Maximum PC - How-Tos http://www.maximumpc.com/articles/32/feed en How to Clone a Hard Drive/SSD http://www.maximumpc.com/how_clone_hard_drive_or_ssd_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u154280/clone_trooper.png" alt="Clonetrooper" title="Clonetrooper" width="300" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>3 free and easy tools to transfer your data from one drive to another</h3> <p>You just bought a brand new shiny SSD and want to throw it into your aging mid-tower PC. But wait, the horror of having to reinstall Windows again and all of your applications begins to set in. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of reinstalling Windows, you can use a simple cloning utility to clone your old drive to your new SSD. We’ve rounded up three free cloning utilities that are easy to use so you don’t have to go through the effort of reinstalling your OS and applications all over again.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Note: Before you attempt to clone your hard drive or SSD, w</em><span style="font-style: italic;">e highly recommend</span><span style="font-style: italic;">&nbsp;backing up all your data first. In addition, make sure the drive you are cloning to has enough storage space to take all the cloned data. For instance, you wouldn't want to try and clone a 2TB HDD on to a 256GB SSD now would you?&nbsp;</span></p> <h3>Terminology:</h3> <p>Before we walk you through the steps, let's first explain some of the terms we will use so you don't get confused.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Cloning:</strong>&nbsp;Cloning is defined as copying the contents of one storage drive to another storage drive or to an "image file."&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Source Disk:</strong> The drive that will have its content cloned to another hard drive or SSD.</p> <p><strong>Target Disk (a.k.a. Destination Disk):</strong> The drive that will receive the cloned image from the source disk.</p> <h3>Samsung Data Migration:</h3> <p>The first data copying method we'll go over pertains to Samsung Data Migration. So make sure you plop that new Samsung SSD in along with your old OS drive you want to clone from.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Note: You will need a Samsung SSD installed on your machine for this software to work.</em></p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Download the installer from <a title="Samsung Data Migration " href="http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/samsungssd/downloads.html" target="_blank">http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/samsungssd/downloads.html</a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_1_7.png" alt="Step 1" title="Step 1" width="600" height="338" /></p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Run the installer and click "I accept" at the end of it to agree to the terms and conditions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_2_5.png" alt="Step 2" title="Step 2" width="600" height="534" /></p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> Once the software is installed, it will launch and ask if you if you want to update to the latest version. Click on Update and you will begin downloading the newest patches for it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_3_5.png" alt="Step 3" title="Step 3" width="434" height="269" /></p> <p><strong>Step 4:</strong> After the update is complete the software will have you install patches and will have you agree to the Samsung terms and conditions again.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_4_6.png" alt="Step 4" title="Step 4" width="511" height="392" /></p> <p><strong>Step 5:</strong>&nbsp;From this window, you will select the <strong>Source Disk</strong> and <strong>Target Disk</strong>. The <strong><em>Target Disk must be a Samsung SSD</em></strong>, but the <strong><em>Source Disk can be any C: Drive you currently have your OS on</em></strong>. Once you’ve selected your disks, you can start cloning by clicking Start and the cloning process will begin. Note: Leave your computer alone while you're cloning the OS, as you may corrupt the clone if other processes are being run at the same time. This goes for the other cloning utilities as well.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_5_5.png" alt="Step 5" title="Step 5" width="600" height="425" />&nbsp;</p> <p>After the software is done cloning, you can shut down your PC and boot from your newly-cloned SSD.</p> <h3>Macrium Reflect:</h3> <p>The second method we will discuss uses the program Macrium Reflect and will work with any drive, regardless of brand. So before you begin, make sure you plop in that new drive along with your old drive you want to clone from.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Go to <a title="Macrium Reflect " href="http://download.cnet.com/Macrium-Reflect-Free/3000-2242_4-10845728.html?part=dl-&amp;subj=dl&amp;tag=button " target="_blank">http://download.cnet.com/Macrium-Reflect-Free/3000-2242_4-10845728.html?part=dl-&amp;subj=dl&amp;tag=button</a> and click on the green Download Now button.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_1_download_macrium_download_agent.png" alt="Step 1" title="Step 1" width="600" height="342" /></p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Click on the download button in the Macrium Reflect Download Agent and then run the software’s installer.</p> <p><em>Note: Make sure to read the fine print throughout the installation process to not install any adware. Cnet's Download.com has become infamous for sneaking it in (Here are some <a title="don't download malware" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/how_to_download_2013" target="_blank">general tips</a> to avoiding installing malware/adware). &nbsp;</em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_2_intialize_the_download.png" alt="Step 2" title="Step 2" width="564" height="551" /></p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> Open up the software and click on <strong>Clone this disk…</strong> Once you do this the software will let you choose which disks you want as your source and target disks. When you have selected your disks, click next to start cloning your drive.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_3_run_macrium_reflect_and_click_on_clone_disk_and_select_the_disk_you_would_like_to_clone.png" alt="Step 3" title="Step 3" width="600" height="338" /></p> <p><strong>Macrium Reflect useful tips:</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/useful_tip_create_bootable_rescue_media.png" alt="Rescue Media" title="Rescue Media" width="600" height="441" /></strong></p> <p><strong>Creating bootable rescue media:</strong> Macrium Reflect can also help you make bootable rescue media. This tool is located under Other Tasks. We always recommend making recovery media, just in case your hard drive or SSD fails on you.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/useful_tip_create_disk_images_for_restoring_your_pc.png" alt="Disk Image" title="Disk Image" width="600" height="316" /></p> <p><strong>Creating an image of your hard drives:</strong> Under Backup Tasks, you can also create a disk image of your hard drive or SSD too.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Acronis True Image WD Edition Software:</h3> <p>The third cloning method involves using Acronis True Imaged WD edition software. You will need a WD storage drive for this to work.&nbsp;So make sure you plop that new WD drive in along with your old OS drive you want to clone from. &nbsp;</p> <p><em>Note: You will need to have a WD hard drive installed on your machine for this software to work.</em></p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Download the Acronis True Image WD Edition Software from <a title="Acronis True Image WD Edition Software" href="http://support.wdc.com/product/downloaddetail.asp?swid=119" target="_blank">http://support.wdc.com/product/downloaddetail.asp?swid=119</a>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_1_download_the_exe_acronis_true_image_wd_edition_software.png" alt="Step 1" title="Step 1" width="600" /></p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Run the installer</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_2_run_the_installer_0.png" alt="Step 2" title="Step 2" width="600" height="497" /></p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> Launch the software and select Clone disk.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_3_click_on_clone_disk.png" alt="Step 3" title="Step 3" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p><strong>Step 4:</strong> Select which cloning option you want from Automatic or Manual. The Automatic option clones your entire disk, while manual lets you pick and choose what data you want cloned over to your new drive.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_4_click_next_and_then_select_the_disks_you_want_to_clone_0.png" alt="Step 4" title="Step 4" width="600" height="436" /></p> <p><strong>Step 5:</strong> Select your <strong>Source Disk</strong> and <strong>Destination Disk</strong> and then you can begin cloning your drive.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_5_select_your_source_disk_and_destination_disks_0.png" alt="Step 5" title="Step 5" width="600" height="438" /></p> <p>These are but three cloning tools, there are many others such as <a title="discwizard" href="http://www.seagate.com/support/downloads/discwizard/" target="_blank">Seagate's DiscWizard</a> ( for Seagate drives) along with other free storage cloning tools such as&nbsp;<a title="G-Parted" href="http://gparted.org/" target="_blank">G-Parted</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a title="Clonezilla" href="http://clonezilla.org/" target="_blank">Clonezilla</a>.</p> <p>Know of any other free cloning utilities? Let us know in the comments below!</p> <p><span style="font-style: normal;">Follow Chris on&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: normal;" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/117154316323139826718" target="_blank">Google</a><span style="font-style: normal;">+&nbsp;or&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: normal;" href="https://twitter.com/chriszele" target="_blank">Twitter</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_clone_hard_drive_or_ssd_2014#comments Acronis True Image cloning Hard Drive how to clone ssd macrium reflect samsung data migration transfer files Windows Features How-Tos Tue, 06 May 2014 22:52:08 +0000 Chris Zele 27606 at http://www.maximumpc.com How to Physically Clean Your PC and More http://www.maximumpc.com/how_physically_clean_your_pc_and_more2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/01_spring_cleaning_top.jpg" width="250" height="166" style="float: right;" />It’s time for some hardware spring cleaning!</h3> <p>Spring is in the air and it’s time to do some spring cleaning. This means cleaning your house, room, and most importantly, your PC! Of course, keeping your PC clean isn’t just a matter of aesthetics; it also helps keep your system from overheating.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a computer runs, it generates static electricity, which attracts dust and hairs. These nasty bits clump together and gunk up the heatsink, case fans, and other computer components. It’s not only gross but also ends up blocking airflow, which causes overheating. So beyond annual spring-cleanings, it’s important to routinely clear out any messy buildups in your rig. Without further ado, let’s start scrubbing down our PCs!</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/02_tools_of_the_trade.jpg" alt="PC cleaning tools" title="PC cleaning tools" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>PC cleaning tools</strong></p> <h4>Tools of the trade</h4> <p>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Compressed air can</p> <p>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Isopropyl rubbing alcohol or Vodka in a pinch</p> <p>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>White vinegar</p> <p>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Distilled water</p> <p>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Microfiber cloths</p> <p>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Q-tips</p> <p>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Scotch tape</p> <h4>PC cases</h4> <p>We’ll go ahead and start with the biggest and most important item that needs cleaning, your gaming rig. If your PC has been sitting around all winter, it’s probably packed with dust even with filters in front of every intake fan.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="PC Outside" href="/files/u154082/03_pc_outside.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154082/03_pc_outside.jpg" alt="PC Outside" title="PC Outside" width="620" height="410" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>PC Outside</strong></p> <p>1)<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Take it outside</p> <p>The first step will be to take it outside because it’s a bit pointless to blow out all that dust indoors just to have it all settle back down in the same room. But before we do that, disconnect the computer entirely. This includes Power cable, USB peripherals, and whatever audio equipment you have hooked up. Don’t forget to discharge the remaining power in the computer by grounding yourself while touching the power supply and pressing the power button.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/04_wipe_it_down.jpg" alt="Wipe it down" title="Wipe it down" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Wipe it down</strong></p> <p>2)<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Wipe it down</p> <p>The next step is giving the outside of the case a good once over, wiping down the entire exterior and even cleaning its dirty feet.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/05_clean_those_dust_filters.jpg" alt="Clean those dust filters" title="Clean those dust filters" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Clean those dust filters</strong></p> <p>3)<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Clean those dust filters</p> <p>Next up detach any dust filters on the case and wipe off the accumulated dust bunnies. Doing this by hand is fine but give it a quick blast of compressed air can for good measure. Meanwhile, for foam filters give them a quick rinse under the sink. In both cases make sure to clear the dust out so that it blows out away from the clean side, otherwise you’ll end up dirtying both sides.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/06_prepping_the_patient.jpg" alt="Prepping the patient" title="Prepping the patient" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Prepping the patient</strong></p> <p>4)<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Prepping the patient</p> <p>Before you go dual wielding air cans on the inside of your case, you should know that will just cause a big mess. So it’s important to first wipe down the inside manually—yes, by hand. It’s an opportune time to disconnect big components like the graphics card, RAM modules, and even the heatsink if you have some replacement thermal paste lying around.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/07_clean_the_graphics_card.jpg" alt="Clean the graphics card" title="Clean the graphics card" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Clean the graphics card</strong></p> <p>There’s always bound to be dust hidden between the cracks and removing these components will make it easier to clean off the motherboard. Before you go blowing off the GPU and other case fans, use a pen to hold the fan in place as it prevents it from spinning too fast and potentially damaging the motor.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/08_cleaning.jpg" alt="Cleaning" title="Cleaning" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Cleaning</strong></p> <p>5)<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Cleaning&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, if there are any big clumps of dust it would be best to grab them up and wipe them away with a damp (not wet!) isopropyl rubbing alcohol-laden cloth first. After that, go ahead and pull the air can trigger on any nooks and crannies you might have missed as well as the motherboard itself. For any truly stubborn dust particles hanging around the case’s expansion slots, dampen some Q-tips with alcohol to rub it out.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/09_packing_it_up_0.jpg" alt="Packing it up" title="Packing it up" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Packing it up</strong></p> <p>6)<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Packing it all up</p> <p>Once you’re all done inside, put everything back where it belongs. You might also want to check over your wiring. Just in case you’re still using the old pack-your-wires-at-the-bottom-of-the-case strategy, check out our guide on <a title="wire pc" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/howtos/howto_give_your_pc_professional_wiring_job" target="_blank">how to wire like a pro</a>.</p> <p><em>Click the next page to get tips on how to clean up accessories like keyboards, mice, and more!</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Keyboards and Mice</h4> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/10_dirty_mouse.jpg" alt="Dirty Mouse" title="Dirty Mouse" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Dirty Mouse</strong></p> <p>After you’re all done with cleaning out your tower you should polish up your peripherals too. These can be especially gross since you end up touching them all the time. Plus there are so many tiny spaces for dust, Cheetos cheese, and other gunk to get into.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="Cleaning the Keyboard" href="/files/u154082/11_cleaning_the_keyboard.jpg" target="_blank"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/11_cleaning_the_keyboard_0.jpg" alt="Cleaning the Keyboard" title="Cleaning the Keyboard" width="620" height="410" /></strong></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Cleaning the Keyboard</strong></p> <p>First we’ll start with wiping the keyboard down with a damp cloth. Since regular old plastic is a less sensitive than microchips we can use anything from a micro fiber cloth, to a rag, and even a (clean) old sock. After you’ve wiped all the greased and dust off the top, flip the keyboard over and give it a good shake to get rid of any loose bits of material in between the keys. Follow up with a blast of air to clear out hair, dust, and food particles.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/12_removing_the_keys.jpg" alt="Removing the keys" title="Removing the keys" width="620" height="410" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Removing the keys</strong></p> <p>This should take care of at least 80-percent of the problems but for a truly deep clean, you can also pop off the keys to get to the keyboard's backboard. Most mechanical keyboards come with a key puller. If you lost it or are using a membrane switch keyboard, gently wedging a flathead screwdriver or letter opener underneath the keys works in a pinch. Just remember to take a picture of the keyboard beforehand for reference when putting it back together.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/13_cleaning_the_mouse_0.jpg" alt="Cleaning the Mouse" title="Cleaning the Mouse" width="620" height="379" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Cleaning the Mouse</strong></p> <p>Cleaning your mouse is largely the same as a keyboard in that the whole thing needs a good wipe down. Pay particular attention to the non-stick pads on the bottom as a lot of gunk can accumulate on and around the edge of the mouse’s feet.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/14_cleaning_the_sensor.jpg" alt="Cleaning the sensor" title="Cleaning the sensor" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Cleaning the sensor</strong></p> <p>If there’s anything caught in the scroll wheel, simply turn the whole clicker over and turn the wheel or hit it with a blast of air to dislodge anything caught inside. Finally for the optical sensor, we suggest wiping the area with a damp cloth and a Q-tip to finely remove any leftover crud.</p> <h4>Monitor</h4> <p style="text-align: center;"><a><strong><img src="/files/u154082/15_monitor_0.jpg" alt="Monitor" title="Monitor" width="620" height="410" /></strong></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Monitor</strong></p> <p>Cleaning monitors, and screens in general, are extremely sensitive and require some of the gentlest cleaning methods. Windex is completely NOT okay to use. Ammonia- or alcohol-based cleaners should also be avoided because they can strip the anti-reflective coating applied to screens, cause clouding, and otherwise damage the display.</p> <p>While it may seem like there are but a few solutions worth wiping your screen with, it’s actually easier to just make your own cleaning solution. All it requires is equal parts white vinegar and distilled water.