Maximum PC - Features http://www.maximumpc.com/articles/31/feed en Build a DIY Micro-Tower PC with Liquid Cooling http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_diy_micro-tower_liquid_cooling_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Most people would never build their own small form factor PC, fill it with high-end hardware, liquid-cool it, then overclock it. Luckily, we’re not most people</h3> <p>The Mission The interest in small form factor (SFF) computing seems to have reached a fever pitch over the past few months, but boutique system builders tell us they’ve been selling an S-load of them for some time now. The reason for their popularity is not hard to understand—they pack all the firepower of a full-sized ATX machine but take up half the space due to clever engineering. It takes equally clever building to fit a full-sized video card, an internal power supply, storage devices, and even liquid cooling into such a tiny box. That's no small feat, and to be honest, it sounded like just the kind of challenge that we wanted to take on for Build It. The problem is, the micro-tower form factor hasn't been around very long, so it still has some kinks to work out. We've worked with several of these systems over the past few months, and the degree of usability varies quite a bit. However, Silverstone recently announced the Raven RVZ01, a case that seems to have the ease-of-use that we like; plus, the company has demo'd the chassis using a liquid-cooling system, which we found downright nifty. All we had to do was get our hands on one and go to work.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_25.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_24.jpg" width="620" height="742" /></a></p> <h4>Birds of a Feather</h4> <p>To construct a PC inside a mini-tower like the Raven, you really have to be prepared to build in a completely different way than you have before, and using some atypical parts, too. For example, in this case (which is a preproduction model, so retail units might differ slightly) the optical drive bay only holds a "slim" design, as its front bezel is less than half the size of a standard 5.25-inch drive. The power supply is also not standard ATX: a Silverstone ST45SF-G from the company’s SFF SFX line of PSUs designed for tiny rigs like this. It can't supply as much juice as a full-size ATX power supply because it's so small, but it’s still able to throw down 450 watts. Surprisingly, this is actually enough wattage for a system with a single video card and a relatively efficient Intel Haswell CPU.</p> <p>When we say “single card,” we mean any single-GPU card you can find, as there’s more than enough room for even super-long boards. We stuffed an <a title="780 ti" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_780_ti_benchmarks" target="_blank">Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti</a> into our box and had plenty of room left over (We know at the time of online publish, the 780 Ti is being phased out by the newer <a title="980" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014" target="_blank">GTX 980</a>, but if you act now, you should be able to find them <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&amp;DEPA=0&amp;Order=BESTMATCH&amp;Description=780+ti&amp;N=-1&amp;isNodeId=1" target="_blank">pretty cheap</a>). (We could have fit a dual-GPU card, but the power supply wouldn't be able to handle that.) There’s also enough room for a 3.5-inch hard drive in the RVZ01, in addition to two 2.5-inch drives, but we ended up sacrificing our 3.5-inch drive to the liquid-cooling gods. Since we were using an expensive CPU cooler, we figured we might as well go top-shelf all around, so we went with Intel's Core i7-4770K CPU and the Maximum VI Impact motherboard from Asus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Silverstone Raven RVZ01</td> <td> <p><strong>$100</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Silverstone ST45SF-G 450W</td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Maximus VI Impact</td> <td><strong>$230</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i7-4770K</td> <td><strong>$325<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Corsair Hydro H75</td> <td><strong>$85</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti</td> <td><strong>$700<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">2x 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP</td> <td><strong>$160<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB</td> <td><strong>$400<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Optical Drive</strong></td> <td>Silverstone SOD02 8x DVD Burner</td> <td><strong>$70</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cables</strong></td> <td>Silverstone PP05-E Flat Power Cable Kit</td> <td><strong>$25</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$1,983</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <h4>1. Prey Drive</h4> <p>Since this Build It is more of an experiment than a full-fledged gaming or productivity system, we felt comfortable sticking to just one solid-state drive (SSD) for our storage needs. One of the main benefits of using just an SSD in a small system like this is that it cuts down on the cabling we'd need to wrestle with later, which can take up a surprising amount of space. An SSD is also much smaller than a desktop mechanical drive and makes no noise since it has no moving parts. In the RVZ01, SSDs are mounted on a detachable section that also holds the video card and the optical drive. This design makes the SSD quite easy to access, and adding a second drive is easy, too.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_27.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_26.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Mother-birds</h4> <p>The RVZ01 features an “inverted” design, so we had to flip the Asus Maximus VI Impact motherboard upside down and rotate it 180 degrees, which is why the connectors in the photo look backward. The case’s side panel that's behind the motherboard tray is permanently attached, so we had to install the liquid cooler's backplate before we installed the motherboard. This motherboard also has a riser card that needs to be installed if you want to take advantage of the mobo’s integrated sound. There's another optional add-in card that offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which contains yet another connector, this time for M.2—the successor to mSATA, which is designed for ultrabooks and other systems too small to fit an SSD. And there's a third pre-installed riser at the bottom of the board containing extra capacitors for overclocking. We removed the riser's two screws, because those holes double as motherboard mounting points. Then we put the I/O shield in the case, followed by the board.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_22.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_21.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>3. Bird on a Wire</h4> <p>Inside this black cage is the junior-sized Silverstone power supply. The cage is attached to the case with four standard screws. Take those out, slide the PSU in with its connectors facing up and its intake fan facing toward the fan grill on the side panel, secure it to the bottom of the cage with the four provided screws, and put the whole thing back in. We routed most of the front-panel wiring underneath the cage, to leave more room up top for other wires. The short flat cables come from Silverstone's PP05-E flat power cable kit, which is sold separately from the PSU. They are highly flexible and a godsend in tight quarters like these.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_25.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_24.jpg" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Eagle Eyes</h4> <p>This removable ledge contains the optical drive and a platform for the GPU. As you can see, only a "slim" style of optical drive will fit, and luckily, Silverstone has one named the SOD02, which is an 8x DVD burner. Sure, it’s not a BD-R drive and it's not cheap, but if you need an optical drive in this case, you don't have a ton of options. To install it you have to remove the top half of the case's interior by removing six Phillips screws around the rim, and the drive slides into the front. The mounting holes for the optical drive were too small for the heads of the screws that come with the drive, so we couldn't put them in. You need to use the screws that come with the case, instead. The drive was surprisingly snug without the screws anyway, so we just left it "loose" in the slot.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_21.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_20.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="553" /></a></p> <h4>5. Spreading Our Wings</h4> <p>The detachable section is also where we installed the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti. We could shave about $450 off this build and go with a more moderately tuned GPU like a GTX 760, but we wanted to see if both the case and PSU could handle a full-powered and full-sized GPU. We chose&nbsp; the GTX 780 Ti because it's currently the fastest single-GPU available, and produces a decent amount of heat, too. To install it, we had to first plug the GPU into a PCI Express riser card, then attach the PCIe power cables to the card before putting this entire section back into the case; the connectors on the card become inaccessible once it’s installed. To make the cabling nice and neat (again, we used those flexible flat cables) we strung them behind the card and curled the cable over the top and into the connectors. Once everything was connected, we plugged the whole contraption back into the case, with the riser pictured below going right into the motherboard's x16 PCIe slot.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_19.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_18.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="447" /></a></p> <h4>6. Survival of the Fittest</h4> <p>CPU cooling duties were handled by a Corsair H75 unit, but to get it to fit we had to swap out the standard 120mm fan, which was too chunky. Instead, we used the slim fan that was pre-installed on the side panel. Although this fan allows us to install the radiator on this super-slim case and still get the door to close, the size of the fan blades mean it won’t be able to move as much air as a larger fan. Also, since the fan is thinner we had to use shorter #6-32 3/4-inch machine screws that we bought at a local hardware store to attach it to the radiator. The H75 is a good choice for a small form factor case like this one because of its flexible and relatively narrow tubes. We looped the tubes toward the front of the case, then back, to keep them out of the way of the radiator. We experimented with intake vs. exhaust and push vs. pull; in the end , we went with push exhaust (though pull exhaust is shown in the photos).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_20.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_19.