The Ultimate Computer Hardware Guide

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ProtectandAccess

This is an excellent guide for Beginners. Every computer user must have some hardware knowledge. This knowledge saves a huge time and money. I am a PC doctor of my pc own. I learned hardware tips from books and internet. Day by day my skill became sharpen.

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Quantum PC Support

I am the Doctor of my own PC. I am a 10 years experience in handling hardware of PC. Whenever i faced a hardware problem i contact my friends or colleagues for the solution. I search internet for the issue and try to find the solutions.

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Benjo

Great guide! The last system I built was back in 2006 so it's a nice refresher. I've had many "Aunt Peg" moments and even refurbished Core 2 Duo laptops are plenty for their needs :P

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jackx123456789

Waiting for Haswell-e for my next build in 2014. But all of this is interesting none the less.

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bytehead

Backup BIOS an extra? Well, it may be. Until you manage to brick a system because somewhere down the line, something went wrong. And since this was a laptop, not a desktop that I experienced this on, it has been stripped of everything useful because the cost of a new motherboard just wasn't worth what the whole laptop was worth.

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Innomasta

Good thing you didn't mention thermal paste, MPC!
The spread evenly VS pea sized glob debate would rage for hours!

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maleficarus™

Great article! As another poster already mentioned why no info on sound cards? It seems discrete sound solutions do not get any real valid credit these days. I for one, do hear the difference between onboard sound and discrete sound. If absolutely nothing else onboard sound-sounds really low compared to discrete sound solutions.

Another really important point this article forgot to mention and is over looked by most people even gamers is the need to pair the GPU (video card) with the right CPU. If you do not do this correctly you get what is commonly called a "bottleneck". In simple terms, this is when the video card is paired with a CPU that is too slow which in turn produces less performance compared to a GPU paired with a CPU that is cycling fast enough. Other then these points great article!

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LatiosXT

Here's the problem with discrete audio though: most people simply don't care. And I'm part of one of those people (well I care, just not enough).

Can I hear the difference between FLAC and 192Kbps MP3? Kind of, but the differences to me are so subtle that I'm not going to rush out and get FLAC versions of all the MP3s I have. And then the snobby audiophiles like to say that "your ears need checking". I can hear just fine. I'm listening my audio through a set of Senheisser HD558's and a Sound Blaster Z with no enhancements turned on, the EQ to flat, and listening out the proper line out port (not the amplified one), so I'm pretty certain my audio setup is just fine.

If positional cues are what matters in games, then you don't need an "awesome" sound setup anyway. Virtual barbershop works the same if you have $5 cheap pieces of crap or $800 headphones. Most people don't care if their audio sounds better past a certain point. It's the whole reason why DVD audio never took off. You can hear the quality of a CD over a cassette tape, but hearing the quality of a CD over a DVD is very hard for the average joe.

Besides, your mind is playing tricks on you. You can't hear everything, your brain is filtering out things it thinks you don't want to hear. So it's not like you can enjoy any complex audio source to its fullest anyway.

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JosephColt

There is a very good reason, gamers do not know audio quality, most of them at least. Modern motherboards are enough for "gaming headphones."

If you buy audiophile headphones then your looking for a high end sound card only, or a stand alone DAC/AMP. Game audio is also typically compressed too, so it won't matter much audio quality wise. If you listen to lose-less music and game(virtual is better then multiple sound drivers for headphone surround so stereo is always better) get a good set of cans.

Pairing a graphics card and processor isn't a big deal anymore. Hell, an i3 and a 760 will run BF4 at over 60FPS on ULTRA. Processors have marginal performance increases in the last few generations, and any decent processor will perform adequately. Unless your want to game at 120FPS/120hz or on 3 monitors you don't need very powerful hardware.

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Ghost XFX

Well, actually, most gamers do know good sound quality, but with the size of some cards and in the effort of getting the most visual candy possible, something had to be sacrificed. The sound card in some cases was seen as redundant.

But also, on board sound has improved quite a bit over the last 5-6 years. Maybe the user isn't an audiophile? Maybe that user is thinking, "as long as I have good sound, it will be alright...". That user won't be disappointed by the sound quality coming straight from the board. And unless he has sensitive ears, he might have a hard time telling the difference anyhow.

