Building A Reliable And Practical Desktop Computer System (part 3)
Is Mother’s Fault And Her Memory
Choose a motherboard with the features you want. A motherboard’s reliability depends on its design, components used and having a good solid BIOS. For certain motherboards, there is also the tendency that some models within the same brand are better than others. It may also come down to a matter of taste.
Some brands tend to make better motherboards than others. Do spend some time reading a few reviews and also check out the specs from the manufacturer to get a full picture.
Browse the net for the motherboards you are considering and see if there are a lot of complaints from other owners and buyers of the motherboard. When a product has lots of bad listing from tech forums, then that is a sign that you should be careful and start considering another alternative.
How well and how easy it is to obtain documentation, driver support, and frequency of BIOS updates are also good signs of a motherboard’s reliability. Good companies that make good motherboards make all of the above very easy to find and show a willingness to support the product.
A manufacturer’s support for O.S variety and O.S multiple versions is also another good sign that tells you whether the manufacturer makes a product with longevity in mind. Some manufacturers will provide drivers for several iterations of O.S versions and that helps make the system you are building much more future proof. You won’t be stuck with missing drivers, partially working hardware or something that won’t work at all. Usually, cheaper motherboards tend to suffer this type of unsavory consequence, but this depends on the company.
Some brands that I use are Asus, MSI, Foxconn, Intel, Gigabyte.
Are the other manufacturers not good? Not really. The manufacturers listed above have never failed me so far and I know I can count on them for every computer system I build and have built in the past.
Purchase standard size motherboards for your build. A full-size ATX (12-inch x 9.6 inches or 305mm x 244mm ) and will fit in almost any computer case. The other two sizes that a less suitable for a desktop computer build are micro-ATX and EATX.
Stick to the ATX sized motherboards and you’ll be fine. It has enough room to house and will come with a nice complement of a nice number of PCI/PCIe expansion slots, input/output ports like USB, and SATA ports.
Manufacturers tend to cut corners with smaller size motherboards when it comes to the number of ports and extra PCI slots provided.
The room available on smaller motherboards is limited (hence fewer ports and slots), but you’ll be the judge. I have had my share of small and standard ATX size motherboards and the standard size, on the average, has those extra ports and slots that come really handy for future upgrades.
Once you decide on the motherboard, it is time to think about the amount of computer memory (RAM) that you need to pair with the motherboard. Two things come to mind.
Buy as much computer memory (RAM) as your system can take
Buy at least 50% to 75% of the maximum amount of RAM your system can hold.
When it comes to RAM or system memory, you DON’T have to buy memory with the highest specs and rating.
To the average user, the so-called “ value memory” will work just fine and you’ll never notice any performance issues.
Power users and gamers will have you believe that higher rated specs memory improves system performance significantly, but that is not really the case.
The higher priced and higher performance MAY impact performance up to a point.
Higher performance components usually have to be used in conjunction with OTHER components of equal caliber to really show a vastly noticeable improvement in performance.
The price spent on these premium parts is not worth it, except to have bragging rights amongst your tech peers. Power users and gamers won’t admit it because they let their “tech egos” blind them.
What is a good way to purchase the best memory for the price?
Since we are looking for stability and practicality in terms of price and performance, we don’t have to worry too much about the specs.
Provided that the manufacturer of the computer memory is a brand name, offers a lifetime warranty, and it is matched to the specs specified in your motherboard manual, you are fully covered.
Here is what I do when I need to buy new computer RAM for my system.
Look for the computer memory that matches the requirements of your motherboard (usually those specs can be found in the motherboard’s manual). When searching on the computer component retailer website, find the one that has the largest in-stock quantity for the specs you are looking for and purchase that memory.
Why? The computer memory for a particular motherboard will have a range of speeds. The faster the speed of the memory, the more expensive it is.
The computer component retailer keeps an eye on the savvy customers that purchase the memory with the best speed vs price performance. That particular memory will be stocked the most because people will purchase that most often.
All YOU have to do is follow suit and select from that speed category. You’ll get the RAM with the best price/performance ratio matching your motherboard specs. That’s it.
Another way is to look at the price range for the computer RAM that matches your specs. The price range that shows the most stock for your type of memory is the one you go for.
Do you need a brand to start your shopping? Some brands that I like are Kingston, Adata, G.Skill, Corsair, Crucial.
A few more rules when purchasing memory:
- Buy the largest memory modules that you can fit in each slot. This will save you money and save you headaches when you want to upgrade your memory in the future
- Don’t mix and match memory from different manufacturers even if they have the same specs.
- Don’t mix and match memory from the same manufacturer that is the same spec but of different model
- It is better to buy memory in pairs of matching capacity. This can help increase performance. If not, buy the single largest memory chip that can fit in one slot that you can afford.
For number 1, this is a lesson for saving money in the long run. If you really don’t have money to buy a lot of memory, then buy the largest one you can fit in that one slot. Here is my example.
Suppose you have 4 slots of space and your motherboard can take 32GB of RAM max. This means that if you could IDEALLY buy memory to fill all the slots, you would have to buy 8GB of RAM for each slot to reach the 32GB RAM limit that your motherboard can accept.
