Vista PC Build – Parts and Planning

ANTEC_NSK2480_q We won’t talk about how long it’s been since I built a computer, but let’s just say that the ATX form factor probably wasn’t even a twinkle in some engineer’s eye at the time. I’ve been eager to get back into it and also get a relatively low cost Windows computer that I could tinker with. Another thing I remember from those old days is value is more important than rock-bottom cost, cheaply made parts extract payment way beyond their price. So here are my requirements for this computer:

  • Quite – it will be located near my desk in my office so it must be quiet.
  • Power efficient – I’m not looking to build a low power PC, but keeping power usage (and therefore the electric bill) in line are important.
  • Easy to reconfigure – this is something I’m likely to revisit to try different hardware configurations or use for testing hardware. For example, flashing the BIOS in my Seagate drive requires a computer that only has the drive hooked up to it. This should easily accommodate that.
  • Run Vista 64-bit

So without further delay, here are the parts I picked. See the commentary below the parts list.

Qty Part Cost
1 Antec New Solution NSK2480 MicroATX Computer Case w/380W Power Supply $120
1 ZOTAC N73PV-Supreme LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 7100 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard $45
(now $50)
(before $10 rebate)
1 Intel Pentium E2180 Allendale 2.0GHz 1MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor $70
1 Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory $32
(now $40)
1 Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive $120
1 ASUS Black 18X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA DVD-ROM $20
1 Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 64-bit for System Builders – OEM $170
(now $180)
1 SATA Serial ATA Power Cable – 6inch $0.85
Total Cost (Before Rebates) $578

 

There are some additional parts that will be needed for the build itself although they won’t be used on this computer once the build is done. Some, like a monitor, may be needed in your case.

 

Qty

Part

Cost

1 Monitor, I used a Acer H213H bmid Black 21.5″ 5ms HDMI Widescreen 16:9 Full HD 1080P LCD Monitor $190
1 IDE DVD Drive. Windows won’t install over a SATA DVD drive. I used a Sony Optiarc Black 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM IDE DVD-ROM $18
1 Keyboard – LITE-ON SK-1688U/B Black 104 Normal Keys USB Wired Standard Keyboard $7
1 Mouse – Microsoft N71-00007S Black 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical Wheel Mouse $10
1 25” Cat 6 Network Cable $3.59

 

Here’s the reasons I got the parts that I did…

Case – I wanted a well-built case that was easy to work with and was quiet. I didn’t want a tower. I was avoiding case/power supply combo at first because I didn’t want a potentially cheap power supply. In this case the power supply was a well regarded Antec Earthwatts EA380 380W power supply so I didn’t mind. The case is designed to be quiet and although pricey it’s not so bad considering that the power supply is included.

Motherboard – I wanted to go with an Intel chip. I simply sorted by price and went with the lowest priced motherboard that fit my needs. The motherboard comes with two SATA data cables, you’ll need to buy additional cables if you want to use the four SATA ports.

CPU – Again, I wanted Intel. I started with the lowest price dual-core CPUs and worked my way up until I got a CPU that I thought would give me snappy performance for my limited needs. The reviews I read regarded this CPU as having a good performance to price value. I’m going with the stock cooler even though Intel stock coolers are much derided. I will probably have to replace it but I want to use it awhile to see how it performs.

Hard Drive – I’m a fan of Western Digital drives, especially their green drives. I took it up a notch and went with a Caviar black for the performance.

RAM – I wanted 4GB of RAM and I’m a fan of the Crucial brand, never having had a problem with it. It’s also competitively priced without a significant premium for the brand.

Video – I’m going with on-board video for now even though I’m not a fan of it. I did buy a low cost video card but I’ll be needing it for the Windows Home Server build as that motherboard doesn’t have on-board video. Once the WHS build is done I’ll pop the card in to see if there’s a difference in performance.

Operating System – I debated between Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium and Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate. In Microsoft’s infinite idiocy they decided that remote access was a business feature and don’t include it in Home Premium. I decided to go with Vista Ultimate because I wanted the remote access (without having to go to a third party). Also, this gives me all the Vista features so if I want to try something I don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s included in my version.

SATA Power Cable – the case has two SATA power connectors, both on the same cable and designed to connect to the hard drives. I needed this connecter to modify a molex plug so that I could power the DVD reader.

DVD Reader – I went with a SATA connected DVD player because I wanted one in the house. As expected (based on my web reading) Vista wouldn’t install via SATA (the DVD wouldn’t boot). Playing with the BIOS might have resulted in the DVD becoming bootable but it was much easier to just hook up the spare IDE drive. It’s much easier to run the SATA data connector to the drive than it would have been to run the IDE ribbon cable so I like that and was worth the extra couple of bucks for the drive and power adapter.

Whenever possible I used OEM parts rather than retail. This means no packaging and in some cases no manuals or software although they are usually available on a website. It the case of Microsoft Vista it means Microsoft won’t provide phone support for the OS

That’s it for the parts. In the next installment I’ll let you know how the build went and how the PC integrates into the OSQuest data center.