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/16_cleaning_solution.jpg" alt="cleaning solution" title="cleaning solution" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>cleaning solution</strong></p> <p>But before we start damping anything, we’re going to wipe down the surface to get rid of any dust or grit that might scratch the screen later on. Another ground rule is to never pour or spray liquid directly onto the screen because drops can seep into the panel through gaps around the bezel. Instead drip a little bit of the solution into the cloth and then wipe the display in a circular motion to prevent streaks.</p> <h4>Headsets</h4> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/17_wipe_headset.jpg" alt="wipe headset" title="wipe headset" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>wipe headset</strong></p> <p>Moving onto potentially the grossest part of our gadget cleanup, headsets. Mmmm sweat and earwax. One good general rule about cleaning headsets is liquid cleansers are a big no-no. Instead, for leather, pleather, and vinyl cups, use a simple microfiber cloth.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/18_tape_headset.jpg" alt="Tape headset" title="Tape headset" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Tape headset</strong></p> <p>Alternatively, for headset with cloth and foam ear cups scotch tape works wonders on pulling off dust and lint without tearing fabric.&nbsp;</p> <h4>Smartphones and tablets</h4> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/19_dirty_smartphone.jpg" alt="Dirty Smartphone" title="Dirty Smartphone" width="620" height="410" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Dirty Smartphone</strong></p> <p>Tablets, and especially smartphones, can be a complete biohazard nightmare of bacteria and germs. All the loose food and dust that accumulates on your keyboard pales in comparison to the smartphone you touch with your hands all day. Given that this device also touches your face, it’s probably the most important thing you’ll want to sanitize.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<img src="/files/u154082/20_wipe_smartphone.jpg" alt="Wipe Smartphone" title="Wipe Smartphone" width="620" height="410" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Wipe Smartphone</strong></p> <p>While we wish we could use bleach or use acid to scour phones clean, touchscreens are the finickiest thing to clean because of their sensitive oleophobic (oil phobic) coating. These coatings can be easily damaged by alcohol and ammonia solutions. Instead just like your monitor, it’s best to clean it with distilled water and white vinegar. Although technically vinegar is still an acid that will degrade the oil repelling coating on smartphones, it’s much weaker than alcohol.</p> <p>For a truly sanitizing clean, you can buy a cleanser like <a title="iklear" href="https://www.klearscreen.com/iKlear.aspx" target="_blank">iKlear</a>, which is actually recommended by Apple. Alternatively, for a completely liquid-free solution there are UV sterilizers specifically designed for smartphones—think of them as an UV-powered Easy Bake ovens for technology—that run around $40.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/21_done.jpg" alt="Done" title="Done" width="620" height="410" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="text-align: start;"><strong>Done</strong></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_physically_clean_your_pc_and_more2014#comments clean my pc compressed air how to clean your computer phone physically Features How-Tos Mon, 28 Apr 2014 20:45:18 +0000 Kevin Lee 27709 at http://www.maximumpc.com How to Build a Fish Tank PC http://www.maximumpc.com/fish_tank_PC_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Operation Mineral-Oil Submersion</h3> <p>Lately, we've been tossing around the idea of doing a Build It story that uses a custom liquid-cooling loop just because they are fun to play with, and when properly designed, have many tangible performance benefits. But since this is Maximum PC, we asked ourselves, “Why not take it one step further and submerge everything in liquid?” After all, what could possibly go wrong?</p> <p><a class="thickbox" style="text-align: center;" href="/files/u152332/build_it_fish_tank_jimmy_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/build_it_fish_tank_jimmy_small.jpg" width="620" height="574" /></a></p> <p>You've probably seen aquarium-style case mods like this before, but this time we're taking advantage of a pre-fabbed kit from <a title="puget system" href="http://www.pugetsystems.com/" target="_blank">Puget Systems</a>. It incorporates items that will be familiar to liquid-cooling aficionados, such as a Swiftech pump, compression fittings, and a 240mm radiator. However, what’s different is that this kit combines familiar bits with more exotic items, like an acrylic frame/container, an integrated temperature gauge, and the star of the show—several gallons of mineral oil.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/sp-WkG0MMO4" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click play on the video above to see how we finalized the fish tank PC.</strong></p> <p>Water would kill everything it touches, but mineral oil doesn't conduct electricity and is nonreactive—you can dunk a running power supply into a bucket of the stuff and it will keep running. We’ll walk you through the build, detail our mistakes, and show you how it all works. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it certainly makes a great conversation piece.</p> <h4>Exploratory Drilling</h4> <p>This actually isn't the biggest mineral-oil system Puget offers, as the one we used is designed for microATX motherboards ($445, <a href="http://www.pugetsystems.com/">www.pugetsystems.com)</a>. There’s a bigger kit that allows an E-ATX board ($690), but we like the fact that this kit requires "only" eight gallons of oil. A single one-gallon jug of the stuff weighs 7.3 pounds, so even this little build will be pushing more than 50 pounds once we’re up and running. As you can imagine, this makes the system quite difficult to move around safely. Since our needs included being able to move the system to the photography studio, shuffle it to different ambient temperature ranges for thermal testing, and dangle it over a misbehaving intern's head, we opted for Puget's more manageable mATX option.</p> <p>Puget does not sell mineral oil directly, but the company is affiliated with STE Oil, which sold us the eight gallons for $160, plus another $180 for three-day shipping (what can we say, we’re not the best planners). UPS Ground would have still cost $52, since shipping fees scale according to weight, and shipping 58.4 pounds of anything isn’t cheap. So, we recommend you get it locally to save yourself some cheddar.</p> <p>Since this is the first time we've attempted a mineral-oil submersion Build It, we're being conservative with our hardware. We’d rather not destroy expensive gear, and almost all of it is on loan from vendors anyway, so it’s not even ours to destroy. Since our build is mediocre, we won't be testing for performance, but instead just seeing how it all fits together, what pitfalls exist, and reporting on temps and whether or not we’d ever do it again. We also hope to produce a PC that looks seriously cool.</p> <h4>1. The Kit and Kaboodle</h4> <p>Puget’s microATX kit is made of custom-shaped Plexiglas machined in small batches. It also includes some premium parts, such as a $57 240mm Swiftech radiator, a $100 Swiftech MCP35X pump, several nickel-plated compression fittings, pre-cut tubing, and a thermometer with an LCD readout. Storage devices are mounted on the outside of the thing in order to keep them dry, and the kit includes extension cables and brackets to accommodate that setup. The included documentation is meticulous, and the bags of screws are even color-coded to avoid confusion. The radiator does not come with fans, but you can buy a pack from Puget or bring your own. We chose the latter, pulling some Scythe Gentle Typhoons from our basket of Dream Machine parts.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_a_small_4.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_a_small_3.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="314" /></a></p> <h4>2. Making a Case</h4> <p>When you see all the separate components of the case laid out, it looks like it would take days to assemble. In practice, however, the interior rack that holds all the components comes together like Lego pieces, except with screws. The instruction manual has very clear diagrams for every step, leaving little question about what to do next. The case itself is one piece, and the parts you assemble end up with a pair of handles, so when it's all finished, you can carry the assembly via the handles and lift it in and out of the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_21.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_20.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Click the next page to read about installing the graphics card in the system and more.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>3. Getting Graphic</h4> <p>Since we intended to test how well mineral oil can dissipate heat compared to air or conventional liquid-cooling systems, we wanted to use some reasonably hot hardware to put the system to the test, and we had exactly that with the triple-slot Asus Radeon HD 7970 DirectCU II GPU. It's as hot as it is huge, measuring 2.25 inches thick and 11 inches long, but Puget's case had no trouble accommodating its length. This GPU gets so hot Asus had to stick a condo-size cooler on it, so we wondered if the oil would be able to handle all the heat this card gives off.</p> <p>It should, because, in theory, even though the fans will spin more slowly since oil is more viscous than air, the lack of fan movement shouldn’t matter since the oil is sucking up the heat given off by the card, and the fans don’t play a major role in the cooling loop. Once the oil gets warm, it’s pulled out of the case by the pump and sent to the external radiator.</p> <p>The only thing we didn’t like about the GPU setup is that it’s across from where the PSU is mounted, so we had to drape the cables through the acrylic case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_15.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Pumping Up the Volume</h4> <p>The Swiftech MCP35X pump included with this kit is not the standard unit that we used in this year’s Dream Machine. It's PWM-controlled, so it can adjust its speeds dynamically according to instructions given by the motherboard that it's plugged into. When the system is idle, the pump operates very quietly. When needed, it can crank up to 4,500rpm, so it's very powerful for its size (and you'll need that extra horsepower to offset the thickness of mineral oil). It also takes standard G1/4 fittings and can directly integrate specific reservoirs, which saves on space. At $100 when purchased separately, it's one of the more expensive pumps you'll find. But our oil-based setup benefits from a pump that has premium features.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_20.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_19.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>5. Taking a Dip</h4> <p>Our oil came in one five-gallon jug and three one-gallon jugs. The big jug needed a pipe wrench to get the cap off, and it did not have a built-in tube like a gas can. So there was some spillage there. Mineral oil has the clarity and consistency of corn syrup. It also has no odor, thankfully. We began by emptying the large jug into the tank, which filled a little more than half its capacity. Then we inserted our rack of parts, and topped off the tank with one of the gallon jugs of oil. We ended up needing just six gallons since the rest of the container's capacity was displaced by the hardware and the pebbles. It got pretty heavy after everything was poured in, but there are silicone feet underneath the aquarium, so you can at least get your hands underneath to lift it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_15.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p>The instruction manual recommends using bubble bars to simulate an aquarium, which requires a second set of pumps, valves, and tubing. We thought that was just a bit too complicated for our first time with mineral oil. But rocks and other typical fishy decorations are an easy add, as long as it's all clean. Any dust will cloud the oil and potentially clog the circulation system, or at least reduce its effectiveness.</p> <h4>6. The Heat of Battle</h4> <p>The pump is just one part of the oil circulation system, of course. The Swiftech MCRx20-XP radiator uses brass tubes and copper fins, and a self-purging plenum, which is a chamber that helps maintain equal pressure throughout the loop and can suppress noise. The radiator is hung outside the case on a bracket. It's big enough to fit three fans if you wanted to; one up top and two down below. But the bracket is a bit too bulky to fit four fans, thus eliminating the possibility of a full “push-pull” configuration. The Scythe fans are 120mm units that spin at a fixed 1,850rpm, but they're surprisingly quiet and good at forcing air through a radiator. The fan cables aren't braided, so they're not very pretty. We also needed to add a power distribution block because the motherboard has just one case fan header, and we wanted to minimize the number of cables leading out of the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_15.jpg" title="Image F" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small1_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small1.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="495" /></a></p> <h3>Striking Oil</h3> <p>Trying something truly novel in Build It is exciting, but that excitement was tempered by several “oh, crap” moments and hardware failures. For example, it wasn't until all the hardware was dipped into the oil for the first time that we realized we probably should have made sure it at least booted first. Luck was not on our side, and on our first try the machine would not POST. We hoped the issue was related to the monitor, or the monitor cable, or some small thing, but no combination of parts outside the machine had any impact. We did have some luck, in that there was a plastic tub available in the Lab that was large enough to place the oil-soaked rack in temporarily. So we hauled it out and proceeded to methodically replace one part at a time until we got the machine to boot. The problem appeared to be a motherboard fried at some earlier point by static, or physically damaged in a way that's difficult to detect with the naked eye. Once we swapped the board, the system booted right up and remained stable.</p> <p>The pump was initially a little noisy as it filled up and started circulating oil through the radiator, but the overall acoustics eventually settled down to a gentle whir, even when spinning at a reasonably high 4,500rpm. The loudest element was actually the oil pouring back into the case from the radiator, which was like a pleasantly babbling brook.</p> <p>Overall temps seemed fine, so we ran FurMark's thermal test for a little while to get some heat into the oil, and the case temperature eventually leveled off at 37 degrees Celsius, comfortably below its rated maximum of 50 C. The Asus HD 7970 stayed around 60 C, though we did have to manually increase fan speed to compensate for the thickness of mineral oil. We found that temps are highly dependent on the fans you use on the radiator; random $5 case fans won't get the kind of result that you will get with $20 Gentle Typhoons (or Corsair SP120s, or Noctua CPU fans), because the higher-end units have a combination of high pressure, high durability, and relatively low noise. We didn't try overclocking the AMD chip, since it was using a stock cooler, and Puget warns against overclocking systems in the oil due to heat concerns.</p> <p>The radiator fan wires were not long enough to reach the motherboard headers, so we used a power distribution block, which is like a power strip for case fans. You can power them up with Molex, SATA, or PCI Express power cables. The Gentle Typhoons we used spin at a constant RPM, but the noise is low enough that we don’t need variable speed PWM control.</p> <p>Aside from human error, the system itself was a great success. People around the office who aren't even into computers stopped to admire our aquarium PC, with its bubbling liquid and eerie blue glow (provided by a 30cm BitFenix Alchemy Connect LED Strip). It’s obviously not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a fun DIY project that’s "different," it doesn’t get much better than this.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/fish_tank_PC_2014#comments fish tank pc how to build January issues 2014 maximum pc mineral oil pc pudget systems water Systems Features How-Tos Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:05:07 +0000 Tom McNamara 27535 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build It: Radeon HD 7990 PC http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_radeon_hd_7990_pc <!--paging_filter--><h3>A dual R9 290X card isn't here yet, but the 7990 is the next best thing</h3> <p>The ongoing war between Nvidia and AMD for supremacy over the PC gaming landscape has been like the Hatfields and the McCoys of enthusiast computing: long, bitter, and deeply entrenched. Contrary to rumors, AMD hasn't revealed a dual R9 290/290X card yet, but the Radeon HD 7990 is the next best thing, combining two HD 7970 GPUs onto one card. It didn't come out until spring 2013, though, which was long after Nvidia's own dual-GPU behemoth, the GeForce GTX 690, had dug in its heels. And it wasn't until mid-summer that AMD began to address the stuttering issues that marred its multi-GPU setups. With AMD's R9 series arriving late last year, this crown jewel didn’t really have much time to shine. Today, we'll try and change that, pitting this Cadillac of a card against nothing less than Battlefield 4, with everything maxed out and running at 1920x1080. With the previous Battlefield regularly favoring Nvidia cards, this might seems like enemy territory. But this time, AMD is working closely with the developer to make sure nothing goes awry.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This article was originally featured in the Holiday 2013 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_19.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_18.jpg" title="Radeon HD 7990" width="620" height="626" /></a></p> <h3>Gathering the Troops</h3> <p>We're not working with a tight budget this time, so our roughly $750 video card will have some appropriately fancy company. With two 8-pin power connections, the 7990 draws a lot of juice, so that's our first consideration. We went with an 800-watt Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold. As its name indicates, it's a "gold"-rated PSU, so it will work efficiently, and it has some other nice features that we'll get into later. We also wanted a nice motherboard and CPU that could handle all the bandwidth that a dual-GPU card needs—that led us to the Asus X79 Deluxe and a Core i7-4960X. This is the LGA2011 platform, which gives us up to 40 PCI Express lanes, while LGA1150 boasts just 16 lanes. Since LGA2011 uses quad-band memory architecture, we'll be using four sticks of RAM. That’s not critical for gaming, but the extra bandwidth is great for video encoding. For storage, we have a speedy 240GB SanDisk Extreme II SSD to boot with and run games from, and a 3TB Seagate Barracuda for media storage.</p> <p>Our favorite item, though, has to be the case in which everything gets crammed. That would be the Silverstone <a title="FT04" href="http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=397" target="_blank">FT04</a> mid-tower. It's not the easiest case we've ever worked with, but the end result is pretty cool, in more ways than one. You've probably noticed that the picture on the opposite page appears to be reversed. That's not an optical illusion. The inside of the case was designed on Opposite Day, and that has some neat side effects that we'll dig into soon.</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 FT04</td> <td> <p><strong>$230</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 800W</td> <td><strong>$160</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Asus X79 Deluxe </td> <td><strong>$350</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i7-4960X</td> <td><strong>$1,000 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Phanteks TC14PE </td> <td><strong>$80 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">AMD Radeon HD 7990</td> <td><strong>$550 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">4x 4GB Corsair Vengeance LP</td> <td><strong>$150 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Hard Drive</strong></td> <td>240GB SanDisk Extreme II</td> <td><strong>$225 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>3TB Seagate Barracuda</td> <td><strong>$135 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Fans</strong></td> <td>Samsung SH-S223</td> <td><strong>$15 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$90 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$2,985</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <h4>1.