Don’t go out and buy memory 4GB each and try to fill the slot.
You know you don’t have enough memory to buy 32GB to fill all the slots? That’s fine. Just buy ONE memory of 8GB first and fill one slot. When you have more money, you’ll be able to subsequently fill the rest of the slots with chips of 8GB at a time until you reach all 32GB or you can even just stop at 16GB by adding just another chip of 8GB later on.
If you decide to use buy a pair of 4GB memory chips to make 8GB, you’ll have to throw away the 2x4GB chips to make room for new 8GB chips if you ever decide to full your motherboard with 32GB of ram (that is 4x8GB of memory chips).
I can’t tell you how many times I have had to throw away good memory because I was too impulsive and never planned ahead about the kind of memory chips to buy for my system upgrade and how it would impact my wallet in a future upgrade.
In summary, buying memory should not be a very hard decision. As long as you buy brand name memory that adheres to the specs described on the motherboard’s manual, your system will do just fine whether it is “value memory” or premium “high end” memory.
There is nothing wrong with buying premium memory. If you can buy premium memory for a good price (and I have done so in the past), purchase it buy all means.
My recommendation for “value memory” is because the perceivable speed in both value memory and premium memory is not that dramatic for the mainstream user. However, the price paid for the premium memory (it not on a special sale or special offer) can be significantly higher; thus, offers little or no value for the average consumer building a practical system on a budget.
Buy memory chips in such a way that it adds from what you have already without having to throw away any memory and be forced to make room for the new amount you are targeting. You’ll be glad you planned ahead and your wallet will be happy too.
It’s A No Brainer
The next most important ELECTRONIC component of a computer system build is the CPU (Central Processing Unit).
At this point in time, Intel Corp has the lead on CPUs and second comes AMD Corp. The choice for CPU for desktop computers is quite limited.
How do you decide on a CPU? I’ll make things simpler for you.
Go with Intel
- If you are NOT strapped for cash, stay with the iCore family series CPU from Intel
- If you want the best performance and price is less of an issue ( Intel CPUs are noticeably more pricey)
- If power consumption is not an issue. Intel CPUs consume more power than AMD CPUs
Go with AMD
- If you are having budget issues, AMD CPUs are always the best CPU for the price
- You don’t mind the extra heat produced by AMD CPUs
The topic of CPUs is the stuff of religious warfare. Maybe I exaggerate a bit, but you should see the way people argue about the pros and cons of each brand of CPU.
On the other hand, we only have two brands of CPU on the market to consider.
There are other CPUs models from Intel that are out there not in the iCore family, but I would not recommend them. They are indeed much more cost effective but they are not good performers.
Stay with the iCore family of CPUs from Intel, if you can afford it, and you’ll be glad you did. The performance of the Intel CPUs is much better overall.
What about heatsinks and cooling fans for the CPUs? Worry not.
The stock fans and heatsinks are actually good enough for the task of keeping the CPU cool. You might get better cooling with third-party fan/heatsink, but the improvement is negligible.
The only time a stock fan and heatsink becomes a matter of concern is when you are trying to build a gaming system. These computers can run really hot. Otherwise, don’t waste your money. Stock fans will do just fine.
Considering water cooling or nitro cooling system? Save your money. Unless you are going crazy with CPU overclocking and graphics overclocking, don’t waste your money.
This guide is mainly focused on building a regular system for practical general use. It aims to help you build a good general computer system that is cost-effective, reliable, and provide the best value over time.
In summary, remember the following when buying your next memory upgrade or for a new system build:
- Buy memory in pairs
- Value memory is fine, you don’t have to buy high-performance memory unless the price is reasonable or the reason is justified
- Buy a brand name memory part
- Buy computer memory that is most popular and has the most stock. The store will usually stock it the most because it has the best price/performance ratio and the very reason why it the store stocks it – consumer popularity.
- Buy as much memory as your motherboard can support If you can’t afford, then buy at least HALF of the amount of memory your motherboard can support (if your motherboard can support 32GB max, then get 32GB. Otherwise, get 16GB of RAM at least
- Try very hard not to mismatch memory. If you must, place the memory with the lowest placed in slot 1. Once that is done, we can install the other memory chips of a higher rating
- Ground yourself before you install RAM. RAM gets damaged from static electricity if enough handled.
- Intel CPUs have the best performance but are more costly. AMD CPUs are much more affordable – best bang for the buck
- AMD CPUs run much hotter than Intel CPUs. If you don’t mind the heat AMD CPUs will save you money
- Stock fans and heatsinks that come with the CPUs are just fine. No need to buy a third party vendor – unless you overclock CPUs.
Ready to purchase some memory for a new system or an upgrade?
Here are some suggestions to go for that new project or upgrade you have in mind.
Here some regular/mainstream performance (value memory)
If you are still reading this, I will guess that you want to learn more about viable video cards or video options that you can use or purchase to build yourself a practical, reliable, and budget-conscious computer system.
Click here to learn about your video/video card options for building such a system.