In part 1 of this arc I presented a view of the discovery and requirements analysis process that goes into building a perfect PC - where learning how a PC was going to be used and by whom was the goal. That process drives context and provides not just information, but a clearer understanding of what would make a PC perfect for the user it is being built to serve. Think alignment - just as when one develops software and aligns business processes with how they are supported within enterprise processes in an application; when they are properly aligned an application is perfect. The same is true of a PC.
In part 2 we're going to take all we have learned during the discovery phase and bounce it off of the entire Windows ecosystem - the nearly endless selection of hardware and software available to every PC user and potentially, every builder. In this next step, we're going to design the perfect PC. We're going to continue the conversation with ourselves and our example customer and share the processes and thought we apply to make the perfect PC.
The first and obvious question many may have is what makes a PC perfect in the first place? At first blush that seems to be a) impossible and b) intractable - after all, what makes a PC perfect for one person could as easily make it a dreadful PC for the next. It's a great question to ask, and a PC built from within the Windows ecosystem means that there is no one prefect PC at all, but at the same time there are potentially billions of perfect PCs - one for each individual living on the planet. Similarly, many imperfect PC's may be made perfect with the addition of a few parts and new software. So in the case of the PC, building something that is perfect in the proper human context is as much about available selections and options as it is choice. Among competitors to the PC there are choices, but they are often constrained by the limited availability of options to select from and designs are constrained as a result. Regardless, perfect in the context of a PC still requires some definition. We define the PC's we build as perfect, when and because they are specifically built for the individuals that are going to use them and they are delivered and set up with all the software and settings that make them personal. A perfect PC addresses all design considerations while mitigating, or obviating compromises that may be necessary and inherent to user driven designs. So things like budget and pricing, while they are factors, are not treated in isolation, but are regarded and treated organically.
Fundamental Perfect PC Design Principles - there are only two:
Work from the software out - don't design a PC with x, y, or z specs inherent to a category, or a class of systems. Do the reverse and let your discovery determine what software will be needed and how it will be used and then spec the system to run that software as smoothly and consistently as glass. Remember, you're building the PC for yourself, or a customer you regard first and always as a colleague.
Design around the individual person and provide enough headroom to grow - that empty slot or bay in your design isn't a limitation or a missing feature, it's your friend and it represents actualized potential a year or two from the day the PC is delivered. Most importantly, view software running on a personal computer as a form of expression and an extension of the person using the computer. Go back to your discovery and this time, forget the PC. Look at the person and how and where they work. Is the room lighted and open, or dark? Is the room cold, hot, or something in between? How is the person dressed - warmly in a cool room, or lightly in a warm room? Are there fans in the room despite air-conditioning? Is the room nearly silent; what is the ambient noise like? Is there any media being played in the room - television, radio, or music of some kind? Does the user work alone in an office at home, or is their work area open and shared with other people and activities. Does the person appear to be fastidious - is everything around them dressed, squared off and tied down, or are they more relaxed and tolerant of some disorganization? These are the very human elements that must influence any design and they are more than observable and measurable characteristics. Collectively they can provide the look and feel elements that will emerge as objectives - that case you picked out looks cool, but will it look cool where it is going to be used?
Start at the top and most challenging requirements for you. Don't forget, you're part of every perfect PC. In part one of this arc we learned that our example customer wanted both a perfect 5.9 Windows Experience Index (WEI) rating as well as the ability to play Blu-ray movies at 1080P and achieve these goals as part of an engineering test for under $2,000.00 USD. One has to be candid with oneself, and assess what their own initial understanding of supporting protected high definition playback on a PC is - some self-study, education and experimentation may be required. Don't let that stop you and don't let your own limitations drive your designs - leverage the channel and the ecosystem around Windows Vista. Do be candid and as an example, clearly explain that Blu-ray is a newer and emerging capability on the PC and that while possible, it may not be entirely consistent, or it may require later modification and updates in order to support as yet to be released titles and features. Be candid about every aspect that you do not understand fully, or do not perform yourself, but do research and study the area and make the customer part of the process. They will respect you enormously for it and it will insulate you from any challenges they may face later on. As you resolve challenges, continue to make them a part of the process and always remember, what you are building is a personal PC - not an appliance.
