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Require Help Buying Parts for My First Self-Built Computer

Posted on 2004-08-25
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Hi,

I have been looking into building my first computer for some time now, with some soft-modding included. I have come up with a lot of the components that I would like, after giving much time reading reviews about power, quality, reliability, performance, overclockability and quietness, but I still have a few 'gaps' in my wish-list that I can't fill!

Basically, this is what my rig will consist of:

Case: i-Cute 0314TL Black ATX Case With Side Window
PSU: Fortron FSP350-60PN, Tagan 480W Silent PSU or Nexus NX-4000
Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe nForce2 DDR400 / Abit NF7-S v2.0 nForce2 DDR400
Processor: AMD Athlon XP-M 2500+ SKT-A OEM Barton (Mobile) Unlocked
Heatsink: I hear Thermalright are the best but I don't know what to get!
Memory: 2 x 512MB Matched Pair = 1GB. I Don't know which brand to get!
Graphics Card: Hightech ATi Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB IceQ
Sound Card: SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracude 7200.7 SATA 120GB
CD/DVD Drive:
CD-RW Drive:
Floppy Drive: Just a standard Panasonic one I've seen
IDE/SATA Cables:
Floppy Cable:
Fans: Blue LED fans to go with aesthetic look or Panaflo L1As for HSF and PSU with PC Power & Cooling Silencers for case fans.
Other things: Fan Guards, cable ties, power lead, blue cold cathodes.

As you can see, even though I've spent months thinking about this, I haven't gotten very far apart from the main components. Unfortunately I'm indecisive, and find it hard to part with money - not a good combination for someone buying parts to build a PC!

What I need, is some help. Please bare in mind that I want a black rig, with blue lighting.

- Which PSU should I get? The ones I have listed are supposed to be very good and quiet.
- I can't decide between the two motherboards.
- Can anyone give me a product code for a good thermalright HS for a SKT A setup?
- Any input on which brand of memory to get would be excellent. I'm not looking to spend more  (or much more) than a £100 on the matched pair though.
- not sure about the hard drive - it's something I've barely researched but the 7200.7 120GB has had good reviews, but it's SATA. I understand SATA in that it's quicker etc, but can anyone explain what cables I will need etc? Please assume that I am a complete newbie when it comes to SATA... because I AM A NEWBIE. :D The HD I will get will probably be OEM and therefore, supplied with no cables.
- I would LOVE input on quiet/but fast optical drives. I want a CD/RW and a CD/DVD drive.
- As for floppy cables and fans etc I'm fine, I just need to make DECISIONS! Ahhh!

I'm really sorry that this is such a long-winded and ultimately, a pain in the a$$ of a question to answer because it's so badly stuctured. But please, I would love help on getting the components I need. I have parts from my old (current) rig that I can use, but mainly just the stupid things like monitor, input devices, NIC etc. I will expand on anything that needs more input if needed. But I have been looking for ages and feel I need to get in on the "sweet-spot" whilst I still can.

Thanks very much,

[cookie]


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Question by:Cookie295
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by:Callandor
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Power supplies:
Enermax, Antec Truepower, PC Power & Cooling, Zalman, Thermaltake Purepower
Enermax 365W Power supply is the one I use and recommend, because it puts out 26a on the 12v rail
http://www.ocsystem.com/ocsystem/en35peak362f4.html

Motherboard:
Either Asus or Abit will work fine - they are my choice of brand

Heatsink:
I recommend Zalman - quiet and efficient
http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=35-118-108&depa=0

Memory:
Mushkin, Corsair, OCZ, Kingston Hyper-X, or Crucial are very good for overclockers, due to their quality and ability to be pushed

Hard drive:
Seagate is quiet, fast, and reliable
Don't worry about SATA cables, because when you buy a motherboard, you will get them with the package

Optical drives:
For CD burners, Plextor Premiere
For DVD dual-layer burners, Sony makes very good drives - DRU700A, or NEC 2510A

Fans:
Panasonic Panaflo 80mm
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by:Cookie295
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Thanks very much for the input. I am from the UK, so vendors like newegg aren't any good to me :(

I will look into your recommendations! Thanks for the info on SATA cables too.
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by:Callandor
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See if kelkoo carries the same equipment - they usually do.
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by:Cookie295
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Okay :) I usually look on kelkoo and dealtime. I like Micro Direct and ebuyer too.

