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With the economies of many nations taking Icarusian falls, the answer is most likely, “yes, but I can’t afford one.”
My answer would be, “true, but building one may be fiscally possible.”

It’s possible to build a much better computer than you can afford “from the box.”  So much so, that, even if you can afford a “from the box” computer, I would recommend building one…a much better one.

If you’re willing to open your mind, take a chance and have a few hours, I’ll walk you through the process.

I’ll cover purchasing the supplies, assembling the machine and loading the operating system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supplies and Price:
1) Antec 900 mid-tower case ($150) The case is with a 20cm top fan, 10cm back fan, two of the same on the front,  a huge window on the side, where yet another may be attached, and a fan holder on the back of the drive bay. Take my advice and get the optional side and drive bay fans. When running, the fans will emit a very pleasing blue glow.

2) Two Antec Tricool 120mm blue fans. ($30) These are the two optional fans which I urged you to get, as $30 in fans beats the hell out of a cooked CPU.

3) A SATA interface 500GB hard drive with a 16MB buffer. ($150) Do not buy an off brand. Stick to Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate or something else mainstream. (If you buy an EIDE or IDE interface drive, you’ll just have to return it for the correct one.)

4) A Creative X-Fi XtremeGame 7.1 HD audio sound card ($100.00) You’re building for the future. Right now, I have two speakers and a subwoofer connected to mine, but when I buy a 7.1 stereo, it’ll be ready to plug-in.

5) EVGA GeForce 8800GTS ($300.00) You can find a cheaper graphics/video card, but those won’t support DirectX 10. The 8800 will. Get it. (One note; the outputs on the card are HDMI x2 and an S-Video. If you don’t have an HDTV, you really need to get one before PAL, SECAM or NTSC run out-18 February in US and Canada-but if you’re cash-strapped, the 8800 comes with two HDMI to SVGA adapters, meaning that your present monitor will work.)

6) The internal version of LG’s 18X multi-format DVD/CD Drive ($60) This drive supports DVD RW/ R/ RAM. The RAM type DVD can be used 50,000 to 100,000 times, so this is very important. A package of five discs will almost certainly outlast you, even if you’re a teen-ager. I picked this drive because of the RAM factor, and because it’s SATA.

7) Antec SmartPower 500w (500 joules/second) power supply ($60) Better cases don’t come with power supplies. This is the one for the case. A 650w is offered for an additional $100, but you don’t need it.

8) Intel Core2 Duo E6750 ($150-$300…will explain below) This is the fastest dual-core chipset Intel makes, but if you’re just throwing money at the project, you may go with a quad-core chipset.

9) ECS G33T-M2 motherboard (about $75, but while in Houston, I found it and the chipset at Fry’s Electronics for $220 combined, whereas the chipset can go up to $300 alone) Better boards by ASUS can be had, and many gamers buy the set I purchased, trash the board, and use the chipset in an ASUS board. I’ve no complaints about the ECS board.

10) Two Kingston DDR2 1MB PC6400 memory cards or chips, I call them cards. ($100) It is extremely important that you verify at the store that the cards run at 800MHz, rather than 667 MHz, as the slower speed will hobble your system.

11) A small tube of silicone grease ($3-$7, depending on what you can find.)

12) A copy of Windows Vista ($300-$450) Ultimate comes with 64-bit and 32-bit discs. The intermediate version requires logging onto Microsoft.com, and ordering the 64-bit disc for $10. Never get the basic version. If you’re going to do that, put your supplies back. We’re not building a 32-bit machine.

13) Automotive or electronic plastic wire-ties ($5-$10) I already had some. If you’re a police officer or in a police family, FlexCufs will also work to secure the wiring, just not as well.



ASSEMBLY: This will take 3-6 hours, if it’s your first.
DON’T HURRY! As my father told me, growing up…there may not be time to do it right, but there’ll always be time to do it again.
1a) Remove the case from its box, remove the black thumbscrews from the back of each side, carefully remove the sides, and place them somewhere nearby, but safe.
1b) Afterward, unsnap the fan holder form the back of the lower drive holder assembly, place it in a safe location, use a Philips screwdriver to loosen the thumbscrews on each side of the case, remove them, and push the drive-holder assemblies free from the back. Set them aside and lay the case, open side up, on a piece of plywood or cardboard placed on the floor or a secure surface such as a table.

2a) place the boxes containing the motherboard and chipset on the solid end of the case (you’ll know, so don’t ask) after clipping the white packing bands from around them.
2b) Fasten the stripped end of a copper wire to a grounded point, such as a cold-water pipe or a metal window frame, then fasten the other stripped end of the wire around one wrist to eliminate any static charge. If you don’t have a wire, go to the store, buy a length of copper antenna wire, and resume after performing above step! Failure to do this will destroy the chipset and possibly the board!
2c) Knock out the output template from the back of the case. (It won’t work with the board), and replace it with the template found with the motherboard’s documentation. (No, it won’t want to stay, but you can get it to do so for a moment or two) 
2d)Carefully remove the board from the box and anti-static envelope, ease it into position atop the brass stand-offs, make note of which stand-offs must be repositioned so every hole has a stand-off under it, place the board back atop the Mylar envelope, and reposition the stand-offs
2e) Ease the board into position again, trying not to dislodge the output template (it may be necessary to bend dome of the template tabs to make it fit properly; don’t worry, my board wasn’t in to stay until the third try.) and fasten it with the screws and red insulated washers provided in the case’s hardware box. (you’ll know)