Derived Requirements so far:
An HDCP compliant protected video and audio path (the entire path)
An HDCP compliant display (BD on a PC does have more strict compliance rules)
At least DVI-D video out - if not HDMI out
A Blu-ray ROM Player
CyberLink's Power DVD Ultra with HD patch (WinDVD 8 WILL NOT play Blu-ray movies)
CyberLink HD/BD Advisor BETA test tool
Windows Vista Home Premium, or Ultimate, or a modified Windows XP SP2
Consider the most resource intensive applications to be used - and remember, a massive rocket motor bolted to a brick does not controlled flight make. WEI of 5.9 and Blu-ray! Check! At first thought one would think that if one were to build around that requirement alone, that the PC would be pretty much capable of anything else... well... maybe, but maybe not. Again looking at the results of our example discovery we know that the user does a lot of video editing - but what kind? We also know that the user likes to experiment with graphically intense games and wants to push them to 1920 x 1080P at a minimum.
At this point we can see some holes in our discovery and we have to go back to the customer and find out a bit more about what kind of video editing needs to be supported. In discovery we determined that demonstration movies were made and many were in high definition, but what formats specifically would need to be required. One has to be prepared to ask more questions and do more research. In our example we're going to continue by pretending that we went back to the customer and ask about HD formats and we learned that both HD DVD for playback on any Vista PC was needed (which does not require an HD DVD player, by the way! - more on that in part three), but also AVCHD was required. Whoa Boy...! At this point it's probably good to point out that just like there are many ways to create an AVI file, there are many ways to create files using H.264 codecs - more specifically MPEG-4 AVC (H.264). AVCHD is only one of them, albeit a popular one with camcorder manufacturers. AVCHD is also very demanding on software and therefore hardware, and despite the controversy around the format, many affordable HD camcorders and software suites like Pinnacle Systems' Studio Ultimate version 11 make use of it. Preferences for ISO's and .MP4 aside, the example customer is a Pinnacle / Avid software user and that is what will drive the build. With support for AVCHD understood, we can assume, but ask and confirm that the example customer has at least one HD camcorder used to capture HD video in AVCHD format. A quick call or email can confirm this and also reveal that things like HD DV tape might be used - so we can understand that we are not dealing with just minutes of HD video, but hours worth of it potentially. The derived design continues below: *if you're interested in the more open and preferred H.264 decoder, look no further than CoreAVC (.MP4)*
Peak Requirements - HD gaming and HD Video:
A multi-core CPU (Quad Core recommended)
Large and fast hard disc drive (750 GB plus with a 32 MB cache buffer, NCQ, 3gs SATAII)
Fast RAM and at least 2 GB of it (4 GB Preferred)
Windows Vista Compliant
By looking at what software the customer uses and how they use it is the best way to design a PC that they will long regard as perfect.
A cursory review of the requirements we have derived so far are suggesting quite a PC. If budget were no object it would not be too hard to simply find the highest end parts that are compatible with one another and slap it together, but that's not the case; we're trying to satisfy the requirements and meet needs on a budget - and against the requirements emerging, it's going to be a tight one.
Given the need to support HD video editing and Blu-ray playback and still provide a smooth experience - where the PC can be used for personal productivity as it is being used to render HD video, there really are only two paths one can go down in terms of suitable processors; dual Core 2 CPU's in SMP or one Core 2 Quad. Alongside the budget and gaming requirements (we still have to get a great video card), which we have not yet addressed, the choice narrows to a single Core 2 Quad. Marrying that up with our analysis so far, and what we learned in discovery, we have to pick one and a motherboard that we can safely clock well above their rated spec and run them reliably opposite very high load. If one does not have a lot of experience building PC's a good bit of reading is going to be required. Similarly, one can find a small local enthusiast builder and pay them a visit. Very often high-end gamers will be found there and some good information can be had - but be careful... a lot of bad information and FUD can be circulated, too.