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small_15.jpg" width="620" height="461" /></a></p> <h3>Something to Crow About</h3> <p>For a micro-tower, the RVZ01 has particularly accessible areas for the video card, storage devices, and power supply. We've had buzz-killing frustrations installing those components into smaller enclosures before, so the design of this chassis was definitely to our liking. Unfortunately, the case’s smaller dimensions meant that cooling was a challenge. The GTX 780 Ti was getting plenty of air, but we struggled to push the CPU beyond its stock specifications. We first ran it up to 4.2GHz, but in extended testing under load, temps were hovering at 90 C when running the x264 encoding benchmark. That's not good, and too hot for our tastes. We've overclocked with the H75 in a tight space before (February 2014 issue), so we knew the cooler could handle the task. Upon investigation, we realized the case's stock "slim" fan that we attached to the Corsair H75's radiator doesn't have a lot of focused air pressure, so it's not great for cooling a rad. (Silverstone makes some excellent high-pressure fans, but they won't fit here.) There's also no intake fan in this part of the case, and no exhaust fans at all. Because of these issues, we ended up running the CPU at stock clocks, but with the motherboard's "Multi-Core Enhancement" pushing all CPU cores to the same speed when under load. Without MCE or manual tweaking, several cores will run below the chip's "turbo boost" rating of 3.9GHz.</p> <p>We had much better luck with the video card. Despite the GTX 780 Ti having a stock cooler, we were able to overclock the core by 100MHz and the memory by 400MHz (effective), thanks in part to the 120mm intake fan right next to the card. At 4K/UHD, we sustained over 80 FPS in Batman Arkham City, with just PhysX and anti-aliasing disabled. A more demanding game like Hitman Absolution was in the mid-40s, and Tomb Raider (2013) was in the low 30s. That’s still very respectable for a single GPU with a stock cooler. Our seemingly “underpowered” 450-watt power supply chugged right along and was totally stable. We plugged in a power meter and discovered that the system didn't draw over 350 watts during the gaming benchmarks, which would be the heaviest real-world usage.</p> <p>This build was an experiment from the start, so a lack of CPU overclocking was more a learning experience than a shortfall. There's only so much space in a micro-tower to get fancy with CPU cooling. You're probably better off with a "cube" micro-tower for that.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,000</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">2,544<strong> (-21.2%)<br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td>831</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">829</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,446</td> <td>1415<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td>21.1</td> <td>17 <strong>(-19.5%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batmans Arkam City (fps)</td> <td>76</td> <td>78<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3 DMark 11</td> <td class="item-dark">5,847&nbsp;</td> <td>5,393 <strong>(-7.7%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K and 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_diy_micro-tower_liquid_cooling_2014#comments april issues 2014 Build DIY feature liquid cooling maximum pc micro tower water cooled Features Wed, 01 Oct 2014 23:20:33 +0000 Tom McNamara 28104 at http://www.maximumpc.com Rig of the Month Roundup http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u154082/rig_of_the_month_toaster.jpg" alt="Weighted Companion Cube" title="Weighted Companion Cube" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">We're looking for the coolest custom computer cases and we want your submissions!</span></h3> <p>We know you guys have got some interesting case mods out there and we want to see them! We're also sure lots of other readers would like to gawk and drool over them as well so let us help you share your cool <strong>custom computer case</strong> with the world!</p> <p>If you’re a case modder with something that deserves the Rig of the Month title, let us know by dropping us an email at&nbsp;<a title="maximum pc rig of the month email" href="mailto:mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com</a>. Make sure to include your name, a 300-word description of why your PC is amazing along with specs (and how it was modified), and no fewer than three high-resolution JPEGs of the build. Please try and use a high-quality camera with good lighting and make sure to bust out your photography skills! We will not accept any blurry, low-res camera-phone grade images because we'd like readers to see your awesome rig in the best light possible! Here are some specific case-shooting photography tips:&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>Try to avoid using flash and opt for existing natural light. In addition, use things like white curtains to diffuse the bright sun.</li> <li>Make sure your case is in focus! Nothing ruins a picture of a nice-looking case than a blurry shot.</li> <li>Clean your case before you shoot it. No one wants to see all that nasty dust all over the place!</li> <li>Experimenting with shooting from multiple angles.</li> <li>Select the right backdrop. Your system could look cooler with a nice/clean background as opposed to on your messy floor with cables strewn about.&nbsp;</li> <li>When shooting, use a tripod or if you can’t get one, shoot from a stable surface such as a box or even a pillow.</li> <li>If your camera has exposure compensation, try playing around with under-exposing or over exposing until you get the effects you want.</li> </ul> <p>In addition to requiring pretty photos, we’ll be judging the rigs based on creativity and craftsmanship.</p> <p>To kick things off, we’ve gathered up some of our favorite Rig of the Month winners in the gallery below. Click the gallery image for the full shot and feel free to get more detail on each custom case by clicking on their individual respective links in the descriptions.&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014#comments case mods chassis cool custom custom computer cases design interesting pc Rig of the Month rig of the month unique Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:34:24 +0000 Ben Kim 27291 at http://www.maximumpc.com Rig of the Month: Toaster PC http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_toaster_pc_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/9gkc19u.jpg" alt="Toaster PC" title="Toaster PC" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />This is no joke; toasters are PCs too</span></h3> <p>This month's <strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">Rig of the Month</a></strong> is a bit of an oddball. It's no <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/bit.ly/1mVCGQ4" target="_blank">DotaBox</a>&nbsp;or <a href="http://bit.ly/1h3LcHG" target="_blank">Weighted Companion Cube</a>, but we still think it's pretty awesome. Anthony Febre was inspired when someone asked if he was running a toaster. It's not the most original insult, but it makes for an amazingly original case mod.&nbsp;</p> <p>There's honestly not that much to it. Anthony says that the whole setup cost a measly $20 (minus all of the actual components) since all it required was a toaster. Inside the Proctor Silex toaster sits an Intel Core i3-530 on top of an Intel DH55TC mATX motherboard. It's not exactly a powerhouse, but it'll do the job with 4GB of Crucial DDR3-1333 and an XFX Radeon HD 7750.&nbsp;</p> <p>All we know is that he's got an amazing comeback to potential toaster jokes. Anothony apologizes for the less-than-stellar photos and blames his phone's camera.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Have a case mod of your own that you would like to submit to our monthly feature? Make sure to read the rules/tips&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">here</a>&nbsp;and email us at&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="mailto:mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;with your submissions.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_toaster_pc_2014#comments Anthony Febre case mod computer maximum pc Rig of the Month rig of the month toaster Toaster PC Features Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:34:54 +0000 Ben Kim 28573 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (September 2014): Remember Me, Mass Effect 2, and More http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_september_2014_remember_me_mass_effect_2_and_more <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/3ydcjll.jpg" alt="Mass Effect 2" title="Mass Effect 2" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p>We're short on submissions for this month's Graphics Porn so we've reached out to some more of the folks from <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/gamescreens" target="_blank">r/GameScreens</a>&nbsp;to supplement the gallery. We've got some amazing screens from Remember Me, Skyrim, Metro Last Light, Euro Truck Simulator, and more!</p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">Whether you've been using&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/5047/" target="_blank">Steam's nifty screenshots feature</a><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">&nbsp;or simply print screening some beautiful wallpaper-worthy game moments, we want to be able to share your captured works of art with the world. If you think you can do better than the pictures submitted below, please email your screenshots to&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="mailto:mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com</a><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">&nbsp;so we can show them off. Make sure to include the name of the game, a title for the screenshot, and a description of what's happening on-screen.</span></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_september_2014_remember_me_mass_effect_2_and_more#comments beautiful Euro Truck Simulator Graphics Porn maximum pc Metro Last Light pictures Remember Me screenshots Skyrim Features Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:21:20 +0000 Ben Kim 28574 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Analysis: Metro Games Stock vs Metro Redux Versions http://www.maximumpc.com/should_you_buy_metro_redux_bundle_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u166440/4a_games_logo.jpg" alt="4A Games" title="4A Games" width="200" height="174" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>We compare the Metro game series to its visually updated counterparts</h3> <p>If you are a fan of single-player FPS games, then you should check out the Metro series. Metro 2033, based on the novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, was developed by 4A Games and released in 2010 while its sequel, Metro: Last Light, came out last year. Both survival-horror games are set in post-apocalyptic Moscow where survivors of the nuclear fallout live within the underground metro system.