Basic PC Building Hints and Tips – May 2012

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  • Check out SSD – Solid state hard drives are getting cheaper and their data-transfer times are amazing. While they cost about 4x as much per Gb of storage, once you boot into Windows in under-30 seconds you’ll see what the fuss is about.
  • Don’t bother with more than 4Gb of RAM (unless your really need it) – 4Gb will handle most programs and games with no trouble. If you need more performance, make sure your video card or CPU aren’t holding you back before you’re tempted to go for the ‘More RAM!’ easy-fix.
  • Almost any brand-name DVD RW is fine – Don’t stress too much about disc drives. With higher internet speeds and digital downloads becoming the norm, you’ll use it less often than you think.
  • Get a good Dual-Core – Single cores are on the way out and quad-cores are (usually) something of a luxury. Most games will play just fine on an overclocked dual-core/mid-range video card combo, so consider how badly you really want to play Diablo 3 or Battlefield 3 on Ultra settings before you pay an extra hundred dollars for the added performance. (I personally like the i5-2005K, if you simply MUST have a quad-core; the i7 series will give you the same clock speeds and its ability to hyperthread is nice, but not a must-have unless you’re doing heavy 3D/video/imagine processing.)
  • Overclocking is much, much easier than it used to be – If you want to get a little more bang for your buck, check out overclock-friendly pieces of hardware (i5-K’s from Intel, for instance) and some of our other guides to overclocking (if you need a couple hints).
  • Water Cooling is easier, too – The days of refilling reservoirs are past. Water-cooling kits are simple to use and require very little (if any) maintenance. Some nicer cases even come with them pre-installed!
  • Don’t skimp on a power supply or motherboard – If you’ve got a quality motherboard and a dependable power supply with a little more wattage than you need you’ve got everything you need to upgrade your PC for at least a couple of years. Extra PCI-E slots and 100-or-so extra watts means you can ease into a CrossFire/SLI-configuration and upgrade your graphics without having to toss your current video card.
  • USB slots/Card readers aren’t that big a deal – You can get a modular media connector that can do it all for less-than $20, if you end up needing it. Don’t sweat the little stuff.
  • Get a modular case with good airflow and some elbow room – If you it protects your motherboard, helps it keep cool, isn’t a pain to work in and leaves enough space for upgrades or extra drives, then you’ve got all the chassis you need.
  • Make sure your hardware information is timely – This is an excellent little list of tips for the next year or so. Know that any PC hardware suggestions you get online are usually accessible forever. Check to make sure you’re not taking advice from a guide that’s 3+years out-of-date.

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