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Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:47 pm

Hey guys, it's my first post here although I'm reading TR since :roll: 2004. The first couple of posts were really fun so I decided to add something to this thread.

My upgrade story revolves around the first year of college and my first computer, so 2001. Those were the days of the new IGHz Athlon, the Pentium III got the Tuallatin treatment and the Celeron brand was decaying after the glorious 300A days.

The first rig

Right about then AMD introduced Duron CPUs, lucky for me because I couldn't afford an Intel motherboard, not even one based on a VIA chipset. After thorough research on Tom's Hardware and on the Chip magasine I zeroed on a motherboard that proved to be the best all-time seller: the ECS K7S5A; a few words for the record: chipset Sis 735, SDR+DDR support, FSB133. AMD just launched the Athlon XP and along with it the Durons on a Morgan core - I got the slowest of them: Duron 1GHz on FSB 100; to go with that 128MB DDR, GeForce 2MX400 w/ 32 SDRAM, a 40GB Maxtor 5400RPM and el cheapo case+PSU (unknown power rating).

I was surprised I could afford the 15$ price difference between the Duron 600 and the Duron 1000, soon I found out why: I forgot to add up the keyboard, mouse and CD-Rom. My brand new computer stood 2 days untouched before I could borrow a mouse and a keyboard, and a few days more to get a hold of a 2x CD-Rom. Windows ME was chosen and was obviously a pain to install on a 2x CDRom.

The thing was a monster. After getting a hold of a soft called CPUFSB I could up the FSB to 112MHz which in turns gave me a 1.1GHz CPU. Nvidia's coolbits provided an OC from 166/166 to 240/190 (almost GeForce 2 Ultra speed) and I was rocking Starcraft, Heroes 3, Warcraft 3, NFS 5 and Unreal Tournament on a borrowed 14" CRT. I put to shame all Pentium III machines, most of them twice the price.

Next I began to slowly patching up the rig: mouse and keyboard, a 4x CDRom and a 14" CRT (that sometimes went green) from a friend and I was set.

The rig evolved with a 512MB DDR stick that supposedly was broken so I got it for pennies - it was broken as it couldn't run @333MHz, its stock speed, but @my 224MHz it was just fine. An LG CDRW replaced the aging CDRom and a second-hand 15" Dell Trinitron (1280x1024) took over as main screen. Nothing major changed until next year.

Second rig

First upgrade came around a year later. In the mean time Nvidia released GeFroce4 and ATI the 9600/9800 series, AMD had the Thoroughbred/Barton XP and Intel the infamous P4 - Celeron was limping on a poorly designed Willamette core. Upgrading for any budget minded student was down to: what AMD CPU to choose and what ATI graphics card (Nvidia pulled a fast one with the rebranded Geforce2MX into 4MX). Budget minded people such as myself had to orient towards the new 9600 series. The motherboard metamorphosed in an Asus A7N8X with Soundstorm, the CPU was a Barton 2500+ FSB333 and the graphics card a Radeon 9600; along also came XP in its SP2 form.

This was a massive upgrade: games load several times faster, and at medium details FarCry looked amazing in Dx8 (I could see with the sniper thru the space between two leaves) and C&C Generals ruled the battlefield. All these games were no-go on my old rig, so the upgrade felt night and day, but wasn't to hold it for long.

A high school friend, "0" in computers but big gamer came to see me in a holiday and :o at my cheap killer rig - he bought it on the spot. Of course in the mean time AMD pull out one extra: the K8.

So with the money from the Athlon XP rig, giving up on buying a CDRom and case (had it on a cardboard box for 5 months) I went big: 120$ Athlon64 2800+ socket 754 on an Asus K8N (Nforce3 250Gb) and 512MB DDR400. It was fast, almost the fastest gaming CPU on the planet at the time of launch. Sound quality was a letdown after the glorious Soundstorm, but boy was it fast. With a heavily OCed 9600 I played everything maxed out on 1280x1024. Farcry? Checked! Generals? Checked! NFS Underground? Checked!

I'm going to end my upgrade story here. Since then I finished college, got a job and I bought too many upgrades to count. It wasn't near as fun as in the old days when I had to use borrowed mice or cardboard cases in order to get a better CPU.


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Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:00 pm

My first build from new components was shortly after the release of the Athlon 64's. Being in high school money was quite short, so I had to compile my system bit by bit. I braced myself for the months of torture watching my hardware sit on the shelf useless and made the plunge, purchasing the core of my system. I selected the Athlon 64 3200+ and DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D, oh the good old days.
My end build consisted of: Athlon 64 3200+, DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D, 2Gb Corsair XMS Platinum DDR-400, 200GB Seagate Hard drive, an full ATX case made by Chenming. (I had to opt for the Mirror finish interior), The highest CFM blue LED fans Newegg had to offer, a EVGA Geforce 6800 Gt and a lesson in the form of a ~650W power supply from a obscure third rate vendor. I lovingly assembled all of this, carefully tucking cables away and tightening screws. When all was done I grabbed my fresh new copy of XP Pro and plugged in the power cable. It roared to life (thanks to the insane case fans), but did not post. The fans slowed down and sped up, LED dimming and surging in tune, I pushed in the power button and held no dice. As I ran around the table rushing to shut off the power, but I wasn't fast enough. Before I made it halfway, it went quite impressively. The capacitors (at least 10) exploded like a bunch of firecrackers with smoke curling out of the vented side. One lesson learned about quality hardware, the "rewards" of skimping on said hardware and a new Antec power supply I continued my journey. Reassembled and triple checked, I booted up the system. It posted, correctly identified the proc and ram and I began my install. 75% done and BSOD, I checked everything and reset the bios settings. Long story short the only way to keep it running stable was to throw the ram in single channel. It took me a long time to discern exactly what component was to blame as I didn't have any spare hardware to use to diagnose. The problem ended up being a mobo/ram incompatibility that a much later got a semi complete bios patch. Not long after I finally finished my PC the Geforce 7 series and Athlon x2 parts dropped making my system already outdated. I’m actually quite glad you chose this topic. It was a long painful process that left me penniless for a good while, but I wouldn't trade the knowledge and satisfaction I gained (or the prized gaming system) for a truckload of off the shelf systems. It kindled a passion for system configuration and a sick obsession with hardware quality. On a related note one very happy day was when Newegg started uploading high-res zoom-able images of motherboards that allow you to discern exactly what chips are on your potential new workstation board.
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:41 pm

My first was a great computer, but way more than I should have paid at the time (Spring 2005). I wanted to get a desktop for gaming, but I wanted something small since I was going back to school. I was working at the time but also living at home so I had plenty of cash to burn. I had started lurking around techreport, so I decided to put together a top of the line box. I also happened to be building when most of my components were new to market and expensive and I ended up spending around $3000. Never again, my newest build was around $800.

Shuttle SN26P
Athlon 64 X2 4400
Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (256MB only at that time I believe)
150GB Raptor
2GB of OCZ Gold Ram

Nice little box, the shuttle was reliable, but dust and heat was a constant issue. I don't know how anyone could have run SLi in that thing even though it was capable of it. The GTX got upgraded with a ZALMAN VF900 CU after the fan kept getting clogged with dust and the card was artifacting. The little 60mm fans in the back were not the quietest. Finally upgraded to the build below about a year and a half ago and have been much happier.
Gerbil XP
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:02 pm

My first PC build was on a budget of 500 dollars, including the OS. It went fine, though I was worried about the CPU not being inserted right. it gave me a bit of a rush, and a sense of accomplishment, something I need in life.

CPU: Intel Pentium Dual-Core 2160 1.8 GHZ OCed to 3 GHZ Performs just fine in nearly everything I do. Sadly, I need it to perform better in a few things, so I'm looking to upgrade to a Sandy Bridge CPU soon.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P31-S3G revision 2.0 I believe. Works fine. The only thing I complain about is a relative lack of USB ports(Which might be a chipset problem, I dunno) and the lack of SATA ports.

Ram: Some A-Data stuff that doesn't like being OCed at all. Which is too bad, really.

Sound: Integrated into the motherboard. Works fine for the most part, but a few of the ports died on me. I'm gonna replace it with a X-Fi or something soon.