</p> <p>It's a bleak setting where ammunition is your currency, which makes for some interesting dilemmas at times.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Ow-EOZbP3Rc" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Check out our video comparison comparing the stock version of the Metro series with its Redux counterparts above.</strong></p> <p>But is it worth purchasing the Redux Bundle if you already have the original games? We took the time to compare the original with its Redux counterparts to help you find out.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_comparison_004.jpg" alt="Metro LL 004" title="Metro LL 004" width="600" height="336" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Sit back, grab a drink, and please don't shoot us</strong></p> <p>We gave both games good scores with <a title="MPC Metro 2033 Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/reviews/metro_2033_review" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Metro 2033</span></a> earning seven out of 10 and <a title="MPC Metro: Last Light Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/metro_last_light_review_2013" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Metro: Last Light</span></a> receiving an eight. But even so, on August 26, 4A Games released re-mastered editions of both games for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC platforms. Metro 2033 Redux is a rebuilt and upgraded version of the original game that takes advantage of the latest 4A Engine. For Metro: Last Light Redux, 4A Games said that it made some tweaks and included all of the DLC released for the game, along with new features and gameplay modes.</p> <p>Curious as to how much of a visual upgrade both Redux versions have received, we compared the original games to its Redux counterparts. To do that, we used our personal PC which was equipped with an AMD Phenom II X4 965 processer, 8GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780. Our overall goal was to evaluate the look of both versions and discuss how they performed relative to each other. We also made sure to run each game at the same settings, where possible, so that we would get consistent results. See our settings in the image below.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_settings_002.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 Settings" title="Metro 2033 Settings" width="600" height="233" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Left: Metro 2033 settings - Right: Metro 2033 Redux settings</strong></p> <p>All four games were run in 1080p and quality set to "Very High," which is the highest setting for the Metro games. Mindful of those who may not have the best GPU out there, we kept SSAA to ensure good performance. However, Metro 2033 was a little tricky since we had to make sure that it was running DirectX 11 to keep it on par with the Redux version (recommended settings for the Redux edition requires a DX11-compliant GPU). Gamma settings were also kept the same at the default level.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_settings_001.jpg" alt="Metro LL Settings" title="Metro LL Settings" width="600" height="232" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Left: Metro: Last Light - Right: Metro: Last Light Redux</strong></p> <p>With Metro: Last Light and Redux, it was much simpler to keep the settings as similar as possible since there has only been about a one year gap between both titles. That, and there were not a lot of options to tweak.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_comparison_002b.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 Comparison 001" title="Metro 2033 Comparison 001" width="600" height="408" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>4A Games changed character models and even sequences for Metro 2033</strong></p> <p>It should come as little surprise to anyone that we saw a huge improvement when we played both versions of Metro 2033. The Redux version was not only a vast improvement with sharper graphics, but also featured enhanced visuals, tweaked gameplay, reworked environments, better lighting, re-worked character models, new animations, and better enemy AI. Suffice it to say, the differences really showed in the visuals.</p> <p>We also saw a noticeable difference when it came to performance, but in a suprisingly pleasant way. We discovered that the Redux version averages a higher framerate than the original. For example, in our experiential test, traveling through the market in Metro 2033 averaged 83FPS while the Redux version of the same location averaged a higher 95FPS. Given that the recommended specs for the remastered edition requires 4GB RAM and DirectX 11 or higher compared to the original’s requirement of 2GB RAM and DirectX 10 or higher, it seems that 4A Games has done a great job of not only upgrading the game, but optimizing it to use higher-end hardware as well. This was something that was needed since some of the complaints about Metro 2033 involved it being a poorly-optimized resource hog.</p> <p>As you can see in the next image, Metro 2033 Redux features different character models, sharper textures, and brighter lighting compared to the original 2010 game. In Redux, there is also a bit of lens flare and the goggles, which your character must wear when he ventures outside, has distinct drops of water on the edges rather than this weird blurry liquid effect in the original game.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="Metro 2033 comparison GIF" href="http://gifmaker.cc/PlayGIFAnimation.php?folder=2014092401e3EmUCBkS67tKlhUawZyk7&amp;file=output_vMH7dQ.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_comparison_003a.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 comparison" title="Metro 2033 comparison" width="600" height="335" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click Image for an animated GIF comparing Metro 2033</strong></p> <p>But while we are impressed at the large improvements that were made for Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light is another matter. Rather than Metro: Last Light Redux being an all-out remastered edition, think of it as more of a Game of the Year edition. It’s great that all the DLC is bundled with the game, as well as additional content, but there are hardly any visual differences between the original and Redux version’s graphics that we are able to discern except that the Redux version looks a little brighter.</p> <p>Even the average FPS count isn’t that different between each version. Both Metro: Last Light and Redux averaged around 80FPS when we compared the first 25 minutes of the game with each other. The original ended up averaging 82FPS and the Redux edition 86FPS which, given we ran a purely experiential test, is within the margin of error.&nbsp;</p> <p>Take a look at the following image and you tell us if there is any visual differences between the two versions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="Metro LL Comparison GIF" href="http://gifmaker.cc/PlayGIFAnimation.php?folder=2014092402uyTcULxKzA9KB0kWAUgR5f&amp;file=output_YJ9NlT.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_comparison_001a.jpg" alt="Metro LL Comparison" title="Metro LL Comparison" width="600" height="326" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click image for an animated GIF comparing Metro: Last Light</strong></p> <h3>Benchmarks:</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_chart_002.jpg" alt="Metro Chart" title="Metro Chart" width="600" height="371" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Here is the chart showing you the average FPS recorded of all four games side-by-side</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">As stated earlier, the biggest difference was seen between Metro 2033 and its Redux counterparts thanks to the latest 4A Engine, graphics upgrade, and optimization. Meanwhile, the difference between Metro: Last Light and the Redux version was nominal considering not much had been changed between either version.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">So to those of you who don’t own any of the Metro games, we would recommend that you pick up the Metro bundle simply for the story, atmosphere, and the graphics. If you own Metro 2033 and appreciate high-quality graphics, then you should seriously consider picking up the Redux version. But if you own Metro: Last Light, then we would suggest refraining from purchasing its Redux counterpart unless you really want the DLC and extra content.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/should_you_buy_metro_redux_bundle_2014#comments 4A Games Metro 2033 Metro 2033 Redux Metro Last Light Metro Last Light Redux Redux Bundle Redux editions Gaming News Features Fri, 26 Sep 2014 22:47:08 +0000 Sean D Knight 28612 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Personal Computers of the 1980s http://www.maximumpc.com/personal_computers_1980s <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u99720/apple_macintosh.jpg" alt="80s Mac" title="80s Mac" width="250" height="167" style="float: right;" />Travel back in time to the decade that kick-started the home personal computer boom: the 1980s.</h3> <p>Hands up if you owned a computer in the 80s! After making some tentative steps in the late 70s, the 1980s saw home computing really take off. Back then, no young adult’s bedroom was complete without a computer, tape deck, and trusty joystick on display.</p> <p>Home computing proved to be so popular it seemed like every company wanted a slice of the digital pie, with model after model released on an annual basis, all vying for dominance in the ultra-competitive marketplace. </p> <p>Some efforts, such as the Commodore 64 and Spectrum, were hugely successful and went on to sell millions. But for every success story there were many more that failed to make the grade, with some models even being released and then going out of business the same year.</p> <p>Here, Maximum PC presents 25 of the most memorable and noteworthy computers of the 1980s. Join us as we relive the golden age of home computing.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/personal_computers_1980s#comments 1980s 80s Computers Amiga atari Commodore maximum pc Old School pcs retro Features Wed, 24 Sep 2014 23:16:38 +0000 Mark Pilkington 28395 at http://www.maximumpc.com 9 Things We Want in Windows 9 http://www.maximumpc.com/09_things_we_want_see_windows_9 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u69/windows_8_scribbled.jpg" alt="Windows 8 Scribbled" title="Windows 8 Scribbled" width="228" height="158" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>We want better 4K support and more from Windows 9&nbsp;</h3> <p>If we're being totally, completely, 100 percent honest, we settled for Windows 8. That's not easy to admit, especially after applying some well needed Updates (previously known as Service Packs) that zapped some of our original complaints. Don't get us wrong, it never was, nor is it still a terrible operating system -- the comparisons to Windows ME or even Windows Vista's early days are off base -- but certainly Microsoft didn't have our best interests in mind. By "our interests," we're talking about power users, enthusiasts, and generally anyone tech savvy enough to know the difference between RAM and a hard drive. Hell, Windows 8 designer <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/windows_8_designer_offers_candid_explanation_metro_and_why_power_users_hate_it_2014">Jacob Miller admitted as much</a> several months ago (Microsoft's good at <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/exclusive_interview_microsoft_admits_what_went_wrong_with_vista_and_how_they_fixed_it">coming clean after the fact</a>).