Like I said, I'll look into it when I get the damn time! :P

Thanks,

[cookie]
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by:eccs19
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What are your plans for this computer?  Are you a heavy gamer, or just a casual user, or mostly office work, Graphics, etc.  It may sound like a strange question, but it could make a difference in what one may recommend for components.
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by:Cookie295
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That's not a strange question at all. I realise that depending on what you use the computer for, determines which of the components need to be the best, and which can afford to be slightly under par. I realise that avid gamers need the fastest GPUs, whereas people who work with graphics would need a fast CPU and hard drive(s), whilst people who use lots of different applications require lots of memory and so forth.

My plans? Well, I use a PC much like anyone else does; I use the Internet a lot and I have and play lots of music. In general, I don't use it for office applications or "work-related" things, but that is soon to chage in September when I start a professional qualification, which will undoubtedly require use of Word, Excel and the like. One of my top priorities, is games. In the past I've always chosen a console version of a game over a PC version, simply because my PC was usually never up to standard. Well, it was up to minimum spec, but games would be far more enjoyable on a console than on a less-than-brilliant PC. I play, and would like to continue to play the latest games. I play FPS games more than any other genre, such as Rainbow Six: Raven Shield.

So to summarise, I am an avid gamer, but also a 'casual' user who browses the Internet and plays music, but I'm soon to be using it for office applications.

If it helps, this is my current system:

- AMD Athlon Thoroughbred XP 2100+
- ASUS A7V333 Motherboard v1.XX USB2.0
- GeForce 4 MX 440 64MB Graphics Card
- SoundBlaster (can't think which version, maybe 512?)
- 300W Standard PSU that came with the case
- 512MB PC2700 DDR Samsung Memory
- Aero 7 HSF (so f***ing loud! - turned right down)
- 80GB Hard Drive (couldn't tell you which brand without looking inside)
- 48xCD/16xDVD Drive
- 48x12x48 CDRW Drive, Floppy Drive too
- 2 Case fans, and an exhaust blower

Hope that helps :)
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by:eccs19
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The only thing that I may think is kind of odd is the fact that in your new computer you only list a AMD 2.5.  That doesn't seem that much faster than your current 2.1. Perhaps consider going up to 3 gig to make it worth while.
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its not 2.5GHz. My 2100+ = 1.733GHz, and the 2500+ = about 2GHz, but the mobile 2500+ is hugely overclockable. Widely known as being the best overclocker of the Athlon range, it can be pumped up to a speed which is the equivalent of a 3400+ Athlon.. huge overclockability at a cheap price. If I was to go higher, I'd prolly go Athlon 64, which means different everything.. or even a P4.. but ive never had a pentium, and then there's the cost!!!

I dont know. I could look into better processors, but I'm just trying to find the "sweet spot" inthe market. The 2500+ has been the sweet spot for a long time.
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OK, I guess that makes sense.  I'm not into overclocking myself, so I was not aware that the mobile CPU was that flexable.  Sounds like you have your mind set, and have a way figured out to do it cheaply. Good Luck & enjoy your new system.  :-)
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by:Cookie295
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Yeah, I spose I could look into 64bit systems but I dont see the point really with 64bit programs not coming up for a while. Or at least, programmers wont make use of the architecture for a while. I know Windows 64 is out though. Just dont see the point in it yet. Anyone?

As for P4, they just announced a price cut, but I'm yet to see it.