I think the only real reason where sound cards are a must have, is when you get into music editing. Even in this digital age, you still have to pay attention to minute details, or everything will sound like crap.

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maleficarus™

This isn't true by a long shot and I am not even talking about high end anything. Onboard sound while "good enough" still has a lot to be desired. For example I used to use onboard while playing BF3 as my SB Life finally died off. While I was waiting to upgrade I was forced to use my onboard sound chip on my ASUS motherboard. First thing I noticed right off the bat was using onboard sound forced me to turn the volume dial to max volume just to reach the same level as my discrete sound on half volume. Second thing I heard or I should say didn't hear was certain sounds were just not as pronounced in my games. Like bullets zipping by my head in BF3 or a much more pronounced explosion after an artillery shell landed into the ground. This was missing or simply gone using my motherboard's onboard sound chip. The motherboard I was usi8ng and still use actually is a P8Z68V-PRO which even today is still considered high-end so the excuse the onboard sound was not that good is invalid.

Basically onboard sound is good enough for the average user in windows surfing the web or even watching DVD movies. But playing games and stuff like that I can say it just is not. At the end of the day gamers not going discrete sound (even low-end) makes very little sense to me because we play PC video games for the realistic sense these new games give us. Simply not hearing everything you could makes no sense to me...

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JosephColt

Nope, I disagree.

I've tried practically all the sound cards out there, pretty much on par with a on board solution(not the ST/STX/ZXR/THD). Some motherboards do have bad audio still(how you implement the DAC can be important), but most are pretty much close, but may have need volume to be raised a bit more. If your using headphones from Razer, Corsair, or any other "gaming" company then you really do not need a quality sound card as your hardly using something quality for audio in the first place.

What headphones or speakers are you using?

Sound cards have no appeal anymore, just stuck with a good old stand alone DAC and you're good; no interference or driver issues.

An STX is a pretty nice card, or a Titanium HD, if your getting a sound card for gaming or music. I have my doubts about you saying Battlefield sounded worse with on-board, at least by any significant amount. Most of Creative sound cards are pretty tacky sounding in the first place anyway.

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maleficarus™

Well looks like we can agree to disagree. As for my setup well, I have a $150 cans from SENNHEISER and for speakers I use a 2.1 set of Bose that I bought 2 years ago for $300.00 My sound card is an ASUS Xonar DSX valued at $60.00 And I can hear the difference clearly...

To make no mention of sound in a PC hardware guide makes about as much sense as not talking about tires in a car guide...

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JosephColt

Okay, there we go...I can understand your need for a sound card.

You're using headphones from a reputable audio company.

I can hear the difference between on-board and sound cards/dacs with my Sennheiser 650 for example clearly. When we're talking about "gaming branded" headphones, barely any difference.

Thing is about sound cards, you need to understand(you probably do already), is people buy headphones like a Razer Tiamat(or other gaming headphones) and think a high end sound card or medium range one will make it sound "better" when it's a poorly designed piece of garbage.

Most gamers do not buy audiophile or quality audio products, but these terrible headphones which are marketed heavily for gamers. Going into sound cards would require explaining the need for good headphones too. I don't think it would be bad to have a page dedicated to sound cards, but I wouldn't trust anything about sound cards from MaximumPC, they generalize information and do not really go into proper depth about what they are discussing.

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maleficarus™

This we can agree on that is for sure! Most stuff being sold at Wal-Mart is crap really. I have always taken sound to be important for my gaming. It adds so much in terms of realism for games it really does. Don't get me wrong onboard has come along way compared to what it was just 10 years ago. Part of the problem is gamers look at the graphics and get all crazy about it by jacking up AA settings and making sure they have the highest possible resolution, but then use onboard sound with a set of gamers headphones and claim they can't hear any difference...

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JosephColt

I put some blame on developers personally, sound is so important to gaming just like graphics, it really does add that layer of realism your talking about. I love using my quality stereo headphones in Battlefield 4, it's really ear candy hearing bullets zip by your head, and explosions all around you. It's easily the most overlooked feature in games. You have no idea how many times hearing bad snipers missing me has saved my life in Battlefield 4.

