Asking about buying or building a new computer

Okay, there’s lots of people coming around asking about new computers on the forums. And, usually, there’s a huge spate of Q&A before arriving at an answer.

In the interest of speeding up answering people, I figured I’d post some general guidelines to how to ask about buying or building a new computer on the forums. Answering these questions can make it much easier and faster for the tech-heads here on the forums to answer your questions.

  1. What will you primarily be doing with this PC? Gaming? Photoshop? Web browsing? etc
  2. What’s your budget? (Real Dollars) Are tax and shipping included? This is important as it allows people trying to help you to suggest things appropriate to your budget.
  3. Where do you live? This is important as it affects what vendors you may buy from and how much shipping costs might be.
  4. Are you planning to buy or build?
  5. What exact parts do you need for that budget? CPU, RAM, case, etc. The word “Everything” is not a valid answer. Please list out all the parts you’ll need. If you’re unsure what exactly you need, say so.
  6. If reusing any parts, what parts will you be reusing? Please be especially specific about the power supply. List make and model.
  7. Will you be overclocking?
  8. What size monitor do you have and/or plan to have? What is the resolution?
  9. When do you plan on building/buying the PC?
  10. What features do you need in a motherboard? RAID? Firewire? Crossfire or SLI support? USB 3.0? SATA 6Gb/s? etc.
  11. Any specific must-have features? Must be able to max out Ultra-Mode? Must have 6+GB of RAM? Must have an SSD? etc.
  12. Are there any vendors/brands you’d specifically prefer to use?
  13. Are there any vendors/brands you’d specifically prefer to avoid?
  14. Do you already have a legit and reusable/transferable OS key/license? If yes, what OS? Is it 32bit or 64bit? (Note: If your current OS came with your computer, odds are that it is NOT transferable.)

To simplify things, you can copy and paste the entirety of the box below and then simply post your answers below the *** line.
Note: Use this information and start your own thread. Don’t utilize the guide-thread itself to ask.

[CODE]1) What will you primarily be doing with this PC? Gaming? Photoshop? Web browsing? etc
***

2) What’s your budget? (Real Dollars)  Are tax and shipping included?  This is important as it allows people trying to help you to suggest things appropriate to your budget.
***

3) Where do you live? This is important as it affects what vendors you may buy from and how much shipping costs might be.
***

4) Are you planning to buy or build?
***

5) What exact parts do you need for that budget? CPU, RAM, case, etc. The word “Everything” is not a valid answer. Please list out all the parts you’ll need. If you’re unsure what exactly you need, say so.
***

6) If reusing any parts, what parts will you be reusing? Please be especially specific about the power supply. List make and model.
***

7) Will you be overclocking?
***

8) What size monitor do you have and/or plan to have?
***

9) When do you plan on building/buying the PC?
***

10) What features do you need in a motherboard? RAID? Firewire? Crossfire or SLI support? USB 3.0? SATA 6Gb/s? etc.
***

11) Any specific must-have features? Must be able to max out Ultra-Mode? Must have 6+GB of RAM? Must have an SSD? etc.
***

12) Are there any vendors/brands you’d specifically prefer to use?
***

13) Are there any vendors/brands you’d specifically prefer to avoid?
***

14) Do you already have a legit and reusable/transferable OS key/license? If yes, what OS? Is it 32bit or 64bit? (Note: If your current OS came with your computer, odds are that it is NOT transferable.)
***

[/CODE]**Terminology**

CPU – Central Processing Unit (the chip running the computer)
GPU – Graphics Processing Unit (Your video card. More specifically the main processing chip on the card.)
PPU – Physics Processing Unit (A processor dedicated to doing physics calculations.)
PSU – Power Supply Unit
SSD – Solid State Drive (A “hard drive” that uses flash memory as a storage medium instead of spinning platters.)
RAM – Random Access Memory (Non-storage memory used by the system.) Mainly expressed in GB (Gigabytes) nowadays.
VRAM – Video RAM Video cards nowadays come with their on-board memory (mostly). Usually expressed in MB (Megabytes) or GB (Gigabytes) nowadays.
MB – Megabyte (For hard drives: 1 million bytes, For RAM: 1.024 million bytes)
GB – Gigabyte (For hard drives: 1 billion bytes, For RAM: 1.024 billion bytes)
Hertz – Number of cycles per second. Used in timing and speed expressions for memory and various processing units (See GPU, CPU, PPU, etc) and other devices in a computer. Most commonly expressed as:

Mhz – Megahertz (1 million cycles per second)
Ghz – Gigahertz (1 billion cycles per second)

OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer (A company that originally manufactured a product.)
VAR – Value-Added Reseller (A company that adds features to a product and resells it.)
Systems Integrator – (A company that specializes in bringing various components/subsystems together into a whole and insures those systems function properly together)
SLI – Scalable Link Interface – A proprietary technology used by nVidia to link two or more video cards and gain performance/features through parallel processing.
Crossfire – A proprietary technology used by AMD/ATI to link two or more video cards and gain performance/features through parallel processing. (A technology competing with SLI.)
USB – Universal Serial Bus (A technology used for linking various devices cameras, computers, printers, etc together.)
IDE: Integrated Drive Electronics (also PATA: Parallel ATA) – A legacy technology for attaching drives to a computer. Now superceded by SATA.
SATA: Serial ATA (The successor technology to IDE for attaching drives to a computer.)