</p> <p>Truth be told, Microsoft catered to the lowest common denominator -- the ones who call you up every 3-4 weeks because their PC is riddled with pop-up ads again -- and attempted to hold their hands as Redmond walked them through its vision of what would one day become a beautiful walled garden where new and experienced users frolicked happily among the colorful tiles singing songs of praise. Our apologies if you just threw up in your mouth a little bit.</p> <p>Here's the thing -- we've grown accustomed to Windows 8, and having spent copious time with it, we no longer feel the rage we once did every time the Start screen would load. That's partially because we're now able to boot directly into the Desktop, but the bigger reason is the one we stated above. We settled, plain and simple.</p> <p>With that said, <a title="windows 9" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/microsoft_schedules_windows_9_event_september_30_2014" target="_blank">Windows 9 is on the horizon</a>, and this is Microsoft's chance to atone for Windows 8 and earn back some street cred with power users. It's a do-over, and no, it's not too late. If Windows 9 comes out and blows our minds with levels of awesome we've never seen before, all will be forgiven (just as we've done before). But in order for that to happen, Microsoft has to get it right.</p> <p>That's no easy task, so to help our friends at Microsoft, we came up with a list of 9 things we want to see in Windows 9. Are you reading this, Redmond? Good, because these 9 wishlist items conveniently assembled into a photo gallery collectively represent your golden ticket back into our good graces. Let's begin!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/09_things_we_want_see_windows_9#comments 4k support features gallery microsoft operating system OS Software threshold Windows windows 9 wishlist News Features Mon, 22 Sep 2014 22:06:08 +0000 Paul Lilly 28547 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build a PC: Recommended Builds (September 2014) http://www.maximumpc.com/build_pc_recommended_builds_september_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Budget, baseline, and performance PC builds!</h3> <p>What time is it? It's time to Build a PC with our Blueprints! This month, we've built three rigs at three approximate price points: Budget Gamer, Mid-Grade, and Turbo. Budget Gamer gets you respectable performance without bruising your wallet, Mid-Grade gets you something beefier and more adaptable, and Turbo is an investment-grade powerhouse.</p> <p><em>Prices listed here reflect print time</em>&nbsp;and may not match the ones you find elsewhere online. In addition, Newegg has jumped on board to offer packaged deals for each of the builds below in an attempt to offer a better overall value. To see these bundle prices, click the "Buy or get more info at Newegg" button at the bottom of each build. Feedback is welcome. Tell us what you think!</p> <p><em>Note: Some of the prices/links listed below may not show up properly if this page is ad-blocked.</em></p> <h2 style="text-align: center;"><strong>BUDGET GAMER</strong></h2> <div style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u160416/210_elite_black.jpg" alt="NZXT Source 210 Elite computer case" title="NZXT Source 210 Elite computer case" width="242" height="300" /></div> <div style="text-align: center;"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3"><strong>Ingredients</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> <td><strong>Price</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark">NZXT Source 210 Elite</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146078&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$50</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>Corsair CX500, 500 watts</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139027&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$30</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Biostar TA970&nbsp;</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813138372&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$60</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819113286&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$120</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU Cooler</td> <td>Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103099&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$36</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>Sapphire Dual-X Radeon R7 265</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202096&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$153</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>2x 4GB Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3/1600</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148662&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner">$86</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>Crucial MX100 256GB</td> <td><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148820" target="_blank">$110</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>Seagate Barracuda 1TB&nbsp;</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148840&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$65</a></td> </tr> <tr style="text-align: right;"> <td style="text-align: left;"><strong>Total = $710<br /></strong></td> <td style="text-align: right;" colspan="2"><strong>Click here to see the live bundle price:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.1870368&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-Combo-1870368-Budget-_-MaximumPC_BluePrint-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBannerMid-Range" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/omega_maximumpc/img/newegg.jpg" alt="buy online at newegg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: center;">You could drop the SSD and get a nicer video card. If that's your preference, we'd recommend a Radeon R9 285, or a <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/geforce_gtx_760_benchmarks">GeForce GTX 760</a>. We prefer having an SSD, because it makes booting Windows and loading programs super-fast. The huge data transfer speeds (up to 550MB/s in some scenarios) aren't bad either. We've bumped our SSD up from a 128GB <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/samsung_840_evo_1tb_review">Samsung 840 Evo</a> to a 256GB Crucial MX100, because you double your capacity for about $30 dollars. Other than that, we think we have a pretty good balance of price and performance. Some people might scoff at a $50 case, but the Source 210 Elite is actually surprisingly sturdy and roomy for the price. We've changed our RAM due to price fluctuations.</span></p> <h2>MID-GRADE</h2> <p><img src="/files/u160416/c70_green.png" alt="Corsair Vengeance C70 computer case" title="Corsair Vengeance C70 computer case" width="228" height="300" /></p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3"><strong>Ingredients</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> <td><strong>Price</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark">Corsair Vengeance C70</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811139013&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$108</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2 220-G2-0850-XR&nbsp;, 850 watts</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817438018&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$100</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128707&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$175</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Intel Core i5-4690K</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116899&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$240</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooler</td> <td>Enermax Liqtech 240</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835214058&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$95</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>Sapphire Tri-X OC R9 290 4GB&nbsp;</td> <td><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202080" target="_blank">$400</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>2x 4GB G.SKILL Ares Series&nbsp;F3-1600C9D-8GAO</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231544&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$72</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Optical Drive</td> <td>Samsung SH-224DB/BEBE DVD Burner</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827151266&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$20</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>Crucial MX100 256GB</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148820&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$110</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>Seagate Barracuda 1TB ST1000DM003</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148840&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$65</a></td> </tr> <tr style="text-align: right;"> <td style="text-align: left;"><strong>Total = $1385<br /></strong></td> <td style="text-align: right;" colspan="2"><strong>Click here to see the live bundle price:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.1870369&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-Combo-1870369-Mid-Range-_-MaximumPC_BluePrint-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/omega_maximumpc/img/newegg.jpg" alt="buy online at newegg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p style="text-align: left;">We're shaking things up a bit and bumping this tier up from about $1,100 to $1,400. That allows us to squeeze in a nice closed-loop liquid cooler like the Enermax Liqtech 240 (scored a 9 in our August issue), upgrading from the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo (which is still a very nice air cooler). We also upgraded from a <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_radeon_r9_280x_dc2_top_review">Radeon R9 280X</a> to a Sapphire Tri-X OC Radeon R9 290. The 280X is a refresh of the last generation, while our 290 GPU is based on all-new silicon. We've changed our power supply from Silverstone to EVGA to accommodate price fluctuations. Previous EVGA PSUs had split 12-volt rails, while its newer units are unified. The latter design makes it easier to deliver lots of power to high-end gear.