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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Don’t buy a “desktop replacement” laptop

I found this oldie but goodie Lifehacker article: When two computers are cheaper than one. It advocates buying a cheap laptop and building a desktop PC to meet your computing needs.

I think it makes a lot of sense. A few weeks ago, a coworker asked me what the most I would be willing to pay for a laptop. I hesitated, thought for a while, and said you might be able to convince me to spend $600. “Wow,” he said. “I’m considering a $3,500 laptop.”

I wouldn’t.

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Bargain potential for AMD Socket FM1s

Anandtech has an interesting overview of building HTPCs using AMD’s dead-end Socket FM1. I think it has interesting implications for anyplace you’re looking for value, not just in HTPC applications.

Yes, it’s a dead end, because Socket FM1 will be going away in favor of Socket FM2 in the coming months. But that’s one reason why there’s value potential here.

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And speaking of SSDs, here’s how Oracle performs on an SSD

Andy Black is a former colleague and an Oracle DBA. Several times in the last few years, I ran into problems where I wished he wasn’t a former colleague, because my team got into some jams that I was pretty sure he could have fixed. (And let’s not even mention the time I got blackmailed into building an Oracle server.)

Last year, Andy did a thorough investigation of Oracle performance on SSDs, and observed very favorable results.

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Stress test computer hardware with Prime95

Let’s say you’ve just bought a used PC with a short (typically less than 2 weeks) warranty. Or a new PC that’s not the brand you know and trust. Maybe you’ve built a new PC and you want to make sure it’s going to hold up before you start using it every day. Or you have a new server, and you want to make sure it’s going to hold up under heavy loads. What should you do to stress test computer hardware (or burn in computer hardware) like that?

Do what overclockers do.

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Thrift-store PCs

In the comments of a recent post I did, reader Glaurung Quena brought up a good topic: secondhand PCs, acquired cheaply, strictly as rebuild fodder.

I like the idea, of course, because I’ve been doing it for years. In the 1990s I built a lot of 486s and Pentiums into former IBM PC/ATs, basically until all the board makers relocated the memory slots into a position that wasn’t clear on the original PC/AT due to a beam that supported its drive bays. And of course the adoption of ATX and MicroATX killed that, at least for a while.

But now ATX has been around as long as the old AT architecture had been when ATX came along, and efforts to replace ATX haven’t been successful. So that trick makes more sense again. Buy a secondhand machine cheaply, intending to re-use the case, and regard anything else inside that happens to be reusable strictly as a bonus.

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The first PC I ever built

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately: Everyone who built his own PC knows everything. Just ask him.
Now, don’t get me wrong: It’s admirable to build your own PC rather than just buying Dell’s special of the week (although some people would be better off just doing exactly that), and it does require at least skill with handling a screwdriver. But it’s not what it used to be. Today, building a PC makes you know something. It no longer makes you an expert.

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