 

Buying Guides

Okay, first and foremost.
Father Xmas’ guide to picking components.  (Sorry, legacy link to a game site that no longer exists #SaveCoH!)
This gives a great run-down on the things you’re looking for without needing to name specific brands of component.

Online Stores

Newegg.com
A great site for researching components and pricing. Maybe not ALWAYS the best/cheapest place to buy things. But always a good starting point.

Additionally they have a fairly decent video tutorial on building a system from the ground up.

Part #1

Part #2

Part #3

Newegg.ca
Newegg’s Canadian site. For all our Canuck brothers and sisters. Spend your loonies and twonies! SPEND! SPEND!

Tigerdirect.com
Another great site for researching components and pricing. They even have brick & mortar locations too. I’m not PERSONALLY enamored of them, but some people swear by them.

Tigerdirect.ca
Again, Canadian Tiger Direct site.

System Vendors

Dell.com
The 800 lb Gorilla. Okay for general systems and basic components. Not a gaming system vendor. Links to all the various regional and country-specific Dell sites available right from the Dell.com site.

Gateway
The original Cow-box vendor. They’re more focused on “multimedia” PCs than gaming systems per-se. Link takes you to the worldwide site. Choose your own locale from there.

Lenovo
A Chinese vendor that took over the IBM ThinkPad and ThinkCenter product lines. While they still make business machines, they’re not really recommended for gaming boxes. PERIOD.

Asus
Also a prominent parts vendor, Asus also puts out a line of palm-top sub-notebooks (NOT recommended for gaming AT ALL) and a VERY nice line of notebooks (some of the top-end ones are GREAT mobile gaming platforms). Hit the link and pick your locale.

Alienware.com
Alienware is now owned by Dell and branded as their “Gaming” line. Unfortunately, while you can buy an EXPENSIVE system from them, for general gaming, the systems are pretty poor. Generally for those with more money than sense.

Falcon Northwest
Falcon Northwest is a “premium” system builder. They can build you a super high performance PC (at a super high price). Generally for those with lots of money but at least a shred or two of sense.

CyberPower PC
A “roll your own” system builder. Similar to Falcon, but generally more affordable. Lots and lots of choices. Using their system matrixes, you can actually build yourself a nice system that’s VERY zeroed in to your needs and wants.

iBuyPower
Another “roll your own” system builder. Lots of options and a decent rep.

Toshiba
Toshiba also makes several lines of laptops. Their Satellite notebooks are decent every-day machines, while their Qosimo line is geared SPECIFICALLY for gaming. Not PERSONALLY enamored of Toshiba myself (bad experiences), but a lot of people swear by them.

Using Wishlists To Display Choices

Some websites out there allow you to create wishlists that you can store and share with others. This way, if you have a butt-kicking hardware combo or have a neat setup on the cheap, you can share it with others looking to do what you’ve done.

Newegg
Newegg has three (COUNT ‘EM!) methods of making wishlists.

  • Temporary Wishlists (Doesn’t last beyond the lifetime of your Newegg Session cookie)
  • Private Wishlists (The default for all newly created wishlists)
  • Public Wishlists (What we’re concerned with)

First
Do your shopping. In the upper right-hand corner you’ll see the shopping cart indicator with the current pricing.

Click on it to view your shopping cart.

Second

Once in your shopping cart, you’ll see a bunch of check boxes next to the items. There will also be one just above all of them (it’s essentially a “check all”). Also, above and to the right of that, you’ll see a drop-down box.

Check the “check all” box, then go to the drop-down and select “My Temporary Wish List”.

Third
You’ll need to log in (or create) an account with Newegg to save wishlists.
Once you log in, you come back to the wishlist and see that it has a similar “check all” feature to the shopping cart. Use it.

Above the “check all”, there is an area to create a new private wishlist. Give the wishlist a name then click the “create new” button.
If you have an existing wishlist and just wish to add to it, further to the right, there’s a drop-down to select a pre-existing wishlist and a button to tell it to save items to it.

Now you’ve essentially created a new wishlist. But nobody but you can see it yet. Here’s what we do.

Fourth
Click on the tab that says “My Saved Wish Lists”

Drop a check next to your newly created wishlist and then push the button that says “Make Public”

Fifth
Now click on the link for your wishlist.
Look up in the address line and you’ll see a link that looks like this:

https://secure.newegg.com/WishList/MySavedWishDetail.aspx?ID=19288966

Now you can’t use this to share with other people. What you do is copy the 8-digit ID number at the end (“19288966” in this case). This is the identifier for your wishlist.

Sixth

Now head back up and click on the Public Wishlists tab.

Visit one of them. It doesn’t really matter which one. Copy off the address in the address line, it’ll look something like this:

http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx?WishListNumber=19281746

Seventh

Now we find your wishlist’s public URL. Chop off the 8-digit ID number of the public wishlist you brought up. Replace it with the 8-digit ID number of your personal wishlist and hit ENTER on your keyboard.

For example:

Random Public Wishlist

http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx?WishListNumber=19281746

The edited wishlist URL

http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx?WishListNumber=

Your Public Wishlist

http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx?WishListNumber=19288966

Eighth
When your public wishlist pops up, run a quick eyeball over it to make SURE it’s yours. Then copy the contents of the address line and share that address with whomever you want to give the wishlist to.