With what we have learned so far and again considering our budget with how far we have yet to go, there is only one processor in the market as of this writing that has the power, price point and over-clocking head room to meet all of our requirements and that is the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 G0 stepping version with 8 MB of L2 Cache. Again, balancing performance and budget for the entire system, there is only one chipset available that meets the simultaneous demands for support of HD video editing, HD BD media playback and higher end gaming and that is the Intel X38 chipset. Yes, there is the X48, but we still have some ways to go and we'd be running out of dollars before we finished. Similarly, the X38 is a solid OC choice, works very well with the Q6600 and it supports HD/BD media as well as the BD-ROM burners within our spec and budget. Finally, as a combination, the X38 and Q6600 have so much head room for over-clocking that hitting our design goal and a WEI of 5.9 across the board is not only possible, it is all but assured. The Q6600 as will be shared in part 3, can be reliably clocked to 4 GHz (up from 2.4 GHz) per core on air alone. We're going to clock at a much safer and cooler (20 - 25C at idle and normal load) 3.46GHz.
Among the highest rated X38 based boards comes from ASUSTek and a great board is found in the P5E. The P5E costs less than some of the other ASUS X38 boards, but still retains most of the features and all of the potential of more costly products in the line. Again referring to our discovery, our example customer clearly does not want any form of wireless; so why provide for it. Similarly, and more importantly perhaps is not so much what the ASUS P5E has, but what it does not have... The P5E is devoid of older ports and technologies. There is no parallel port, no serial ports, no MIDI port, and only one IDE port. This is important, because the operating system and related resources will never have to be loaded for these ports and they are likely never to be required by our example user. Fewer resources, drivers and processes loaded for fewer ports means more resources for everything our build will need and less headache for the customer. The P5E also has support for all newer processors and RAM, with support for 45nm processors and DDR3 up to 1333. It's a solid choice with a lot of room for expansion.
Before we go any further, I have to provide the obligatory disclaimer about over-clocking and any advice or information about it. First, it is all provided "as is" and no warranty or guarantee of any kind is offered. If you don't know a lot about over-clocking a computer, even one designed for enthusiasts and gamers don't try it. If you're not an enthusiast and you don't build your own systems, then don't over-clock. If you're not prepared to lose the entire machine and have to start from scratch, do not over-clock. You have been warned and you and you alone are 100% responsible for your actions and the decisions you make. Not me, not my company and not any of the people that work in it.
Our design is coming along and even at stock speeds we could probably address most all of our example customer's requirements with the hardware we have selected so far - all but one; the WEI of a perfect 5.9. Without bumping performance for RAM and how fast it communicates across the BUS to the CPU, we'd probably see a WEI of 5.5, or 5.6 tops. We have to push the spec just a little and opting for DDR3 RAM would put the build way over budget. So we have to figure out a way to push the RAM (compatible RAM) without breaking the bank, or the memory itself. The best place to learn about RAM I have found is over at Corsair and their forums. Corsair, makers of some of our favorite memory products, maintains the "Ask The RAM Guy" forums. It doesn't take long in the forums to find the guys that know what they are doing and many of them will help any user all they can. Just be polite and humble and if you are new to performance computing, say so and the guys in the forum will pull out all stops to help you. To continue, 4 Gigabytes (4GB) of PC2-6400 DDR2-800 RAM can be had for as little as $84.00 USD. Not bad and Corsair's XMS2 4GB (2 x 2GB) kit is just what the doctor ordered. With 2 x 2GB matched modules and the P5E's four slots and capacity for 8 Gigabytes of dual-channel DDR2-800 clocked to match the CPU's FSB at 1066 MHz, one can be certain to nail the last WEI index at 5.9. Just a few notes to remember, the Corsair XMS2 4GB kit runs at 1.8v and it has fragile cooling fins - be careful when installing it and avoid lateral pressure which may separate the heat-sink from the memory modules.