&nbsp; The Guest of Honor</h4> <p>The HD 7990 is about 12 inches long, so it's not for the faint-hearted builder. Our case officially has 13.3 inches of room, so it'll work. We wanted to use the case's bundled VGA bracket, which prevents the card from sagging, but it obstructed our jumbo CPU cooler. Fortunately, the HD 7990 has a metal backplate to keep it from bending, so the bracket’s not critical. (Water-cooling the CPU would allow use of the bracket). The card needs two 8-pin cables, which can be challenging to route in a traditional case layout, but here the power supply is installed right above the card, in the top of the case, so the cables don't need to do anything complicated to supply juice.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_17.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_16.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Power to the Tower</h4> <p>The top of the case is no longer a common location for a power supply, but Silverstone is shaking things up. In ye olden days, the practice fell out of favor, as PSUs ended up sucking in heat rising off the CPU cooler and the video card, which was bad for long-term reliability. In the FT04, however, the power supply has a meshed vent right above it to aid cooling. Just remove a few thumbscrews in the back to slide off the case top and get the PSU inside. The top of the case has a built-in bracket to support the PSU's weight. Minimal heat comes off the GPU right below because the intake fans have been reversed, since the motherboard is flipped. The overall thermal design is much improved from earlier implementations. The side panels has tabs on the back that overlap with the top panel, so you have to remove the sides before taking off the top, then do the same in reverse.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_14.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_13.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>3. Features for Creatures</h4> <p>The X79 Deluxe (not to be confused with the older P9X79 Deluxe) has a number of interesting features. We like the beefy voltage regulators, integrated dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, DTS audio, push-button USB-based BIOS updates, and even dual LAN ports and a stainless-steel I/O plate (pictured). The black-and-gold theme is also rather pimp. As an added bonus, the board recognized our Ivy Bridge-E CPU right away. This Intel chip is not a huge upgrade from the Core i7-3960X, but it performs moderately faster and generates a lot less heat. It's a hexa-core chip with Hyper-Threading. Games don't usually make much use of HT, but Battlefield 4 hungrily chews up every available processing thread. So it's nice to have 12.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_17.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="930" /></p> <p><em>Click the next page to continue.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>4. The Drive to Survive</h4> <p>Ordinarily, there isn't a whole lot to say about installing a couple of storage devices in your average case, but the FT04 is anything but average. It has two cages at the bottom and one large cage in the front, all of which are removable. On the bottom, one cage gets an integrated SATA and power-connection bracket, while the other has a mini-jack for holding up a large air cooler. We said, “por qué no los dos,” and put the bracket and the jack on the same cage, since we didn't need both cages. The FT04 has mounts for screwing up to four SSDs directly into the bottom of the case anyway, so the extra container would just take up space. To remove it, you lay the FT04 on its side and remove the cage screws from underneath, five in all. Being able to remove the screws from within the case is easier, but this will do in a pinch.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_14.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_13.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>5. Air to the Throne</h4> <p>You may wonder why we went with an air cooler in this system, since we're not really holding back in other areas. There are two reasons. One, we wanted to check out the case's built-in heatsink kickstand. It was just too neat of a widget to discard. Two, the FT04 doesn't have many case fan mounts. To put a 240mm radiator in the front, you have to remove two 180mm "Penetrator" fans, which are cool-looking and pre-connected to independent fan controllers. It seemed a shame to take those out of the picture, because they create some excellent airflow while keeping noise levels down. (In fact, the entire case is layered with sound-absorbing foam panels.) Since there are no fan mounts on the top, sides, or bottom, the only other alternative would be the 120mm mount in the rear, which we're already using as an exhaust port. We’d have to replace that with a radiator and fan, blowing outward. Not as thermally efficient as an intake, but you don't have much choice.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_17.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_16.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p>Regardless, we opted for air. The FT04 does not ship with a rear fan, so we pulled our Scythe Gentle Typhoon from a box of Dream Machine parts. Waste not, want not.</p> <h4>6. Cable Commentary</h4> <p>Like the Fractal Design Define R4, the Silverstone FT04 is a wide case for its mid-tower form factor, so we have a lot of room to route cables behind the motherboard tray. Some excess power supply cabling can be tucked in the top of the case, as well. We needed the full length of the PSU's 8-pin CPU power cable, but we had overly long cables elsewhere. We used a piece of tape to secure the wiring of the Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan because its cabling is surprisingly stiff and prone to popping out otherwise. A pre-installed sleeve would be nice, considering the relatively high cost of this fan. The Silent Pro Gold's cables are flat and very flexible, so we had no trouble connecting them to the HD 7990 in a presentable way.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_14.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_13.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="531" /></a></p> <h3>Into the Fray</h3> <p>Once we got the system up and running, it was pretty smooth sailing. We had the 13.11 beta Catalyst drivers for the video card, and we were able to keep Battlefield 4 solidly at 60fps at 1080p, with all visual effects cranked to max settings. There were occasional dips into the single digits, but this could be the result of network congestion or unfinished optimization (we were playing the beta version of the game as this issue went to press; and the Mantle version of BF4, which replaces DirectX, is not scheduled for release until mid-December, so we can't test that yet.)</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main__image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main__image_small.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="464" /></a></p> <p>Also of note, BF4 seems happy to take as many CPU processing threads as you can give it, including Hyper-Threading (HT). Six appears to be the magic number; less than that, and the cores get pegged at 100 percent utilization. In addition to this system, we also tried the game on a Core i5-4670K system with dual GeForce GTX 770s, an i7-4770K system with a single GTX Titan, and an AMD FX-8350 system with dual GTX 780s, and then the HD 7990. Enabling HT bumped up performance about 10 percent. However, the FX-8350 could not hit 60fps even with the HD 7990, while an i7 with Hyper-Threading disabled stayed comfortably above that mark when using a GTX 780. Like we said, the game was in a beta state as this issue went to press, so some performance optimizations may have arrived by the time you read this. But right now, the gap between Intel and AMD CPUs is consistent and noticeable (although Premiere Pro spat out some odd results, despite repeated tests).</p> <p>Temperature-wise, dual 180mm intake fans bring in a lot of external air, and the Lab is temperature-controlled around 70 degrees F. Leaving a single 120mm fan to remove heat didn't seem to be a problem, though the Gentle Typhoon is admittedly very good at air displacement. Still, it seems like a $230 case should offer more options. The top has an intake for the power supply, and it looks like there's plenty of room for a fan mount up there, as well. The similarly priced Thermaltake Level 10 GT has a 230mm fan in the top and on the side, and a bonus mount on the bottom of the case. Of course, its aesthetics are much different. The FT04 is obviously designed to look sleek. But it may sacrifice too much in the process.</p> <p>Nevertheless, this build felt like a success. We got the performance we wanted, and the system felt very solid and stable. It was also fun to see a game use more than four CPU cores.</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>2,020&nbsp; <strong>(-1%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td>831</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">744</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,446</td> <td>1,309<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td>21.1</td> <td>24.2<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batmans Arkam City (fps)</td> <td>76</td> <td>93<strong></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark11 Extreme</td> <td class="item-dark">5,847&nbsp;</td> <td>5,684<strong> (-3%)<br /></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_radeon_hd_7990_pc#comments 2013 amd dual gpu feature graphics card Hardware Holiday issues 2013 radeon hd 7990 video Features How-Tos Mon, 24 Mar 2014 22:22:36 +0000 Tom McNamara 27358 at http://www.maximumpc.com IrFanView: How to Batch Resize Images http://www.maximumpc.com/irfanview_batch_resize_images_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u154280/ir.png" alt="IrfanView" title="IrfanView" width="192" height="140" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>Resize multiple images at once for free with IrFanView</h3> <p>Resizing images can be a monotonous task, especially, if you're trying to change the resolution/size of more than 100 images. Luckily free batch imaging software <a title="irfanview" href="http://www.irfanview.com/" target="_blank">IrfanView</a> can batch resize photos quickly and easily. For those who don’t know what batch processing is, it's taking a group of photos and editing them all at once using the same set of editing commands. For example, if you want to edit a group of 1920x1080 images and resize them to 1280x720 or simply want smaller-sized images to email/store on a small USB stick, you can have IrfanView reduce the size of all the images at the same time, so you don’t have to do it for each individual photo. Considering the program is free to use, we wanted to show you how you can quickly save time and energy editing your photos.&nbsp;<span style="font-style: italic;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Go to <a title="http://www.irfanview.com/" href="http://www.irfanview.com/" target="_blank">www.irfanview.com</a> and click on the <strong>Download</strong> link in the left hand column.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/irfan_view_1.png" alt="Step 1" title="Step 1" width="600" /></p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Choose the host you want to download from. We chose TechSpot and clicked on the <a title="http://www.techspot.com/downloads/299-irfanview.html" href="http://www.techspot.com/downloads/299-irfanview.html" target="_blank">TechSpot-Download IrfanView</a> link.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_2_4.png" alt="Step 2" title="Step 2" width="600" /></p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> You’ll be sent to the TechSpot website. To start your download click on the blue <strong>Download Now</strong> button.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_3_4.png" alt="Step 3" title="Step 3" width="600" /></p> <p><strong>Step 4:</strong> Run the IrfanView installer.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_4_5.png" alt="Step 4" title="Steo 4" width="483" height="464" /></p> <p><strong>Step 5:</strong> Launch IrfanView and click <strong>File </strong>then click on&nbsp;<strong>Batch Conversion/Rename…</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_5_4.png" alt="Step 5" title="Step 5" width="600" height="500" /></p> <p><strong>Step 6:</strong> This window should appear now. Select the folder of images you want to process from the Look in box&nbsp;<em>(For images to be batch-processed, they all need to be in the same folder together).&nbsp;</em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><img src="/files/u154280/step_6_2.png" alt="Step 6" title="Step 6" width="600" height="527" /></em></p> <p><strong>Step 7:</strong> Once the folder is selected, you can choose which images you want to process by selecting the image and hitting the <strong>Add </strong>button, this will add the images to the batch queue.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_7.png" alt="Step 7" title="Step 7" width="600" height="515" /></p> <p><strong>Step 8:</strong> Click on the <strong>Advanced</strong> button to customize your preferences for processing the selected images. Click <strong>Save Settings</strong> to save your current preferences. These preferences will be saved as an INI file. Once you’re done click the <strong>OK</strong> button and you will exit the <strong>Advanced</strong> menu window.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_8.png" alt="Step 8" title="Step 8" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p><strong>Step 9:</strong> Now you can batch process the images by clicking on <strong>Start Batch</strong>.&nbsp;<em>Note: By default, the processed images will be sent to your C: Drive’s TEMP Folder. You can change this location in the <strong>Output</strong> tab.&nbsp;</em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><img src="/files/u154280/step_9.png" alt="Step 9" title="Step 9" width="600" height="431" /></em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_9_image2.png" alt="Step 9_2" title="Step 9_2" width="600" height="321" style="font-style: italic;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Once you start the batch, this window pop up and tells you when it's completed.&nbsp;</strong><strong>To exit this window click on</strong>&nbsp;<strong>Exit Batch</strong>.</p> <h3><em>Other helpful IrfanView editing tips:</em></h3> <p><strong>Changing the file type of an image:</strong> You can also change the file type of an image by clicking on the <strong>Output Format</strong> drop-down menu. IrfanView supports a multitude of popular photo formats, which include TIFF, JPEG, GIF, RAW, and PNG to name a few.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/changing_the_file_type.png" alt="Changing the File Type" title="Changing the File Type" width="600" height="431" /></p> <p><strong>Adjusting image quality:</strong> An image’s quality can be adjusted by clicking on the <strong>Options</strong> menu. The quality can be adjusted with the slider at the top of the menu in case your original image files are too big (the lower the setting, the smaller the file size will be).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/adjusting_image_quality.png" alt="Adjusting Image Quality" title="Adjusting Image Quality" width="600" height="432" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Follow Chris on&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/117154316323139826718" target="_blank">Google</a>+&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/chriszele" target="_blank">Twitter</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/irfanview_batch_resize_images_2014#comments batch image resize convert free photo editing software IrfanView picture smaller Home News Features How-Tos Tue, 18 Mar 2014 21:18:07 +0000 Chris Zele 27448 at http://www.maximumpc.com How to Build a Computer Test Bench http://www.maximumpc.com/how_build_computer_test_bench <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: bold;">The basics of building an open-air test bench</span></h3> <p>While we typically follow a standard formula for our Build It section every month, sometimes it's nice to deviate a bit from the norm and explore different types of systems that are a bit more unconventional. One such system is the type of build we use at Maximum PC HQ for testing hardware, known as the open-air test bench. We have several of them deployed throughout the office alongside our standard-issue desktop PCs, and both types of machines serve an important purpose. The standard desktops are great for YouTube and Reddit, and occasional “work,” while the open-air test benches are used for most of our component testing since they let us swap a video card, CPU, SSD, RAM stick, or even the entire motherboard with minimal effort. When you’re using an open test bench setup on top of a desk, you’ll never again have to dig through the guts of your computer while on your hands and knees, with a flashlight clenched in your teeth. All you need to set up one&nbsp; for yourself is a basic set of spare parts, and it will let you operate like a civilized gentleperson, from the comfort of a chair, without breaking a sweat. With that in mind, we thought we would show you <strong>how to build an open air test bench PC</strong>!&nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_9.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_8.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="609" /></a><br /></strong></p> <h3>Thinking Outside the Case<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3> <p>There are a lot of reasons any died-in-the-wool hardware enthusiast would want to have a test bench up and running at all times. The most obvious is that it’s great for quickly testing a stick of RAM, a malfunctioning piece of hardware, or benchmarking hardware outside of a system that needs to be used for productivity. At Maximum PC, our bench of choice is the <a title="top deck" href="http://www.highspeedpc.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&amp;Category_Code=TopTechLRG" target="_blank">Top Deck Tech Station Kit</a> made by HighSpeed PC ($140, <a href="http://www.highspeedpc.com/">www.highspeedpc.com</a>). This is a two-tier workbench, where the motherboard sits on the upper tray, and the power supply and storage devices (or other external bay items) sit on the lower tier. The station’s legs, rails, and PCI-card support brace are all made of sturdy and nonconductive materials, and the kit supports a decent amount of hardware, too. The top of the tray looks just like a standard motherboard tray in that it has rubber standoffs for clearance. A nylon guide post helps you align add-on cards with their slots in the motherboard, and a bundled neoprene mat helps prevent items in the lower tray from sliding around. In place of your case’s power and reset switches, there are switches you plug into the board's front-panel connectors that allow you to turn the machine on, reboot, monitor drive activity, and hear the PC speaker. Yes, they are pricey, but very durable and able to accommodate hardware not even conceived of yet, due to their open-air design and flexibility. As always, there are several things to consider before diving in, so let’s take a look at what’s involved in letting your hardware go commando.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>1. On the Rails<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>Storage devices slide into rails pre-installed on the underside of the upper tray, and they only accommodate 3.5-inch drives. The rails also have no holes for drive screws, by design—you just slide the drive in, then slide it out when you're done. If you want to install an SSD, you'll need to order a 2.5-inch rail kit separately at HighSpeedPC.com. Or you can skip the adapter, since SSDs don't need to be near the 120mm fan that cools the devices in that area, and since they have no moving parts they don’t need to be stabilized at all times like a spinning hard drive. The rails are long enough to support two 3.5-inch drives, and we put SSDs on the lower tray dangling from their SATA power cables.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/1_small_23.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/1_small_22.