Time-tested tips for PC building that will help you avoid common pitfalls and enjoy a more fulfilling DIY experience
PC builders don’t drop out of their mommies with a Phillips head screwdriver in one hand, a Leatherman in the other, and start winning PC-building contests. No, most experienced PC builders accumulate their knowledge through horrible mistakes, case scars and flesh wounds, and the sorrow of having to completely take apart a machine they just assembled because a single, crucial step was neglected at some point in the process.
Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of the magazine.
It (literally) pays to know all the crafty ways you can save money without sacrificing your power user cred
As much as we love ogling top-of-the-line PC hardware and fantasizing about price-be-damned rigs, we also love, love, love to stretch a dollar. Does that make us cheapskates? You betcha, if that’s what you want to call someone who doesn’t pay a premium when he or she doesn’t have to. Sign us up! In fact, where computing is concerned, knowing all the various angles to save a buck—a buck that can then be put toward new and better gear, mind you—is as much a part of being a power user as knowing how to flash a BIOS or overclock RAM. If you’re currently spending top dollar on your PC activities, it’s time you got schooled in the fine art of penny-pinching. From free software alternatives, to the best deals on all forms of digital entertainment, to hardware-buying tips, to our blueprint for a $600 PC, this year’s Cheapskate’s Guide can save you thousands of dollars and make you a more savvy consumer in the process.
Note: This article appeared in the October 2012 issue of the magazine.
What's new in Jelly Bean 4.2, best Android apps, and Android battery saving tips
With the recent release of Android version 4.2 (codename: Jelly Bean) and a handful of new Nexus devices (See: Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10), we figured it was time we updated our Android Guide. This time around, we’ve got some useful tips for getting the most out of the newly added features in the latest Jelly Bean update, a few general tricks for all of the Android users out there, and a list of great apps that are worth checking out.
We wanted to share with you a YouTube video posted by Carey Holzman that shows, in great detail, how to a build a PC from scratch using parts from our "Get the Best Bang for the Buck" feature in the currently shipping December 2012 issue of Maximum PC. If Holzman's name sounds familiar, it's because he used to co-host the Computer America Show for about 6 years where Deputy Editor Gordon Mah Ung and Senior Editor Josh Norem, along with former editors Jon Phillips, Will Smith, and George Jones could frequently be heard.
Alright, Windows 8 fans. You’ve taken our advice and speed-ran your way through a clean installation (or upgrade!) of Microsoft’s latest OS. You’ve created or attached an existing Windows Live account to your installation, you’ve taken care of the few prompts Microsoft’s asked you to fill out or click through, and you’ve even given a cursory glance to the company’s brief “How to use Windows 8” video.
Saying that Windows 8 is a major shift in strategy for Microsoft is pretty obvious at this point. Between the Metro interface, complete dismissal of the start menu, focus on touch screen devices, and myriad other changes; this is not the Windows of the Bill Gates era. One change which hasn’t received much discussion is the idea of Windows 8 being Microsoft’s next iteration for not only Windows 7, but for Windows Home Server.
This small gaming PC isn't as wee as our Wee Ass-Kicking Machine, but it kicks more ass
Way back in December 2010, we built an awesome Mini-ITX gaming rig dubbed the Wee Ass-Kicking Machine. It featured a Core i7-870 CPU, a GeForce GTX 460 GPU, 4GB of DDR3, a 1TB hard drive, and a 120GB SSD—all crammed into a Silverstone SG07 chassis not much larger than a shoebox. The total cost? Around $1,600 (at the time).
It’s, uh, been a while since then, though, and I thought it was high time we built another Mini-ITX gaming rig. This one’s not quite as small, but it’s got a lot more oomph. We’re using the BitFenix Prodigy, which has room for a full-size ATX PSU, scads of hard drives, and even a 240mm radiator (if you swing that way), while still being small enough to be lugged around by its convenient carrying handles.
With so many cloud computing storage services available to you, you don’t ever truly need to pay for online storage. When your 2GB DropBox runs out, you can always get 5 free gigs from Amazon. When that runs out, why not open up a SkyDrive account for an additional 7GB? The only problem with cloud computing is that your files get spread out over different services, which can make it harder to find things, and can also increase your exposure to risk of losing access to files. If you use 3 online cloud services, there’s three times the chance that some of your files will be inaccessible at any given time, due to service outage. In this article, we’ll show you how to mitigate both of these problems, by using GoodSync to keep an up-to-date local backup of all the files on multiple cloud computing storage services.
You've found that hot new app on the Android Market, and you can't wait to click the Install button. But you're getting the message that the app isn't compatible with your device. Being the good Maximum user that you are, you'd rather find out for yourself. Those messages are sometimes wrong, after all. Or perhaps you want to take advantage of the daily giveaways in the Amazon Appstore. Or, if you're one of the millions of Kindle Fire owners, you may want more choices than the limited Amazon Appstore provides. All of the above comprise sufficient reason to start sideloading apps to your Android device.
Nothing holds more promise than a brand-new PC. The hardware is fresh and full of potential, the OS is clean and clutter-free, and you have nothing but pure, unadulterated storage space awaiting your precious data. It’s an exciting time, indeed. But before you start dumping old files onto your new rig willy-nilly, and downloading every shiny bauble of an app that catches your eye, take some time to consider a more measured approach to moving in. After all, you only have this opportunity once.
The way you set up your new PC now will have a lasting impact on your experience over time. Do it haphazardly, and your experience will be plagued by disorder and regret. Do it thoughtfully, though, by following the course of action we prescribe on the following pages, and you will have a machine that’s primed and ready to meet your every need from the start.