Yeah I got my mind prety much set on the main parts. It's everything else like hard drives, opticals, HSFs, cases, fans and stuff that I need advice on. Like I said, any experiences with good products would be great, butbare in mind that money IS an object. :P An expensive one. I'm looking to spend abut £500/600 on the rig.
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by:KerryG
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I seriously don't understand why you would put so much effort, time, and money into it. It may not be very custom, but I nice Dell 3.2ghz system with a Radeon 9800 card is pretty hard to beat price-wise with anything you build from scratch plus it would have a complete warranty on all of the parts.
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by:Cookie295
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Do not even mention the word 'Dell' again. Ever. :P
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Whatever, I manage about 200 of them and they have been the most reliable, stable, and cost effective machines I have ever used. A friend of mine just opened a new gaming center with 26 Dell's and they are the fastest gaming machines I have every seen. Don't know why you have something against them but I wouldn't buy anything else.

Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell Dell

:P back at ya :)
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Just a Dell comment.  Here at work, we have about 10 Dell laptops, and the are the biggest pieces of junk we have ever seen.  90% of them have been in for work, and 1 know of one for sure that had to get the motherboard replaced.  Needless to say, our company is never planning on purchasing Dell again.  They are currently working on replacing the Dells with IBM laptops.
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LOL, my brother had a Dell and it was a bitch. They couldn't help. Besides, the reason as to why I'm buying parts is because I want to build one! I find it fun to put computers together and it's half the reason why I'm doing it. The other reason is to build a quick computer for little money!

Last time I checked, major retailers who sell computers tend to lack in an area... like offering no GPU (not the case here) or a lack of RAM or a lack of something which I want or they include **** I don't need - like stupid s/w bundles and printers which I already have etc. I like to customise!!!

But I respect your opinion so much that I'll go on the Dell site just to take a look!
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eccs19
You can take any brand, any manufacturer, any part for that matter and find people with bad experiences. In the past, I would ALWAYS build my customer's machines for them but these days it just isn't cost competitive against HP and Dell to go build a system. I am typing this on a Dell laptop that is easily the best laptop I have owned (including Toshiba's, IBMs, and others). I bought my son one and his has been flawless and I support around 12 more in the field and only one has ever had a problem.

Cookie295
"But I respect your opinion so much that I'll go on the Dell site just to take a look!" - thats the spirit!
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And I did have a look. and although they're not that bad, I wouldn't get one. I suppose you pay more money for "ensured" compatability. I could buy a Dell but I dunno... I'm suspect of it! Pull me out a great deal and I'll think about it!

But hey, this topic is about ME! Not friggin' Dell! So let's leave the Dell computers to a different topic and get back to me! Moi! Mich! Plus I'm getting annoyed at the fact of being emailed everytime one of you gives a finger to Dell and the other one licks its arse :P
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OK good point.  (opp's I guess your getting another e-mail now)  Just to make it up.....

Cookie295 - ITS ALL ABOUT YOU - ITS ALL ABOUT YOU!!!
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by:Cookie295
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lol...

yeah i f***ing did!!!

yes it is about me. its my topic and my points that im spending so bleh!
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Highfive is so simple that setting up every meeting room takes just minutes and every employee will be able to start or join a call from any room with ease. Never be called into a meeting just to get it started again. This is how video conferencing should work!

 
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by:stockhes
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Hey Cookie

MOBO go for Nforce 2 chipset ABIT /ASUS dont forget DFI lanparty and EPOX 8RDA3, because at overclocking they have locked PCI&AGP speed. They have excellent voltage setting possibilities and increment FSB in 1 MHZ steps.

Mobile Athlons are extreme overclockers, some is reaching 2.7 Ghz that equivalents not even existing AMD's some about 3.0 Ghz with monstrous cooling. However there are some difficulties in BIOS recognition but as you are overclocker you won't mind as all your Bios setting will be manually i guess.

Nforce2 mobo's are picky when it comes to ram especially if you want to run DUAL Channel. The FSB speed sometimes won't go that high and remember always run FSB and RAM in sync on NFORCE 2 MOBO's for best performance.

Dual Channel won't give you much because the CPU only have a 64 bit address bus, so you only get 3 to 10 % memory bandwith, but your GFX might be able to utilise the 128 bit addres bus to the RAM, if you switch of Fast writes in Bios or GFX driver.

PSU's if it is too loud then just change the fan with a PANAFLO or Pabst, just get one with > 20 amps on the 12 volt rail.