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. More Able Cables</h4> <p>A modular power supply is extremely useful when trying to keep your cables organized in an open test bench. If you’re not using an optical drive, there's plenty of space in the lower tray alongside the power supply to store the bag that contains the unused cables. Orienting the power supply can be a little tricky, since the 8-pin CPU power cable has to go to the top of the board, the 24-pin motherboard cable goes to the side, and the SATA power cables go to the bottom. Therefore, our preferred setup is to have the cables going toward the top of the motherboard, and the AC power plug facing the "bottom" of the motherboard. We also recommend using a stock CPU cooler since it makes accessing the area around the CPU easier, and if you can, just use the CPU's integrated graphics since it gives you one less PCI Express power cable to deal with. If we're testing a CPU without integrated graphics, we just use an old GPU that doesn’t require PCIe power.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/2_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/2_small_14.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p><em>Click on page two for the rest of the instructions on how to build an open-air test bench PC</em>.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>3. Pushing Buttons</h4> <p>The buttons and lights on the front of an ATX case are very useful, and allow you to turn on your system, reboot it, and watch CPU and hard-drive activity. Open-air benches have similar buttons and lights—on this model it’s called the ATX control kit and features a set of buttons and LEDs that plug into the motherboard's front-panel connectors. It even comes with a PC speaker, so you can hear beep codes in order to help you diagnose hardware issues (unless your motherboard has a debug LED on it, making the speaker redundant). You could always short the power-on circuit yourself with a knife blade, but this is more… dignified.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/3_small_19.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/3_small_18.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">4. Feeling Pinched</h4> <p>The top tray has an array of standoffs that accommodate ATX, eATX, Mini-ITX, and microATX motherboards. The standoffs sit inside rubberized feet secured with Phillips screws, so you can easily pop them out of one spot and stick them into another. No screws actually touch the motherboard, of course; it just sits on top of the rubber feet. Again, this is by design, to make it easier to swap one board for another. It does complicate plugging in power cables though, as pressing down on one edge of the board can raise the other side. When the connector is large, like with the 24-pin power cable, you have to pinch the top and bottom of the board at the same time, sandwiching the connector, as shown in the photo. When the connector is small, like a USB 2.0 cable, you can just support the board from below with your hand, right underneath where the connector is going in.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/4_small_10.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/4_small_9.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>5. Getting Some Air</h4> <p>Thanks to the open design of this workbench, there are no limitations to the length of PCI cards (handy when Nvidia and AMD deliver the latest 12-inch monsters). Cards are slid into their expansion slots and secured to the support bracket with the included plastic screws. The support brace is supported by metal posts but is made of plastic to help prevent static discharge. There are a total of seven screw holes in the bracket, which should be more than enough for any mobo configuration.</p> <p>Once a video card, hard drive, or RAID controller is installed, you may want to add additional cooling that would normally occur by virtue of a case’s airflow, but is lacking in this setup. Your best bet is to just place a 120mm fan on the top tray to move air across the components — jerry-rigged, maybe, but effective. Since the fans are easily accessible, we like being able to control fan speeds with a fan mate, which is an inline fan speed controller. HighSpeed PC also sells extension kits for mounting additional fans on the rim of the upper tray, but we’ve never felt the need to add that much cooling.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/4_small_11.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></p> <h4>6. Dat Masscool</h4> <p>The workbench comes with a pre-installed 120mm Masscool fan with a grill that is mounted in between the bench’s two tiers, so it blows air over the top and bottom of the tray, hitting the motherboard and any storage devices sitting in the rails below. The fan is universally compatible too, sporting both a 3-pin and a 4-pin Molex cable, so it’ll work with any setup you have. That single fan should provide more than sufficient cooling for a basic workbench. It’s surprisingly quiet, but we also use the onboard fan control in our system BIOS to make sure it’s silent.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/6_small_13.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p>The ATX control kit is not bad, either. Each of the widgets has an embossed triangle indicating the positive wire, so connecting them is simple. It won't damage anything if you install them incorrectly; they simply won't work. Things got a bit tight on our test board when we tried to plug in the semi-stiff PC speaker widget, so we left it off. The workbench also includes an expansion bracket with both power and reset buttons, but it’s really cheap and its wires are a rat’s nest.</p> <h4>Final Thoughts</h4> <p>It probably takes longer to assemble the workbench than it does to install all of its hardware, but once you remove a conventional case from the equation, building goes 10 times faster. You have superior lighting and there is minimal cable management to work out. We also love not having to worry about feeling crowded or lacking in space when building these rigs. There are some downsides, though. This workbench doesn't really allow liquid cooling, as there’s nowhere to mount the radiator. It would also be nice to have a couple of fasteners to pin down the motherboard, and we’d love to have an SSD rail included instead of it being an expensive add-on. Also, $140 is a lot of money, but HSPC also sells a smaller ATX bench for $80 that will be fine for most users.</p> <p>Probably the biggest problem with these setups is the exposed fan blades on the CPU, GPU, and chassis. We can already see a small child or a pet getting in trouble around this thing, so be sure to take precautions before deploying one in your home.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_build_computer_test_bench#comments 2013 build it computer how to build computer test bench maximum pc no case November issues 2013 Open Air Test Bench PC top deck tech station kit November 2013 Features How-Tos Wed, 05 Mar 2014 22:38:22 +0000 Tom McNamara 26974 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Beginner's Crash Course on Computer Programming http://www.maximumpc.com/beginners_crash_course_computer_programming_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Computer Programming: Every PC user should know how to program, and there’s never been a better time to learn</h3> <p>With the huge variety of computing devices all around us, it’s important to remember what it is that’s special about a full-fledged personal computer. We think the main difference can be summed up in one word: mastery. No matter how much time you spend with an iPad or an Android phone or in a web browser, you can never truly master it. There’s just not enough there to learn. But the PC? That’s different. The PC goes deep.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/161721488_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/161721488_small_1.jpg" width="620" height="469" /></a></p> <p>As you develop your mastery over the PC, you move past all sorts of boundaries. First, you learn to replace the software that came on the computer. You discover the command prompt and how to tweak the OS. You learn to build your own PC, and to benchmark it. And then, at the very bottom of it all, there’s one last boundary standing between you and true PC mastery. You have to learn <strong>computer programming</strong>.</p> <p>Why is coding the ultimate test of PC mastery? Because learning how to program is the thing that breaks down the wall between you and your computer—it makes it possible for you to truly understand what’s going on underneath your desktop.</p> <p>And, all philosophical ramblings aside, it’s a pretty great skill to have. Whether you need to automate a process on your computer or whip up a quick web app for a family member’s website, knowing how to code is a big boon. Who knows, you might even be able to earn some money.</p> <p>Learning to program isn’t something you can do in an hour, or even in an afternoon. You have to learn to think in a whole new way, which takes dedication and patience. Fortunately, it can also be a lot of fun. In this article, we’re going to take a whirlwind tour through some of the most important concepts in computer programming, and we’ll direct you to resources that’ll help you start your adventures in coding.</p> <h3>Basic Information</h3> <p><strong>A Q&amp;A on the ABCs of programming</strong></p> <p>Before we can do anything, we’ve got to cover the basics. Here’s what you have to know before you can get started.</p> <h4>When we say computer “programming,” what does that really mean?</h4> <p>For this article, we’re going to use a fairly narrow definition of programming, and say that what we’re talking about is the process of creating software on a computer. That process involves writing out a series of commands for the computer to execute, which will create our desired behavior. We write those commands using a programming language.</p> <h4>What’s a programming language?</h4> <p>A programming language is the set of rules that define how we express what the computer should do when it executes the program. There’s an incredible variety of programming languages available for use, but the vast majority of commercial and personal software is written in one of a core group of languages including C/C++, Java, C#, Python, and a few others. Modern programming languages share a lot of the same basic concepts and some syntax, so learning your second, third, or fourth programming language is much easier than learning your first.</p> <h4>What makes one programming language different from another?</h4> <p>Each programming language has its own strengths and weaknesses. C and C++ are low-level languages, meaning that code written in C is closer to the machine code that your CPU understands (see below). Low-level languages can produce faster, more efficient software, so they’re used where performance is at a premium—for programming an operating system or a 3D gaming engine, for instance. High-level languages, like Java and Python, have the advantage of being much easier to program in, and the same program can generally be written with fewer lines of code in a high-level language.</p> <h4>But which one’s the best?</h4> <p>There’s no one best language—it really depends on what kind of programming you want to do. If you want to program native Windows applications, you’ll use C#; if you want to program sophisticated web applications, Ruby would be a good choice; if you want to be the next John Carmack, you should probably start with C.</p> <h4>No, for real, which language should I start with?</h4> <p>The secret is to not stress too much about whichever particular language you start with. The important things you will be learning are all basic concepts that work pretty much the same in every programming language. You’ll learn how to use data structures and conditionals and loops to manage how your code flows. You’ll learn to structure your program in a way that’s readable and organized. Once you’ve done all that, learning a bit of syntax to pick up a new language won’t seem like much work at all.</p> <p>But, if you really want a suggestion, start with JavaScript. It’s an easy language to learn, it’s got some practical applications, and its syntax is similar enough to some more-powerful languages like C# and Java that making the transition later on won’t be too hard.</p> <h4>Is HTML a programming language?</h4> <p>Not quite! HTML is a markup language, used to define the contents of a webpage. Although HTML has a specific syntax (a set of rules defining how you have to write things), it doesn’t have semantics, or meaning. An HTML document is rendered, rather than executed. That said, if you have written an HTML document, you at least have experience writing a formalized computer language, which may make the jump to programming easier.</p> <h4>What’s an IDE?</h4> <p>An IDE (short for integrated development environment) is the software suite programmers use to actually write programs. They generally include a specialized text editor for writing the source code, as well as the ability to test and debug your program. Two of the most popular IDEs are Eclipse (open source, free, and available at <a href="http://www.eclipse.org/">www.eclipse.org</a>) and Microsoft Visual Studio (proprietary and expensive, but with a free “Express” version that’s limited to and excels at programming in C, C#, and BASIC).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ide_screenshot_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ide_screenshot_small.jpg" alt="Visual Studio is one of the most advanced IDEs around, and is used by nearly all Windows programmers." title="IDE" width="620" height="375" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Visual Studio is one of the most advanced IDEs around, and is used by nearly all Windows programmers.</strong></p> <h4>How can I start writing a program, Like, right now?</h4> <p>Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a hassle to get started coding in most programming languages. You generally have to install and configure an SDK (software developer kit), and sometimes an IDE as well, in order to be able to write and compile code in a new language. It’s rarely super hard, but be prepared to spend 15–30 minutes Googling, reading a guide for your chosen language, and setting things up.</p> <p>Fortunately, JavaScript is much easier to get started with. In fact, you can start writing code right this second, using an in-browser coding environment like <a title="jsfiddle.net" href="http://jsfiddle.net/" target="_blank">JSFiddle.net</a>. An in-browser IDE isn’t a good solution for serious programming projects, but it’s a great way to get started as a beginner. To start writing JavaScript in an interactive environment with structured lessons, you can visit <a href="http://www.codecademy.com/">www.codeacademy.com</a> (but more on that later).</p> <p><em>Click the next page to learn about how it all works.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>How Does It Actually Work?</h3> <p>When you write a program in a high-level language like Java-Script, the document you create isn’t something that your computer’s low-level hardware can understand. The CPU has only a limited number of instructions it can perform, such as addition, subtraction, and moving numbers into and out of memory. These instructions are actually physically implemented in the CPU using transistors organized into logic gates. Though modern instruction sets, such as the X86-64 set implemented in any consumer 64-bit CPU, are actually very large and sophisticated, programming for the CPU directly (using a super-low-level language called assembly language) is an arduous, slow process.</p> <p>High-level languages allow you forgo a lot of the technical grunt work. For instance, in a high-level language, you can simply declare and use variables as you please, without ever worrying about what exactly is going on in your system’s memory. In assembly language, you have to manually assign data to locations in memory as you use it, and clear up the memory when you’re done.</p> <p>In order to get your high-level program to run on the CPU, you need a compiler—a piece of software that optimizes your code and converts it into a machine-readable executable file. Some languages, such as Java, are not compiled, but rather interpreted, which means that the source code itself is distributed, and then compiled on the end user’s machine. The upside of an interpreted language is that you can distribute a single file that can be run on Windows, OSX, or Linux. The downside is that whoever runs the file has to have a copy of the interpreter on their machine—an annoyance that anyone who’s tried to run a Java-Script applet on a new computer will be familiar with.</p> <h3>Core Concepts</h3> <p><strong>Understand these, and you’ve got everything you need to start writing programs in any language</strong></p> <h4>Variables</h4> <p>Variables in programming are a little different from the “X”s you remember from high school algebra. In programming, a variable is like an empty container—it can hold a number, a word, or any other data or data structure you want to use in your program. The program can read and change the variable’s value as it runs, letting you keep track of and manipulate data.</p> <p>Variables are the basic building block of a program, and most lines of code in any program will include a variable in some form.</p> <p>In some languages, such as Python, a single variable can contain one type of data (say, a number), then can be assigned to hold a different type of data (like a word). In other languages, such as C and C#, a variable is declared, with a particular type, and then can only hold that type of data for the rest of the program. This is the distinction between dynamically typed and statically typed programming languages.</p> <h4>Conditionals</h4> <p>Most programs do not run in a vacuum—they accept some form of user input. To deal with the uncertainty that this brings, we need to be able to write code that is flexible, and to do that, we need conditionals.</p> <p>Conditionals are places where the code branches. In most modern languages, they take the form of an if statement, which joins an expression that is either true or false (called a Boolean expression) and a block of code. The if statement says, in a nutshell, “If this Boolean expression is true, execute the following code. Otherwise, skip it.”</p> <p>In most languages, if statements can also include an else clause, which allows you to specify a second block of code that will only be executed when the Boolean expression is false. For example, under the "Sample Code" section below, the 99BottlesOfBeer function includes an if statement that checks to see if the “age” variable is greater than or equal to 21, and sets a different variable called “drink” to an age-appropriate libation.</p> <h4>Loops</h4> <p>Another way you can control the order in which code is executed is with a loop. Where an if statement allows you to execute or not execute a certain block of code, a loop allows you to keep executing the same block of code multiple times.</p> <p>There are several different types of loops, but the two that you’ll find in almost any programming language are the while loop and the for loop.</p> <p>A while loop works a lot like an if statement. You attach a Boolean (true or false) statement to the while loop, and as long as that statement is true, the loop keeps repeating. Basically it says “as long as this statement is true, keep going.” As a consequence, something inside the looping code has to make a change that could cause the Boolean statement to become false, or else the loop will never end.</p> <p>For example, the following code will print out the word “hello” 10 times, then stop:<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; while(x &lt; 10) {<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; x = x + 1;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; print(“hello”);<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; }</p> <p>Notice that we used the variable x as a loop counter, to control the number of times the loop runs. The other most common type of loop, the for loop, is basically just a while loop with a built-in loop counter. You tell the loop right away how many times you want it to run, like this:<br />for(int x; x &lt; 10; x = x + 1) {<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; print(“hello”);<br />}</p> <p>The part after “for” just defines a counter. It says “start with a number (integer) we’ll call x, and keep looping as long as x is less than 10. At the end of every loop, increment x by one.”</p> <h4>Functions</h4> <p>The most powerful way to control the flow of a program is with functions, which allow you to reuse code. Also called a subroutine, a function is a block of code that you’ve given a name to, so you can reuse it any time you want.</p> <p>For example, you could define a function called PrintHelloThenGoodbye by doing the following:<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; void PrintHelloThenGoodbye() <br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; {<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; print(“hello”);<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; print(“goodbye”);<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; }</p> <p>Then, if you called that function three times in your code, as follows:<br />PrintHelloThenGoodbye();<br />PrintHelloThenGoodBye();<br />PrintHelloThenGoodbye();</p> <p>Your program would output “hello goodbye hello goodbye hello goodbye.”