HD: Western Digital Caviar Blue WD1600AAJS 160GB Too small, really, but I was on a budget. I originally planned for a 320 gig drive. I've added another 160 gig drive since then, salvaged from the laptop my mom had after it broke.

Video card: GeForce 8500 GT. I don't recall the model. I later switched it out for a GeForce GTS 250. Much, much faster obviously. It runs damn near everything I throw at it with relative ease.

Disc Drive: I don't remember the model, just that it was made by Samsung and that CDRlabs considered it one of the best drives they've ever reviewed. I later gave that drive to my dad, and got this one for myself: ... 6827136147 Also highly reviewed by CDRLabs.

Case: Cooler Master Centurion 5 ... 6811119077 it's a decent case. Quiet, keeps my stuff relatively cool(It has two fans.)

Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts 380. Quiet, efficient. The only problem with it is a lack of SATA connectors.
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Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:14 pm

My first build was upgrading my Pentium 90 to an AMD K6-2 w/3D NOW! 266 Mhz to play Unreal. Oh man that thing smoked! I actually still have the machine and it is a great router now.
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:38 pm

Alrighty then. Lots of posts, and hey, I even read a few. My story doesn't have dinosaurs or UFO's, but it's definitely an upgrade dream and nightmare all rolled into one.

When I was in 11th grade, I decided I knew a thing or two about computers, and asked to get my graduation present a year early. I invested in what appeared to be a shiny new dell, which was something I was quite impressed with at the time after my [exhaustive] weeks of random browsing. What I got out of the box though was quite the spectacle. The computer itself was housed in 1/4 inch stainless steel with 8 LEDs of variable colors over the front drives and intake fan, standing about 2 ft tall. Unsurprised at the glittery monster some of you may be, but I was enthralled with it. It sounded like an F-15 upon booting it up and it worked perfectly well for over a year, when I finally decided to tinker with it.

Disaster. Had I read any reviews about that brand before then, I would know that they are almost as dogmatic about proprietary pieces/parts as Steve Jobs. I had ordered a fierce looking XFX-780i to throw into my system to finally make my reliable E6850 sweat a little, when I ran into my first problem. My case and included motherboard were all out of proportion. It wasn't ATX or eATX in layout, but something much more alien, much more... sinister. They had not only switched up the size and post positions, but the orientation of the thing too! The motherboard was where the door usually sat and vice verse. Oh dell, you crafty beast. Temporarily beaten, I set aside my tools (a lone screwdriver and measuring tape) for another day.

I of course, would not bow to this malevolent entity and was back at it once more after a short jaunt over to newegg. I came equipped this time with my new case, the AZZA Solano, a beautiful knockoff of the ever popular Antec 900, a motley assortment of fans, and a velvet encased 850W PSU (may I never have to upgrade that again), and I was ready to do battle. With my shield AZZA, my sword the XFX and some magic power provided by Corsair, I soon had the heart of the dragon out before me. Still beating, I used it to breath life into what was left of the now tamed beastie, the 8800gt, two hard drives, and 4 gb of RAM, I was soon able to bend it to my will.

My trusty HomeMONSTER (what else could I name it?) is still running today, with only a few less-than-slight hiccups in the shabby seagate HDDs. Soon though, I expect to be taking up arms once more, perhaps a 5770, some WD HDDs or even a complete overhaul of the CPU and Motherboard, though I am reluctant to jump into that tech just yet.

I have been keeping tabs on the upcoming hardware through TR ever since I got my XFX, and it has been more than informative throughout. Although I never check the system guide before starting a computer build for a friend on principal, when I glance at them afterward, I usually find more than a few similarities. It has, and continues to be my first source of techie news.
Gerbil XP
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:59 pm

i built my first computer around early june of 2008. with only $500, i used it to obtain a credit card, effectively doubling my budget, and set out to buy the parts from local shops. the inital build:

intel core 2 duo E7200 (which i overclocked to 3.2ghz)
asus p5k-vm G33 motherboard
4gb DDR-800 corsair RAM (4x1gb)
antec 300 case
antec earthwatt 500W PSU
radeon HD2400PRO

now, you might be a little boggled as to my choice of the weak-ass HD2400PRO. well, i had a gut feeling around that time, that the upcoming HD4800 series was going to be spectacular. even though all the inital "leaked" info hinted at a 640 shader, middling part that can match the 8800GT, my gut told me to wait. and i was rewarded. i was one of the first to order the now famous HD4850, the biggest "game changer" graphic card since the radeon 9700PRO.
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:47 pm

I was a sophomore in college, and the Micron Pentium 133 that I had bought from my brother-in-law was
_way_ too slow, especially as I had just been introduced to gaming and to 3d Studio Max and Bryce 3D. So it
was time to gut the case and start over...

I bought the cheapest motherboard I could find online (just a few vendors at the time, and I had no idea who was
good and who was not), a K6-2 450, a Diamond Viper V330 (with an Nvidia RIVA 128--a surprisingly capable card at the time),
a SoundBlaster 16, and an 8x CD burner. I reused the case, RAM, power supply, and 2GB Western Digital hard drive from the

And when the UPS guy showed up with all the goodness, and I tore into the new hardware, I discovered the
difference between an AT and an ATX motherboard. Namely, that I had an ATX case and power supply,
and that the motherboard I had ordered was an AT.

So, I sent it back and ordered an AOpen AX59 Pro motherboard, hoping that this time, nirvana would be mine.

Except it wasn't. As I learned (expensively), even though the AX59 had SIMM slots, it did not mean that _my_ SIMMs would
work. So I burned deeper into my overextended budget to buy a 64 MB DIMM. Ramen for the next month, but it was SO
worth it.

And finally, I had a working system. I successfully added a Diamond Monster (3dfx Voodoo) card so that I could play all the
cool games of the time (as the RIVA couldn't run Glide-based games, which almost everything was), and my system was

Until the next year. When I redid it with something entirely different.
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Gerbil XP
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:55 pm

Ooh, free stuff! Count me in!

Looking back, I think my first real build happened far earlier than I'd imagined. The first one I made from parts I'd *bought* was in 2004. However, I'd been assembling computers from hand-me-down parts and garage-sale finds since before I was a teenager. The first such foray into DIY computing involved bits from my grandfather's old computer, and an old server I'd found at a garage sale for a handful of dollars. The server, if I recall, had a shot motherboard, but was otherwise better than Grandpa's decrepit thing. Most of the specifics escape me, but here were some of the highlights:

- Cyrix 6x86 LPR200+ (overclocked to 200MHz -- with jumpers! Uphill both ways in the snow!)
- 16MB RAM, on 72-pin SIMMs.
- Trident TGUI 9660 video card, with 2MB of onboard VRAM
- Ensoniq AudioPCI soundcard
- and an 14.4kbps ISA modem!

The motherboard I swapped in from the other computer had its power plugs on the wrong side, so the leads from the supply in the server chassis wouldn't reach. I ended up suspending the old AT power supply in underneath the CD-ROM drive by means of baling wire, and made sure it was wired into the (unlabeled) front power switch by switching two wires at a time until the breaker stopped tripping. Finally the machine fired up, booted into Windows (95 by that time, I think), and I was rocking out on my very own home-built computer!

That computer stuck around for years in various reincarnations, eventually sporting a bit more RAM and a gen-u-wine Pentium (with MMX!). It started out playing Number Munchers and DOS flight sims like Flight Of The Intruder. For a while I was using it to type up papers for school, printing them out on an old Citizen tractor-feed dot matrix printer. Near the end of its life, it was even running Red Hat Linux and hosting my first website.

...Incidentally, Wordpress is veeeeeery slooooooow on a 200MHz server with 32MB of RAM.