Since we're already looking at 4 GB of RAM and potentially 8 GB, we're leaning toward a 64 bit version of Windows Vista Ultimate over 32 bit versions. We'll get a lot more into this in part 3 of this arc, but I wanted to share a quick look into that decision now. Go for it. In the year and two months since Vista's general release to the public, 64 bit computing has come a very long way. For the PC we're building here and many others, 64 bit is fully supported and most 32 bit applications will run under 64 bit just fine, thank you. The benefits associated with 64 bit computing go well beyond addressable memory space. 64 bit is far more secure and Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit is not only faster, it is more stable than its 32 bit little brother. Trust me... once you make the move, you will never want to go back to 32 bit computing. The drivers are all signed and stable and software may flake out, but it will never take your system with it. Finally, I have yet to find a piece of 32 bit based software that would not run on 64 bit versions of Vista. I know they are out there, I just have not seen them, or used them.
Where we are is where we're at... (I love Missouri and people from that state)
Let's see here, we've opted for Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600, ASUS's P5E and Corsair's XMS2 4 GB PC6400 DDR2-800 Memory Kit. We know we have a solid architecture and we're leaning toward 64 bit computing, but we still have some selections to make and a good bit of budget to work with. We know we need as much video card as possible, and a Blu-ray BD-ROM player. We also know we need to include a floppy disc drive, because the customer in our example still uses one to produce bootable floppy discs for other systems. Before we start hunting for a suitable video card it's best that we take a look back at our customer and what we learned in discovery. We know we have to over-clock the CPU at least a little - so stock cooling is probably not going to work. We can however, make up the costs of the after-market cooler by selecting an OEM version of our processor. We're not going to need the stock cooler and we for darn certain aren't going to ugly up our case with any of Intel's stickers. The only label going on our case will be the operating system OEM license decal.
In our example, we visited our customer and observed how he works. While there it was noted that not just one, but two fans were turning slowly; just enough to move some air and make a pleasant whoosh sound that dampened ambient noise in the room and cut the silence, so to speak... We also learned that our example customer likes it cool - cold even, by most standards. Both the home office and corporate offices were cooler than what has been observed elsewhere. When asked, the customer offered that "white-noise" was essential and it helped drown out, or dampen other sounds.
Hmmm.... ok. So long as we keep any noise generated by the new perfect PC at a lower frequency, we're going to be good to go - if we resort to high-speed fans we're not going to make the customer happy and no matter how well the PC performs, any high pitched, or high frequency sound will kill the experience and our PC will be any but perfect. Let's set aside our hunt for a video card for the moment and take advantage of what we learned about our customer. Time to ask a few more questions...
We created a series of sounds - fan sounds to be exact; small recordings we could easily email. We named them 1, 2 and 3. Simple enough. We asked which of the three sounds was appealing (if any). In the first sample we sampled a system with Q-Fan Controls enabled and a system under different loads. In theory it's cool, but it's annoying, or can be... Our example customer thought so too and the words "I HATE NUMBER 1" were in all caps! (we hate it, too). In sample 2 we offered a low hum, which the customer called, "Meh" (it was a fan-less water-cooled rig). In sample three, the Goldie Locks sample, we offered a dead consistent low-frequency whoosh. The customer responded just as our fair haired girl did with, "that's just right..." In sample three we chose Antec's Nine Hundred Ultimate Gamer Case. The Antec Nine Hundred uses three 12cm fans and one 20cm fan that are standard and can be set to turn very slowly. The Nine Hundred is nearly entirely open with a mesh front and side panel and slotted rear panel. Its top is wide open with large pores above the 20cm fan. It's large enough for about any combination of components and wide enough for a large after-market cooler. The Nine Hundred is also an easy build and it has some nice touches that make it a real pleasure to build around - top-front mounted I/O ports and a padded shelf for things like USB Keys and memory sticks or an MP3 player. Most importantly to our customer and our design, the Nine Hundred is cool, consistently quiet in a low-frequency noise kind of way and it is an over-clocker's dream - plenty of room and buckets of cool air to play with.