</p> <p>A function can also take variables as inputs, and <br />return an output value. So, for instance, you could write a function that takes a number as an input, and returns that number squared. It would like look like this:<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; int Square(int toSquare) <br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; {<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; return toSquare * toSquare;</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; }</p> <p>Notice the “return” keyword. That passes the following value back to whatever part of the code called the function. So, if somewhere else in the code we called the function like this:<br />print(Square(5));</p> <p>The program would print out the number 25.</p> <h4>Syntax</h4> <p>Maybe the most intimidating thing about programming is the syntax—the strange punctuation marks and cryptic words that make a page of code look like a foreign language. Fortunately, in most programming languages, syntax is really only a couple of rules that you have to remember, and a lot of syntax is shared between languages.</p> <p>It’s all dependent on what language you’re programming in, but here are a couple of syntactical elements that are common across many popular languages:</p> <p>Semicolon The semicolon is like the coding equivalent of a period—each line of code ends with one. It’s important, because in many languages, line breaks are just for readability, and don’t have any effect on the execution of the code.</p> <p>Parentheses Parentheses are used after functions (see above) to contain that function’s parameters (or inputs). You might remember this usage from your high school math classes, when f(x) was a function that operated on the variable x.</p> <p>Curly braces In a number of languages (particularly those derived from C), curly braces “{}” are used to enclose and group blocks of code. They’re used, for instance, after the control structures described here (if statements, loops, and functions), to designate the block of code that the statement refers to.</p> <p>Indentation Because all of the control structures can be nested inside each other, code tends to take on a sort of hierarchy. A particular line of code might be inside an if statement, which is inside another if statement, which is inside a loop that’s inside a function. All that can get hard to keep track of! To make it easier, code is written with variable levels of indentation. The more indented a line of code is, the more deeply nested it is. In most languages, indentation is purely for readability, but in a few (like Python), it actually controls the grouping of code, and is used instead of curly braces.</p> <h3>Sample Code</h3> <p>This oh-so-practical program prints out an age-appropriate version of the song "99 Bottles of Beer."</p> <p>function 99BottlesOfBeer(int age) {</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; var bottlesLeft = 99;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; var drink;</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; if (age &gt;= 21) {<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; drink = "beer";<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; } else {<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; drink = "coke";<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; }&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; while (bottlesLeft &gt; 0)<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; {<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; print (bottlesLeft + " bottles of "&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; + drink + " on the wall");<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; bottlesLeft = bottlesLeft - 1;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; }<br />}</p> <p><em>Click the next page to learn how you can take action with computer programming!</em></p> <h3> <hr />Advanced Course: Object-Oriented Programming</h3> <p><strong>Taking a look at the bigger picture</strong></p> <p>Using only the tools we’ve discussed so far, you can write functions that manipulate variables in all sorts of ways—the foundation of pretty much any program you want to write. Unfortunately, as the complexity of a program increases, it becomes difficult to maintain code that’s organized and easy to understand using only those concepts. As an example, if you were writing code for a bank to keep track of its customers’ accounts, you would quickly end up with hundreds of functions and thousands of variables. It would become very difficult to understand what was going on in the code at any particular place, and more generally how the whole thing works.</p> <p>That’s what object-oriented programming (OOP) is for. OOP is a paradigm that allows you to group variables and functions together into classes, which are (usually) meant to model things or particular concepts. For instance, in the bank example, we might start by creating a class called “Account,” which simulates a user account. Classes are made up of variables and functions (called methods when they’re part of a class), so we start by figuring out what data (variables) and capabilities (methods) an account needs to have. For variables, we might use account number, the account holder’s name, and the balance. For methods, we would want the ability to deposit money, which would increase the balance variable, and withdraw money, which would decrease it.</p> <p>Once you’ve defined a class, you have to instantiate it for every object you’re modeling. So in the bank example, we would create a new instance of the account class for every customer of the bank—that way every person can have his or her own account number and balance.</p> <p>It all sounds very complicated until you get to play around with it yourself, but the basic idea of OOP is that we set up a system of tens, hundreds, or thousands of objects that can cooperate with each other to produce the effect that we want.</p> <p>Object-oriented programming is not the only programming paradigm in use, but it is the most common. Understanding the core concepts of classes, objects, and methods is the last hurdle to programming in languages like Java, C#, and Python.</p> <h3>Educate Yourself</h3> <p><strong>Learn to code at your own pace with these great online resources</strong></p> <p>We've talked a bit about semantics, syntax, and structure, the three things you need to write code. If you were able to follow along, you already know enough to start writing simple programs, and you can pick up the rest as you go. If it still seems a little murky, don’t worry—programming is the kind of thing that really only clicks when you try it yourself. Here are some tips for getting your feet wet:</p> <h4>Use CodeAcademy</h4> <p><a title="code academy" href="http://www.codecademy.com/" target="_blank">CodeAcademy</a> is the best resource there’s ever been for complete beginners to learn coding. It’s a series of interactive tutorials that teach you the fundamentals of programming, one bit at a time. In each lesson, you’ll write actual code that compiles and runs right in your browser, and the lessons build on each other gradually enough that you’ll rarely feel out of your depth.</p> <p>You can learn a number of languages at CodeAcademy, including JavaScript, Python, and Ruby. It won’t teach you everything you need to know to be a professional coder, but it will give you the basic familiarity with the language that you need in order to start learning more complicated concepts.</p> <h4>Use Stack Overflow</h4> <p>Once you’ve gotten started with a language, the programmer Q&amp;A site <a title="stackoverflow.com" href="http://stackoverflow.com/" target="_blank">StackOverflow.com</a> is the best repository for answers about more complicated topics. Don’t start asking questions right away (someone has almost certainly asked about anything you’re running up against), just use the search function to find answers related to any problems you have.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/stackoverflow_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/stackoverflow_small.jpg" alt="It's not the most newbie-friendly site on the web, but Stack Overflow is an unparalleled resource for programmers." title="Stackoverflow" width="620" height="431" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>It's not the most newbie-friendly site on the web, but Stack Overflow is an unparalleled resource for programmers.</strong></p> <h4>Use Google</h4> <p>Of course, Google is great for solving almost any sort of problem, but it’s especially good for issues related to programming. Maybe it’s because the people who tweak the Google search engine are programmers themselves, but Google is excellent at picking out relevant pages from various programming languages' documentation.</p> <p>Ultimately, the key to learning to program is to not let yourself get overwhelmed. Hopefully, the concepts we’ve covered in this article have been enough to pique your interest, but don’t worry if it’s still a little confusing. Take your time, make use of the online resources available to you, and you’ll have conquered the final frontier of PC power-use before you know it.</p> <h3>Next Steps</h3> <p><strong>Two ways you can get started making something cool</strong></p> <h4>Unity</h4> <p>If you don’t pay much attention to the game-development scene, you might never have heard of Unity, the game engine that’s quietly revolutionizing indie development. What’s so good about it? Two things: First, Unity is a flexible and powerful engine for making 3D and 2D games. Unity takes care of all the low-end graphics and physics processing, so you can focus your coding energies on the high-end gameplay decisions. You can code in Java-Script or C# in Unity, and it can automatically build your game for you on almost any platform, from the PC to the PlayStation to the iPhone.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/unity_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/unity_small.jpg" alt="The free Unity game engine combines a drag-and-drop 3D interface with JavaScript and C# scripting." title="Free Unity" width="620" height="417" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The free Unity game engine combines a drag-and-drop 3D interface with JavaScript and C# scripting.</strong></p> <p>Second, and perhaps more amazingly, Unity is available to everyone for free. Where previously a high-quality game engine would have to be licensed for tens of thousands of dollars, Unity lets you code professional-quality games for free. There are a few features that you have to pay for, but the free versions should still have all the tools you need.</p> <p>To get started with Unity, visit <a href="http://unity3d.com/">www.unity3d.com</a> and download the free IDE. There are plenty of great resources for learning to use Unity online, and the IDE comes with an extensive sample project and tutorial.</p> <h4>Arduino</h4> <p>If physical projects are more your thing, you can write programs that control devices in the real world, using a microcontroller like Arduino or Raspberry Pi. These microcontrollers feature small, inexpensive processors and can be programmed from your computer. By wiring the microcontroller to electronics including motors, sensors, and lights, you can build anything, from a robot to a sous vide machine</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/arduino_uno_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/arduino_uno_small.jpg" alt="An Arduino board features a microcontroller chip, along with input and output ports to hook it into any project." title="Arduino" width="620" height="428" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>An Arduino board features a microcontroller chip, along with input and output ports to hook it into any project.</strong></p> <p>Arduino in particular has an excellent collection of documentation and tutorials. You can find a basic Arduino UNO board at Adafruit.com, Sparkfun.com, or Makershed.com for as little as $25-$30, and you can download the IDE (which comes with a whole load of sample scripts) at <a href="http://www.arduino.cc/">www.arduino.cc</a>. The IDE uses the C programming language, which is more difficult than JavaScript, but the documentation is good and the actual programming required for Arduino projects tends to be very straightforward.</p> <p>So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start making something!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/beginners_crash_course_computer_programming_2014#comments 2013 C# C/C++ code computer programming how to program Java maximum pc programming languages Python October 2013 Software News Features How-Tos Thu, 27 Feb 2014 00:19:54 +0000 Alex Castle 26849 at http://www.maximumpc.com How to Fix a Broken Steam Install http://www.maximumpc.com/how_fix_broken_steam_install_2013 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u154280/steam.png" alt="Steam" title="Steam" width="222" height="85" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>7 steps to repair your Steam games</h3> <p>Have you ever downloaded a large 20GB+ game on <strong>Steam</strong> only to find out that it won't run due to corrupt or missing files? Fortunately for you, we've created a brief how-to guide on how to resolve these issues so you don't have to come up with an intricate work around or have to re-download your games. As a matter of fact, there are only seven easy steps to fixing this issue!&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Note: These steps may not fix every broken Steam install, but they will fix a large amount of them quickly and easily. We also recommend backing up your game saves through the Steam Cloud or onto a flash drive before attempting to fix it.</em></p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Launch Steam</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 1: Launch Steam" href="/files/u154280/step_1_3.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_1_2.png" alt="Step 1" title="Step 1" width="600" /></a></p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Go to the <strong>Library tab</strong> in Steam and select the game you want to fix</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 2: Go to the Library tab in Steam and select the game you want to fix" href="/files/u154280/step_2_1.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_2_0.png" alt="Step 2" title="Step 2" width="600" /></a></p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> Right Click on the game and click on <strong>Properties</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 3: Right Click on the game and click on Properties" href="/files/u154280/step_3_1.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_3_0.png" alt="Step 3" title="Step 3" width="600" /></a></p> <p><strong>Step 4:</strong> Select the <strong>Local Files</strong> tab</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 4: Select the Local Files tab" href="/files/u154280/step_4_1.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_4_0.png" alt="Step 4" title="Step 4" width="600" /></a></p> <p><strong>Step 5:</strong> Click on <strong>Verify Integrity of Game Cache</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 5: Click on Verify Integrity of Game Cache" href="/files/u154280/step_5_1.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_5_0.png" alt="Step 5" title="Step 5" width="600" height="582" /></a></p> <p><strong>Step 6:</strong> Wait for Steam to validate your game’s install if it finds anything wrong with it those files will be re-downloaded and installed.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 6: Wait for Steam to validate your game’s install if it finds anything wrong with it those files will be re-downloaded and installed." href="/files/u154280/step_6_1.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_6_0.png" alt="Step 6" title="Step 6" /></a></p> <p><strong>Step 7:</strong>&nbsp;Click play and Steam will re-install and launch your game. Voilà!</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 7: Click play and Steam will re-install and launch your game" href="/files/u154280/step_7_3.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_7_1.jpg" alt="Step 7" title="Step 7" width="600" height="338" /></a></p> <p><strong>Verifying the Integrity of your Game Cache</strong> will fix your install if there are corrupted or missing files in your game. When you try to launch the game again, the game will be fixed if Steam finds anything wrong with it and should be fully operational!</p> <p>Follow Chris on&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/117154316323139826718?rel=author" target="_blank">Google</a>+&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/chriszele" target="_blank">Twitter</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_fix_broken_steam_install_2013#comments broken steam install corrupt file download fix pc game repair Verify Integrity of Game Cache Gaming News How-Tos Mon, 03 Feb 2014 21:53:26 +0000 Chris Zele 27188 at http://www.maximumpc.com How to Install SteamOS http://www.maximumpc.com/how_install_steamos_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154280/step_5_run_the_automated_installer_1.jpg" alt="SteamOS" title="SteamOS" width="300" height="142" style="float: right;" />Everything you need to know before installing Steam OS</h3> <p>Valve recently released its Beta version of <strong><a title="SteamOS" href="http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/SteamOS/" target="_blank">SteamOS</a></strong>, based on the <a title="debian" href="http://www.debian.org/" target="_blank">Debian</a> distro of <a title="linux" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Linux" target="_blank">Linux</a>. Naturally, we were intrigued by its release and wanted to take the new OS for a test run. We’ve put together a guide on how to install the operating system, and also provide you with our hands-on impressions of Valve's software.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>NOTE: Before beginning, we highly recommend that you back up everything on your system before attempting to install SteamOS, as the installer in this guide will erase your entire drive.</em></p> <p><strong>System Requirements:</strong></p> <p>To get started, you’ll need to make sure that your rig meets the minimum hardware requirements: Intel or AMD processor, 4GB of RAM or more, a 500GB hard drive or larger, Nvidia video card (Valve states AMD and Intel graphics support are coming soon), UEFI boot support, a USB port for installation, and a 4GB flash drive or larger.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>How to Install SteamOS instructions:</strong></p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Format your flash drive to FAT32</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u154280/step_1_format_your_flash_drive_0.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_1_format_your_flash_drive.png" alt="Step 1" title="Step 1" width="600" height="338" /></a></p> <p>Plug in your flash drive and format it to FAT32. To do this, right click on the USB drive in My Computer and select format. Then change the file system from NTFS to FAT32 (if it isn’t already FAT32). Then click format to freshly wipe your flash drive.</p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Download the zip installer</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 2" href="/files/u154280/step_2_download_the_zip_installer_0.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_2_download_the_zip_installer.png" alt="Step 2" title="Step 2" width="600" height="337" /></a></p> <p>Download the SteamOSInstaller.zip from <a title="SteamOS_Download_Page" href="http://repo.steampowered.com/download" target="_blank">repo.steampowered.com/download</a>.</p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> Extract the files from the zip file</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 3" href="/files/u154280/step_3_extract_the_zip_files_to_your_flash_drive_0.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_3_extract_the_zip_files_to_your_flash_drive.png" alt="Step 3" title="Step 3" width="600" height="338" /></a></p> <p>Right click on the SteamOSInstaller.zip you just downloaded and extract it to your flash drive. We used the free <a title="7-zip" href="http://www.7-zip.org/" target="_blank">7-Zip</a> software to do this. Do not click on or open the flash drive to view its contents after the unzipping is complete, as this will mess up your extraction, and you won’t be able to boot from the key after that.</p> <p><strong>Step 4:</strong> Reboot your system and boot from your flash drive</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 4" href="/files/u154280/step_4_boot_from_your_flash_drive_0.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_4_boot_from_your_flash_drive.jpg" alt="Step 4" title="Step 4" width="600" height="450" /></a></p> <p>Reboot your system and press F8, F10, or F12 to get to your Boot Menu and select your flash drive as your Boot Device. Make sure the Boot Option says UEFI and then the name of your flash drive, for example, UEFI SanDisk Cruzer.