3a) The board is in, so unbox the chipset, carefully pry the plastic sheathing apart, and set the huge fan/heat sink assembly aside in a clean place.
3b) pull the socket cover from the board, unhook the latch and finesse the chip-cover up with your fingernail. You must not touch the socket.
3c) carefully remove the plastic sheathing from around the chip, grasp the chip by the edges (don’t drop!), pull the contact cover loose from the bottom and gently drop the chip into the socket, making certain that the two notches in the right of the chip are aligned with the corresponding plastic protrusions on the socket. Very gently try to move the chip side to side. It shouldn’t move.
3d) Gently close the chip cover, slowly bringing the metal bar down, hooking it under the catch to secure the chip. (Moderate force will be required.)
3e) Place a pea-sized (about 2mm across) bit of silicone grease atop the chip, and carefully ease the fan/heat sink onto the chip.
3f) You’re not done. After taking care to ensure the fan pins are aligned with the corresponding board-holes, and that the arrows on the flatted screws point toward away from the fan, hold the fan with one hand, and use a flat-screwdriver to turn the screws ninety degrees. (You will need to press down fairly hard on the screw prior to turning, but not so hard the screwdriver slips and gouges the board.) You are pressing a wedge fastener in, and locking it to secure the heat sink to the chip.

4a) The drive holder assembly with the fans is the lower; place your hard-drive in the bottom slot, and use the provided screws to secure it. One this is done, slide the assembly back into the case, taking care not to tangle the fan-wiring.
4b) You will see a long purple socket with another two white sockets below it. These are expansion slots. Remove the screws securing the metal expansion cover (the metal slats at the back of the case) above the purple socket and the cover below it (This will be used to exhaust air from the 8800’s fan.)
4c) Carefully press the 8800 into place until you hear the catch snap shut, then use the screws to secure it to the case.
4d) In the same manner, remove the cover corresponding to the bottom expansion slot (never block the 8800’s intake air!) press the sound-card into place, and secure it with the screw.

5a) Place the power supply into the computer (the location is self-evident) label-side legible, and secure it with the four screws provided.
5b) retrieve the fan holder you removed, place one of the optional fans into it, and carefully refasten the fan onto the lower drive assembly.
5c) The power-supply comes with a variety of jumper types. Choose the one that ends with a six wire socket, plug it into the lower port of the supply, and connect to the front underside of the 8800.
5d) Choose the jumper that contains three wide four pronged sockets, and plug it into the next power port. Plug two fans into the top and bottom sockets, and the last into the middle. (The side fan will also go onto that later.)
5e) you will find two jumpers with narrow (almost USB-like) sockets on them. Plug these into the remaining two ports. Immediately plug on of them into the back of the hard disc, and secure the excess to the extent possible.

6a) Use a screwdriver to remove the bottom front plate on the upper drive assembly, and install the DVD drive with the provided screws.
6b) slide the drive assembly back into the case, secure it with the thumbscrews, and plug the other power jumper into the back of the DVD drive.

7) You will have noticed two reddish-orange cables with the drives. These are SATA cables, which take the place of the familiar wide grey IDE cables. Plug the cables into two of the six SATA ports on the board, and into the backs of the drives.
8) You’ve been wondering about the thick main cable from the power supply? The wide one goes at the front of the board (after you remove the yellow sticker), the four prong goes into a socket in the middle of the board, and ignore the other connector.

9a) Cover your ass and bat clean-up: Check to make certain that the blue and white wires from the CPU fan have been plugged into the adjacent socket (not to be confused with the fan-speed socket…this is toward the front of the board, relative to the CPU)
9b) the little black things on the fan-wires aren’t connectors…they’re switches. Set them to “3” or “high”. Take the white wire from the optional fan, and plug it into the fan speed socket.
9c) carefully untangle the wires coming from the top of the case. Plug the USB into the USB2 socket, ignore the 1394, as there is no connector on this board (which has an onboard Ethernet connection), and faint not at the seemingly incompatible array of pins and the three remaining plugs. Referring to the motherboard, you will find a diagram explaining the assignment of the pins. Make notes on this page with a pin, and plug accordingly.

10) After making certain all wires are secured away from hungry fan-blades, install the second optional fanon the Plexiglas window, set the switch to high, and peel the plastic from the window. (You may now remove that grounding wire from your wrist) Plug the fan into the other fan (You’ve already found they snap together, right?)

11) Carefully slide each side of the case into place, securing them with the black thumbscrews

12) connect the monitor, plug the cord into the power supply and wall-outlet, and pray to whatever deity you worship before starting the computer.

STARTING A COMPUTER FROM DEAD STOP
Here’s where you benefit from my mistakes, providing your machine has run for longer than five seconds and no smoke is coming from it:

Absolutely new computers look dead. There is nothing on the screen, and if you don’t know better, you will think it’s a failure. Fear Not!

1) Hit the Esc key, and then perform a warm boot by hitting Ctrl-Alt-Delete.

2) After a few seconds to half a minute, a cursor will appear, followed a few more seconds to a half minute later (maybe it just seemed that way) by a prompt to select or insert a boot disc.

3) Immediately load the 64-bit Vista disc into the DVD drive (it will not auto run) and hit enter.

Enjoy your new computer, and go smoke a cigarette or have a beer when Vista finishes loading…you’ve earned it.

 

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