If I hadn't eventually replaced it with another, newer hand-me-down, it'd probably still be wheezing away somewhere in my parents' basement. Compare that with the way my old Athlon64 box died of bad caps after eating a power supply and a video card, and I start to see why NASA is so fond of its' late-70's-era tech. They don't make 'em like they used to...
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:55 pm

My first build was back in 2000 or 2001. A good friend of mine showed me how to build a PC. We scrounged up some unused parts and I bought all the other necessary parts. It was a MSI MS6117 Mobo, a Celeron 433MHz CPU, 384MB ram, a Promise PCI raid controller, 2 WD 40GB Hard drives (the biggest made at the time), some random video card, and a 12x TDK cd burner (which amazingly still works). The mobo needed a bios update to run the 433 CPU and we did not realize it at first. This caused it to take 4 hours to build the raid array. While we were waiting we watch some tv off my friends HTPC. Suddenly this drugged up dude broke in the back door of the apartment. He shouted "What are you doing in my apartment!" but with a little more colorful language. My friend asked the same question back emphasizing the "my" part. Then the dude walked over to my other friend who was sitting in a chair working at his laptop. The dude grabbed his laptop, slammed it shut and threw it across the room. Then he grabbed my friend's hair and started punching him in the face. My friend got up and walked out the back door. The dude then walked over to my friend who was helping me build the computer and they argued for a second and my friend went out the back door. Then the dude started kicking stuff around. He picked up the coffee table and thew it into the wall. He broke a few other things. Finally he noticed me sitting in the corner quietly and calmly. He ran up to me like he was going to start hitting me. He even started to swing, but then he realized I was waiting for him to do just that and I could take him out in a split second. He stopped mid swing and he turned and ran out the back door.

It turns out the dude tried to break into the next door neighbor's house first and was unable to break down the door. The neighbor called 911 and told the operator everything he saw, including the dude breaking into our back door. It still took the police in our small, quiet, uneventful town 35 minutes to get there. They have a lot of other stuff to do like eating donuts. The dude was long gone by then. Apparently the officer found him a few blocks away sitting in a snowbank. We gave the officer a very hard time for taking so long.

The rest of the build was uneventful. We flashed the bios as soon as the raid array was completed and everything went well. The PC eventually became my file server. The caps started to leak 3 years ago. I replaced them, but I did not trust it anymore as a file server. I gave it away to someone else.
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:24 pm

My turn to tell my's a long one like every other one on here. To start I've been a PC aficionado since 1992 when I arrived to the United States and touched my very first computer. It was either a Commodore or an Apple II GS. Eventually I got my father to buy a P120hz/16 gig of ram Packard Bell computer in 1995. Then I discovered PC games, BBS systems, IRC and PC hardware websites. As we all know once you start reading how fast other computers are and how good games run on them we all want one. At one point I ate, drank and slept thinking about Quake. In 2000 I joined the US Army and was away from computers for a while. In 2003 the computer love(pun intended) was back and in 2004 I was free from uncle Sam. Fast forward to 2006 and I'm almost married and the proud owner of a Dell e510 p4 3.0 GHz HT system with 2 gigs ddr2 667 ram and an ATI x600 video card. I thought I had died and went to heaven with that system. Especially with the 19" monitor I had and being able to play Command and Conquer Generals on high settings and later BF2 at medium settings.

Then came the game that changed it all. Battlefield 2142, that game was like cocaine to me...I was the Dominican version of FPS Doug! (BOOM!! HEADSHOT!!). But I was never happy because I could only play on Low settings. Eventually I started to buy peripherals for my Dell PC. First it was an original G5 Logitech mouse, boy that laser made a HUGE difference. My KDR improved dramatically. Then I bought an x1950pro and an Antec TP3-550 PSU. Man, now BF2142 was playing at medium settings with 2x AA. I thought i was George Jefferson...moving on up!!! a little while later I bought A G15 keyboard. After doing a bunch of reading i decided to do another upgrade since i figured I work all day and should be able to do something i enjoy with what little money I have left, this time I would switch from my current setup to a C2D E6750, Antec P180 rev 1.1, Scythe Ninja Cooler, 2 GIGS OCZ DDR2 800, Gigabyte p35c-ds3r motherboard, Creative XtremeGamer Fatal1ty sound card and another TP3-550 Antec PSU. With this upgrade I carried over my X1950 and the 19" Dell monitor and saw it's performance more than double in BF2142. At this point i was running BF2142 maxed out with 4x AA at 40 to 60 FPS.

Then in 2008 i got an 8800gts512 video card and ran BF2142 maxed out with 4x AA at 80+ FPS. In 2008 I also got a Samsung 226BW monitor...I was in heaven. In 2009 my only upgrades were a new USB gaming Headset (the Fatal1ty one was a winner for me after trying many more expensive/fancier units) and some corsair Dominator DDR2 1066 ram that I bought for $60. All was good at this point, no old Dell parts...i had a decent mid range PC and was pretty happy. Then came the game that changed everything....Battlefield Bad Company 2. It was the first game I have ever per-ordered, I also played the beta and performance was just unacceptable. 3 days before release I upgraded to a Q9550 CPU and that helped a lot since BFBC2 is a CPU bound game. Then I waited to see if Nvidia would deliver something worth buy but Fermi disappointed, too hot, too inefficient, too expensive. In April the in-laws gave me $100 bucks for my Birthday and it just so happen that Logitech's Z523 speaker set was on sale for 50% off and so i grabbed me one. After playing BFBC2 unhappy with how the game looked for a couple of months 3 weeks ago I went all out and bought an XFX 5870 video card. Maxed out BFBC2 was now a reality at 40 to 70 FPS. During this time frame I saw the need to spread out my files over more Hard Drives and now I own 3 1TB Caviar Black HDs and 1 TB Seagate Barracuda and 320GB WD drive. I also had been having issues with my Logitech G5 and G15 off and on with keyboard size and one mouse button's reliability and so i got a new style G15 and a newer model G5 and a G500 to try out. And before I forget my wife bought me an Ergotron LX monitor arm in December 2009 and boy do i love her for it. this thing is awesome and we should all have one!

My PC has been with me to the 2008 Quakecon and Rogcon and 2 PLR Lan Parties. My PC is freaking heavy and I bought a CM Scout case to either build a Lan party PC or switch cases one of these days. Considering another upgrade later this year or early next...would switch motherboard, psu, cpu and ram and carry everything else over.

This has been the story of how my first PC that I put together came about. It was not all done in 1 was an evolution.

Funny things that happened to me during the big upgrade part of the journey:
1. i stressed and raged because the pc would not power up. the culprit? didn't hookup the cpu 4 pin power cable.
2. couldn't boot into windows with my ram set at spec settings, the culprit was not enough voltage from the Gigabyte motherboard.
3. spent hours reading only to finally conclude that pc parts don't work as precise as people think. .1+ in voltage is different in real world value from one motherboard to the next.
4. on my second build the problem i had was i put a screw in a spot that wasn't supposed to get one. this shorted the board so it would shut down immediately. no warnings anywhere on the manual, just a hunch helped me fix that.

My current system
P180B Rev 1.1
Q9550 E0 Stepping
XFX 5870 1GB
Gigabyte P35c-ds3r
4 GB Corsair Dominators PC8500 RAM
Anted TP3-550 PSU
Creative XtremeGamer Fatal1ty sound card
Logitech G5(2007 model.)
Logitech G15
4.320 TB HD Space
Kingwin Hotswap HD bay.
Lite-ON LH20A1S DVD drive
Logitech Z523 Speaker set.

PS. Desk Fan to cool my hands when I am gaming and the office gets hot with the heat my PC puts out. Any serious gamer should have one.
Last edited by fausto412 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
Crayon Shin Chan
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:18 pm

I started with computers in 1998, when my parents snuck me a 300MHz Pentium II with 64MB of RAM and a nice case from the office. It had Windows 98 on it. I spent some time getting around Windows 98, figuring out what the back button does, and what the forward button does. I was on 56K dialup, and I would use Download Accelerator Plus to max out the 4kb/s connection - or if I was lucky, 6kb/s.

Then one day my parents took it back and replaced it with a Celeron 433MHz, with the same amount of RAM and a case that looked like somebody tried really hard to make it appeal to children but failed. It was branded "iCute". Oh yes, that was also around the time the iMac came out. I was drooling over and iBook, and ignored all snide remarks about its resemblance to a toilet seat. Nevertheless, Apple was expensive.

I wasn't happy about the decision at first, but soon I was too busy to care. Back then my interest was cars, and instead of pestering my parents to go to a car showroom I would now scour the internet and print out the pages on cars. Mercedes Benz had a good website based on frames back then, and I was still using Netscape.