</p> <p><strong>Step 5:</strong> Run the automated installer</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 5" href="/files/u154280/step_5_run_the_automated_installer_0.jpg" target="_self"><img src="/files/u154280/step_5_run_the_automated_installer.jpg" alt="Step 5" title="Step 5" width="600" height="283" /></a></p> <p>You will then boot into a black screen with a purple Steam logo. This screen will have a list of three options, which include Automated Install WILL ERASE DISK!!!, Expert Install, and Rescue Mode. Select Automated Install WILL ERASE DISK!!! by pressing enter and the OS will start installing onto your hard disk. You will then see a white and purple installation screen for about 10-15 minutes, as it installs a fresh copy of SteamOS onto your machine.</p> <p><strong>Step 6:</strong> Remove your installation device</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 6" href="/files/u154280/step_6_remove_your_flash_drive_and_reboot_your_system_0.png" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u154280/step_6_remove_your_flash_drive_and_reboot_your_system.png" alt="Step 6" title="Step 6" width="600" height="337" /></a></p> <p>After the OS finishes installing you’ll be prompted to reboot your system and to remove your installation device.</p> <p><strong>Step 7:</strong> Select SteamOS Linux GNU/I</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 7" href="/files/u154280/steam_os_pic_2_1.png" target="_self"><img src="/files/u154280/steam_os_pic_2_0.png" alt="Step 7" title="Step 7" width="600" height="332" /></a></p> <p>The OS will boot up and have you choose between two options:&nbsp;<strong>SteamOS GNU/Linux, with Linux 3.10-3-amd64</strong> and <strong>SteamOS GNU Linux, with Linux 3.10-3-amd64 (recovery mode).</strong> Make sure the first option is selected and then hit enter to start the boot up process.</p> <p><strong>Step 8:</strong> Log into SteamOS</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 8" href="/files/u154280/steam_login_0.png" target="_self"><img src="/files/u154280/steam_login.png" alt="step 8" title="step 8" width="600" height="311" /></a></p> <p>You’ll then see a login screen. To login use "steam" as both your password and username.</p> <p><strong>Step 9:</strong> Launch the terminal application to install Steam</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 9" href="/files/u154280/step_9_type_in_steam_and_hit_enter_to_run_the_installer_0.png" target="_self"><img src="/files/u154280/step_8_run_the_application_terminal.png" alt="Step 8" title="Step 8" width="600" height="337" /></a></p> <p>Now that you’re at the desktop the last step is to launch the terminal application to install <a title="steam" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/steam" target="_blank">Steam</a>. Go to the top left corner of the OS and click on Activities and then click on the Applications tab. Once the terminal is launched, type in steam and then hit enter to start the installation process. (You will need an internet connection for this installation setup to work)</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 9" href="/files/u154280/step_9_type_in_steam_and_hit_enter_to_run_the_installer_1.png" target="_self"><img src="/files/u154280/step_9_type_in_steam_and_hit_enter_to_run_the_installer.png" alt="Step 9" title="Step 9" width="600" height="375" /></a></p> <p><strong>Step 10:</strong> You can now start gaming</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" title="Step 10" href="/files/u154280/step_10_let_the_gaming_begin_0.png" target="_self"><img src="/files/u154280/step_10_let_the_gaming_begin.png" alt="Step 10" title="Step 10" width="600" height="375" /></a></p> <p>After the installer is finished running, you can login into your Steam account and start playing games.</p> <p><em>Click the next page for our impressions of SteamOS.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Impressions:</strong></p> <p>With our GeForce GTX 680, our performance was great and we had no trouble hitting 60+ FPS in every title that we played using SteamOS. However, we didn’t like how there was an immense amount of screen tearing, even when V-Sync was enabled. We saw less tearing in 2D games like Bastion and Shattered, but we experienced a heavy amount of tearing in Portal. Our current assessment is that games with complex polygons will experience a lot of screen tearing while 2D games will have very little to no screen tearing.</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/step_5_run_the_automated_installer_1.jpg" alt="SteamOS" title="SteamOS" width="620" height="292" /></h3> <p>We encountered audio problems on the OS, as it only supports audio via HDMI, so your onboard motherboard audio will not work. We did get external headphones to work when we used an audio pass through on our monitor, in combination with HDMI as our video output. Valve probably assumes people will use SteamOS in their living room, so we think they guess most people will be using an HDMI audio setup too, or this could simply be patched up when SteamOS officially launches to the masses.</p> <p>We like the idea of SteamOS and feel it could give Microsoft a run at being the go-to gaming OS, but right now it’s very stripped-down. There aren’t many third party applications you can run on SteamOS because not much supports it. We tried installing Chrome on the OS, and it didn’t work because the browser doesn’t support SteamOS. We were able to use the Internet by using <a title="iceweasel" href="https://wiki.debian.org/Iceweasel" target="_blank">Iceweasel</a>, which is a rebranded version of Mozilla’s Firefox for Debian distros of Linux, however.</p> <p>SteamOS isn’t a free gaming OS that can replace Windows at the moment. We’d much rather take Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, as a Windows alternative at this point because there’s much more you can do with this Linux distro. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS also has more third party applications than SteamOS, and it performs similarly in gaming too. Ubuntu also supports legacy hardware, so you won’t need to mess around modifying an installer to get it to work properly on your coveted rig. Lastly, unlike SteamOS, which doesn’t support Intel and AMD graphics as of print time, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS will install easily to Intel, AMD, or Nvidia graphics hardware.</p> <p>If Valve wants to move people away from Windows and onto SteamOS, they’ll need a more versatile OS to bring people on board. When it comes to gaming, currently, there are over eight thousand titles on Steam that support Windows, while SteamOS has just 440 games. For an OS devoted to living room gaming, it’s a cool idea, but Windows can do so much more than the free OS at the moment, both in gaming and productivity. Still, if you've got some time to spare, SteamOS is free so feel free to give it a try and let us know what you think of it in the comments below!</p> <p>Follow Chris on&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/117154316323139826718" target="_blank">Google</a>+&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/chriszele" target="_blank">Twitter</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_install_steamos_2013#comments How To Install SteamOS installation linux operating system steam os Valve Windows Linux Gaming News Features How-Tos Fri, 27 Dec 2013 22:57:47 +0000 Chris Zele 26929 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Ultimate Computer Hardware Guide http://www.maximumpc.com/computer_hardware_guide_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u152332/20060523corp_a_small_2.jpg" alt="Your CPU choice should be based on your workload and not what you read about." width="280" height="187" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>Things you need to know to become a PC hardware expert</h3> <p>Knowledge is power, and when it comes to PCs and <strong>computer hardware</strong> that’s especially true, because only by knowing how your PC components’ specs actually affect performance can you get the maximum power you need for the type of computing you do—and avoid being seduced by features that sound impressive on the box but won’t do squat to improve your experience. Knowing your stuff has other benefits, too. An in-depth understanding of what makes all your parts tick enables you to better troubleshoot problems, upgrade in ways that make sense, and converse with other nerds in your own secret language. Continue reading to begin your crash course in PC spec-speak.</p> <h3>CPU</h3> <p><strong>Just how many cores and how much cache do you need? We’ll help you answer those questions and others with cool confidence</strong></p> <h4>Socket</h4> <p>There are two kinds of buyers: Those who will never upgrade a <a title="cpu" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_processing_unit" target="_blank">CPU</a> and those who actively plan for it. For the former, even a CPU welded to the motherboard won’t matter, but upgraders who want to use a system for years need to pay attention to the socket, as it’s one of the primary factors limiting your upgrade options. On <a title="intel" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/intel_0" target="_blank">Intel</a>, there are three sockets to choose from: <a title="lga2011" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/lga2011" target="_blank">LGA2011</a>, <a title="1155" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/LGA1155" target="_blank">LGA1155</a>, and the new <a title="lga1150" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/LGA1150" target="_blank">LGA1150</a>. Of the three, LGA1155 has the least amount of life left in it, as it will be slowly phased out in favor of the new LGA1150 platform. We know from Intel roadmaps that LGA1150 and LGA2011 are good for at least another couple of years. On <a title="amd" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/AMD" target="_blank">AMD</a>, <a title="AM3+" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/AM3+" target="_blank">AM3+</a> offers a superb assortment, from budget dual-cores all the way to eight-core chips, with the company’s new <a title="piledriver" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Piledriver" target="_blank">Piledriver</a> chip even slotting into this old socket. The company’s FM line isn’t quite as stable. FM1 didn’t go very far, but the company’s FM2 looks like it might have longer legs. The thing is, <a title="fm2" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/FM2" target="_blank">FM2</a> processors—or rather, APUs—aren’t aimed at the type of user who upgrades every year. We suspect that most FM2 buyers will use the platform for a couple years and then buy a new system instead of upgrading. For long-haulers, we recommend AM3+, LGA2011, and LGA1150. If you don’t care about doing an upgrade, go with whatever CPU you want.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>Core Count<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>Core count is the new clock speed. That’s because as consumers have been trained not to look at megahertz anymore as a defining factor, vendors have turned to core count as an emotional trigger. Two is better than one, four is better than two, and six is better than four. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Here’s the deal, though: More cores are indeed better—but only if you truly use them, and really only when compared within the same family of chips. For example, to assume that an eight-core AMD FX part is faster than a six-core Intel Core i7 part would be flat-out wrong. Likewise, to assume that a PC with a six-core Intel Core i7 will be faster at gaming than a quad-core Core i7 is also likely wrong. To make things more complicated, Intel uses a virtual CPU technology called <a title="intel hyper threading" href="http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/architecture-and-technology/hyper-threading/hyper-threading-technology.html" target="_blank">Hyper-Threading</a> to push its CPUs. Some chips have it, some don’t.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>So, how do you figure out what you want? First, look at your workloads. If you’re primarily a gamer who browses, does some photo editing, and word processing, we think the sweet spot is a quad-core chip. Those who encode video, model 3D, or use other multithreaded apps, or even many apps simultaneously, should consider getting as many cores as possible because you can never have enough for these workloads. A good bridge for folks who encode video only occasionally, though, is a quad-core chip with Hyper-Threading.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/20060523corp_a_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/20060523corp_a_small.jpg" alt="Your CPU choice should be based on your workload and not what you read about." title="LGA1150" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Your CPU choice should be based on your workload and not what you read about.</strong></p> <h4>Clock Speed</h4> <p>Remember the Megahertz Myth? It’s what we alluded to above. It arose from the understanding that clock speed didn’t matter, because a 2GHz Pentium 4 was barely faster, if at all, than a 1.6GHz Athlon XP. Years later, that generally remains true. You really can’t say a 4.1GHz FX-8350 is going to smoke a 3.5GHz Core i7-3770K because in a hell of a lot of workloads the 3.5GHz Core i7 is going to dominate. Nevertheless, we have issues when someone dismisses megahertz outright as an important metric. We don’t think it’s handy when looking at AMD vs. Intel, but when you’re looking within the same family, it’s very telling. A 3.5GHz Intel chip will indeed be faster than a 2.8GHz Intel chip. The same applies among AMD chips. So, consider clock speeds wisely.</p> <h4>Cache</h4> <p>When vendors start looking for ways to separate your cash from your pocket, clock speed and core count are their first line of attack. If those features don’t get you, we’ve noticed that the amount of cache is the next spec dangled in your face. Choices these days run from 8MB to 3MB or less. First, you should know that in many cases, the chips themselves are often the same. When validating chips, AMD and Intel will weed out defective chips. If a chip has, say, 8MB of L2 cache and a bit of it is bad, it’s sold as a chip with 6MB of L2 cache, or 4MB of L2 cache. This isn’t always true, as some chips have the cache turned off or removed to save on building costs.</p> <p>Does cache matter in performance? Yes and no. Let’s just say that a large cache rarely hinders performance, but you quickly get to diminishing returns, so for many apps, a chip with 8MB of L2 could offer the same performance as one with 3MB of L2. We’ve seen cache matter most in some bandwidth-sensitive tasks such as media encoding or compression, but for the most part, don’t sweat the difference between a chip with 4MB of L2 vs. one with one 3MB of L2.</p> <h4>Integrated Graphics</h4> <p>Integrated graphics are likely one of the biggest advances in CPUs in the last few years. Yes, for gamers, a discrete graphics card is going to be faster 105 percent of the time, but for budget machines, ultra-thin notebooks, and all-in-ones, integrated graphics are usually all you get, and there’s a world of difference between them. Generally, AMD’s integrated graphics chips lead the way over Intel’s older generation of <a title="ivy bridge" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Ivy_Bridge" target="_blank">Ivy Bridge</a> and <a title="sandy bridge" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Sandy_Bridge" target="_blank">Sandy Bridge</a> chips. It’s like, well, AMD is the Intel of integrated graphics and Intel is the AMD. Intel’s latest <a title="haswell review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/haswell_review_2013" target="_blank">Haswell</a> chips make it far more interesting, though, as the graphics performance has increased greatly. Then again, AMD has also recently released its new APUs with Radeon HD 7000 graphics. The spec that matters most on integrated graphics is the number of graphics execution units and clock speed. More EUs mean better performance, as does higher clock speeds.</p> <h3>When to Run Aftermarket Cooling</h3> <p>Let’s get it out in the open: Stock CPU coolers really aren’t as bad as people make them out to be. Sure, we all scoff at them, but the truth is that Intel and AMD spend considerable money on the design and certify them to work with their CPUs in all types of environments. For the vast majority of people, the stock cooler is just fine.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/hyper_212_evo-01_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/hyper_212_evo-01_small_1.jpg" alt="The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a low-cost, worthy upgrade over stock—if you need it." title="Cooler Master Hyper 212 " width="620" height="465" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a low-cost, worthy upgrade over stock—if you need it.</strong></p> <p>But you’re not the vast majority of people. Sadly, today, if you can even open up the case, you’re an enthusiast. Sure, there are applications for the stock cooler, such as an <a title="htpc" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_theater_PC" target="_blank">HTPC</a> or a small box that won’t be overclocked, but we like to think of the stock cooler as the minimum spec you should run. It’s fine, but it can be greatly improved upon.</p> <p>Obviously, if you’re an overclocker, a beefier heatsink is a foregone conclusion, as heat is one of the worst enemies of a successful overclock. Swapping out the stock cooler for an aftermarket model is almost guaranteed to net higher or more stable overclocks than you can hit with the stock cooler.</p> <p>Even if you don’t overclock, an aftermarket cooler can be a worthwhile addition. Since they can dissipate more heat than a stock cooler, and the fans are typically larger, the fan RPMs are usually lower, thus quieter.</p> <p>Closed-loop liquid coolers are also a good option, as they require zero maintenance and the risk of a leak is extremely low. <a title="water cooling" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/articles/reviews/hardware/water_cooling" target="_blank">Liquid coolers</a> are also quite affordable today and easily outstrip the vast majority of air coolers. One thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that closed-loop liquid coolers aren’t always the quietest option out there, though.</p> <p><em>Click the next page to get more info on motherboards.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Motherboard</h3> <p><strong>Knowing your way around a motherboard is a distinguishing characteristic of a PC nerd. Let us help orient you </strong></p> <h4>Form Factor<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>The form factor of a motherboard is its physical dimensions. The most popular today is the 18-year-old <a title="atx" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATX" target="_blank">ATX</a> form factor. The two other popular sizes are the smaller <a title="microatx" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MicroATX" target="_blank">microATX</a> and <a title="mini-itx" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini-ITX" target="_blank">Mini-ITX</a>. Intel tried and failed to replace ATX with <a title="btx" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BTX_(form_factor)" target="_blank">BTX</a>. Two additional form factors are the wider Extended-ATX and XL-ATX. XL-ATX is not an official spec but generally denotes a longer board to support more expansion slots. For an enthusiast, ATX will cover about 90 percent of your needs. Besides offering the most flexibility in expansion, it’s also where you the get the widest range of selection. You can get budget all the way to the kitchen sink in ATX. MicroATX is usually reserved for budget boards, but there are a few high-end boards in this form factor these days. Mini-ITX is exciting, but the limited board space makes for few high-end options in this mini size.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>Socket<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>As we said in our CPU write-up, your motherboard’s socket dictates all that the board will ever be. If, for example, you buy a discontinued socket such as LGA1156, your choice of CPU is greatly limited. The most modern sockets today are LGA1155, LGA1150, LGA2011 for Intel, and AM3+ and FM2 for AMD. For Intel, LGA2011 and LGA1150 have the longest legs. Though still useable, the sun is now setting on LGA1155 boards. AMD is actively supporting AM3+ and FM2, but there is talk of a new socket to replace FM2.