Good silent Heatsinks with fans are the THERMALTAKE Silent boost and the Spire whisper rock, but they wont be efficient if you plan to do a wild overclock > 2.5 Ghz.

Here is a couple of " must have " links if you are into NFORCE2 and overclocking

http://www.nforcershq.com/forum/

http://forums.amdmb.com/

http://www.aoaforums.com/forum/

If you wait too long with your purchase it will be obsolete before assembling :- )


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by:Cookie295
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Thanks stockhes, that's really useful info!

Regarding the mobo, u said Epox and DFI have locked AGP/PCI, do the ASUS A7n*X-E Deluxe and Abit NF7/NF7-S have these? I don't know which to get out of NF7/NF7-S as I don't know if I'm going to go SATA or stay PATA.

About dual channel RAM, is it worth getting/doing? Dual Channel must be a pain in the ass to have to buy a matched pair, which means when it comes to upgrading u have to dump them and buy another matched pair unless u buy a third dim and take a kick for performance. Is dual channel worth t?

Thanks for the links!

I know about waiting too long :( That's why I'm trying to sort it all out! :)
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by:Callandor
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You can check the manual of Abit's site for that motherboard to see if it has a locked AGP/PCI bus option.  I have the Abit IC7-G, and it does, but you should check, because it makes a big difference in overclocking ability.

Dual channel will give you a 5-10% improvement, depending on how memory intensive the application is.  I wouldn't worry too much about the specification for matched sets; I have used the same size, latency, and bandwidth and it worked in my system, so stick with good quality, and you shouldn't have to go with a special solution.  Again, the performance gains are slight.
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by:Cookie295
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I'm quite sure than all nForce2 boards allow for locking PCI/AGP slots, especially Abit. I'd be very surprised if it didn't. I looked in the online manual but didn't find anything on it. But google says that the NF7+NF7-S have lockable AGP/PCI.

Right, so if it's only a 5-10% improvement, then I could just get one 512 chip as I don't feel the need for much more than that. I can get another one if and wehn if dual channel makes such a small difference.

Ta
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by:stockhes
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Sorry cookie there was some commas's missing.

MOBO: go for Nforce 2 chipset, ABIT /ASUS dont forget DFI lanparty and EPOX 8RDA3, because at overclocking they have locked PCI&AGP speed. They have excellent voltage setting possibilities and increment FSB in 1 MHZ steps.

Personally i have a normal Barton 2500+@3200+ by just changing FSB from 166 to 200 Mhz in Bios and at stock voltage.
This is on EPOX 8RDA3 mobo.
I lowered it to normal because my GFX 9600 pro did not perform better and I am not doing anything CPU demanding.

Personally I gain more Processing/memory speed in setting the CPU interface to aggressive(whatever that means) in BIOS, than from running dual channel.

To gain most I run aggressive and dual channel.

Some say that dual channel can make it up for crappy memory latencies because you can access 2 different memory bus'es alternately (You don't have to wait for ram stick to settle down before ordering new data from the other)


 

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I didn't read through it all (at work, 5 min before going home ;) ), but what I noticed:

You chose a Athlon XP processor in your main setup (socket 754), still your mainboard is socket A!!

Get the Asus K8N-E Deluxe Nforce3 SATA/Raid/1394/G-Lan instead  - it's about 120€ (don't know what that is in £...). You should make use of that onboard Raid with the SATA, get or WD Raptor if you want raw speed, or something like a few 120GB SATA HDD in RAID.

Tom's hardware guide community forums - CPU Guide August '04: http://www.community.tomshardware.com/forum/showflat.m?Cat=&Board=comp_cpu&Number=527673&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5 . Good guide to what CPU suits you best!

I opened a post there myself, am building a system too (feel free to compare): http://www.community.tomshardware.com/forum/showflat.m?Cat=&Board=comp_cpu&Number=546307&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5
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by:Cookie295
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I thought Socket 754 was the same thing as Socket A?