This was all fine and hunky dory until I started gaming. I think the first game I played was Monkey Island 3. I've spent the equivalent of one month on Doom and its variants. I remember thinking I knew all there was to playing Doom, until my friend showed me the secrets I had been running past all the time. Then there was Quake. I remember hating the WASD scheme, and changed it so that the right mouse button went forward, left button was backward, and the traditional Ctrl-Shift scheme on the left hand. For a while I could play Quake like that, but then there was Quake 2, which didn't play very well with that control scheme. I didn't play it much, I thought it sucked.

Then there was Quake 3. I had no idea why it wouldn't start. It said something about not supporting OpenGL... what was that? So I said "it's a crappy game anyway just like 2" and forgot about it. But the crappiness of the S3 Trio 3D/2X would come back to haunt me later with ePSXe. Instead of pestering my dad and mom to get me a Playstation to buy Final Fantasy IX (then hyped everywhere), which wouldn't have worked at all, a two page spread on the history of the Final Fantasy series in a newspaper revealed the existence of things like emulators. I began looking for those, and cursing the fact that Super Nintendo games were so large - it took about 20 minutes to download a 3-4MB ROM on dialup. First there was Nesticle, and Final Fantasies 1-3. Then there was ZSNES with 5, 6 and 4. Then there was ePSXe. It was very hard, I assure you, to convince my parents to buy pirated versions of Final Fantasies 8 and 9, despite the extremely cheap price those streetside hawkers were pushing.

Looking back, I wonder how the Celeron 433 managed all that - emulating a MIPS R3000 and rendering all that in the Software renderer plugin - but what was a fact was that Final Fantasies 8 and 9 did not run smoothly when I reached the overworld. Nevertheless, I managed about 40 hours in 8 and 20 in 9 before I started thinking that this might perform better if... what is that OpenGL plugin I see over there? Direct3D?

I started researching. By then 2001 was coming around. I found sites like Tomshardware, and from there Anandtech, Tech Report, Aces Hardware (now a shadow of its former self, couldn't understand a single article on it back in the day), and Ars Technica. Tom's Hardware took a long time to load on dialup, but I found its articles very interesting. It, along with Anandtech, educated me on the mechanics of performance bottlenecks.

National exams abound, my parents told me to get good results, and they would get me a new computer. This meant Final Fantasy 9, Quake 3, and whatever else coming down the road. I enthusiastically agreed, and since I knew the requirements to be comparatively easy, I set about researching computers yet again instead of studying. In the end I came up with: a 700/800MHz AMD Duron, 128MB of RAM, a KT266A motherboard and a Geforce 2 MX 400. This, I felt, was quite reasonable and could be expected to play Final Fantasy 9 well.

I aced the national exams, and my parents came up with their own config: AMD Athlon XP 1800+, 256MB of RAM (I insisted 128 would be enough), and a MSI KT3V (this meant USB 2.0, as well high speed RAM upgrades in the future). I was ecstatic. Sweetening the deal was a Geforce 4 Ti 4200 that "just dropped into their offices" one day. They asked if I wanted one. Who could say no to that. It was a huge upgrade from a Geforce 2 MX.

It was taller and whiter than my existing computer, which immediately conveyed how much superior it was. 40GBs of space. ePSXe was now hitting 200FPS, even with software rendering. I finally could play Quake 3 (and didn't like the fact that there was no campaign). There was this game called Halo which I spent weeks trying to beat on Legendary - I got quite good at that. The CD drive actually worked for once, which meant I didn't have to clutter up the hard drive with ISOs downloaded (much to my dad's consternation) over dialup. And to top it off, we discovered the joys of ADSL. And I ran Cinema 4D and left it to render a reflective scene for 3 days.

Several years passed. The Geforce 4's fan had stopped working, but it still soldiered on. Games were beginning to require something called DirectX 8.1, which pissed me off because it was just 0.1 away from my Geforce 4 Ti. My mom and dad gave me a birthday present in the form of a 512MB DDR400 stick. When I went to Canada, I came back with an Athlon XP 2500 and a Radeon 9500 Pro. Using the money from my newfound job, I bought a 1GB DDR400 stick and raised the bus frequency to 166MHz, taking out the two original sticks of 128MB. And a 500GB Western Digital drive. An Audigy 2 Value replaced the ESS 1938 card from the old Celeron 433. Power supplies came and went. The Intellimouse ball mouse began to act up, so I began to slam it against the table when it did (definitely not gunk inside the mouse) and afterwards it would work perfectly for a short time. I remember playing Halo on Legendary with that mouse. Later on I bought a Logitech MX310 at a PC Fair and got scolded by my parents because it was expensive. But it was worth it, I thought. Within a year or two the Logitech logo had faded away from the mouse. I once used my savings to buy a Geforce 6800XT - it was incredible, until it somehow fried itself. From then onwards I never looked at a Biostar product again. Then there was the second hand MSI NX6800 which I overclocked/unlocked with Rivatuner. One day I overclocked it but forgot to ramp the fan speed up - the result was a crash and it wouldn't work again. It was a good card.

Even today I still haven't given up on the system. The Barton 2500+, as long as I don't run X264 beside my Core Duo laptop, doesn't need to be upgraded, but I might buy another 1GB stick to fill up all the RAM slots. A SATA card would also help, as well as a more compact case with less optical drive bays and more hard drive bays. I even bought a Radeon HD 3850 AGP for it - but I'm still in Germany. I'll try out Borderlands when I'm home this year, with this Radeon HD.

I only wish I'd impressed my parents more since then so that I could have more upgrades like that. Looking forward, I think it's time for me to pay for my own computers though. Since I'm commuting between Malaysia and Germany every year, I'll go with a Silverstone Sugo build this time - and I intend for it to be just as bombastic and awesome of an upgrade as the Athlon XP.
Mothership: Thuban 1055T@3.7GHz, 12GB DDR3, M5A99X EVO, GTX470+Icy Vision Rev.2@840/3800, Vertex 2E 60GB
Supply ship: Sargas@2.8GHz, 12GB DDR3, M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3
Corsair: Macbook Air Ivy Bridge
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Gerbil Elite
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:35 pm

It was in the late 90s. My mother bought me the first computer to call my own for my birthday, it was a cheap Compaq Presario with one of the old generic Cyrix processors in it, 128MB of RAM, and a 4GB HDD.

It didn't take long before I was into gaming. I was heavy into Starcraft and Diablo. When Diablo 2 came out, it nearly filled the rest of my hard drive and I was unable to get it running.

The first upgrade I made was the RAM. My uncle came home with some spare 256Gig sticks, I swapped my single 128 out for a pair of those, raising it up to 512. Still couldn't play Diablo 2 though.

Out of curiosity I decided to tear apart Mom's computer case, a better equipped Compaq, while she was out. I discovered an Intel Pentium 233 MMX processor that used the same socket as mine.

I swapped our processors and I was suddenly able to play Diablo 2 with no issues whatsoever. She never noticed :D

From then on I've always had fun digging around inside a computer case, building and upgrading.
Intel Core i7-5775c, Asus Maximus VII Formula, Win 10 Pro
EVGA GTX 1080, Corsair 2x8GB DDR3-1866, Corsair AX860
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Gerbil First Class
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:09 pm

My first build I have very fond memories of. When I was a junior in high school my dad told me that we would build a gaming computer together as a gift for my 17th birthday. It was May of 2005. This was a big deal for me because I was a gamer (Xbox), but we had never had a PC that didn’t have an integrated graphics card. We were, at the time, rocking an old Intel Celeron processor. So we do a lot of research into it and we picked out as parts:
AMD based system
AMD Athlon 3500+ processor
2 gigs of DDR2 RAM
600 Watt power supply
2x Nvidia Geforce 6600GTs in SLI (This was really exciting as SLI was still rare and not well known. I would be the first person I know with an SLI system)
A cool case with blue LEDs and glow-in-the-dark green fan blades.

So after much waiting all the parts finally come in. My dad had some outdated knowledge of building computers, and I was just getting into them, and really didn’t know much. We slowly thumbed through the manual and got bits and pieces of it working.....And to be honest, by the end, it wasn’t all that. For some reason, our SLI motherboard had all USB 1.1 USB slots (we had a serious WTF moment on that), we never got the front side USB ports to work, and the case fans ran at full blast non-stop (they wouldn’t scale, manually or automatically), so it was the loudest computer we had ever heard. But it looked cool, ran smooth, and 1/2 a year later would run Guild Wars at full blast no sweat. Plus it was probably the last "project" sort of thing that I would ever do with my dad.

