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Tech Tips

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    PlanetQuake | Features | Tech Tips | 8-26-2000
   

Tech Tips
This is where your gaming and hardware needs are met. Be all that you can be or get out of the game! This won't be a forum for techno-geeks to find more ways to impress their non-technical friends, it's for plain folk who need help to better their gaming experience. But don't blame us if you blow your machine sky high; we're offering tips, not the Bible on computers. The mailbag is alive and well - send in those questions to TechTips.
by Love2Play

Building your own Gaming Rig 


Introduction

Here begins one of the largest projects you will undertake in your gaming life.  If you are tired of being helpless until techsupport answers the line, or sick of getting sub-standard hardware from "proprietary" machines, then it's time you built your own rig. No better way to learn how to be your own technician than to get your hands dirty.

This guide will also be based on my own personal experience as a gamer.  It's not a guide to building a comp for your business applications, nor for all that Photo Shop work you want to do... This guide has 3D gaming in mind only.  It is for those of you who want to retire that P233MMX you've been struggling on and put that ATI Rage onboard 8meg video card in the dumpster.

Once again, this will be loaded with personal opinion.  So if you disagree, so be it.  My only concern is for the game. And after 4 years of techsupport to gamers, my opinion is based on what I have watched thousands of gamers struggle to accomplish.  This guide will also be based on your having Windows98 or better because we will take your through not only the hardware assembly, but what to expect when you install your OS.  As well as errors that may occur.

So let's get started.

Your shopping list

What will you need?  Not what do you want, what will you need. I'm not going to discuss the latest in DVDroms, I am shopping for what I will need to game:

Mid-tower or Full-Tower Case
Motherboard
CPU
Memory
HardDrive
Floppy 3.5 drive
cdrom
Video card
Soundcard
Modem and/or Network card

This is your basic hardware list.  We will assume you have a keyboard and mouse and are not planning on using the monitor from your old 386.  Now let's examine how to make good choices and why.

Motherboard and CPU

The motherbaord and CPU are the 2 most important aspects of your purchase.  This is not an area you want to by cheap.  The motherboard is the brains of the operation and together with the CPU will determine how well your system runs.  If you go cheap, you will be tortured by problems.

When choosing a motherboard you must keep in mind at the same time your CPU choice.  They must be compatible.  There are different socket sizes and not all CPU's and motherboards go together.  Do your homework, know what the difference between Slot 1 and Socket 7 are.  When you choose your motherboard, see what CPU's it supports.  also how high can it go.  Or, choose your CPU and see what the recommended motherboard is.  To identify a CPU socket or slot, have a look at Motherboard Homeworld  Here you will also find what I think is the most comprehensive list of motherboards you will find.  This is an excellent place to start your homework on choosing a motherbaord and CPU.

When choosing a motherboard also keep in mind the number of PCI slots.  Does it have enough?  If you plan to build a home network later, will it support more PCI cards?  If you have a modem, a sound card and a PCI video card that is 3 slots gone.  If your motherboard has only 4 slots then the future is limited if you plan to use a TV card, or a Network card, or possibly another IDE controller card.  All of these come in PCI.  So it's best to go with 5 PCI slots or more.

Caution:  CPU and Motherboard combos sold are not always a good deal.  Many times a company is simply trying to get rid of a load of cheap motherboards.  Please choose a well known, well supported motherboard.

Recommendations:  Do NOT get a motherboard with built-in (onboard) video and sound. You will regret it later when you want to upgrade.  Besides the built-in video and sound cards are not good enough to game.  

Choose a motherboard with jumperless configuration.  This means that instead of having to study the manual and set those little pins on the motherboard to tell it what your CPU is, it does it in the bios by simply choosing from a menu.  In most cases, the motherboard itself can detect your CPU for you.  This eliminates mistakes and possibly damaging your CPU.

Memory

Your memory also has to support your CPU and be compatible to your motherbaord.  Normally, once you have chosen your motherboard and CPU, you will THEN determine your memory.  For example your CPU is a PIII 800 @133Mhz.  This means that your memory must be at least 133Mhz memory.   PC100 RAM will not work for this CPU.  So once again, make sure of your compatibility of parts.

Special Note:  Visit PlanetHardware's Weekly Price Guide for the latest in prices on CPU's and Memory. This will at least give you and idea of what you should be paying, even if you go to a retailer.

Case

I recommend a mid-tower or full-tower.  This is where possibly some fortune telling will come in.  You need to anticipate the room you will need, and the amount of cooling you will require.  If you plan on building a monster machine with a 1Ghz CPU and a Voodoo5 card, let me just say HOT! So anticipate room for many fans and/or coolers.

Also consider if you will eventually be installing more cdroms such as a DVDrom or a cd-writer. Also if you will eventually have a zip drive or many hard drives.  If you feel as though you will probably stick to the basics and not go overkill, then go mid-tower.  Also consider where you are going to put this bad-boy.  Under the desk gets a little tricky with a full-tower.

 


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