</p> <h2>TURBO</h2> <p><img src="/files/u160416/phantom530-1.jpg" alt="NZXT Phantom 530 computer case" title="NZXT Phantom 530 computer case" width="300" height="300" /></p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3"><strong>Ingredients</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> <td><strong>Price</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark">NZXT Phantom 530</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146107&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$130</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>XFX P1-1050-BEFX, 1050 watts</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817171076&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$180</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128707&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner">$175</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Intel Core i7-4790K</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819117369&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner">$340</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooler</td> <td>NZXT Kraken X61</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835146042&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$140</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>2x SAPPHIRE TRI-X OC Radeon R9 290</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130951&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$800</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4x 4GB G.SKILL Ripjaws F3-12800CL9Q-16GBRL&nbsp;</td> <td><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231315&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$150</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Optical Drive</td> <td>LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray Burner</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136250&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$70</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>Samsung 840 Evo 500GB MZ-7TE500BW</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147249&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$260</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>Seagate Barracuda 3TB ST3000DM001</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148844&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$110</a></td> </tr> <tr style="text-align: right;"> <td style="text-align: left;"><strong>TOTAL = $2355<br /></strong></td> <td style="text-align: right;" colspan="2"><strong>Click here to see the live bundle price:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.1870370&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-Combo-1870370-Turbo-_-MaximumPC_BluePrint-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/omega_maximumpc/img/newegg.jpg" alt="buy online at newegg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: center;">We are bumping this tier up from about $2,000 to $2,500, and we're doing away with the roughly $4,000 "Ultra" build for now. We're not changing very many things, though. The Intel Core i7-4790K is a muscular and well-rounded chip, and 16GB of RAM is for multi-taskers and virtual machines. One change is the CPU cooler. We want to use the NZXT Phantom 530 case's sheer size. That's where the NZXT Kraken X61 comes in. Its 280mm radiator can dissipate heat more quickly than the 240mm rad of the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/corsair_h100i_cpu_cooler_review">Corsair H100i</a> that we're replacing. The X61's larger fans also move more air with less noise and its six-year warranty is also a nice bonus. The other big change is going from one Radeon R9 290X to two SAPPHIRE TRI-X OC Radeon R9 290s. AMD had issues with micro-stutter in the past when running multiple video cards, but that's mostly solved now. Since a 290 is roughly equal to an Nvidia <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/geforce_gtx_780_benchmarks">GeForce GTX 780</a>, two 290s can scale all the way to 4K gaming</span>.</p> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_pc_recommended_builds_september_2014#comments 2014 affordable blueprint budget Build a PC cheap computer performance Recommended Builds september Features Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:32:57 +0000 Maximum PC Staff 28548 at http://www.maximumpc.com Restore Your Computer to its Glory Days http://www.maximumpc.com/restore_computer_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Give your PC a clean start</h3> <p>If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that your PC is a fine-tuned piece of 64-bit technology, customized to the hilt and purring like a kitten with a belly full of formula. Yup, she’s a beaut, and attacks your daily tasks like a Belgian Police Dog going after a fleeing perp. All is well in the world, until one day when you sit down, fire it up, and realize something is different. That extra bit of snap when programs open is missing, and encoding video seems to take longer than it used to. Even downloading files seems to require more patience than you’re accustomed to exhibiting. It’s at this very moment that you silently say to yourself, “What the FRACK???”</p> <p>First things first—calm down, power user. Before you smash your rig with a hammer, pound on the keyboard, and decide to just nuke it from orbit, realize it’s just a temporary slowdown and it happens to everyone, even Maximum PC editors. Over time, PCs get slower; it’s just the nature of the beast. Don’t fret, we’re here to help by showing you how to give your PC a clean start. We'll show you how to restore you computer to its glory days, if you will. We’ll walk you step-by-step through the cleaning process, showing you what you need to get ’er done, and if you find you can’t resolve the problem, how to properly nuke it from orbit. We’ll also detail—pun intended—physically cleaning your rig. Once you’re finished, your PC will be noticeably perkier and everything will be right as rain. Now, drop the hammer, and let’s get started.</p> <h3>Back it up and kick the tires</h3> <p><strong>The only person to blame for not having a backup is you</strong></p> <p>There’s only two kinds of storage devices in this world: those that have already died and those that are going to die. If you’ve already identified that your PC is acting wonky, it’s time to back that mother up. It may seem counterintuitive that you would run a backup before you do a PC cleanup, but we highly recommend it: If you break something or something finally gives up the ghost, you’ll kiss your USB ports that you made a backup before it all went sideways. There are numerous aftermarket tools, but Microsoft has been kind enough to give you a fairly powerful backup and imaging tool in the OS itself. If you’re using Windows 7, just search for Backup, or dig into the Control Panel and look under System and Security. If you’re using Windows 8.x, the backup system is the same, although it’s hidden. To find it, go to the Control Panel and search for Windows 7 File Recovery.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gordon_backup_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gordon_backup_small_0.jpg" alt="The Windows backup and restore program works well enough, and should be run regularly." width="620" height="547" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows backup and restore program works well enough, and should be run regularly.</strong></p> <p>If you have multiple drives, you can choose how you want the backup to run, and manually select the other drives in the system for the backup set. You should set an automatic backup as well, and create a system restore disc. Ensure that you created a system image, also, should you need to restore the backup to a completely new hard drive.</p> <p>With your backup complete, it’s time to do a basic visual inspection of the internals of the PC for obvious problems, such as fans clogged with so much cat hair and dust that they’re causing the CPU or GPU to overheat and throttle, or data or power cables that have wiggled loose. Typically, loose or unplugged cables result in immediate show-stopping errors and crashes rather than a system slowdown. You’re more likely to find your fans clogged with dust running at low RPMs or fans that have died.</p> <h3>Mash Malware</h3> <p><strong>Don’t always blame malware, except when it’s to blame</strong></p> <p>If there’s a bogeyman of mysterious system slowdowns, it’s malware. In fact, if we had a nickel for every time a relative told us a “virus” was the cause of their slowdown, we’d have 0.08-34 of a Bitcoin. With that said, before you get too hip-deep in trying to speedupify a PC, a sweep for malware should be run. We’d also do a cursory examination of the OS for extraneous toolbars or tray items that have been installed. These aren’t truly malware, but still worthy of eradication.</p> <p>We’d also recommend a full system scan by the system’s real-time AV software (after updating the virus definitions). A secondary sweep using various on-demand tools is also on the to-do list. This would include browser-based file scanners available from all of the popular AV vendors, as well local tools such as Malwarebytes (www.malwarebytes.org) or SuperAntiSpyware (<a href="http://www.superantispyware.com/">www.superantispyware.com</a>). Running specific rootkit removal tools available from companies such as Malwarebytes and Sophos, among others, can’t hurt. Rootkits are a class of malware designed to thwart normal detection means. Before you get crazy about removing any detections, you should research it to make sure it isn’t just a false positive. And be advised that many types of malware can’t be removed with a single-click tool. You’ll typically have to dig deep in a multi-page guide to remove many of today’s specialty infections. Obviously, Binging will lead you to most guides, but a great place to start is Bleepingcomputer.com. The site has loads of removal guides and links to useful tools. But again, a word of warning: don’t just start ripping things out of the OS without knowing what you’re removing.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gordon_rootkit_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gordon_rootkit_small.jpg" alt="A thorough check for malware is recommended before any serious system cleanup." title="Mash Malware" width="620" height="516" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A thorough check for malware is recommended before any serious system cleanup.</strong></p> <h3> <hr />Cruft clearing</h3> <p><strong>Declutter the system files</strong></p> <p>Any PC that you use daily will build up hundreds of gigabytes of file clutter over the months and years that you use it. As most people are rolling large mechanical drives, the clutter has an impact on performance and your ability to pack away even more cute kitten videos downloaded from the Internet.