for 80 usd each at the local mom and pop computer store.As the next day was payday, and our rigs at the time were even older ones I kept running on willpower and Duct tape we discussed the merit of replacing them on the drive home. Being the guy I am the first thing I did was quick search on the model number. which lead to the happy discovery that there was a Bios update that let them take a newer dual core AMD and twice the ram. A quick browse over to a popular poultry themed online vendor yielded a price of just under 200 usd for two cpu’s enough ram to fill both rigs and two pny gfx cards, decision made. the next day after work we order the parts and go pick up the rigs…and a pair of 21 inch flat screen crts that some one has forsaken for lcd’s for 210 usd. Took them home set them up and did the bios/obligatory os updates and moved over all the files from the old ones. Parts came in got installed and it was off to the races, which at the time was EQ1 for us. Time goes by and we have tweaked the little buggers about as far as we could.Then one day there is some guy going on and on about how he had just bout this custom made super rig so he could play on max settings and you just had to have an expensive sota rig to play blah blah blah you know the type and here we are running 3 accounts on rigs that cost less than nearly any part in his build (6 when we dropped to wire frame mode to raid) so super long story short you can most certainly build a good enough rig to game with on a fairly tight budget if you look around and do some research. And hey cpu’s only go in one way now so you wont accidentally put your celeron in backwards, did that the first time I upgraded a rig mind you I was 8 at the time.

  34. Well this really makes me question if it’s worth building a desktop to close/equal spec… limited time sale, but still…
    As far as I can figure on newegg prices, about $400 for ddr4 mobo ram and refurb CPU. add another $100 if you want new cpu. $150 to equal the GPU, bearing in mind that 960M not as good as desktop 960. or $200 if it has to be a 960. $50ish for HDD $25 for optical $100 for monitor…. $400+$150+$50+$25+$100=$775 and still have to supply keyboard, PSU, case, OS…

    Of course, you might wanna go for a higher clock i5 instead, maybe judicious benchmark browsing can get you more GPU performance for your buck, but in general, getting everything new seems like you’re not going to do much better overall.

    If I was upgrading, I’d have case, monitor, PSU, keyboard, optical, hdds on hand, maybe manage a $100 better. Tendency to forget that case/PSU/Monitor/keyboard/pointing device/speakers etc can all mount up to quite a chunk if you’ve not got an existing system to rob, if that’s $300 of a $500 budget, you don’t get much to fill it with, low end Pentium with onboard video I guess. LOL I should have taken a clue when I bought my i5 laptop for $450 the other year that that was how it was headed.

    There’s the “ah but you can’t upgrade it piecemeal” argument, but really you’re lucky if most parts make it a couple of generations. If you’re upgrading for a few percent every 6 months, may as well burn money.

    I’m kind of stunned actually, never thought I’d say that buying laptops would be cheaper than self building desktops.

    1. Here is a desktop build suggested in other fora as having higher performance for similar pricing, but lacks monitor, keyboard etc…

      I am also unsure what the shipping total is going to be because there’s no data entered for several components. I’ve seen plenty of theoretical $399 or so PC builds where they pick the one sale loss leader at 12 different suppliers and the $30 a pop shipping makes it more like double the price. Also includes MIRs which can take 6 months to come back and you pay up front.

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