I later moved out and my dad kept the computer for about a year, before selling it to my friend for $180 in 2008. I think he had dumped nearly $1000 into it at the time of building it.

I’m running an AMD Phenom II X4 3.5 ghz, 6 gigs of DDR3 1333, and a Geforce 8800GT (need to upgrade this, plan on it this fall). And even though it works like a dream, it’s not as special. I’d give up this computer to have the chance to build one more crappy single core system with USB 1.1 with my dad again.
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:03 am

Wow! I feel like one of the old-timers talking about model T's I can't believe how much has changed in so few years.

My first computer was my trusty Commodore 64. Unfortunately, Commodore's weren't upgradable.

I believe it was early 1991 and my first IBM-clone was a $1,500 386DX-25MHz. It had 1MB RAM, 40MB Hard Drive, 5.25" AND 3.5" floppy drives, VGA Video
14" CRT color monitor. Sound, if you want to call it that, was supplied by a standard PC speaker. Soundcards with stereo sound were an extravagance for the guys who had money to burn on those screaming 386DX-33's. The primary OS was DOS 5.x with Windows 3.1. To squeeze performance out of it, I mads sure it would boot to DOS because even in those days, Windows was a resource hog.

Anyway, I was taking a circuits class and had to model some electronic circuits using some DOS-based program where you had to enter line after line of data describing the circuit and when you were done, the program would analyze it, and output all kinds of info about the circuit outputs, voltages, currents, frequencies, etc.

After quite some time of carefully entering line after line of code, I hit the enter key and eagerly waited for the program to do all those calculations and give me my output!... After watching the DOS prompt for 15 minutes, "BEEEP!" Victory! I had my answers! It worked great...but it was pretty slow. I played with it a little more, but at 15 minutes a shot, you really couldn't play around much to get a feel for what variations in a circuit would do.

Now, the 386DX machines didn't have an internal math coprocessor, so I knew I just had to upgrade. After all, I was an Engineering student and I was doing some pretty fancy scientific calculations. (tongue in cheek). I broke open my piggy bank, ate ramen for a month, and bought a math coprocessor.

The upgrade itself wasn't that big of a deal. Pop open the case, find the socket, plug in the coprocessor, and put it back together.

Now was the time of truth... How fast would it be? Would it knock the processing time down to 10 minutes or maybe even 5?

I brought up my data and hit the enter key. Now, knowing it would still take a while, I stood up and started heading out of my room when, "BEEEP!" It smugly kicked out the results! This little machine went from 15 minutes to do a task down to about 20 seconds! Now, that's an upgrade you can stick in your pipe and smoke it!

I made many upgrades to many computers through the years and finally actually built one from scratch this year, but I have never had anywhere near that kind of performance increase. Frankly, I have been hooked on upgrading ever since.
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:14 am

I ain't afraid of no Quake!

2.5D was going out with Duke Nukem 3D. It was the early stages of 3D games, back around 1997 or so, when I was in high school. The original Quake became the game to play and 3dfx Voodoo cards were becoming popular.

Lucky for me, the year prior, I had started working for a computer integrator where I was learning the ins and outs of building computers. I became confident I would be able to upgrade the family computer, a Packard Bell with a 100 MHz Pentium and 2 MB of video RAM. After looking through the manual I decided to void the warranty and open up the case. Like the manual said, there ware two empty sockets on the motherboard for video RAM chips. I was able to purchases 2 more MB of video RAM from work. Carefully, I once again opened up the computer and inserted the RAM. I hooked all the cables up and started the computer and...

Voila! That burnt electronics smell...

Quickly I shutdown and opened the case and saw one of the newly installed pieces of RAM toasted. Not having a chip plier (?), I used a small screw driver and pried both chips out. Upon further examination, the socket was backwards on the motherboard! The socket was rectangular with one of the corners cut diagonally to line up with a dot on the corner of the RAM chip. The wrong corner was cut off, so I had basically installed one of the chips upside down! Thanks Packard Bell! That was that... still no upgrade for Quake...

But my quest for Quake would not be denied. Not feeling good about attempting another video RAM upgrade (between the chip frying and the screw driver, it didn't seem like a smart thing to try), I decided to get a 3D accelerator card. A Voodoo card! And not just any Voodoo card, a Canopus Pure3D, the one with 6 MB RAM instead of the standard 4 MB. I had no credit card and I couldn't convince my parents to order something off that "internet thing", especially something almost $200, so I had to resort to asking my supervisor at work to order it for me. A fellow geek, he agreed. Thanks Kevin! About a week or so later, it was waiting for me when I showed up for work. After work, I rushed home, installed it, passthrough cable and all and...

Tada! Rainbow colored dots all over the textures in Quake...

You've got to be kidding me. Of course I had to get my supervisor to go through all the trouble RMA-ing it. Thanks again Kevin! After some more waiting, I got a new card...

One that actually worked! I was running Quake at glorious 640x480. Then it was upgraded to GLQuake using Glide! r_shadows! Then after vispatching my maps, r_mirroralpha and r_wateralpha!

And to this day, I still have that Pure3D card (just not installed anywhere).

So there you have it, my first, though certainly not last, instance of upgrading a computer for gaming.
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:27 am

First built I had was back in the Pentium 2 and Voodoo card era with Quake benchmarks.

The specs are as follows:
Pentium II 333Mhz (Slot 1)
Asus BX Motherboard
SD-RAM (forgot how big it was)
8meg Diamond Monster Voodoo2 card
Matrox Millenium 3D card
Diamond Monster Soundcard
Microsoft Natural Keyboard
17" CRT Flatscreen from ViewMaster
Windows 98 operating system

There are some details I've already forgotten. In terms of installation, I was slow and careful and as a result there was problems in that regard.

The most memorable part of this machine is that it was near state-of-the-art PC in the year 1998. Some of the things I still remember very well are:
1. The CPU was the first .25 micron CPU from Intel and it was overclockable to 400Mhz with ease. So I ran it at 400Mhz from day 1. The 440BX chipset is the type from Intel that can run 100FSB with ease.
2. The Voodoo2 card was the first 3D add-on card I bought and it changed my life to a PC gamer. I still play PC games today! Gaming at a fluid 50-60fps with the Voodoo2 was an unbeatable experience even compared to today's standards.
3. The unique Diamond Monster Sound which is powered by the Aureal 3D chip and output to a 4.1 Altec-Lancing speaker setup.
4. The large and heavy 17" CRT screen stayed with me for over 6 years. I had to finally retire the dinasour when the VGA connecting wire broke.

For me, the foundation of building a good gaming machine is still similar today.

1. Get a CPU with the biggest overclocking headroom and overclock the CPU
2. Get a really fast graphics card (A graphics card can easily be 40-50% of the total system cost)
3. Get lots of RAM

You can't go wrong with these three simple rules.
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:27 am

Ah, yes, 1985, when you could actually learn something about computers by subscribing to a computer magazine like Byte. And I spent 600 on a 2400baud modem, and another 600 for a monitor - a very fancy one that was not black&white, it was amber&white with reverse video. With this I was able to dial in across country to an account I had on a Cyber. Eventually (1987), I got a PC XT and could give that terminal setup away to a student. The hard disk was a pathetic 10 MB, which led me to my first computer upgrade.

I got an expansion card to compress files. Supposedly it would double disk space, which it almost did. The company must have been Stac Electronics. They had both a software and a hardware disk compression product. (Maybe the hardware was made by a different company that licensed their technology.) The expansion card was less than a hundred bucks, and cheaper than getting another hard drive, so I went with that. Even with the work offloaded to the card, hard disk operations were noticeably slower, so I wasn't very pleased.

It was a great time to be gaming. Adventure games were where it was at with both Sierra and LucasArts introducing the new video adventures - culminating in Loom, still the standard. I also spent a lot of time playing rogue and umoria, although not on the PC. RPG's were strong. The Ultima series was at its best. And the box would contain a cloth map of the kingdom. Pool of Radiance had both a cloth map and some kind of fake gem (not sure what it was supposed to be). Heck, Loom included an audio tape. Some nice strategy titles came out, including Railroad Tycoon (the best in the series) and eventually Civilization.