</p> <p>For this step, we’ll start with the low-hanging fruit. Simply open My Computer, right-click your primary drive, and select properties. Click Disk Cleanup and check off the things that are clutter (just about everything is in this panel) and click OK. We did this on a work box and shaved off 5GB in Windows Update files that had been sitting around. While 5GB isn’t much in the day of 4TB drives, many people still run 1TB and smaller drives with every nook, cranny, and sector filled (you know who you are.)</p> <p>The next easy cruft targets are the system restore points automatically created by Windows. Windows typically creates these snapshots of the OS when you install a new driver, OS update, or application. Windows sets a default for these based on the size of the drive it’s installed on, but they typically occupy gigabytes on the drive. To free up space, you can delete all but the latest restore points by clicking the More Options panel from Disk Cleanup, and selecting Clean Up under System Restore and Shadow Copies.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cruft1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cruft1_small.jpg" alt="The built-in disk cleanup does a decent first pass at dumping unneeded system clutter." title="Cruft clearing" width="500" height="612" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The built-in disk cleanup does a decent first pass at dumping unneeded system clutter.</strong></p> <p>Before you do this, though, think about how the recent stability&nbsp; of your system. If it’s been reliable but slow for the last few months, wiping the previous restore points should be fine. But if the system is being wonky, you may just need to rely on those restore points to get the box back to a point where it’s stable, so we’d recommend keeping the old restore points until you’re sure the box is working. You should also be aware that Windows 7 and Windows Vista used System Protection and Restore Points to occasionally make backup copies of your personal data files through the Volume Shadow Copies service. These older versions may be purged when you do this, but it won’t touch your most recent versions.</p> <p>Yeah, we know, many power users will thumb their nose at System Restore and some will outright switch it off because malware can use it as a place to hide, but the feature can truly be a bacon-saver sometimes.</p> <p>Another easy target to clean out is the default downloads folder. Other than documents, the vast majority of downloaded files can usually be dumped overboard.</p> <h3>Clean the Crap</h3> <p><strong>CCleaner is an easy-to-use, one-stop declogger</strong></p> <p>Originally named Crap Cleaner, this handy application has since been renamed to the more palatable CCleaner, but it still works amazingly well at clearing out the junk from the corners of your OS. Available for free from http://bit.ly/MPC_CCleaner, it’s an easy one-stop shop for freeing up space that you might normally miss with the built-in cleaner. As much as we like CCleaner, you shouldn’t expect miracles. We ran it on a three-year-old scungy build of Windows 7 after running the Window’s cleaning routine and CCleaner came up with 18.3GB to clean out—16GB had accumulated in the trash bin. One word of warning: By default, CCleaner will wipe out your browser cookies, which might throw you for a loop when you’re forced to sign into web sites that you may have forgotten the passwords for. It’s probably best to exclude browser history and also Windows Explorer Recent Documents from the CCleaner clean-out, too, because they don’t net you much space but make your system more livable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ccleaner_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ccleaner_small_1.jpg" alt="CCleaner still does an admirable job of emptying out unneeded files." width="620" height="546" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>CCleaner still does an admirable job of emptying out unneeded files.</strong></p> <h3>Stop Startups</h3> <p><strong>Giddyap quicker</strong></p> <p>Oddly, many people still define their computing experience by how long it takes to cold-boot their PC. First, we just have to ask, have you tried standby or even hibernate? You know, those handy modes that can have you at the desktop five or 10 seconds after touching the mouse button or keyboard? No? You still prefer to boot from cold, anyway?</p> <p>If your OS install is a year or two old, you will have accumulated enough startup programs to significantly impact hard-drive boot times. The easiest way to remove these programs is click on the Start button, and type msconfig. Click on the Startup tab and scroll through the list, looking for things that don’t need to be started at launch. Uncheck them, click apply, then OK, and reboot.</p> <p>One thing to remember, Windows 7 will optimize the boot times automatically. If you reboot, and wait five minutes and reboot four or five times, the boot times should actually get better automatically as Windows 7 decides what it can prioritize.</p> <p>Windows 8.x (yes, haters, step back) actually improves upon boot times, as well. Anyone who has used the new OS can attest to its fast boot times. Win8 moves startup optimization to the Task Manager (ctrl-shift-esc). Click on the Startup tab, and Windows 8 will even tell you what’s slowing things down, and give you an estimate of how long it took to boot after the process was handed over to the OS.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/msconfig_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/msconfig_small.jpg" alt="You can manually deselect programs that start up from msconfig to speedify your boots." width="620" height="414" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can manually deselect programs that start up from msconfig to speedify your boots.</strong></p> <p>Those of us who have moved on to the SSD-based western shores of Valinor live lives fairly well untroubled by slow startups. But those poor souls of middle earth still using mechanical-based drives are the ones who need to concern themselves with startup optimization.&nbsp;</p> <h3> <hr />Consider an upgrade</h3> <p><strong>Hardware isn’t always the answer, but it usually is</strong></p> <p>The vast majority of our tips to clean up a slow-running PC can be solved in software, but sometimes software isn’t the answer. How will you know the difference? One of the clearest indicators is age. Old PC components do not age like wine. If you’re at your buddy’s house to “take a look at his computer” and that computer is a Pentium 4 or Athlon XP, it’s a lost cause.</p> <p>So, while most newbs you’re trying to help can still benefit from the cleaning tips in this story, the P4/Athlon XP machines aren’t going to sing no matter how much you tune them. Putting money into a hardware upgrade for these old dogs should be carefully weighed: new parts can be difficult to locate and everything in the box is suspect.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/p4.northwood_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/p4.northwood_small.jpg" alt="Unless you’re in the retro computing club, we’d recommend dumping that Pentium 4 box." title="P4" width="620" height="496" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Unless you’re in the retro computing club, we’d recommend dumping that Pentium 4 box.</strong></p> <p>It’s not so bad for a Phenom II or Core 2 box. In fact, these machines can be quite workable if the user has realistic expectations. Dropping an SSD into a Phenom II or Core 2 rig would be a game-changer for these old platforms, even if the motherboard doesn’t support the full SATA 6Gb/s speeds. Sometimes, a little RAM will even help, if the box was already memory-starved to begin with. With a 64-bit OS, 8GB is standard and 4GB is borderline.</p> <p>If gaming needs a boost, dropping in a newer GPU can certainly help. Even those rigs that are constrained by low-wattage PSUs now have a modern option with Nvidia’s new Maxwell series, which can run on even 300W PSUs.</p> <p>If the machine is also running that now-abandoned OS, Windows XP, an OS upgrade to Windows 7 or even Windows 8 is advised.</p> <p>Obviously, we don’t recommend $400 in upgrades on a $200 PC, but a $100 upgrade on a box that buys the person another 24 months of use can be a godsend for those on tight budgets. As we said, though, everything at or below the P4/Athlon XP line should be abandoned.</p> <h3>Visualize your drive</h3> <p><strong>Think of WinDirStat as Google Maps for your HDDs</strong></p> <p>You’ve cleaned up the extraneous system files on your machine, but the real junk is the gigabytes of nothingness you’ve collected from repeatedly dumping that 32GB memory card onto the hard drive because you were afraid to delete something you might need later. Six months later, those same unkempt files are bogging down your system and freeloading on your dime. When space gets tight, we turn to WinDirStat (<a href="http://www.windirstat.info">www.windirstat.info</a>).</p> <p>In the past, when drives were smaller and your file-hoarding was limited to a mere 500GB or so, you could rely on the good old-fashioned search-and-destroy technique: browsing through Windows Explorer for old photos, games, and files that you simply don’t use anymore. With 3TB and even 4TB drives packed with god knows what, that technique isn’t effective anymore. Instead, use Windows Directory Statistics, or WinDirStat, to help visualize and locate files on our drives that can be slated for termination. WinDirStat is an extremely lightweight (less than a megabyte) open-source program that scans your hard drive to provide you with three sets of information: directory list, tree map, and file extensions list. The tree map—easily the most attractive feature in the program—represents every file on your hard drive as a colored rectangle. Also handy is the extension list, which gives you total percentages calculated by file extensions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windirstat_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windirstat_small_1.jpg" alt="We dig the simple and effective representation of our hard drives from WinDirStat." width="620" height="349" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We dig the simple and effective representation of our hard drives from WinDirStat.</strong></p> <p>The tree map is the handiest and helps you easily see where you have bloat on your drives—the bigger the file, the bigger the rectangle. Scrolling over files displays the file name and its location, and you can delete files from within the program by selecting a file and pressing the delete key.