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>Chipset<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>The chipset on a motherboard refers to the “core logic” and used to entail multiple chips doing several jobs. These days, the core-logic chipset is down to one or two chips, with much of the functionality moved into the CPU. Chipsets manage basic functions such as USB, PCIe, and SATA ports, and board makers throw on additional controllers to add even more functions. You should pay special attention to the chipset if you’re looking for certain functionality, some of which is only possible on newer chipsets. The <a title="p67" href="http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/chipsets/mainstream-chipsets/p67-express-chipset.html" target="_blank">P67</a> chipset, for example, did not support Intel’s SSD caching, but the <a title="z68" href="http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/chipsets/mainstream-chipsets/z68-express-chipset.html" target="_blank">Z68</a> did. Current high-end chipsets from Intel include the <a title="z77" href="http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/chipsets/performance-chipsets/z77-express-chipset.html" target="_blank">Z77</a>, <a title="z87" href="http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/chipsets/performance-chipsets/z87-chipset.html" target="_blank">Z87</a>, <a title="x79" href="http://ark.intel.com/products/64015/Intel-BD82X79-PCH" target="_blank">X79</a>; from AMD you have the A85X, 990X, and 990FX. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>SLI/CrossFire Support</h4> <p>The vast majority of gamers never run more than one video card, but it’s always nice to know you have the option. AMD’s multicard solution is <a title="crossfire" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMD_CrossFireX" target="_blank">CrossFire</a> for two boards, and CrossFireX for more than two. For its part, Nvidia has <a title="sli" href="http://www.geforce.com/hardware/technology/sli" target="_blank">SLI</a> for two-card setups, tri-SLI for three cards, and four-way SLI for four cards. We won’t judge the relative merits of each system, as this isn’t the place for it. Most boards that offer one, also offer the other, but don’t assume a CrossFire board will support SLI. Read the specs ahead of time if you plan to run multiple cards.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>Ports<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>One of the main differences between a high-end board and a low-end board is the ports. High-end boards tend to have ports galore, with FireWire, additional USB 3.0, digital audio, eSATA, and Thunderbolt added on to convince you that board B is better than board C. How many ports, and what type, do you need? That is something only you can answer. If you still run an older DV cam that needs FireWire, having the port on the board for “free” is always nice. Thunderbolt is also an incredibly cool, forward-looking feature, but is very pricey. If you never use it, you will have paid for nothing. These days, we say eSATA and FireWire aren’t needed. What we want, mostly, is a ton of USB 3.0 ports. The ultimate board today might be one with nothing but USB 3.0 ports, if you ask us.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>Slots<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>If you see a board with tons of those long PCIe slots, don’t assume they’re all hot. PCIe slots can be physically x16 in length (that means 16 lanes) but only x8 or x4 electrically (which means the data is limited to x4 or x8 bandwidth). Cheaper boards may even disable some onboard devices when run in multi-GPU modes, while pricier boards use additional chips to spread the available bandwidth around and keep the devices running. AMD’s 990FX and Intel’s X79 don’t have the limited bandwidth of the Z77 or Z87 chipsets, so if you need lots of slots, you’ll want to opt for those chipsets. Unfortunately, Z77 and Z87 are where you find more PCIe 3.0 support. PCIe 3.0 doubles the effective bandwidth over PCIe 2.0, but it’s still not officially supported on X79, and only newer 990FX boards support it now. Confused? Our advice is that if you really need to run high-bandwidth add-in boards for video capture or RAID applications, ask the manufacturer what motherboards they have certified for it first.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/z87x-oc-rev1-0_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/z87x-oc-rev1-0_small.jpg" alt="There are degrees of enthusiast computing and motherboards to accommodate all scenarios. " width="620" height="733" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There are degrees of enthusiast computing and motherboards to accommodate all scenarios. </strong></p> <h4>POST LED</h4> <p>This is a tiny segmented LED on the board that displays the POST code of the motherboard while booting. It may seem trivial, but POST LEDs are a godsend when things go sideways on a machine. If all other things were equal, we’d take a board with the POST LED over one without it.</p> <h4>Backup BIOS</h4> <p>A backup BIOS stores a duplicate BIOS on the motherboard that can be restored should the BIOS get corrupted. We think it’s a nice feature but a corrupt BIOS is pretty rare. Nevertheless, it’s probably better to have a backup BIOS and not need it than to need it and not have it.</p> <h4>Extra Features</h4> <p>Wireless, premium sound, fan controls, and headers galore are the special features board vendors use to hook you. You might dismiss them as unnecessary features, but so are the power windows and multi-speaker setup in your car. Certainly some extras aren’t needed, such as onboard Wi-Fi on a desktop box that will live on Ethernet, but fan control, such as Asus’s excellent FanXpert II, is worthwhile, as are premium audio circuits.</p> <p><em>Click the next page to get in-depth information on hard drives and SSDs!</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Budget vs. Premium: Is It Worth It?</h3> <p>In a given chipset family—say, Z77—it’s easy to find a motherboard costing $110 as well one running $379. Both use the same chipset, so are they the same? It depends.</p> <p>If you intend to socket in a non-overclocked Core i7-3770K, run one GPU, and a sound card, you’d probably be hard-pressed to tell the difference, but don’t assume that premium boards are just a gimmick to rip you off. High-end motherboards aren’t just anodized a different color and slapped a higher price. The $110 board will be pretty much a strippo option, with no multicard support, minimal ports and slots, and a design that’s not made for high overclocks. Yes, you might be able to overclock the budget board, but the voltage regulator modules and chipset cooling are likely to limit you. High-end overclocking boards are truly designed for the sport, with direct voltage readout hard points. And yes, fancy new technology such as Thunderbolt, additional USB 3.0, and SATA controllers cost more money. Even the software suite on the budget board will be pretty stripped down.</p> <p>Still, the truth is that most of us will neither be overclocking with liquid nitrogen nor going ultra-budget. That’s why board vendors offer a dizzying array of selections between the rock-bottom and high-end. We think the $175 range gets you a pretty decent board, generally.</p> <h4>SSDs</h4> <p><strong>SSDs have a lot of complicated technology inside their waifish 2.5-inch shells, so follow along as we demystify it for you</strong></p> <h4>Controller</h4> <p>The controller is the brains of the <a title="ssd" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/ssd" target="_blank">SSD</a>, and what governs performance for the most part (along with the type of NAND flash used). The controller uses parallel channels to read and write data to the NAND, and also helps optimize the drive via the Trim command, as well as performing routine garbage collection. Though some companies might license a third-party controller, they always use custom firmware that they have created in order to define the performance of the drive, so two SSDs that use the same controller will still have varying levels of performance in different workload scenarios. While the SSD world used to be somewhat ruled by the LSI SandForce controller, those days have long passed, and we are now seeing the rise of in-house controllers by companies like Samsung.</p> <h4>Over-provisioning</h4> <p>Over-provisioning is a spec you will rarely see explicitly mentioned on a product box, but its presence, or lack thereof, is evident by a drive’s capacity. Over-provisioning is simply space taken out of the drive's general capacity and reserved for drive maintenance. So if you see a drive with 256GB of capacity, there’s no space reserved, but a drive listed as 240GB has 16GB reserved for over-provisioning. In exchange for that space you get increased endurance, as it gives the SSD controller a lot of NAND flash to use for drive optimization and management. The provisioned NAND can be compared to a swap file used by a mechanical hard drive and operating system, in that it is space reserved to manage the files on the SSD.</p> <h4>NAND Flash</h4> <p>All SSDs use this type of memory, as it's non-volatile, meaning you can cut off power to it and the data remains in place (mid-data-transfer is another story, though). The opposite is <a title="dram" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_random-access_memory" target="_blank">DRAM</a>, which is volatile, so once you shut down your PC, it is deleted. There are several manufacturers of NAND flash, including ONFI/Micro, Samsung, Toshiba, and SanDisk, and all the SSD vendors use them, so while a Samsung SSD obviously uses Samsung NAND, so does the new Seagate SSD, for example, since Seagate doesn't own a NAND fab. Corsair SSDs use Toshiba NAND, and so forth. There's no answer to the question of "who makes the best NAND?" as they all have varying performance characteristics, and it's typically the controller and its firmware that play the biggest role in determining a drive's performance. Good NAND with a crap controller equals crap, so keep that in mind when shopping for an SSD.</p> <h4>MLC, SLC, TLC NAND</h4> <p>All modern NAND flash is either SLC, MLC, or TLC, which stands for single-, multi-, and triple-level cell, which indicates how many values it can hold in a cell at one time. The most secure, and precise, is SLC, which holds a single value in each cell. Obviously, this is a bit inefficient, but also very accurate, and has high endurance, making SLC NAND ridiculously expensive, and not for consumers (it's for enterprise). Next up is MLC, which stands for multi-level cell, as each cell can hold two values at a time. MLC is used on the majority of SSDs you can buy, as it strikes a fine balance between cost and capacity. TLC flash, which stands for triple-level cell, holds—you guessed it—three values per cell, giving it the lowest endurance of any drive available, with the caveat that it still allows years of usage. Only the Samsung 840 and Intel 335 use TLC NAND flash; the rest of the consumer SSDs available today use MLC NAND.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/naked_ssd_take2_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/naked_ssd_take2_small_1.jpg" alt="Here we see the main components of an SSD: NAND flash, controller chip, DRAM, printed circuit board, and SATA connectors. " title="NAND flash" width="620" height="770" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Here we see the main components of an SSD: NAND flash, controller chip, DRAM, printed circuit board, and SATA connectors. </strong></p> <h4>HDD</h4> <p><strong>Even though SSDs are the cool kids, we still need hard drives for our "multimedia" collections. Here are all the terms you need to know to sound like a pro</strong></p> <h4>Spindle Speed</h4> <p>Spindle speed is the rotational velocity of the platters expressed in rotations per minute (rpm). Faster spinning platters result in lower seek times and improved performance. The most common desktop drives spin at 7,200rpm, but there are also 5,400–5,900rpm desktop drives, which we recommend only for backup purposes given their reduced performance relative to a 7,200rpm drive. There are 10Krpm drives as well, but the rise of much-faster SSDs have largely made them irrelevant in today's market.</p> <h4>Platters</h4> <p>Every hard drive stores data on platters made of glass alloy, with data retained on both sides that’s accessed by read and write heads hovering on each side of the platter. The number of platters is something to pay attention to when shopping for a drive, as it dictates area density, or how much data is stored per platter. Right now, 1TB is the maximum platter density available, and it offers improved performance compared to a 750GB platter, all other things being equal. Since the platter has more data on it, the read/write heads have to move around less to pick up data, so we've seen significantly improved performance from drives bearing these super-dense platters.</p> <h4>Cache Size</h4> <p>All hard drives have a bit of onboard memory referred to as cache, and the market has mostly settled on 64MB being the standard. The cache is used as a buffer, in that data is sent to it before being written to the disk. Whatever was last written or read will usually still be in the buffer should you need it again, so it improves performance by making recently accessed data available instantly. This practice of fetching data from the onboard cache is referred to as "bursting" in benchmarks, but in practice it rarely happens, so don't use this number to determine a drive's overall performance. Spindle speed is a much better indicator of hard drive performance compared to cache size.</p> <h4>NCQ</h4> <p>This stands for Native Command Queuing and is technology that helps the drive prioritize data requests so that it can process them in an efficient fashion. For example, if a drive receives a command to go all the way out to the outer perimeter to fetch some data, but then receives a request for data that is closer to its current location, with NCQ enabled, it would fetch the data in the order of closest bits to furthest bits, resulting in faster data transfer. A drive without NCQ would simply fulfill the requests in the order received, which is highly inefficient. NCQ only shows significant gains in a heavily queued workload, however, which typically doesn't exist for home users, but does occur on a web server or some other high-traffic application.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/barracuda_dyn_hi-res_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/barracuda_dyn_hi-res_small.jpg" alt="A hard drive uses magnets (lower left) to move the read/write heads (the pointy things), which are both above and below the data platters." title="HDD" width="620" height="665" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A hard drive uses magnets (lower left) to move the read/write heads (the pointy things), which are both above and below the data platters.</strong></p> <h3>The Scoop on SSD Caching</h3> <p>We all want the speed of an SSD but with the price and capacity of a mechanical hard drive. Obviously that’s not possible. However, there is a middle ground, which is using a small SSD as a caching drive for a mechanical hard drive. This allows your most frequently used files (including your OS and boot files) to be cached to the SSD for fast access to them, while less frequently accessed files reside on your hard drive. This actually works quite well in our testing, and to set one up you’ll need to either run it off your existing motherboard with any SSD you have lying around, or buy a caching SSD and use the included software to set up the caching array. For Intel users, Z68 and Z77 boards include caching support natively via Intel Smart Response Technology, but users of other chipsets will need to BYO to the party.</p> <p><em>Click the next page to get the inside scoop on graphics cards!</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>GPUs</h3> <p><strong>The world of GPUs can be a scary place fraught with big words, bigger numbers, and lots of confusing nomenclature. Allow us to un-confuse things a bit for you</strong></p> <h4>Memory</h4> <p>The amount of memory a GPU has is also called its frame buffer (see below). Most cards these days come with 1GB to 3GB of memory, but some high-end cards like the <a title="GTX titan" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/nvidia_geforce_titan_%E2%80%93_benchmarks2013" target="_blank">GTX Titan</a> have 6GB of memory. In the simplest terms, more memory lets you run higher resolutions, but read the Frame Buffer section below for more info.</p> <h4>Cores/Processors</h4> <p>GPUs nowadays include compartmentalized subsystems that have their own processing cores, called Stream Processors by AMD, and <a title="cuda" href="https://developer.nvidia.com/what-cuda" target="_blank">CUDA</a> cores by Nvidia, but both perform the same task. Unlike a CPU, which is designed to handle a wide array of tasks, but only able to execute a handful of threads in parallel at a high clock speed, GPU cores are massively parallel and designed to handle specific tasks such as shader calculations. They can also be used for compute operations, but typically these features are heavily neutered in gaming cards, as the manufacturers want their most demanding clients paying top dollar for expensive workstation cards that offer full support for compute functionality. Since AMD and Nvidia's processor cores are built on different architectures, it's impossible to make direct comparisons between them, so just because one GPU has more cores than another does not automatically make it better.</p> <h4>Memory Bus</h4> <p>The memory bus is a crucial pathway between the GPU itself and the card's onboard frame buffer, or memory. The width of the bus and the speed of the memory itself combine to give you a set amount of bandwidth, which equals how much data can be transferred across the bus, usually measured in gigabytes per second. In this respect, and what generally stands with all things PC, more is better. As an example, a GTX 680 with its 6GHz memory (1,500MHz quad-pumped) and 256-bit interface is capable of transferring 192.2GB of data per second, whereas the GTX Titan with the same 6GHz memory but a wider 384-bit interface is capable of transferring 288.4GB per second. Since most modern gaming boards now use 6GHz memory, the width of the interface is the only spec that ever changes, and the wider the better. Lower-end cards like the HD 7790, for example, have a 128-bit memory bus, so as you spend more money you'll find cards with wider buses.</p> <h4>GPU Boost</h4> <p>This technology is available in high-end GPUs, and it allows the GPU to dynamically overclock itself when under load for increased performance. GPUs without this technology are locked at one core clock speed all the time.</p> <h4>Frame Buffer</h4> <p>The frame buffer is composed of DDR memory and is where all the computations are performed to the images before they are output to your display, so you'll need a bigger buffer to run higher resolutions, as the two are directly related to one another. Put simply, if you want to run higher resolutions—as in fill your screen with more pixels—you will need a frame buffer large enough to accommodate all those pixels. The same principle applies if you are running a standard resolution such as 1080p but want to enable super-sampling AA (see below): Since the scene is actually being rendered at a higher resolution and then down-sampled, you'll need a larger frame buffer to handle that higher internal resolution. In general, a 1GB or 2GB buffer is fine for 1080p, but you will need 2GB or 3GB for 2560x1600 at decent frame rates. This is why the GTX Titan has 6GB of memory, as it’s designed to run at the absolute highest resolutions possible, including across three displays at once. Most midrange cards now have 2GB, with 3GB and 4GB frame buffers now commonplace for high-end GPUs.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/geforcegtx_titan_front1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/geforcegtx_titan_front1_small.jpg" alt="High resolutions require a lot of RAM, which is embedded in the area around the GPU just like on this 6GB GTX Titan." width="620" height="306" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>High resolutions require a lot of RAM, which is embedded in the area around the GPU just like on this 6GB GTX Titan.</strong></p> <h4>Power Requirements</h4> <p>All modern GPUs use PCI Express power connectors, either of the 6-pin or 8-pin variety. Small cards require one 6-pin connector, bigger cards require two 6-pin, and the top-shelf cards require one 8-pin and one 6-pin. Flagship boards like the GTX 690 and HD 7990 need two 8-pin connectors. Most high-end cards will draw between 100–200W of power under load, so you'll need around a 500–650W PSU for your entire system. Always give yourself somewhat of a buffer, so when a manufacturer says a 550W PSU is required, go for 650W.</p> <h4>Display Connectors</h4> <p>These are what connect your GPU to your display, the most common being DVI, which comes in both single-link and dual-link. Dual-link is needed for resolutions up to 2560x1600, while single-link is fine for up to 1,200 pixels vertically. DisplayPort can go up to 2560x1600, as well. HDMI is another connector you will see: versions 1.0–1.2 support 1080p, 1.3 supports 2560x1600, while 1.4 supports 4K.