PC system recommendations?

EC
Posted By
Ellen_Cocose
Jun 5, 2005
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804
Replies
30
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Closed
I am needing to buy a new PC computer. Presently my OS is XP pro. I’m using CS2, and Painter IX. Need lots of internal storage, and internal and external backup systems. Need at least 2g ram.

Can someone please help me as to what would be a great system to get? Can I get something for under $2,000?

Also, I’ve always bought Dells, with a 3 year warranty, but I’m wondering this time about finding an independent local person who builds systems. The concern about that is warranty issues and service, in the event they go out of business.

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance,
Ellen

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BH
Bobby_Henderson
Jun 6, 2005
For Windows-based systems, I would stick with Dell. Alienware is a good alternative, but definitely a high end (read: expensive) alternative.

You could consider building your own PC. But that’s only if you really know what you’re doing. After all lots of things can go wrong. Also, contrary to what most would claim, you really won’t save any money building your own box. That shouldn’t be the motive anyway. You should build your own PC if you want to put the best quality stuff in there and not have junk hardware infecting it.

That last point is why you should probably avoid those small mom and pop shop computer builders. I’ve seen the strangest, off the wall brand garbage get put into such systems. You pay just as much as you would for a Dell with similar hardware -but the hardware most of the time will not be anywhere near as good. The only way I would consider this route is if you know the shop to be reputable and willing to work with you on what hardware you want going into the box.

And then there’s the "get a Mac" thing. But that option could get turned on its head (either making it a better or worse option) depending on what Steve Jobs says Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The rumors are Apple and Intel have made a deal to transition the Mac line of products away from PowerPC based processors over to Intel CPUs.
CK
Christine_Krof_Shock
Jun 6, 2005
If you have $ Alienware, if you don’t Dell…Look at the 370 or 670 workstations….and building your own is not as difficult as people tend to make out
JJ
John Joslin
Jun 6, 2005
The advantage of a proper workstation is that all the components are of a higher standard and tested, alone and in the working configuration; and you know the machine is built for a declared purpose.

You can save a lot and build a PC yourself but you don’t have the support that you may need if things just don’t work right.

I bought a 670.
T
thinkwelldesigns
Jun 6, 2005
I would recommend the adventure of building your own PC. I have used Dell’s for years as well, but I built my first PC 2 weeks ago. I have saved money and learned alot about computers in the process. Newegg.com is the place to buy components. Excellent shipping and RMA if your order the wrong components.
CK
Christine_Krof_Shock
Jun 6, 2005
Also you may want to look at the barebones systems at Tiger direct…generally they have done the tricky motherboard/CPU work for you (getting the CPU and the motherboard together) and testing the CPU/motherboard and ram configuration
RH
Rene_Hache
Jun 6, 2005
Personally I would not buy a Dell or from any online store. Instead I would rather go to a reputable local firm (if you are in Victoria BC, let me know!). This allows me more configuration options than I could if I bought a Dell.

The key to me is always the motherboard. Get a motherboard that can have two HD setup in RAID (stripe) configuration. It has made a big difference in speed, since the HD is the bottleneck of any computer. (the only thing is make sure you get an external HD to backup, since a stripe configuration is slightly more unstable.

Plus if you get a top notch motherboard, it will make upgrades easier later on.

Rene
DM
dave_milbut
Jun 6, 2005
if you’re building, step #1 is spend 5 bucks on a good anti static strap and use it! and read up on how static electricity can affect a system you’re building.
BH
Bobby_Henderson
Jun 6, 2005
Rene,

Both Alienware and Dell allow you to configure a wide variety of SATA and Ultra320 SCSI RAID setups. You can even have a standard boot disc for your OS and applications and a separate RAID setup for video authoring and other disc intensive operations like that.
I
ID._Awe
Jun 6, 2005
Oh, and don’t forget to demand a good ‘Matrox’ card.
DM
dave_milbut
Jun 6, 2005
and then read about static AGAIN before touching ANYTHING in your system! 🙂
DG
Dana_Gartenlaub
Jun 7, 2005
If you like tinkering, the best way to get a system dedicated to Photoshop is to build it yourself. Besides, tech support is always there 🙂

If you’re not sure what you’re doing, Alienware if you have the money, Dell if not.

And listen very carefully to what Dave said about static. It’s a killer!! I used to build systems for a support company, I know whereof I speak.
I
ID._Awe
Jun 7, 2005
Actually static isn’t all it is made out to be, it is really hard to kill hardware with static, you’d die from heart failure before that would happen. If you’re wearing wool socks on a carpet, well…….

As an example, I deliberately put an electric charge to some ‘hinky’ RAM to kill it so it could be replaced under warranty, it didn’t kill the RAM, it actually started behaving after the threat.

But that’s just me, if you have a concern, clap your hands twice and smack the metal case before working on a computer. Wear shoes and do it on a floor that is hard.
JJ
John Joslin
Jun 7, 2005
You may have got away with it that time but it is not good advice to give out on a forum where some readers may believe it!
D
deebs
Jun 7, 2005
It may be the difference between theory, practice and legalities attached to giving advice.

I’ve seen some computer fairs where chips are trundled around in barrows with scant regard to static.

Never bought any though…
I
ID._Awe
Jun 7, 2005
Well my comments still stand, there was good advice there if you red it carefully. If you have ever been to a computer retailer’s back room you would know it is good advice. They actually use magnetic screwdrivers for putting parts in.

In that regard, I used a rare earth magnet on an IBM Thinkpad, didn’t do anything to it, it still booted just fine and I did it more than once. I gave up.
D
deebs
Jun 7, 2005
Is that the best way to treat an IBM 🙂

I remember seeing a warning about that somweher – keeping magnets away from ‘puters.