</p> <h3>Dedupe it</h3> <p><strong>Duplicate often </strong></p> <p>Most people treat hard drives like the attic or garage. Rather than immediately culling extra files, you simply put it in storage to deal with at a later date (the road to hell, good intentions, etc). No matter that you already put those files in storage just last week—you’ll get around to dumping the duplicate files eventually. While there are many, many deduplication tools available, one good starting place is Auslogic’s free Duplicate File Finder app (<a href="http://www.auslogics.com/en/">www.auslogics.com</a>) It doesn’t have the bells or whistles of apps that analyze audio, photo, and video for duplicates, but it works fairly fast and is a good way to eliminate the obvious duplicate files. On one old Windows 7 box, Duplicate File Finder turned up a good 39GB of dupes that could be tossed. Simply fire up Duplicate File Finder, have it search your drive, and it will give you a list of duplicate files. Under Action, select All Duplicates In Each Group, and it will mark the duplicate files for dumping into a trash can, or moving into the Rescue Center, where you can recover the file if you realize later on you made a mistake.</p> <p>The program works well enough, but we wouldn’t wipe out files willy-nilly without first making a separate backup and making sure that the irreplaceable files going away are actually duplicates. DFF will show you the file name, file size, and creation date, which gives most people enough confidence to delete, but the paranoia in us would want to visually confirm it, too. This same philosophy is probably what brought us to this space issue in the first place. After all, am I sure I really did copy all of the images from the memory card to the computer? Even the ones I took last weekend? I’ll just make another copy... I have plenty of space.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/duplicatefilefinder_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/duplicatefilefinder_small.jpg" alt="Duplicate File Finder can quickly, er, find your duplicate files." title="Duplicate File Finder " width="620" height="484" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Duplicate File Finder can quickly, er, find your duplicate files.</strong></p> <h3>Optimize your storage</h3> <p><strong>Storage is usually the prime suspect in system slowdowns</strong></p> <p>Before we get started discussing problems with your storage system and how to optimize it, make sure you have done two things: First, that you’ve connected your SSD to a SATA 6Gb/s port on your motherboard (consult your manual), and second, that you’ve enabled AHCI on your SATA controller via the motherboard BIOS. If you’ve already installed Windows and your SATA controller is set to IDE instead of AHCI, hit Google to find the registry hack to fix it. And yes, running in IDE mode rather than AHCI on a modern SSD can indeed rob you of performance.</p> <p>With that out of the way, the first thing to do when you sense your system is slowing down and you see your hard-drive activity LED churning constantly, is enlist the trusty three-finger salute. For the uninitiated, that means pressing ctrl-alt-delete to bring up the Task Manager in Windows. Select the Performance tab to see if anything is spiking or is nearing 100 percent utilization. From there, you can go to the Processes tab to see which process is taking up all those resources. In the screenshot below, we see a staff member’s work PC that suffered daily paralyzation at the hands of a virus scan and several associated processes. The resolution was to kill the processes, then make sure to schedule the virus scans during non-work hours.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ssd_optimize_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ssd_optimize_small.jpg" alt="Both Samsung and Intel offer free “tuning” software that helps keep your SSD running in tip-top shape. " width="620" height="467" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Both Samsung and Intel offer free “tuning” software that helps keep your SSD running in tip-top shape. </strong></p> <p>If everything looks fine in the Task Manager but the system still feels slow, run a few benchmarks to see if the numbers are up to spec. For sequential read and write tests, we recommend Crystal-DiskMark for SSDs and HDTune for Hard drives. Admittedly, none of us use HDDs for our OS anymore—there’s no reason to with SSD prices falling faster than the value of Bitcoin.</p> <p>If you run the benchmarks and find the performance is lacking on your SSD, you have a few options. Your first is to optimize the drive via the Trim command. What this does is send a command to the drive that tells it to run its garbage-collection routine, which means it will erase all the blocks that have been deleted, clearing the way for them to receive fresh writes. If the drive has not been trimmed in a while, data can become fragmented all over the drive, and since blocks of an SSD have to be erased before they are written to (as opposed to a hard drive, where they can just be overwritten at any time), a simple write command can require the controller to delete blocks, move data around, and then perform the write, which can seriously degrade performance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wtf_-_copy_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wtf_-_copy_small.jpg" alt="If your system feels like it’s stuck in the mud, the Task Manager will reveal what’s causing the problem. " width="620" height="564" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If your system feels like it’s stuck in the mud, the Task Manager will reveal what’s causing the problem. </strong></p> <p>In general, if you’re running Windows 7 or newer, you should be fine. However, you can Trim a drive manually on Windows 8: right-click the drive in My Computer, and click Properties, Tools, and then Optimize. If you own a Samsung or Intel SSD, you can download the free Samsung Magician or SSD Toolbox software, respectively, which also let you Trim your drive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>HDD “Optimization”</h3> <p><strong>Fast hard drives aren’t</strong></p> <p>If you are running a hard drive and want to optimize it, there’s not a whole lot you can do beyond keeping it defragmented. To make sure it’s “defragged,” right-click the drive, select Properties, Tools, and then Defragmentation. Ideally, you should do this after you’ve done your cleaning of unused junk from the machine. If it’s your boot device, some people like to disable hibernation before a defrag to get a little extra “boost” out of the defrag by eliminating the multi-gigabyte hiberfil.sys file. Frankly, we don’t think it matters much anymore. In our opinion, the concept of a “fast hard drive” is antiquated now, due to SSDs, as is the concept of “optimizing” them. Any gains you make toward keeping a hard drive optimized will be largely unnoticeable in the real world, beyond dumping the useless cruft and running a basic defrag, which the OS will do on its own.</p> <h3>Let’s Get Physical</h3> <p><strong>Knock, knock, house cleaning</strong></p> <p>Unless you live in a HEPA-filtered cleanroom, a desktop PC will eventually need a physical cleanup as well as a digital one. That means opening up the case, which means turning off your rig and unplugging it from the wall. Don’t want to lose a finger in those fan blades. Most case panels are secured with six-sided Phillips screws, sometimes call a “hex” screw. Or they have thumbscrews, which can usually be removed by hand. Once taken out, keep these together in a small container. An empty coffee mug will do in a pinch.</p> <p>If you’ve had this PC for several months, you should see a coating of dust inside. That has to be removed, because it insulates surfaces and clogs up fans, which can lead to overheating. With a can of compressed air, spray short bursts at the dust. Long sprays can freeze the inner workings of the can. And tilting the can may also cause its liquid to spray, which contains a solvent that can damage the contact surface. Ideally, do this dusting outside, because you don’t want all that dust floating around indoors.</p> <p>Case fan filters can also get gnarly. These days, most of them slide out. Spray them with air, or remove them, run them under the tap, and air dry. Fans themselves also get grody. You may need to temporarily remove the CPU fan from the heatsink to clean both items sufficiently. When spraying fans, hold their blades down to prevent them from spinning, otherwise you may damage the motor.</p> <p>A periodic disinfecting wipe or baby wipe can take care of your mouse, but keyboards usually need you to pull their keycaps to really get at the crustiness underneath. A puller tool is best for this. You can order one online from Newegg or Amazon, and regional computer stores like Fry’s and Microcenter usually sell them. Some people run their boards through the dishwasher. Don’t use detergent or hot water for that, and give them at least a day to fully dry out.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/babywipes_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/babywipes_small.jpg" alt="Gordon agrees, baby wipes work amazingly well for cleaning the surfaces of a dirty desktop or laptop." width="620" height="381" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Gordon agrees, baby wipes work amazingly well for cleaning the surfaces of a dirty desktop or laptop.</strong></p> <p>Last but not least, don’t forget to wipe the dust off your monitor’s screen. But don’t use conventional glass cleaner, because it can permanently damage the panel. You can buy screen-cleaning kits from most office supply stores, or you can use a spare microfiber cloth, like the kind made for camera lenses. Pharmacies also stock these. Just gently wipe the screen with it. If you need some liquid to clean the screen, spray your cloth with plain water from a mister. Never spray the screen itself, because the liquid can drip into the panel housing and corrode the components within.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/kitten_p34_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/kitten_p34_small.jpg" alt="Tuxie the cat, pointing out a spot Josh missed while cleaning." width="620" height="521" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Tuxie the cat, pointing out a spot we missed while cleaning.</strong></p> <h4>An Ounce of Prevention</h4> <p>If you’ve just cleaned out a rig that’s never seen a proper cleaning, you’re probably wondering what you can do to avoid such horrors in the future. Fan filters are obviously one option. If they’re not built into your case, you can get them from sites like Newegg, Amazon, and Frozen CPU. Some have magnets, and you just slap them on; others need to be screwed in. To get the correct sizing, measure your fan diagonally with a ruler. The most common size is 120mm. A filter’s dense mesh will reduce airflow and increase temps in the case, so there’s a trade-off. Even the best filter will not completely eliminate dust, it will only reduce the number of times per year that you need to clean the insides. Smokers and owners of furry pets will also need to clean more often than usual. Periodically brushing those critters will help reduce buildup.