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PCLinuxguy

I don't use a mic while gaming. A good set of audiophile cans and a sound card would benefit me alot better than an expensive yet cheaply built gamer headset with tinny sound and built-in mic ever would. On top of that, a good set of headphones work well when watching movies or listening to music. Too many focus purely on visuals and seem to care less about audio. kind of a shame really.

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MrGeek

No soundcard? My X-FI Titanium HD can make all those crappy mobo soundcards cry!

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appleroxinhouston

Well then you have a 100 dollar sound stealing crap card
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1rXcJuEsy0
Sound Cards and surround are not even neccessary. Found this yesterday, it's eye opening.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUDTlvagjJA&list=FLSAL1B_yZTvHjZKKWf5V5Xw&index=1

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LatiosXT

The current problem with surround sound systems is that the mixer expects a discrete speaker to output to and just plays through that.

Also the virtual barber shop only works with headphones. Some of us like speakers.

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rwpritchett

A slight error in the article. H77, H87, and Z87 support SSD caching... not just Z68 and Z77.

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LatiosXT

I guess throwing in my two cents...

> Regarding CPU coolers
I don't know why but a lot of enthusiasts, even if they don't do heavy overclocking, seem scared of temperatures. Temperatures do not affect performance until the CPU hits the thermal limit, in which case it throttles itself. The only thing temperature affects is the life expectancy of the part (an EE coworker said something like a factor of two every 10C). But considering that Intel & AMD have a three year warranty and even then they tend to last longer than that on stock coolers (what's in OEM machines?), I'd imagine spending a lot of money to get it down another 10C under load is kind of silly.

> GPU Memory
It's not just frame buffers but textures and anti-aliasing features (not FXAA or MLAA) as well. At least, that's the only thing I see adjust the video memory slider in games that do have it (CoH and Max Payne 3)

Oh and people seem to think memory combines in multi-GPU setups. It doesn't.

> RAM capacity
People tend to think more is better, but it's not necessarily the case. For an internet/office box, 4GB of RAM is the most it should have, with 2GB being fine. 8GB I feel should be the upper limit for gaming rigs since most games are 32-bit and there's that 2GB limit for 32-bit programs in Windows (with some exception). Any higher is usually only seen in actual use by people working with high resolution photos in Photoshop, doing video editing, or some other high-intensity workload.

If a desire to upgrade comes around, unless you're constantly running out of RAM for common activities (not the occasional using a heavy duty program), there's no need to upgrade.

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PCLinuxguy

I can definitely agree about the 'high-intensity workload' part. I've got 32GB in my rig. Mostly due to running several Virtual Machines, sometimes 3 or 4 at the same time, or just 2 with intense programs going. There's no way 8GB would be able to handle it

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vrmlbasic

Where's the downside to "too much" RAM? I don't see a reason to limit myself to a paltry 8 GB (especially when FireFox can take up almost an entire GB by itself) when 16 GB kits grow on trees. 16 GB is the upper limit for Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit so I took that as a sign to go 16 ;)

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LatiosXT

Downside? Pointlessly spending money.

Given the cost of RAM now ($80-$100 for a decent 4GBx2 kit), you could easily spend that money on something more practical, like the next tier up on your video card. When the philosophy most of the time on MPC is bang for buck, this is why you shouldn't get RAM just because you can.

People need to understand that free RAM doesn't mean anything. It just means that. Adding more RAM when you're not using it adds 0 benefit. Use your RAM. It's when you start hitting the swap file constantly and your system slows to a crawl is when you make the upgrade.

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misterz100

I have to agree with the RAM capacities, for high end gaming 8 gigs is all you need (I think 4 gig is a little low, considering how cheao ram...used to be...) unless like, if your running multiple MMORPG clients and browsing the internet and watching youtube or something lol
BF4 has a 64bit option, personally I see no point making ANY 32 bit games anymore, it makes no sense, anybody who can play the games has a 64bit OS ANYWAY