I was a fixture at the mall chain stores, Babbages and Electronics Boutique. I had to return games many times. There were so many returns those days, one of the stores had a couple of stock PC's set up to prove to customers that the game would work on a genuine IBM vanilla PC. (Often, if you wanted to play a game, you would reboot your PC using a boot floppy with the right HMA settings and stuff, and customers would screw up their systems.) Sometimes when I returned an item, the clerk would have to open up several boxes to find a copy that worked. I returned Ancient Art of War at Sea, and the replacement still had the same bug trying to start up. But a friend gave me a patch needed to make his pirated version work, and then my bought version worked too. Hmm. I think there was some bootlegging going on at those chain stores back in the day. The game companies seemed to be more obsessed with piracy then than they are today. One game I bought was basically a box of paper, about a dozen paperback volumes. You'd play the game and it would tell you what section to read next. Go ahead and copy that!
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:31 am

My first PC upgrade experience was upgrading an old Dell Dimension system from it's stock configuration (Slot 1, Coppermine PIII at 600mhz) and a Riva TNT2 AGP card to a Slot 1 with Upgradware adapter to allow for Tualatin Socket 370 chips (I used a PIII-S 1.4Ghz CPU). The CPU upgrade worked great, but the video card was still choking on most any game I tried to play. I had pretty much exhausted my budget on the super awesome P3 with adapter, so my search went to eBay. I found a "as-is, broken" nVidia 6800 GS 128MB AGP card for $30 (which was a steal at the time because they still cost around $200 new). I got the card home and saw that it was indeed bad. I cleaned it and reapplied thermal paste with no luck. As a last ditch effort, I bought an NV Silencer rev5 and installed it on the card. Much to my surprise it worked! Not only that, I was able to unlock the cards extra pixel and vertex shaders, essentially making it a 6800 GT! I think the old heatsink was somehow shorting the card out (perhaps making contact where it shouldn't have). I used that system for a very long time in multiple capacities until the Dell motherboard finally died just 2 months ago. I have moved on since then of course to a AMD Athlon X2 5000+ (unlock to a Phenom FX 5000 Quad Core) and a 9800 GT, but that old Dell beast still holds a place in my heart. So much so that I actually resurrected it using a very terrible VIA PIII Motherboard (which I actually had to use a different adapter on to get the Tualatin to work). Believe it or not, the thing can still play some games (on a CRT at 800x600 max res), but just seeing it load up games that it shouldn't is half the fun. On a side note, I used CPUFSB to get an extra 70mhz out of the CPU, woooot! Give me Just Cause 2 and I will try to make it run on the old PIII w/ 6800 GT combo (even though Just Cause 2 requires DX10), somehow I will make it work. Or, I will just play it on my newer rig!
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Grand Admiral Gerbil
Posts: 10095
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:00 am

Ah, the half-remembered and oft lamented past... Where to begin?

I built my first computer in 10th grade. At the time, I liked computers, but I had little experience with them, other than the continual dissatisfaction of knowing the specs of my parent's computer were far too low to play any of the cool and interesting games. The little I did know about computers was provided by my friends, who would discuss the relative merits of the newly released Athlon versus the Pentium 3. I didn't really follow the conversations, but I knew that the Athlon was new, exciting, and powerful.

Through a conspiracy of events, primarily my own dissoluteness, I found myself facing the unenviable prospect of military school. One of the requirements for the school was a computer, so I somehow convinced my parents to let me build my own. So, with little to no research and armed only with the spotty information provided by friends, I embarked upon my first build. I knew that athlons were "good" and that was pretty much it. I figured the rest what I needed from friends and matched compatibility by using the specifications listed on, where I bought all the parts (a friend, who had their circular, suggested it).

My purchase, based on my limited budget:

Athlon 550
Asus K7M
64 Megs of no-name SDRAM.
Voodoo Banshee
A no-name beige case/PSU.
Some soundblaster.
Windows 98.
15GB Quantum Fireball HD (I think, my memory is spotty on this)

I used an old keyboard, mouse and monitor that my parents had.

I took my time figuring how to connect everything, as I never did anything like that before. I did everything right, except installing the heatsink on the CPU. I never figured out how to properly attach the retaining mechanism, so the heatsink just sort of, like, leaned against the processor. Despite the complete lack of cooling, I somehow never had a problem with the Athlon. It got real hot, sure, but it worked.

With this computer I could play Quake 2! Half-Life! Though, strangely, I spent most of my time playing Quake on it. Team Fortress, and all that. This, of course, wasn't the purpose of the computer, but, hey.

Anyway, I didn't go to military school. They actually declined to take me. Thankfully, though, I had developed a new passion, a new hobby. Building that computer sparked my interest in hardware, whereas before the most I had ever really done was dabble with software. I started reading hardware review sites and their forums, which eventually led me here. I spent a lot of time learning something that could later be developed into a marketable skill. I eventually did an upgrade to the same system, replacing the banshee with a Geforce 2 GTS (and found myself cursing the AMD-750 Irongate chipset in the process, eventually got it stable). Things were wonderful. From there I began building many, many different computers. Some for myself, others for friends, family etc...

At any rate, through all that I ended up not needing military school, which might have been the best outcome after all.
Gerbil Elite
Posts: 716
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Location: South Carolina

Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:10 pm

How well do I remember my first build back in August/September of 2007. In fact, it's what brought me to TR.
My first post can be found here. viewtopic.php?f=33&t=52387
Special thanks go out to Airmanthorp, themattman, derfunkenstein, FireGryphon, toxent, and mafropetee for helping me when I needed it the most.

My build was based on the Fall 2007 TR System Builders Guide which looked like this:
Case: Antec P180
Mobo: Abit IP35 Pro
PSU: OCZ StealthXtreme 600W
CPU: Core2Duo E6600
GPU: MSI 8800GTS 640mb
RAM: OCZ DDR2-800 (2x1gb)
HD: WD Caviar SE16 500gb
OD: Samsung SH-S183L

I made a few variations with the help of the previously mentioned folks. In the end, I ended up putting this system together:
Case: Antec 900
Mobo: Abit IP35 Pro
PSU: Corsair HX620
CPU: Core2Quad Q6600
GPU: EVGA 8800GTS 640mb
RAM: G.Skill DDR2-1000 (2x2gb)
HD: WD Caviar SE16 500gb
OD: Samsung SH-S183L

Looks remarkeably similar, doesn't it? With a few upgrades through the past couple of years, you can still see this build in my signature below. Let me say, IT STILL ROCKS!!

I'm happy to say that the build went perfect. The only hitch was first boot because the monitor didn't show anything. Turned out to be a simple button on the monitor that said "Source". Pushed that little button and away we went.

Ended up going through a few BSOD's during the first couple of months, but ever since SP1 was released for Vista, it has been flawless.

I've since helped several friends build their own PC's, and even though I'm no expert, I feel quite confident helping others with their first build. So much so, that at age 46, I've enrolled in IT classes at my local Community College with the hopes of changing careers and going into the Tech field within the next few years. Wish me luck! Thanks guys.
Corsair 450D | EVGA SuperNova G3 650W | Asus Z270 Prime-A | Intel i7-7700K | Cryorig H7 | MSI GTX1070 Gaming X 8G | 16gb GSkill TridentZ DDR4 3200 | Crucial MX300 M.2-2280 1TB w/ Win 10 64-bit | Corsair K70 Rapidfire | Logitech G502 | Asus VW246H
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Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:00 pm

Edit: Forgot about the old ZX-81!

Way back in the day, I built one of those Sinclair ZX-81 "computers". It was a cool little machine for someone who didn't have anything better. Of course, having (I think) three total chips in the machine, including the CPU, it didn't have much in the way of features.

So my first expansion was to buy the external 16KB memory expansion module. However I really wanted sound out of this thing. So I looked at the schematic, picked some address lines, and wire-wrapped some wires directly onto the bus coming into the external memory pack. I then put these into a small breadboard square-wave decoder that simply turned a speaker on and off (like the Apple ][). I wrote some routines inside the Sinclair to toggle the speaker at specific frequencies, and voila I had sound! It worked great.