</p> <p>And we don’t know if we have to mention this, but washing your hands a few times over the course of the day will also help prevent unsightly crud from building up on your input devices. This is especially important after a meal or after spending time outdoors. And speaking of food, try to keep it away from your keyboard, which is a crumb magnet and said to be dirtier than a toilet. If your mouse pad has an old-style fabric surface, you may want to consider eliminating it altogether (unless your desk is made of glass), or switching to one made of plastic or metal—materials that can be cleaned quickly and easily.</p> <h3>Nuke it from orbit</h3> <p><strong>Nothing can save LV426, so when it’s too mangled or infested, just nuke it</strong></p> <p>We won’t bother telling you to back up your data before you send your OS to meet its maker, because that is too obvious. But before you nuke the OS, make sure you have everything you need.</p> <p>What might not be obvious is that because of piracy, a lot of the more expensive software packages require activation, which also requires you to deactivate any serial numbers before you begin your bombing run. Most professional Adobe packages work this way, so if you’re running Photoshop, Illustrator, or any locally stored creative suite, be sure to open the app, click Help, and then Deactivate. Make sure you’ve done it correctly by firing up the program again to see if it asks you to activate. If it does, you’re good to go; keep in mind you’ll need Internet access to successfully do this. Also keep in mind that if you deactivate a piece of software, then upgrade your system, the software might think it’s a different computer, which can complicate re-activation.</p> <p>The activation process varies on a program-to-program basis, so use Google if you run into any issues. Microsoft’s Office suites react the same as the operating system, and any significant change in hardware will trigger a reactivation. The bottom line: If you have a mission critical application that you absolutely have to have up and running as soon as possible, be sure to know what the re-activation process is before you pull the trigger so there are no surprises. Some apps require you to contact the vendor for a new code before they will run, which is a wonderful thing to learn at midnight Friday before a three-day weekend when you need the app that night.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/adobe_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/adobe_small.jpg" alt="In order to reinstall certain software, such as Adobe products, you must first deactivate the serial key." width="620" height="444" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>In order to reinstall certain software, such as Adobe products, you must first deactivate the serial key.</strong></p> <p>There are other apps you should also pay attention to. First up, browser bookmarks. Chrome will let you sync your bookmarks on other machines, but you need to set it up to do so. If you’re into the old-school method, you can also export your bookmarks file as HTML and then re-import it. You’ll want to make sure you have a copy of your iTunes library handy, too, which is located in C:\Users\Username\My Music. Be sure to deauthorize iTunes while you’re at it. You’ll also want to back up your Steam library so that you don’t have to re-download all your games. To do this in Steam, click Steam in the upper left-hand corner, select Backup and Restore Games, then follow the prompts. Alternatively, you can do it manually by copying the entire Steam directory over. You no longer have to worry about save-game files, since they are now all automatically saved to the “Steam Cloud.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/steam_backup_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/steam_backup_small.jpg" alt="Steam includes a built-in Backup and Restore tool, and we recommend using it." width="620" height="362" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Steam includes a built-in Backup and Restore tool, and we recommend using it.</strong></p> <p>Your final stop on this trail of tears is to make sure you have all the drivers you need for anything connected to your PC. At the very minimum, be sure to have your chipset and LAN drivers, as those always go first, and with an Internet connection you can always download anything else you need care of the helpful SlimDrivers utility. Don’t forget your printer drivers, though, and it doesn’t hurt to download Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 either, though Windows Update could also do it for you.</p> <p>Once you’ve deactivated your software, collected all the serial keys you need, made sure your Steam and iTunes libraries are backed up, saved your browser bookmarks, and have all your drivers, you are ready to proceed. Before you reboot your PC to reinstall, be sure to take a moment to consider all the amazing times it’s given you. Once that’s complete, shut her down, and we’ll see you on the other side.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/restore_computer_2014#comments Adobe application malware May issues 2014 restore computer Software Office Applications Software Features Mon, 15 Sep 2014 22:49:00 +0000 Maximum PC staff 28340 at http://www.maximumpc.com Bad PC Ports Need to Go Away: Dead Rising 3 Edition http://www.maximumpc.com/bad_pc_ports_need_go_away_dead_rising_3_edition_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Column: Now I know why they call it the Apocalypse Edition</h3> <p>PC games are buggy, and console games just work right out of the box – that’s at least the stigma that console gamers place on the PC. The truth is that PC gaming is <a title="pc gaming" href="http://www.intricworld.com/uploads/2/4/4/6/24467354/756791_orig.jpg" target="_blank">miles ahead of the consoles</a>, but I do have to admit that that there are grains of truth to the stigma.</p> <p>When Dead Rising 3 launched on the PC on September 5th, I encouraged my console-playing friend to play the game cooperatively with me on Steam. So we both got on Skype and fired it up. Immediately upon booting it up, however, I noticed the astonishingly long load times. To be fair, I did install it on my hard drive as opposed to my SSD, but these boot times were abnormally long and my friend noticed the same on his machine. The long boot times would be the least of my problems with the game, however. When I actually got into the game, something was definitely not right, and I'm not talking about the game's impending zombie apocalypse. It felt like I was playing more of a slideshow than a game. The framerate performance was terrible, which I thought was odd considering I was playing on my high-end i7 rig coupled with a GeForce GTX Titan. Sure I was trying to run the game maxed out, but considering I was using a $1,000 GPU on what essentially is a console port, max settings should have been a cakewalk.&nbsp;</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/dead_rising_3_pc_port.jpg" width="460" height="215" /></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>More like "Dead Rising 3: Bad Port Edition"</strong></p> <p>And my friend’s more humble PC equipped with a modest 560 Ti GPU? Well, it started sweating bullets on medium. “This is why I’m not into PC gaming,” my friend exclaimed. The comment stung a little and we both decided to tone down our graphics settings. I noticed a bump in performance when I ran the game at medium settings, but it still ran like crap. Upon doing some research, I found out that Capcom had capped the game to run at 30FPS. D’oh! Contrary to what console gamers might say, 30FPS is not enough, and friends don't let friends play at 30FPS.</p> <p>To be fair to Capcom, apparently the company did warn PC gamers that the game would be locked to 30FPS prior to Dead Rising 3’s launch, but still, a warning does not excuse a crime. That’s like someone telling you, “Sorry, but I’m going to punch you” right before punching you. In other words, it doesn’t really help. The straight truth of the matter is that Dead Rising 3 on the PC is a lazy port, and trust us when we say we know a thing or two about a bad port as we’ve done a roundup of <a title="bad pc port" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/worst_pc_ports_2014" target="_blank">the worst offenders</a>. At this point, we’d have to say Dead Rising 3 is a dead ringer to be on that list (see what I did there?).</p> <p>On the brightside, yes, there is an easy .ini fix to remove the 30FPS cap, but even Capcom advises against this because the company suggest that users 1)might need really beefy hardware and 2) it could potentially cause “<a title="dead rising issues" href="http://steamcommunity.com/app/265550/discussions/0/522730535829776687/" target="_blank">issues</a>.” Furthermore, I’m personally a little afraid that the tweak might conflict with a future update down the road. In addition, this fan-made patch reinforces the negative stereotype that PC gamers need to manually tweak their games just to play them properly. The least Capcom could have done here is to include an in-game menu option to remove the 30FPS limit with perhaps a warning that it might cause some instability on lower-end systems. After all, if we’re smart enough to choose PC gaming, we’re smart enough to toggle a menu switch. In addition, some of us do in fact have super beefy hardware and would like the option to use it on an occasion such as this. *cough*</p> <p>Terrible performance issues aside, Dead Rising’s framerate is hardly the most pressing issue with the game at the moment. When my friend and I were slugging our way through the co-op campaign, the game crashed on me multiple times and booted my friend out of the online instance as well. I was hoping to play the game all night with my buddy, to show him the joys of Steam and PC gaming, but after four game crashes in an hour, even I had to admit defeat.</p> <p>Over the next few days, I found out that my situation was not an isolated incident and that <a title="game crashes" href="http://steamcommunity.com/games/265550/announcements/detail/147813325104525261" target="_blank">TONS of users are reporting game crashes</a>. To Capcom’s credit, the company has acknowledged the crashes and are attempting to do something about it, but only time will tell if this specific matter gets resolved.&nbsp;</p> <p>I haven’t given up on Dead Rising 3 and was able to enjoy the game, well, at least from the little that I was able to play of it, but I’d much prefer to return to the zombie apocalypse when the bugs are ironed out. Because really, who likes fighting bugs and zombies at the same time?</p> <p>However, the bigger thing I want to say to Capcom and other game developers is this: PLEASE STOP THE LAZY PC PORTS! These buggy, unoptimized ports do nothing to bolster the sales of your games. But more importantly,&nbsp;your rush job gives PC gaming an undue bad rep.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/bad_pc_ports_need_go_away_dead_rising_3_edition_2014#comments 30 bad port console crash crashes crashing dead rising 3 framerate locked pc Steam Gaming News Features Fri, 12 Sep 2014 22:39:09 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28530 at http://www.maximumpc.com