Recently I’ve been thinking about upgrading or possibly rebuilding my desktop computer. I know, a desktop isn’t the tool of most people these days, but for me, most of my heavier workload goes through mine.

I built my desktop in 2010. It was primarily designed with gaming in mind. I purchased all of the parts from Newegg. Originally, this is what I created:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb Quad-Core 3.2 GHz Socket AM3
  • RAM: ADATA XPG Gaming Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A79XTD EVO AM3 AMD 790X ATX
  • Video Card: BFG Tech GeForce GTS 250 (1GB)
  • Hard Drive: Hitachi GST Deskstar HD31000 IDK/7K (0S00163) 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
  • Optical Drive: SAMSUNG Model SH-S222L with LightScribe support
  • Case: COOLER MASTER Storm Scout SGC-2000-KKN1-GP Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
  • Power Supply: Antec TruePower TP-750 750W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.3 / EPS12V V2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC “compatible with Core i7/Core i5” Power Supply
  • OS: Windows 7 Home

This was the original build. Unfortunately, it was not without issues. The graphics card was defective so I ended up swapping it out with another Geforce card.

Due to additional issues I started experiencing, I upgraded the desktop about 8 months later. The upgrade consisted of swapping out the motherboard, processor, and graphics card. The new parts are as follows:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T Thuban 6-Core 2.8 GHz Socket AM3
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A87TD/USB3 AM3 AMD 870 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX
  • Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) N460GTX Cyclone 768D5/OC 768MB

Those parts are what my desktop currently runs on.

Experiencing PC Issues

Over the past few years, I’ve run into new issues with my desktop. This is not unexpected. I have two cats who like to shed fur like it’s going out of style. I’m surprised my PC hasn’t burst into flames from the hair that gets sucked into it.

While most of the issues are related to performance, likely fixable by refreshing Windows, there are a few hardware issues that are much more troublesome.

For the past few years, plugging anything into the front panel of the PC case can cause the computer to go down. Both monitors blackout and nothing responds. The HDD indicator light doesn’t flash but the power is still active. It doesn’t turn off or restart, but everything goes dead.

I’ve noticed that this happens more frequently during the winter months, so I try to never plug anything into the front when the PC is on. A few days ago I accidentally caused it to happen when the tape measure I was using touched the side of the case. During winter, static builds up a lot more easily, and I suspect that this action is the PC protecting itself from a static surge via the case.

Another known issue has to do with the CPU. I’ve found that after a few days of use, a restart will show that one of the six cores is no longer active. The third core frequently goes dead. This happens seemingly randomly but it will absolutely happen if the PC goes through its weird blackout.

To Upgrade or Rebuild

Right now I’m trying to decide if I want to rebuild or upgrade. The power supply is new-ish, replaced last year when the original one finally died. Unfortunately, it’s not capable of handling much more than my system currently has in it. Some of the parts may be usable, such as the graphics card, RAM, and optical drive. The processor definitely needs to be replaced, as does the case and the hard drive.

Unlike my current desktop, the next one will not be geared toward gaming. Thanks to all of the web related work I have, I don’t have as much time to play games as I used to. This is unfortunate because I own a lot of Steam games that I’ve purchased over the years and have never played. I’m a big fan of Battlefield and have still never played Battlefield 4. I’ve owned it for years but I haven’t had the time to play it.

The more I think about this, the more I’m leaning toward a major upgrade that includes:

  • CPU
  • Motherboard
  • RAM
  • Power Supply
  • Case
  • Hard Drive

The RAM works but I’m anticipating an issue. Another computer I built the day before this one just ran into issues with a dead stick of RAM. I’m taking that as a sign to replace mine.

Adobe in focus

The driving force behind this next round of computer parts is Photoshop. I’m a web developer and site designer. I use Photoshop frequently and know what kind of a pig it can be with RAM. The 8GB of RAM I currently have (at some point I added more RAM) isn’t always able to keep up. The more content in the PSD, the harder it is for my desktop to handle it. It’s like driving a car that is suddenly hauling a boat, three U-HAULs, and an RV with flat tires.