As far as my first PC upgrade...

Back in the day, I had this KayPro 12MHz 286. It was a screamer -- well for awhile anyway. It was a pretty awesome design. The processor was on a daughter card with the RAM and chipset, which all plugged into a passive motherboard backplane. You could upgrade it by plugging in a higher performance processor module.

Trouble is, I was in college, and broke. So instead of going the expensive route, I decided to purchase a 16MHz crystal for a ghetto upgrade. I tried to unsolder the 12MHz crystal and solder in the 16MHz crystal. (Actually they were a multiple of those speeds -- 24 and 32? Don't remember... anywho...) Even in those days they had multi-layer circuit boards. Not to the degree we have now, but there was more than just a top and bottom layer. I managed to brick the processor card in the process, probably by messing up the connection with the internal layer(s). No matter what I tried, including replacing the original crystal, would revive the machine. Oh well, it was a nice thought.

Trouble is, I needed a working computer! So I convinced my brother to put a new 16MHz 386sx motherboard on his credit card, with the promise to pay him back "soon". It arrived days later, and my first real custom build began. I transplanted all the original parts, including the massive 2MB of RAM, onto the new motherboard. It had a nice tweakable BIOS. And it could run protected mode!

Later upgrades for this machine would include IDE drives instead of drives on a ST-506 controller, an AST RamPage card for additional memory (on the ISA bus!), and an ATI 8514/Ultra coupled with my ATI VGA Wonder. I never did get that 387 floating point co-processor, though...
Last edited by Buub on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Gerbil In Training
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:03 pm

Had a Sager 9880 gaming laptop which bit the dust. Specifically the motherboard. This was the model that crammed a desktop P4 and a Gefore Ultra 6800 into a laptop case so you can imagine the heat. Anyway that's what got me started on my quest for a new PC. Now I knew I didn't want to buy a pre made model. I've been in and out of computer cases before but never built one. A co worker of mine builds them all the time so he agreed that he would do it while I watched. Long story short to this point; I had the parts arrive on a Tuesday. Told him we were on for Saturday (Early July 2009) and he told me his brother was in from Hong Kong and couldn't do it Saturday. Being on vacation that week I decided to just build it myself. After all what was the worst that could happen.

Now I'm someone that does a ton of research for anything that I buy. Be it a $20 dollar memory stick or in this case a $1500 dollar computer so after much shopping and late nights comparing parts (point; I came into this from using a laptop having not been familiar with desktop parts) I made my selections and had the parts shipped from Newegg.

LITE-ON Black Blu-Ray DVD Drive & DVD Burner with LightScribe SATA Model iHES206-08
(2)(Raid0) Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
ZALMAN CNPS9900ALED 120mm 2 Ball Low-noise Blue LED CPU Cooler
HIS H489F1GP Radeon HD 4890 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
ASUS P6T SE LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000 RC-1000-KSN1-GP Black/ Silver Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case
OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3G1600LV6GK
Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor BX80601920
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power ...
Subtotal $1,357.88

Now this decision to build it myself was made around 9 PM. Being on vacation and being a night owl I decided it was going to happen right there and then. Story wise I'll try to keep the rest brief. Sort of like ESPN Sportscenter. You'll only get the highlights which I'm sure you'll only be interested in anyway.

Ah! Good it comes with a picture of where the motherboard goes.
Ah! Glad I found these bolt things so I didn't wind up laying the motherboard directly against the case.
My god this case is heavy.

Look at the size of this manual (motherboard). Better get reading.
Trying to place the CPU on the motherboard was probably the most harrowing experience of the ordeal. The last CPU that I seated was from sometime back and that CPU had pins which fit nicely into the socket. The i7 as I was soon to realize after I thought I had crushed it like a coffee bean trying to seat it has no pins and therefore it was normal to have resistance when closing the hatch. So after a few googles I realized some resistance was fine. Took a breather after that.

CPU Heat Sink (Zalman fan if you hadn't guessed)
Now I had bought a tube of Arctic Silver Ceramique with my newegg order however the Zalman fan unbeknown-st to me comes with it's own paste, a jar to be exact and look there's a brush under the cap, like when I do my wife's nails ... (stay on subject) so I was more comfortable with the brush and so I used the Zalman paste. I still think someone in the know would of advised me to use the Artic Silver but hey I'm entering a contest from the very computer I've built so it couldn't of been a bad decision. Being not comfortable with the included instructions and after spending close to an hour trying to find and watching videos of people installing the Zalman I finally installed it.

Build was complete at 6AM the next morning. I spent the entire night reading manuals, watching youtubes and reading computer forums and of course building the machine. So being 6AM and not yet throwing the power switch I contemplated; It's 6AM and if I throw the switch and it bursts into flames I'm not going to be able to sleep so let me get 4 hours before I turn it on.

10AM. Groggy but feeling empowered I arrive in my dining room knee deep in computer hardware boxes, manuals and screws. I saunter over to the beast and throw the switch. Nothing happens. Plug it in and throw the switch and wow it works and I built it. Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus.

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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:53 pm

I think first upgrade Ive ever done was adding a 40Mb HDD and a 3.5" floppy drive to an old 286 box that only had 2x 5.25 floppies until then... ~~1991? Another early one would be adding a math co-processor to a 386... and a 4Mb memory stick, which i clearly remember cost me over $100 back then! :) Oh and I soldered together an old-skool Covox sound processor back then, anyone remember those? It could be made with $10 worth of Radioshack parts, plugged into the parallel port and many games would have that as a sound option, or in most cases u could rig the SoundBlaster option to output to it w/ some autoexec/config.sys magic :) I remember almost crapping my pants when I finally got multi-track sample-based music rocking on my stereo :) I spent lots of time in ScreamTracker :) Good times.
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:23 pm

I quite remember the day i built... should i say, tried to build my first computer. This story is extra sad as I am now 26 and currently work as a tech, building computers for a living.
It was the summer of 99, I was 15 and had worked all summer to get a computer good enough to play the much awaited Baldurs gate. It was a 400MHZ AMD-K6. (no idea the motherboard i used) It had 128MB ofPC100 SD RAM and a Voodoo Banshee AGP graphics card. This PC was gonna be ballin. When i got home I started hooking everything up right away. Ignoring all instructions i mounted my motherboard, installed my CPU, slapped in the ram and video card, plugged 'er in and powered 'er on... To the much awaited chime of ... absolutely nothing!, instead I got a strong odor, like burnt toast only worse... I quickly unplugged my rig and opened it up only to see a puff of smoke rise from the case.
Long story short i never put the standoffs in the case, as well as I managed to install the Ram backwards.... (hey i got one end to clip down, i thought that was good enough)...
well it took a good 48 hours for the house to stop smelling like electrical fire, cost me $1100 and Baldur's gate had to wait another year. :(
i still have the unused copy of win 95 as a memento.
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Sat Jul 17, 2010 11:42 pm

My story starts in a small Amish community tucked away not too far outside a major Ohio city. The community elders would meet once a year to discuss their concerns, this included new technologies and whether or not they would be permitted for use. For the most part we lived the typical Amish "old world" lifestyle, however we did have things such as generators, motorized wheelchairs, medical equipment (w/ solar grid), various farm equipment, etc. . If something could be viewed as interfering with our seperation from the outside world it would most likely never find its way within the community, this definitely included phones: televisions, computers, automobiles and the likes.

*fastforward - One summer I had gotten into a punch-up with a fellow classmate. My parents and church leaders were very upset with me. I remember my father blaming himself for the incident, he thought he should be spending more time with me. My father had plans to go into the city and visit a friend the following weekend, and he anounced he would be taking me with him on his 3 day trip. I was very excited, this would be my third trip to the city. The first time I was too young to remember and the second was just a passthrough on a bus. I had no idea what to expect, and at the moment i was questioning why my father was leaving for the city, as it was very rare for him to stay overnight.

*fastforward- About an hour after stopping at a deli and eating my first pizza we arrive at my fathers friend house, whom just happened to have a son my age (Tim). I was so excited; they had a phone, television, power. . I remember feeling overwhelmed. It wasnt my first time seeing these things just not all at the same time, but what really threw me through the roof was their computer, this was the first time I had seen one in person.

