Future PC Builds

I’ve been thinking about the PC builds and upgrades I’ll want to be doing in the near future. Now’s as good as time as any to get some ideas and start looking for sales and buying opportunities. I’m looking at a new Windows Home Server for Vail, a new or upgraded windows desktop, and a home theater PC.

Random Access - System Builds category tileI’ve been thinking about the PC builds and upgrades I’ll want to be doing in the near future. Now’s as good as time as any to get some ideas and start looking for sales and buying opportunities.

Windows Home Server – Vail

This is the one PC build I’m planning to do by year end for sure. I’ve downloaded the Vail beta but have yet to install it on my test box. So the specs may change as I try it out, but there are some definite lessons learned from my current Windows Home Server build that I want to include.

There probably won’t be any in place upgrade or migration tools so I’ll probably be building a entirely new box, except for hard drives. For the hard drives, I’ll move the data over the wire and physically move the hard drives as space is freed up.

Requirements:

  • RAID system drive. I’ve become more reliant on the windows home server and while I have the backup covered, both local and offsite, I now want to minimize downtime. So I’ll be looking to mirror the system drive.
  • 7 External drive bays (minimum, more is better). While I don’t change drives a lot, I did have some hard drive problems and needed to replace a WHS drive or two. Having to shutdown and open up the case each time is a pain. Worse, I suspect my digging into the works one of those times loosened a SATA port and caused some problems. So I’ll bee looking for external access to the drives, probably hot swap bays.
  • Motherboard with 8 SATA II ports. SATA III would be nice but I don’t see it being worth the price bump on a Windows Home Server. I actually went ahead and ordered the GIGABYTE GA-P55-USB3 motherboard. The markdowns brought it down to $103 delivered so I decided to go ahead and order it. It’s got some nice specs LGA 1156 socket (i3/i5/i7), 8 SATA II ports, RAID support, 2 USB 3.o ports which may come in handy for moving files to external drives. There’s no onboard video, but that’s the case with my current home server too.  I can use my current spare for the build.
  • I’ll look into a SSD drive as the system drive, but I’m thinking it’s not worth the money, especially since I’ll want two of them to mirror. If I can get my hands on one to test with I’ll see if it makes a difference.
  • I’ll probably go with a Intel Core I3 processor. With the board I can always upgrade the processor later if I need more power.

Windows PC Upgrade

My Windows 7 PC build is still doing fine. While the PC has a quad core processor and is pretty peppy, in order to keep costs down I bought parts near the end of their production life. The biggest downside to that is that it’s not very upgradeable. For any real increase I’ll need to replace the motherboard, CPU and RAM all at once.

I’ll probably do an SSD upgrade as the system drive before then. I’m curious to see what an SSD does in a WHS. I don’t expect much but I can do some testing before upgrading the Windows 7 PC. I’ll need a SATA II & SATA III compatible drive.  SATA II for my current rig and SATA III for the eventual new rig.

Newegg has another motherboard currently on sale that looks interesting, the GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R. I avoided the impulse purchase despite the 10% discount code. Budget wise I’m not ready to commit the money to upgrade a PC still doing basically OK. There will be new technology and more sales by the time I’m ready to upgrade.

I’ll want to switch from the Antec desktop style case I have to a tower case. A mid-tower would be enough but I’ll want enough room to be able to make upgrades and changes easily. The Antec case is well suited as an HTPC, if a little large.

Home Theater PC

I don’t have one of these yet, but eventually my Tivo will die and I’ll be looking for a replacement. I expect this will all be hand-me-down hardware if I go Windows. If I go Mac I’ll probably be able to repurpose my Mac Mini. I may need to buy a tuner and maybe a video card.

Wrapping Up

That sums up the next few computer enhancements I’m planning, The Windows Home Server is the only one that I want to get done this year. The rest will be as opportunities present themselves.

In the near future I’ll be on the lookout for some deals on a good SSD drive for my Windows 7 PC. I’ll also be on the lookout for a video card upgrade although I’ll need to do some research on that to be sure I get something that can be moved to the future i7 PC.

Since the WHS motherboard is already on it’s way to me I’ll probably be impatient to get the rest of the parts, even though I don’t really need to box until the official Vail release.