</p> <h4>PCI Express 3.0</h4> <p>The latest generation of graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia are all PCIe 3.0, which theoretically allows for more bandwidth across the bus compared to PCIe 2.0, but actual in-game improvement will be slim-to-none in most cases, as PCIe 2.0 was never saturated to begin with. Your motherboard chipset and CPU must also support PCIe 3.0, but most Ivy Bridge and older boards do not support it in the chipset, even though the CPU may have the required lanes. In general, every GPU has PCIe 3.0 these days, but if your motherboard only supports version 2.0 you will not suffer a performance hit.</p> <h4>Cooling</h4> <p>GPU coolers fall into several different categories, including blower, centralized, and water-cooled. The blower type is seen on most "reference" designs, which is what AMD and Nvidia provide to their add-in board partners as the most cost-effective solution typically. It sucks air in from the front of the chassis, then blows it along a heatsink through the back of the card to be exited out the rear of your case. Centralized coolers have one or two fans in the middle that suck air in from anywhere around the card and exhaust it into the same region, creating a pocket of warm air below the card. Water-cooled cards are very rare, of course, but use water to absorb heat contained within a radiator, which is cooled by a fan. Water cooling is usually the most effective (and quiet) way to cool a hot PC component, but its cost and complexity make it less common.</p> <h4>PhysX</h4> <p>This is Nvidia technology baked into its last few generations of GPUs that allows for hardware-based rendering of physics in games that support it, most notably Borderlands 2, so instead of just a regular explosion, you will see an explosion with particles and volumetric fog and smoke. Typically, AMD card owners will see the <a title="physx" href="http://www.geforce.com/hardware/technology/physx" target="_blank">PhysX</a> option grayed out in the menus, but the games still look great, so we would not deem this technology a reason to go with Nvidia over AMD at this point in time.</p> <h3>Antialiasing Explained</h3> <p>Different GPUs offer different types of antialiasing (AA), which is the smoothing out of jaggies that appear on edges of surfaces in games. Let's look at the most common types:</p> <p><strong>Full Scene AA (FSAA, or AA):</strong></p> <p>The most basic type of AA, this is sometimes called super-sampling. It involves rendering a scene at higher resolutions and then down-sampling the final image for a smoother transition between pixels, which appears like softer edges on your screen. If you run 2X AA, the scene will be calculated at double the resolution, and 4X AA renders it at four times the resolution, hence a massive performance hit.</p> <p><strong>Multi-Sample AA (MSAA):</strong></p> <p>This is a more efficient form of FSAA, even though scenes are still rendered at higher resolutions, then down-sampled. It achieves this efficiency by only super-sampling pixels that are along edges; by sampling fewer pixels, you don't see as much of a hit as with FSAA.</p> <h4>Fast Approximate AA (FXAA):</h4> <p>This is a shader-based Nvidia creation designed to allow for decent AA with very little to no performance hit. It achieves this by smoothing every pixel onscreen, including those born from pixel shaders, which isn't possible with MSAA.</p> <p><strong>TXAA:</strong></p> <p>This is specific to Kepler GPUs and combines MSAA with post-processing to achieve higher-quality antialiasing, but it's not as efficient as FXAA.</p> <p><strong>Morphological Antialiasing (MLAA):</strong></p> <p>This is AMD technology that uses GPU-accelerated compute functionality to apply AA as a post-processing effect as opposed to the super-sampling method.</p> <p><em>Click the next page to learn more about wi-fi technology, RAM, and PSUs.&nbsp;</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Wi-Fi Router</h3> <p><strong>Though the basic functionality of Wi-Fi routers has remained relatively unchanged since the olden days, new features have been added that help boost performance and allow for easier management</strong></p> <h4>Band<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>The band that a router operates on is key to determining how much traffic you will have to compete with. You would never want to hop on a congested freeway every day, and the same logic applies here. Currently there are two bands in use: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Everyone and their nana is on 2.4GHz, including people nuking pizzas in the microwave, helicopter parents monitoring their baby via remote radios, and all the people surfing the Internet in your vicinity, making it a crowded band, to say the least. However, within the 2.4GHz band you still have 11 channels to choose from, which is how everyone is able to surf this band without issues (for the most part). But if everyone is using the same channel, you will see your bandwidth decrease. On the other hand, 5GHz is a no-man's-land at this time, so routers that can operate on it cost a pretty penny since it's the equivalent of using the diamond lane, and a great way to make sure your bandwidth remains unmolested. <strong><br /></strong></p> <h4>MIMO</h4> <p>This stands for multiple-input, multiple-output and it's the use of multiple transmitters and receivers to send/receive a Wi-Fi signal in order to improve performance, sort of like RAID for storage devices but with Wi-Fi. These devices are able to split a signal into several pieces and send it via multiple radio channels at once. This improves performance in a couple of ways. When only one signal is being sent, it has to bounce around before ending up at the receiver, and performance is degraded. When several signals are sent at the same time, however, spectral efficiency is improved as there is a greater chance of one hitting the receiver with minimal interference; it also improves performance with multiple streams of data being carried to the receiver at once.</p> <h4>Channel Bonding</h4> <p>Channel bonding is something that’s done by the router and the network adapter whereby parallel channels of data are "bonded" together much like stripes of data in a RAID. This technology is most prevalent in 802.11n networks, where channel bonding is required for a user to utilize the full amount of bandwidth available in the specification. The downside to channel bonding is that it increases the risk of interference from nearby networks, which can reduce speeds. Since each channel is 20MHz, "bonded mode" operates at 40MHz, so check your settings to see if you can enable this.</p> <h4>802.11 Standards</h4> <p>Every router adheres to a specific 802.11 standard, which governs its overall performance and features. In the old days, there was 802.11a/b, then 802.11g, then 802.11n, which is the most widespread specification in use today since it's been around for a few years and is relatively fast. Waiting in the wings is 802.11ac, which by default broadcasts on the uncongested 5GHz band, but is also backward compatible with 2.4GHz. Whereas 802.11g had a peak throughput of 300Mb/s, 802.11n has a peak of roughly 500Mb/s, and 802.11ac doubles that to an unholy 1.3Gb/s. It achieves this speed increase by supporting up to eight channels compared to 802.11n's four, and through increased channel width, using 80MHz and an optional 160MHz channel.</p> <h4>Quality of Service (QoS)</h4> <p>QoS is a common feature on today’s routers, and it lets you dictate which programs get priority when it comes to network bandwidth. You could theoretically slow down uTorrent while giving Netflix and Skype or Battlefield 3 more bandwidth. One crucial point is that the QoS setting is most important for outgoing traffic such as torrents, since incoming traffic is usually already prioritized by your ISP.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/asus_rtn66u_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/asus_rtn66u_small.jpg" alt="High-end 802.11n routers are able to broadcast dual networks on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, though the new 802.11ac standard uses the 5GHz band by default." title="Wi-Fi Router" width="620" height="523" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>High-end 802.11n routers are able to broadcast dual networks on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, though the new 802.11ac standard uses the 5GHz band by default.&nbsp; </strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">RAM<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>System RAM, or memory, seems like such a basic thing, but there’s still much to know about it</strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Clock Speed<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p style="text-align: left;">The clock speed of RAM is usually expressed in megahertz, so DDR3/1866 runs at 1,866MHz, at a certain latency timing. The only problem is that modern CPUs pack so much cache and are so intelligent in managing data that very high-clocked RAM rarely impacts overall performance. Going from, say, DDR3/1600 to DDR3/1866 isn’t going to net you very much at all. Only certain bandwidth-intensive applications such as video encoding can benefit from higher-clocked RAM. The sweet spot for most users is 1,600 or 1,866. The exception to this is with integrated graphics. If the box will be running integrated graphics, reach for the highest-clocked RAM the board will support and you will see a direct benefit in most games. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Channels</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Modern CPUs support everything from single-channel to quad-channel RAM. There isn’t really a difference between a dual-channel kit and a quad-channel kit except that the vendor has done the work to match them up. You can run, for example, two dual-channel kits just fine. The only time you may want a factory-matched kit is if you are running the maximum amount of RAM or at a very high clock speed.</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Voltage</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Voltage isn’t a prominent marketing spec for RAM but it’s worth paying attention to, as many newer CPUs with integrated memory controllers need lower-voltage RAM to operate at high frequency. Older DDR3, which may have been rated to run at high frequencies, could need higher voltage than newer CPUs are capable of supporting.</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Heatspreaders</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Heat is bad for RAM, but we’ve never been able to get any vendor to tell us at what temperature failures are induced. Unless you’re into extreme overclocking, if you have good airflow in your case, you’re generally good. We’ve come to feel that heatspeaders, for the most part, are like hubcaps. They may not do much, but who the hell wants to drive a car with all four hubcaps missing?</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Capacity, Registered DIMMs, and Error Correction</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">It’s pretty easy to understand capacity on RAM—16GB is more than 8GB and 4GB is more than 2GB. With unbuffered, nonregistered RAM, the highest capacity you can get to run with a consumer CPU are 8GB modules. Registered DIMMs, or buffered DIMMs, usually refers to extra chips, or “buffers,” on the module to help take some of the electrical load off the memory controller. It’s useful when running servers or workstations that pack in a buttload of RAM. ECC RAM refers to error-correcting control and adds an additional RAM chip to correct multi-bit errors that can’t be tolerated in certain high-precision workloads. If this sounds like something you want, make sure your CPU supports it. Intel usually disables ECC on its consumer CPUs, even those based on the commercial ones. AMD, on the other hand, doesn’t. For most, ECC support is a bit overkill, though.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/hyperx_red_hx_blu_red_2_hr_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/hyperx_red_hx_blu_red_2_hr_small.jpg" alt="We’re not sure what RAM heatsinks do today except look cool." title="RAM" width="620" height="388" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We’re not sure what RAM heatsinks do today except look cool.</strong></p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">Power Supply Unit</h3> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>The power supply doesn’t get all the attention of, say, the CPU or the video card, but disrespect the PSU at your own peril </strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Wattage</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">The actual wattage of the PSU is the spec everyone pays attention to. That’s because 650 watts is 650 watts, right? Well, not always. One maker’s 650 watts might actually be more like 580 watts or lower at the actual temperature inside your case on a hot day. Despite all this, the wattage rating is still one of the more reliable specs you can use to judge a PSU. How much you need can only be answered by the rig you’re running. We will say that recent GPU improvements have caused us to back away from our must-have-1,000W-PSU mantra. These days, believe it or not, a hefty system can run on 750 watts or lower with a good-quality PSU.</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Efficiency</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">After wattage, efficiency is the next checkmark feature. PSU efficiency is basically how well the unit converts the power from AC to DC. The lower the efficiency, the more power is wasted. The lowest efficiency rating is 80 Plus, which means 80 percent of the power at a load of 20 percent, 50 percent, or 100 percent is converted. From there it goes to Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with the higher ratings indicating higher efficiency. Higher is better, but you do get diminishing returns on your investment as you approach the higher tiers. An 80 Plus Silver PSU hits 88 percent efficiency with a 50 percent load. An 80 Plus Platinum hits 92 percent. (Efficiencies for the higher tiers vary at different loads.) Is it worth paying 40 percent more for that? That’s up to you.</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Single-rail vs. Multi-rail</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">A single-rail PSU spits out all the power from a single “rail,” so all of the 12 volt power is combined into one source. A multi-rail splits it into different rails. Which is better? On a modern PSU, it doesn’t matter much. Much of the problems from multi-rail PSUs were in the early days of SLI and Pentium 4 processors. PSU designs that favored CPUs, combined with the siloing of power among rails, proved incapable of properly feeding a multi-GPU setup. Single-rail designs had no such issues. These days, multi-rail PSUs are designed with today’s configs in mind, so multi-GPUs are no longer a problem.</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Intelligent vs. Dumb</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">A “dumb” power supply is actually what 99 percent of us have: a PSU that supplies clean, reliable power. An “intelligent” PSU does the same but communicates telemetry to the OS via USB. Some smart PSUs even let you adjust the voltages on the rails in the operating system (something you’d have to do manually on high-end units) and let you control the fan temperature intelligently, too. Do you need a smart PSU? To be frank, no. But for those who like seeing how efficient the PSU is or what the 5-volt rail is, it’s pretty damned cool.</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Modular vs. Non-modular</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Modular PSUs are the rage and give you great flexibility by letting you swap in shorter cables, or cables of a different color, or to remove unused cables. The downside is that most high-end machines use all of the cables, so that last point in particular is moot—what’s more, we think it’s too easy to lose modular cables, which sucks.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/triathlor_eta650awt-m_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/triathlor_eta650awt-m_small.jpg" alt="Modular power supplies are the rage today—just don’t misplace the cables." title="Power Supply" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Modular power supplies are the rage today—just don’t misplace the cables.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Click the next page to read more about PC hardware buying tips.</em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">System Specs<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>How to dole out system advice like a pro</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Warning: As a PC expert, you will be called upon often by family and friends for system-buying advice. After all, purchasing a new PC retail can be a daunting task for the average consumer. Remember, you might know the difference between an AMD FX-8350 and FX-6100, but will Aunt Peg?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/blkang_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/blkang_small.jpg" alt="This machine is probably too much PC for Aunt Peg to handle." width="620" height="748" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This machine is probably too much PC for Aunt Peg to handle.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">No, Aunt Peg will walk into the local Big Box with the goal of spending $750 on a basic all-in-one and end up walking out with a $3,000 SLI rig. We’re not saying that Aunt Peg doesn’t like getting her frag on as much as the rest of us, but let’s face it, she needs some basic buying tips.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">CPU<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Peg, what level of CPU you require depends on your needs. If your idea of a good time is Bejeweled, email, and basic photo editing, a dual-core processor of any model except <a title="atom" href="http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/processors/atom/atom-processor.html" target="_blank">Atom</a> is more than enough. If you’re looking for more performance, the good thing is that Intel and AMD’s model numbers can mostly be trusted to represent actual performance. A Core i5 is greater than a Core i3 and an A10 is faster than an A8. If you are doing home video editing, Peg, consider paying for a quad-core CPU or more.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">RAM<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p style="text-align: left;">There are three known levers pulled when convincing consumers to buy a new PC: CPU, storage size, and amount of RAM. You’ll often see systems with low-end processors loaded up with a ton of RAM, because someone with a Pentium is really in the market for a system with 16GB of RAM (not!).&nbsp; For most people on a budget, 4GB is adequate, with 8GB being the sweet spot today. If you have a choice between a Pentium with 16GB and a Core i3 with 8GB, get the Core i3 box.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">Storage<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Storage is pretty obvious to everyone now, and analogous to closet space. You can never have enough. What consumers should really look for is SSD caching support or even pony up for an SSD. SSD caching or an SSD so greatly improves the feel of a PC that only those on a very strict budget should pass on this option. SSDs are probably one of the most significant advances to PCs in the last four years, so not having one is almost like not having a CPU. How large of an SSD do you need? The minimum these days for a primary drive is 120GB, with 240GB being more usable.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">GPU</h4> <p>There’s a sad statistic in the PC industry: Americans don’t pay for discrete graphics. It’s sad because a good GPU should be among the top four specs a person looks at in a new computer. Integrated graphics, usually really bad Intel integrated graphics, have long been a staple of American PCs. To be fair, that’s actually changing, as Intel’s new Haswell graphics greatly improves over previous generations, and for a casual gamer, it may even finally be enough. Still, almost any discrete GPU is still faster than integrated graphics these days. Aunt Peg might not play games, but her kids or grandkids might and not having a GPU will give them a frowny face.&nbsp; A GeForce 650 or Radeon HD 7770 is a good baseline for any machine that will touch games.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/computer_hardware_guide_2013#comments 2013 August 2013 computer computer hardware cpu desktop pc expert gpu graphics card info knowledge motherboard processor ram News Features How-Tos Thu, 19 Dec 2013 21:09:17 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung and Josh Norem 26598 at http://www.maximumpc.com