It may have been that someone attached a magnetic based GPS unit to a laptop with the notion of it being a good idea to keep the two together.

If memory further serves well, the laptop didn’t like it a bit and the had disk sulked quite heavily ever afterwards
EC
Ellen_Cocose
Jun 7, 2005
Thanks everyone. I’ve got an appointment with an independent guy tomorrow, and will see what he comes up with. Meantime, I looked at the Dell site, and became more confused than ever. Single or dual processor, hyper threading, XP Pro x64… what is all this?

I have 2 needs, one is to upgrade storage and memory on my present computer, and the other is a new computer for my partner.

My other big question has to do with storage. I’m presently using a workstation 650, (2 1/2 years old), 2 IDE drives, one for data, one for OS. I backup to external HD. I’m maxed out on my 250 data drive. Do I add Raid and Sata drives? My system supports SCSII, but those drives are too expensive. And what is preferred, Raid 0, 1, 5? And how many drives can be used?

I’ll be happy when I can get back to making art, this technology with all it’s choices is weighing me down…Clearly, I’m not a candidate for building my own, although I have done minor things like adding memory, hard drives, cd drives.

Thanks all,
Ellen
CK
Christine_Krof_Shock
Jun 7, 2005
Dell won’t put in Maxtrox cards…I’ve been down that road…you can put in your own (Believe Dave about the strap…get 2 they are cheap and that way you will be able to find at least 1 when you need it…) however, it does void the Dell warranty…at least that’s what I was told when we were looking at them prior to DIY the last time we upgraded the computer
BL
Bob Levine
Jun 7, 2005
It doesn’t void the warranty, however they might insist that you replace the old one to get tech support.

Bob
D
deebs
Jun 7, 2005
It’s a shame really…

Why doesn’t such a huge organisation say: yup! Matrox card = no problem, in fact we’ll configure both for you…
TM
T_Mike_Hyndman
Jun 7, 2005
US Dell sounds very different to UK Dell. I tried to buy 16 desktops for my school, last month, advertised on a faxed business flyer. I was told that they would not be suitable for networking (why on a business flyer then??) and that I must take the three year warranty option as they can only be repaired by trained Dell techies. Really?? Not IBM compatable then obviously. Went to a rival in the end and saved a £1000.
Would have took the build your own route, but doubt if we would have saved any money, considering the time factor.
MH
BH
Bobby_Henderson
Jun 8, 2005
I don’t think ID.Awe has been burned by a static incident. At least it doesn’t sound that way.

Some of the applications I use require dongles. In the past, they were parallel port security dongles. At times I would have to switch one for another depending on the app I needed. Contrary to the advice one should never mess with stuff plugged into a parallel port while the computer is on, I often hot swapped those dongles. One day a little pop of static occured when switching to the other dongle. That fried my motherboard (but luckily it did’t kill by CPU chip, RAM and other stuff). Lesson learned.

Ellen,
Don’t worry about WinXP Pro x64 Edition. Right now there is next to nothing in terms of 64-bit Windows applications or device drivers. Stick with XP Pro Service Pack 2.

If you’re just doing Photoshop and other print graphics work, you probably don’t need RAID at all.

RAID 0 is two or more hard drives wired together to where they work like a single drive. Disc input/output speed is greatly improved. However, there is a lot of risk with this approach. RAID 0 is not "fault tolerant." If any of the two or three drives attached in RAID 0 screw up all data on all drives may be lost. That’s a very high penalty to pay for some extra speed you may not need.

RAID 1 actively mirrors data from one drive onto another. This can be a good approach if you are dealing with data you want to take every step to protect. But backing up regularly to CDs burned in "disc at once" mode or copying/ghosting to portable hard drives may be good enough.

You can google any of the myriad of RAID definitions to see what each one does. In general, only mission critical servers and people running workstations moving huge amounts of data need RAID. For instance, if you’re editing HDTV caliber digital video, you may need a RAID setup to prevent data bottlenecks. A standard hard drive is going to move only so much data.

IMHO, your best bet for mass storage and backup is large capacity external hard discs. The cost per megabyte on something like a Maxtor One Touch 300GB external hard drive is actually cheaper than good quality blank CDs. You’ll write data to them faster and not have such a huge stack of discs and jewel cases cluttering up the place. The Maxtor drive has its own decent backup software. However, I strongly recommend Norton Ghost for such purposes.
DM
dave_milbut
Jun 8, 2005
it is really hard to kill hardware with static

bzzzt. wrong. been there. done that. seen it. fried it. got the t-shirt. bubbled the silicon.
TM
T_Mike_Hyndman
Jun 8, 2005
I’ve seen a lot of useful info in this tread re what and how to put a PC together but no mention of something surely just as important, what size and type/make of monitor should be considered?
JJ
John Joslin
Jun 8, 2005
I’m sure people will pop up with lots of advice but a forum search should uncover a couple of threads a few months ago which really went into this question in depth – particularly the CRT vs LCD debate.
DG
Dana_Gartenlaub
Jun 8, 2005
At the moment, CRT’s give more bang for the buck, and you should defenitely consider a graphics monitor. LaCie makes a nice 19 inch one that’s not too outrageously expensive.

I would advise RAID 1 (disk mirroring) for the drive where you keep your photos, that way with no fuss you have extra protection.

It wouldn’t hurt to get one of those external drives with backup software that backs up your system drive every night.
DM
dave_milbut
Jun 8, 2005
RE
Robert_Enns
Jun 8, 2005
And don’t unplug and plug memory chips while the system is on as my boss (Electrical Engineer) did.
DM
dave_milbut
Jun 8, 2005
especially not in your socks… on a rug! 🙂
I
ID._Awe
Jun 8, 2005
Ellen: For tech support:::::::::::::::: lie about putting in the ‘Matrox’ card. How would they know unless you told them.

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