What to look for in a motherboard

What to look for in a motherboard

I’ve been building PCs for more than 20 years and I tend to keep them a very long time, so it occurred to me that someone might be interested in what I look for in a motherboard to ensure both a long, reliable life and a long useful life.

Technology has changed a lot but what I look for has remained surprisingly consistent over the years.

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Reliable power supply brands

Reliable power supply brands

If you’ve built a few PCs, or repaired a few PCs, you have some idea how important the power supply is. If you buy any old tin box that fits, you can probably expect to run into some problems. Here’s some advice on buying power supplies, including reliable power supply brands.

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If I were buying an SSD today

SSD pricing continues to be competitive, and if I were buying an SSD today, I would have a tough decision ahead of me. The Crucial BX100 would be the obvious choice, with its good speed, super-low power consumption, and attractive price, at $99 for the 250GB model and around $185 for the 500GB model.

But there’s an underdog: the PNY CS1111. Bear with me on that one: It’s a little slower than the Crucial, but costs 15% less.

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A new way to measure reliability and quality of hardware

A new way to measure reliability and quality of hardware

If you’re in the market for some new PC gear, it helps to measure reliability and quality of hardware. How do you measure that? How about buying the one that induces the least buyer’s remorse? That’s an approach you can take with the data from Hardware.fr. It’s in French, but Google Translate works.

This doesn’t measure long-term reliability–only DOA rate and short-term reliability–but it’s data I haven’t seen before, so I think it’s a welcome resource.

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Hard drive longevity and you (or your business)

I can’t believe I’ve never written about the Backblaze hard drive longevity study, but apparently I haven’t. At work we’re running up against the limitations of hard drives, so it’s good to know this kind of stuff.

Here’s what you need to know: Hard drives fail very early or very late. If a drive lasts more than a few days–which is why burning in new equipment is important–only 5% of them fail in their first 18 months. Then, for the next 18 months, only 1.5% fail. Golden years! At age 3, though, failure rates jump to 11.8% and stay there. So keeping hard drives much longer than 4 years is generally asking for trouble. 78% of drives live to age 4, but at that age the annual failure rate is very high.

This is Backblaze’s experience under specific and somewhat peculiar conditions, but it’s not far off at all from what I’ve observed.

Keep in mind this is the average. Every maker has made incredibly bad drives, and all of them who are left have made drives better than the average too. I don’t know why they go on hot and cold streaks, but they do, and they always have. That’s why some people think any given brand of drives are the best and others think the same brand are junk. With a little luck, you can buy one brand of drive and have all of them be spectacular, or with a little bad luck, buy different models of the same brand and have them all fail a day after the warranty expires. Read more

The Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: It’s a nice inexpensive tablet

I’ve been messing with an Asus Memopad, the 7-inch version. I think it’s a well-built, good-performing tablet for $149, and when you can get it on sale for less than that–and this is the time of year for that–I think it’s a great tablet for the money.

It’s not a high-end tablet. It has a 1280×800 screen, a quad-core 1.2 GHz Mediatek processor, a middling GPU, and 1 GB of RAM, and importantly, it includes a micro SD slot so you can add up to 32 GB of storage to it. The specs are all reasonable, but not mind-blowing. Most of the complaints I’ve seen about it are that it’s not a Nexus 7, but it’s 2/3 the price of a Nexus 7, too. When you compare it to other tablets in its price range, the worst you can say about it is that it holds its own. Read more

Socket 775 adventures, Part 2

I closed down Micro Center last night.

I wasn’t having any luck getting my new motherboard working, even after working with Asus and with Micro Center’s online support. Micro Center’s web site said that if you take a system in to their knowledge bar, at the front of the store, someone with an A+ certification will help you. So I took them up on the offer.

A nice, knowledgeable technician named Eric spent two hours working with me.
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I got my new webserver motherboard

I got my new webserver motherboard. There’s a story there. I’m saving it for later in the week.

The board doesn’t work. I power it on, and it shuts itself off after 2-3 seconds. The power supply works with a different board. So for the first time in my life, I’m contacting Asus technical support, because I can’t figure out if it’s something I did, or just a DOA board.  So there’s going to be a story with that, too. Let’s hope for a happy ending.

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