That CPU guide looks helpful. Thanks. And I will check out our thread a bit later on. :)
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by:Cookie295
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I've just been looking into some cases and the Antec Sonata seems kickass. My questions though:

- Why the holes spelling "Antec", won't they promote sound? How do you get rid of that, with foam or tape? And where do you get it from?

- Also, cos I'm such a n00b with SATA... if I was to purchase a SATA HDD, I realise there's a SATA connector.. that's for the power, right? But what about ATA cables? Do I need ATA100, ATA133, or something else? I'm real confused. As fo the FDD, I just need a standard floppy cable, right?

Help please :)
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by:Gaud-wo
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* Socket A mainboards are mostly K7, A7, NF7 etc. ; Socket 754 are K8.

* Sonata specs on Antec site: http://www.antec-inc.com/pro_details_enclosure.php?ProdID=15138
Independent sonata review: http://www.pcabusers.com/reviews/antec/sonata/p1.html
I think it will be a really quiet case - but do see to it that you get a 'Silent' CPU and AGP cooler as well (sometimes the stock coolers are quiet, but GeForce series has made some helicopters... Look for a review of the card you want).
You will -always- need holes in your case, and it's best to let a bit more air blow (or suck) into the case, so you get overpressure inside of the case - this way heated air is blown out of those holes. This is especially important in cases with holes on TOP of the case, as heat rises, and you will need to blow that away.
If you add dust filters to your air intake, you will also have the advantage that you will have very few dust in your case (this won't wear out your fans too quickly, and cools better). Your Antec PSU comes with washable air filters.

* S-ATA is 'serial', as opposed to 'Parallel'. ATA100&133 are Parallel (as you see on the cable, the wires run parallel to each other). Serial has only one small cable, which is completely different from P-ATA and NOT backwards compatible.
So you need a PSU with SATA power connectors (the Antec case has 2), but your mainboard may come with Molex ('regular' power conn) to SATA connector convertors.
So, the SATA harddisks are plugged in SEPARATE connectors. The fastest setup is to have ONE drive on each channel, so, for example:
SATA1 - your OS drive
SATA2 - quick data drive
ATA(ide)1 - Slower data drive (although it isn't 'that' much slower)
ATA(ide)2 - CD-ROM

OR

SATA1 & SATA 2 HDD
ATA1 DVD-Rom
ATA2 Writer

(2nd setup is fastest for writing cd's or DVD's).

Putting drives on their own channel (connector), without sharing cables with other components, is always the fastest solution!

You may also try RAID - this is a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. For example, you have 2 SATA drives in RAID0 - this means all data is 'chopped in half' and each half is sent to 1 harddisk. This THEORETICALLY halves transfer times - well it doesn't halve time, still you will see quite some performance improvement. Do get -exactly- the same HDD's if you choose to try it! (buy them together).

Hm, I should start writing books or something like that, I always write way too much ^_^

Glenn
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by:Gaud-wo
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Oh forgot - a FDD has been using the same type of cable since - well 486 (pre pentium). You can get 'Rounded' ATA & Floppy cables (looks neater, better airflow). SATA doesn't need rounded cables, as the cable is about 1cm (0.4") wide anyway.
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When I buy my parts, I'll probably just get one SATA drive, if its worth it? Or shall I just keep my 80GB IDE HDD? I'll also get a DVD ROM/CD Drive which I'd love to be black and silent, plus a CDRW that's quick and silent.. and black too.

If I got DVD/CD, CDRW, Floppy and SATA HDD, what cables would I need and how many of each?

If I got DVD/CD, CDRW, Floppy and kept my IDE HDD, what cables would I need and how many of each?

Out of these cables what would come with a standard case and what would I need to go and buy? I have seen rounded cables, and they are an obvious choice over the old cables, I just can't get my head round which cables I need! Help me please :)
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by:Gaud-wo
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Both CD-ROM and your plain old ATA (ide) hard disk use the good old flat (ribbon) cable. SATA uses the SATA connector.

Your case comes with power for 2 SATA, and enough power connectors for the rest. Your mainboard (if from a good mfg) with 2 PATA, 2 SATA and one floppy.