In other words, I need RAM.

I’ve also been using Adobe Audition a lot more. It doesn’t beat up my computer like Photoshop does, but as I creep more and more into the various apps that come with Creative Cloud, I’m sure I’ll turn this once killer desktop into the equivalent of a broken Tracfone.

Gaming is still an option

While gaming isn’t my primary concern, it is still something I need to be able to do. I said “need” because I have a ton of games and it would be nice if I can actually play them once I finally have the chance. Granted, I don’t see that time coming soon but when it does, I’d like to be ready.

Right now the card I have is capable of playing all of the games I own, though it probably helps that I haven’t really bought anything new in a while.

So what does this next build need? Let’s look at what I’m thinking so far.

RAM: 16GB as a minimum

I’m planning to put at least 16GB of RAM in this next box but would like to throw 32GB into it if possible. This means the motherboard needs to be able to handle this amount of RAM, a shortcoming with my current board.

CPU: 3GHz or higher

The processor needs to run 3GHz or higher so I can provide enough processing power to the hog known as Photoshop. It also helps for encoding audio and improving performance on my Traktor S2 Kontroller.

I’m not too concerned with getting a CPU with integrated graphics, though it’s not something I’m against. Since most of my games are several years old, it’s likely that most of the available combo processors will be able to handle them.

Then again, I’ve still never played Just Cause so it may be some epically amazing graphics heavy game that is too much for a modern AGPU+CPU, though I highly doubt it.

I should also note that I’m not confined to one manufacturer. Nearly every computer I’ve built for the past 20 years has been an AMD based desktop, though this has primarily been due to price and power….basically the two things it’s always based on. However, I’m not tied to AMD. We aren’t exclusive. I can buy around. In fact, my Ubuntu laptop is an Asus with an i5 processor in it.

Motherboard

The board really just needs to handle the parts. The manufacturer doesn’t matter as long as the board is a good quality board. What I’m looking for is a board that has the following:

  • SATA 6bs
  • Integrated Sound (which is pretty much all of them)
  • 10/100/1000 NIC
  • USB 3

See? I’m not really that picky when it comes to the board. Most of my boards have been Asus boards, though again, I’m not confined to one specific manufacturer.

SSD Storage

I will be replacing the storage drive with an SSD drive, preferably a Samsung. They tend to have tons of crazy high reviews so it’s a pretty safe bet to go with them on this. Although, pretty much any SSD would beat my current drive performance.

The drive needs to have at least 240GB of storage space on it. I’m likely going to keep using my Hitachi drive for storage, but the SSD needs to be able to store quite a bit of media files that are synced to cloud storage providers.

Graphics Card

I may not replace the graphics card, but if I do, it needs to support dual monitors and the various games I may never get around to playing. In other words, the card can be a few years old and I’d never notice.

The PC Case

I really don’t care about the PC case. It just needs to fit the parts I’m cramming into it, preferably in a not too difficult manner.

The Budget

The budget for this build may be flexible but right now, based on the parts I’ve been looking at, I may spend between $600-$800, depending on if I decide to replace the graphics card. This is leaning on an Intel-based build rather than an AMD build.

Right now, these are the parts I’m considering:

The power supply is something I may be able to skip given that the one I currently have is more powerful. Plus, I can always drop the RAM back to 16GB instead of 32GB, saving around $150.

I likely won’t do anything for a couple months. When it comes to spending hundreds of dollars on anything, I take my time. I research whatever it is, consider getting it, back off, go back again, rinse and repeat. When I built my current PC and it’s sister PC, I dropped over $2000 on the parts in one shot. It took me a month to finally pull the trigger and I swear I felt the money leave my bank account.

I’ll update the blog when I do finally get around to do something. The parks will likely change, though they are currently sitting in a list on Amazon with several other parts.