My Fall 2010 Desktop Computer Build

This page summarizes the components and build of my first and only (so far) desktop computer build. I'll continue to update this page as my work progresses, and as any hardware or software changes. Enjoy!
Also be sure to click here to check out my website dedicated to my favorite software for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

I conducted several hours and days and weeks of research prior to purchasing any components for this build. Finally, once I was confident in my choices and the prices available, I purchased the following parts necessary to build my (reasonably priced) dream machine. In the end, the CPU tower itself (monitor or peripherals not included) cost me $450 including shipping and all.

ComponentModelSpecificationsPriceImage (and Newegg Link)
CaseBroadway Runner Black SECC Steel CaseATX Mid-Tower, 2x120mm fans, 1x180mm fan, Blue LED$40
Power SupplyBroadway OKIA Black600W, 12V$30
ProcessorAMD Athlon II X4 6403.0GHz, AM3, Quad-core, 4x512KB L2 Cache$100
MotherboardASRock AM3 AMD 770 ATX4xDDR3 1600, 3xPCIe, 4xSATA, 4xUSB$55
Memory (RAM)GeIL Black Dragon 4GB (2x2GB)240-Pin, DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800)$62
Hard DriveHitachi1TB, 7200RPM, 32MB$54
Video CardSapphire Radeon HD4670ATI, 1GB, 128-bit DDR3, 750MHz, 1xHDMI,DVI,D-Sub$55
Optical DriveLITE-ON CD/DVD BurnerDVD+R,-R,+RW,-RW,+RDL,-RAM,-ROM; CD-R,-RW,ROM; 2MB Cache, SATA$17
KeyboardLogitech Illuminated KeyboardUSB wired, backlit, slimline, with function shortcut keys$30
MonitorsSamsung SyncMaster2x 19", 8000:1, 2ms$100
TabletWacom Bamboo Tablet5.8"x3.6", 512 pressure levels$50
Game ControllerFrisby USB Game ControllerDual-vibration, USB, PS3-clone$10

So, once all those components came in, I laid everything out on my kitchen table, and prepared for the build. The image below marks the starting point for the initial build.

In the span of a few hours, I followed the basic protocol for putting together a desktop computer. First, installed the power supply into the case, then seated the processor and CPU cooler into the motherboard, then seated the RAM, then installed the motherboard into the case, then slid in my PCI-E graphics card, screwed in my hard drive, and connected all the power cords and data connections. After all that, I readied myself, braced for an explosion, and hit the power switchÉ The fans and blue LEDs sprung into life and I could even hear the hard drive spin up. I took all this as a good sign, so I hooked it up to a monitor and a keyboard, and tried again. Unfortunately, I got no visual at this point, just a black screen. I messed with just about everything, especially the graphics card, thinking the issue to be visual only at first, but then I realized that I wasn't hearing the beep when I powered on, meaning it wasn't posting. I was pretty depressed now, thinking I might have shocked my motherboard or something. But, before I started filing Newegg returns, I took everything back out of the case, and checked the seating of my RAM and CPU. Luckily, on my second check, I noticed I didn't quite seat the processor all the way down into the locking slot. So, I fixed this, re-attached the CPU fan, and rebuilt the whole thing from the ground up, again. This time, when I fired it up, I got that wonderful post beep and even a successful BIOS screen. The photos below show the finished (almost, sans optical drive and some cable management) computer, inside and out, complete with awesome blue LEDs and all.

My next job was to install an operating system on the fresh machine. I hadn't purchased an optical drive at this point yet, because I had an old one from an old desktop I hoped to use to install Ubuntu and Windows 7 from. So, I hooked up the old disk drive, and tried to boot from it only to find that it wasn't compatible with my new motherboard because it used an outdated connection format. Not to be defeated, I decided to try to install Ubuntu from a flash drive. After a few failed install attempts from the live thumb drive (I think the version that ended up on there was corrupted somehow), I gave up for the day, and decided I needed to buy an optical drive. Also, I want to dual-boot this thing with Windows 7, and I can't install that from a flash drive (file's too big and it's a huge pain anyway). So, I put the project on hold for a few days while I waited for the disk drive to come in from Newegg.

Once the disk drive came in from Newegg, I was able to use a Hacktivated copy of Windows 7 to install the first operating system. Using an Ubuntu live CD, I partitioned the 1TB HDD into three partitions, one smaller one for Windows 7, one smaller one for Ubuntu, and one larger one to be shared between the two. I first install Windows 7 Ultimate on its 150GB partition, then installed Ubuntu 10.10 on its 200GB partition. To finish up the basics, I remapped al the default shortcut folders from their place on the smaller OS-specific partitions onto the shared drive. This way, all my documents, music, pictures, etc would be accessible and in sync on both the Windows and Ubuntu side, without unnecessary duplication of files. Once this was complete, I took some screenshots to show how Windows and Ubuntu look on the computer now.