The Antec Nine Hundred does not come with a power supply and candidly, we don't want it to. Very rarely do cases come with suitable power supply units and we prefer to order our own. Some mainstream systems and cases do come with good power supply units, but our build is unique and it has unique requirements. Before we get into what kind of power supply to buy, we need to pick our video card. We know that we're going to need a great one and its characteristics will influence the power supply we choose (more on that in a moment).
Video oh Video where art thou?
We know we have some tough requirements to address with video. 1080P, Blu-ray, HDCP compliance, HD video editing, HD gaming. We also know that within budget and against SLi limitations imposed by our main board selection, we're looking at either a single higher end Nvidia graphics card, or a Cross-Fire solution from AMD. Once again however, we have to let the software drive and many games are designed to perform best when mated with Nividia's line of products. Similarly, Nvidia supports HD/BD with their True HD Video software and they make proven HDCP compliant graphics cards where tools may be used to confirm compliance before money is spent and a build is finalized. Finally, Nvidia seems to have had more success in leveraging the WDDM driver model and their drivers for Vista x64 have been both more consistent in terms of release schedules and performance. Frankly, I don't know that we'd use an AMD graphics card at this point if we were given one for free and most candidly, we miss ATi (let's hope AMD pulls it out and hammers back at both Nvidia and Intel - we'd love to see it, but for now, we're voting with our game playing
Selecting the right Nvidia graphics card is not as easy at it might seem. There are a lot of choices and making the wrong one can produce very bad results. Worse, our requirements collectively rule out mid-range cards and mid-range SLi solutions, but at the same time, they demand very high performance. As with our CPU, Main Board and RAM, we're going to have to find a solution that either is, or can be clocked above spec if we're going to deliver on our promise of a perfect PC.
All too often people select components based upon performance alone. That's fine, but there is a side to the story that matters almost as much - warranty and service. Now, as we've stated, we need a video card that is going to run above spec. It makes sense to work with a manufacturer that will warrant their over-clocked cards for life. Fortunately there is just such a company, BFG Technologies. BFG makes great cards. They OC many of them out of the box, but most importantly, they stand behind the buyer and support their products with a life-time warranty. That tells me a great deal about how confident they are about their engineering. It matters and it is only part of why I give them my business. While we do use other cards from other manufacturers, we have seen BFG make good on their promise to support their cards for as long as the original owner has possession of the card. BFG is no slacker when it comes to performance either and the card we have selected is both more affordable, and very powerful. For this perfect PC we chose the BFG NVIDIA® GeForce® 8800 GTX OCTM 768MB PCI Express® graphics card. The card comes standard with 768 MB of GDDR3 RAM, 128 stream processors and Core and Shader Clocks of 600 MHZ and 1400 MHz respectively. While not an SLi solution, BGF's 8800 GTX will still haul the mail and even in Crysis at 1920 x 1080P with all settings pegged at Very High, will still pull close to 40 FPS. Not stellar, but about as good as anyone is getting with Crysis using DX10. (Be sure to use the Crysis 1.2 patch alongside Nvidia's March 6th, 2008 BETA driver, Rev. 169.44). BGF also supports HDCP, and the other requirements we have discovered.
Power... we need more power...
Video card in hand, we have to look back at our power supply unit. The BFG 8800 GTX requires two 6-pin PCIe power connectors, so we want to get a PSU with two dedicated power plugs - one each dedicated to each of the 6-pin PCIe connectors on the card. Too few builders pay enough attention to clean power as I see it. Video cards, processors and most especially RAM and chipsets require tightly regulated and consistent power. Every component we have chosen so far is either sensitive to power or provides for it better than mainstream components. Our power supply selection will be no different and it has to be not just good, it has to be perfect. To some extent our case selection helps, the Antec Nine Hundred is a dream of a case and its PSU bay is located in the lower rear of the case. This helps both cooling and weight distribution - making the PC less top heavy. It also makes routing power cables cleaner, but a bit more work opposite an ATX form factor.