So our second day there, my dad and his friend decide to leave us two teenangers alone at home for the evening. My dad had told me I could watch television but to not play with anything else, you think I was gonna listen to him?
Shortly after the grownups leave, Tim turns to me and asks if I wanted to play a pc game? This would be the frist time I had seen a videogame (yes I was very deprived). I'll never forget that epic intro, Buldar's gate - yeah you know the one. Unfortunately no intro has ever given me that feeling I had watching that knight get thrown off the roof.

Anyhow to make a short story shorter - I ended up being so hooked on that game. Its all I thought about for the next 2 years I spent on the farm. I'm postitive it had a strong influence on my decision to leave the community (that and college).

It didnt take long for me to purchase my first pc after I had left, I had a friend pick out a emachines for me. I wish I could remember what the exact specs were, at the time computers were so foreign to me the specs were unimportant. I think it had a 40gb hd and a 1ghz cpu. I ended up playing the heck out of Buldar's Gate and Lineage 1.

As my computer knowledge grew over the next few years, so did the curiosity to build my own. I spent about a year researching, reading "build your own guides", trolling forums, and thx to TR and pc gamer (before the forums got switched) that goal was reached a few years back. I went with the July 2007 grand experiment, minus the case and psu. I ended up modding my own case about 8 months ahead of time in preparation. Were talking paint, custom window, uv lights, fans w/ custom guards, fan cotroller - it was off the hook. The build itself went together as smoothly as possible. The system posted, bios recognized everything, correct values were set, and windows installed with no problems. I still remember that feeling I got when I saw the windows bootup logo popup, I was pretty lucky.

Since then i have built a second rig and will actually be building my third in the near future (currently researching).
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:15 am

Let's see. My first PC upgrade...

That would have been when I installed a modem into my first PC. Not rocket surgery by any means, but back then it was a tad more complicated than connecting a modem these days.

The computer was a snappy 12.5 MHz 286, with an impressive 1MB of RAM. It had a 5.25" floppy drive, and a spacious 20MB HD. It had monochrome Hercules graphics, and the output was displayed in crisp orange/black on a fairly small monitor. It was running MS-DOS 3.0.

All in all, it was a pretty nice computer, and I sometimes wish I'd kept it in working order (the case was huge and heavy, and for storage reasons I'd dismantled it, keeping only the core components. I also poked and prodded them a lot, doing things like pulling out DIPs and examining them closer. Unfortunately I poked (or maybe prodded) a clock crystal a bit too hard, and it came loose. I've been toying with the idea of soldering it back in place, but I'm not sure if it'd be worth the effort...). (Similarly, I also regret selling my C64...)

Anyway, the upgrade...
The modem was a 300 baud modem handed down to me from an uncle. It didn't connect externally through a serial port, but was instead located on a separate ISA card, so you had to open up the computer in order to install it. The computer case was very tinkering-friendly though, since the lid was connected with a hinge in the back, and locked in place with two push buttons in the front (one on each side). So, to open the case, all I had to do was push two buttons, and lift the lid. That was pretty nice actually, and was probably one of the reasons I quickly began to feel comfortable poking around inside.

The upgrade really wasn't any harder than installing a new graphics card nowadays (hardware-wise at least. Software-wise... Well, that's another situation...), but that was my first solo PC upgrade, and I was pretty happy with the results.
We didn't have access to any newfangled "World Wide Web" at the time, but it did allow me to connect to BBSes, and to participate in Usenet newsgroups. Ah, the good old days when the limiting factor in *chats* was the speed of your connection...

I learned a lot on that computer, both in regards to hardware, and in matters of software. It was a great platform for experimentation, and I tried to take advantage of that. I also learned the secrets of DOS (who can forget the joys of autoexec.bat and config.sys? :) Especially back when different games required different optimizations; for instance, some games wanted extended memory, and some wanted expanded memory.), and played around a lot with all the various programs that came with it. I've had quite a few computers since then (most of them I've built on my own), but that first PC was one of the most significant ones (in terms of what I learned from/on them).

I also owe a lot to the uncle that gave me that modem (the modem being only a minor reason). He was the person that introduced me to PC computers; he had a PC, and my brother and I used to play early PC games on it when we were visiting (and I also later got my first views of Windows 2.0). He taught me the basics of DOS so that I could handle his computer myself, and when I got my first PC, I called him a lot in the start, asking numerous questions. It didn't take too long until I became (mostly) self-sufficient (and not too much longer until I generally surpassed him in PC knowledge), but I can't help but wonder how different things could have been if not for all that early help. It gave an environment where I could experiment a lot (if anything went wrong, the worst that could happen was that I'd need to perform a quick reformat and start over), and if anything did stump me, I could just call for help. That allowed me to *learn*, rather than "merely use" PCs. Since I've been using PCs *a lot* since then (and those interests have also been directing quite a few life changing choices), things could have ended up very differently for me if not for that help.

His kids are quite a bit younger than me, so I've tried to repay the favor by providing similar help to them when possible, but since my uncle has been more than able to handle most of that, that need hasn't come up very often. His son is starting to study Comp. Sci. at a university level this fall, so maybe I'll be able to be of some service then...
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:48 am

I'll be honest, I have no idea what spec the first system I built was, I knew at the time but it was when I was about 11. It was probably my old 486DX 33 system.

I'd always had home built systems, as my dad works in IT I was forever getting his hand me downs, and while I was reasonably proficient in using DOS and Windows I'd never had to do something anything major, my dad always set the OS up for me.

Unfortunately my dad also spent a fair while out of the country with his work, and it just so happened that a day or two after he headed out to Australia for a 2-month trip my systems hard drive died. I had two options, be without a PC of my own for the next 2 months, or work things out myself.

Replacing the hard drive was simple, other than the fact I managed to slice my hand open on the old fashioned, razor sharp edges of the AT form factor case.

But this was the dark days of DOS, SCSI CD-ROM drives, and MSCDEX. I had fiddled with Config.sys and Autoexec.bat to free up conventional memory (Wing Commander 2 and its 604KB requirement was a nightmare) but the manual for the CD-ROM controller had been thrown out and I had no chance of working it out.

For DOS or Windows 3.1 this wasn't a problem, I had them on FDD's, but I wanted the brand new, all singing, all dancing Windows 95, and we only had it on CD-ROM.

So a plan was hatched. DOS 6.11 was installed from FDD, followed by the first Beta of Windows 95 which we had on disks. This auto-configured the CD-ROM drive, and allowed me to run the upgrade to the full version of Windows 95.

It's not the most exciting or extreme build you'll read about, but it taught me that often with PCs you don't necessarily need to KNOW how to do something, you just need some common sense and a basic understanding of how things work. Now these ideas have seen me through a BSc in Computer Science and working for a well known semiconductor company.
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:27 am

My first computer build was in 1993 (my first upgrade in 1992). I built a 386DX/20MHz system with a whopping 4MB of RAM, a huge Seagate 106MB (yes, megabyte) hard drive, an I/O card for the hard drive/floppy/IO ports (since those were never on the motherboard back then), a Trident 8500 1MB VGA card, 3.5" AND 5.25" floppy drives, and a SoundBlaster 1.5. All in a full-desktop case. Oh, and a 2400bps/9600bps fax/modem. It ran MS-DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1.

I have no idea who made the mainboard (it had an Opti chipset), but it had 386 and 486 sockets on it, so I later upgraded to a 386DX/33 with 8MB of RAM, then a 486SX/25, then a 486DX/33. The SoundBlaster eventually became a SoundBlaster Pro, with a Panasonic 4x CD-ROM drive, and I switched to a USR Sportster 14.4kbps fax/modem for the princely sum of $200. The case stayed with me through two VESA local bus 486 mainboards, and one PCI-local bus one, before I finally went to ATX.
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Re: Enter here for a chance to win a free Just Cause 2 license

Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:34 am

I'm not entering the contest as I've played the hell out of that game, just giving a short blip of my experience.

I build some asus board in some generic case in the late 90's. The system didn't boot up the first time, and it was due to grounding. After that was fixed, the system ran without issue for 7 years. I ended up donating it to FreeGeek. That is all, I was just so proud of my baby. I was so impressed with that Asus build that I've stuck with them pretty much since and for the most part been fairly pleased.
Last edited by indeego on Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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