Option 1: dvd/cd = [ata1], cdrw = [ata2], SATA = [sata1], floppy = [flop].
-> 2 ata (flat cable), 1 sata, 1 floppy cables.

Option 2: bit harder... You are going to have to put 2 devices on one cable. I recommend putting DVD/CD and HDD on [ata1], CDRW on [ata2], floppy on [flop].
-> 2 ata (flat cable) and one floppy cable.

All of these cables should come with your PSU (case) and mainboard.

You may want to buy 2 rounded ATA133 cables and one rounded floppy cable.

If you don't want to spend the extra cash, you can make the floppy cable rounded yourself - just separate the wires with a little cutter knife, pull them apart, and tie them together with a piece of black tape. This has no implication for data transfer, as floppy transfer speeds are slower than your average grandma.
I don't recommend this for ATA cables though, or you should have the agility of a brain surgeon, a hardware engineer with years of experience or equivalent ^_^

So, short: you don't need to buy anything to let that setup work. Ruonded cables is an option.

Glenn
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by:stockhes
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Hey Cookie

Cables ?

It really depends on, what comes with the MOBO bundle !

Assuming you have one PATA cable you need NONE

Normally if SATA is provided you get one SATA - cable with the MOBO and one PATA cable ( 2 connectors ) and one Floppy cable.

SATA can be tricky to install if not built in your MOBO's BIOS, then you have to "PRELOAD" a BIOS extension/driver during XP install (F6) before your OS can recognize your SATA drive and even more tricky with a raid, you have to setup the RAID in BIOS before install.

P-ATA 133 is not faster than P-ATA 100 and  SATA equivalents 150 all MHZ thats simply due to the fact that the HDD can only deliver data < 50 Mhz or Mbit/ sec. If you want speed then go for RAPTOR ide drives or SCSI ones, but they spin faster and are more noisy.

Personally i would stick to PATA, but again it depends on your needs
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by:Gaud-wo
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Stockhes is right about that there isn't much speed gain from SATA. The plus about it, is that all drives can have their own cable to connect to the mainboard - so no shared cables, and no shared speeds.

Eg. If you want to copy from one HDD to another, or brun a cd from HDD, or copy one cd to another, it WILL go much faster if each drive has it's own cable (and thus it's own controller).

Still, it's up to you how much you want to spend, only you can put your $ vs performance :)

Glenn
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by:Cookie295
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Hmmm, I dunno about SATA now hehe. I am tempted, but it does mean buying a new HDD. I'll check to see if the HDD is particularly loud, if its not, then I may just keep it and "plug it in" to the next rig? But... will I need to format it!? I dont want to! Can you get away with reinstalling xp or something?

Thanks for the advice on cables, so I need 2 ATA 133s and a floppy for a CD/DVD ROM, CDRW, IDE HDD, and FDD. Ta.

I don't know about SATA, spose I could always "upgrade" at a later point if I felt it necessary. Cheers....
Spose I should star thinking about what to actually buy now, and where from.
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Hey Cookie

A repair install from CD is worth trying.
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okily. thanks.

Anyone else with any sort of infromation about good hardware would be good? I better wind this question up soon.
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by:Gaud-wo
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You know what I'd get (the asus), I'm planning on buying it this month, if possible.

I believe you can switch mainboards with XP, only too many changes at once tend to be tricky...

If you have a spare HDD, you can always try ghosting your complete OS partition and try to remove all hardware devices from device manager, and then just move to the new mainboard.

I'll check this out at work tomorrow!

Glenn
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by:Cookie295
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Thanks!

As you can see, I've split the points between all of you who have helped to varying degrees. I'm still not much more sure of what I need but I am a bit more aware of the wires I need, and I have a bit more of a solid idea about what products I should get... if I EVER get round to buying and building this thing.

Thanks to everyone for your input!

[cookie]
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When you create an app prototype with Adobe XD, you can insert system screens -- sharing or Control Center, for example -- with just a few clicks. This video shows you how. You can take the full course on Experts Exchange at http://bit.ly/XDcourse.

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