Ubuntu 10.10 (w/ Cairodock)

Windows 7 Ultimate (w/ some Rainmeter effects)

Next, I installed a bootloader replacement (as opposed to Grub) called Burg. It allows for a graphical interface when choosing between OSs at bootup instead of grub's boring text.

To finish up for my last screenshot, I added some neat graphical things in Linux, notably several Compiz effects, including the classic cube workspace switcher. Though I didn't take pictures, it also has wobbly windows and all the other crazy compiz effects you'd expect from Linux.

Finally, I added all the software that I had previously decided was necessary. This part is pretty involved, so if you have any questions about what things are, let me know. For now, I'll just list the software included in my initial install of Ubuntu 10.10 and Windows 7 respectively. The rows typically contain equivalent software, though I haven't worried too much about filling out the Windows side, as I typically use Ubuntu for most specialized tools. Also, this isn't a comprehensive list per se, as there are many minor tweaks or tools I didn't include, as well as some included software that didn't warrant making the list. [Update]: Check out my website dedicated to my favorite Windows, Mac, and Linux software.

Ubuntu 10.10 Windows 7 Ultimate
Internet/File Transfer Internet/File Transfer
Google Chrome (browser) Google Chrome (browser)
Filezilla (FTP client) Filezilla (FTP client)
Cyberduck (connection manager)
Dropbox (online sync and backup) Dropbox (online sync and backup)
uTorrent (torrent downloader) uTorrent (torrent downloader)
Office/Editing Office/Editing
OpenOffice (office package) Microsoft Office Pro (office package)
Gedit (text editor) Notepad (text editor)
GIMP (photo editor) Photoshop CS5 (photo editor)
Illustrator CS5 (layout editor)
PosteRazor (poster maker)
Hugin (panorama stitching tool) Hugin (panorama stitching tool)
Mendeley (PDF article organizer) Mendeley (PDF article organizer)
Nevernote (content organizer) Evernote (content organizer)
RosephNotes (simplenote client)
PDFedit (PDF editor) CutePDF (PDF printer)
Kompozer (WSIWYG editor)
jEdit (code editor) Notepad++ (code editor)
Media Players/Organizers Media Players/Organizers
VLC (media player) VLC (media player)
Rhythmbox (music organizer) iTunes (music organizer)
Picasa (photo organizer) Picasa (photo organizer)
Boxee (media organizer)
Calibre (ebook manager) Calibre (ebook manager)
Utilities Utilities
CairoDock (dock launcher)
Conky (system monitor)
GParted (partition manager)
Brasero (optical disk burning)
Back in Time (incremental backups) CrashPlan (incremental backups)
Truecrypt (file encryption tool) Truecrypt (file encryption tool)
Handbrake (video encoder/ripper) Handbrake (video encoder/ripper)
FileHippo (update manager)
PeerBlock (IP blocklist)
MS Security Essentials (security)
Dexpot (virtual desktops)
Messaging/Communication Messaging/Communication
Pidgin (IM client) Pidgin (IM client)
Evolution (email client) Thunderbird (email client)
Skype (VoIP and video chat) Skype (VoIP and video chat)
Other Other
XMind (mind mapping) XMind (mind mapping)
Compiz (visual effects) Rainmeter (desktop gadgets)
DesktopNova (multi-monitor utility) DisplayFusionPro (multi-monitor support)
Burg (graphical bootloader)
Clonezilla Live CD (drive imager) Clonezilla Live CD (drive imager)

Since the initial build and installation, I haven't changed anything dramatically. Recently, I've been running low on hard drive space, so I purchased another bare 1TB internal drive (now a total of 2) to put into the machine. I thought about setting up a RAID scheme with my two 1TB HDDs, but I decided it wasn't really what I wanted. I needed a drive to backup my data and store some disk images so that I don't have to spend so much time re-installing software and utility tweaks if I need to re-install OSes at any point. And while RAID would provide me with essentially a real-time backup drive if one of the two failed, it doesn't offer the ability of incremental backups (meaning if you accidentally delete a file or get a virus, the RAID duplication won't help you restore to a previous point). For all those reasons, I've decided to install the drive and just use some backup software to store incremental backups of my storage partition and some disk images of my OS partitions (created w/ Clonezilla Live CD) to protect against any form of data loss. As I'm sure you know (or at least you should), you can never be too compulsive about backups; unintended data loss is way too common to take lightly.

Thanks for reading about my computer build, I certainly learned a lot in the process, and I'm looking forward to continuing building and modifying hardware and software in the future. If you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to contact me.

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