Buying the right power supply isn't easy. Available marketing is of little help and many manufacturers use a lot of tricky language that is accurate, but does not reflect real-world use. Many advertise peak power, rather than the continuous power delivered by a PSU. A good way to start is to use a power calculator that helps determine the total power one will need. eXtreme Outer Vision has a tool available that helps enthusiasts keep the guess work down. We already know that we want to use two dedicated 6-pin PCIe connectors for our card, but there is more to study and consider. AANET has a great online tool that is free and it really helps people understand what their real-world power and UPS requirements will be. I'd use it at a minimum and then do a lot of reading before making a selection - remember, take your time and really learn what is involved. After exhaustive study, tests, calculations and more than a bit of online shopping, I selected the Antec Quattro TPQ-850 ATX12V / EPS12V 850W Power Supply 100 - 240 V PSU for this perfect PC. The 850 can deliver its full rated power (24 hours a day rated at 50ºC) for up to 100,000 hours.
We don't have far to go and we can start our build... Next up, storage.
To RAID, or not to RAID... that is the question here. Let's think about that for a moment. We're about out of cash. We're using tons of RAM in relative terms. We're using a 64 bit OS, so 768 MB of video RAM won't debit from system RAM available to Windows Vista and we have to support video editing, so raw I/O is going to be important - particularly at the 3.67 MB/second that AVCHD will require. So RAID 1 mirroring is out before we begin and buying four drives to support RAID 0+1 would put the build over budget, or force compromises where we don't want them. So we're looking at a single large drive. We know we need high throughput, 3gs and performance features like Native Command Queuing (NCQ) and a large Cache Buffer (32 MB). Specs in hand it is not hard to find the drive we are looking for, Seagate's Barracuda 7200.11 ST3750330AS 750GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s. Seagate has both a good reputation and strong support policies - Five (5) years. Not bad. The OEM price is right, too and 750 GB is a good start. We can always add more storage later, and as always, a network based backup will be a must.
Cool cooling - saving some of the best for last.
We know we have to pick a CPU cooler that is going to support possibly very high over-clock settings. We're using an OEM Intel Core 2 Quad, so we can't skimp on the cooler we use. This decision is going to be perhaps our most critical choice for this build and if we choose poorly, we're going to fail. Anyone who builds custom performance PC's has to face that reality. Choose the wrong part and you're done. Pick a piss poor cooler and you may as well buy two processors up front, because chances are you're going to bake one of them. In picking a cooler think Bimetallic (two metals) one to radiate heat quickly (aluminum) and one to conduct it quickly (copper) the thermal transfer works like a pump and pushes heat away from the source (your CPU) and into a cooler's fins where they are exposed to accelerated air. The path has to be as short as possible - from the source to the points of dissipation (now you know why Intel uses short, fat stock coolers). There is a ratio, so larger coolers also work well - provided they have enough surface area in relation to the length of travel. Zalman gets this ratio right in some coolers, but not all. For this perfect PC I chose the Zalman CNPS9700 LED 110mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler. It's massive, has a very large quiet fan and a mirror smooth heat-sink face. It has a slug of aluminum in its base and short heat-pipes feeding a large radiator. On socket 775 boards for Intel, the 9700 is properly oriented and most rear case fans work with the cooler's own fan to draw even more air through the cooler and out of the case. In part 3 of this arc we'll examine a good bit about this cooler and how to get the most from it. For now, know up front that the 9700 can keep a Core 2 Quad clocked at 3.4 GHz per core at a very cool 21 - 27C under normal use and under 40C under peak sustained load. Beyond that, the 9700 looks really nice - see the image below:
Cooling paste... never too much!
While the Zalman does come with thermal grease in a slick paint-brush jar, I don't use it. As stated, cooling is going to be critical and the best proven combination we have found comes by way of Zalman coolers and Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound (Provided it is applied properly - in part 3, I will show you how to do this).
Blu-ray Blues...No BD burner, but playback is great
Our example customer wanted Blu-ray HD movie playback capability and in support of that we selected a competent BD-ROM optical drive from Pioneer. This is the one component that was nearly entirely selected based upon price, because the BD spec is still evolving (slowly) and frankly, we expect BD drive prices to drop quickly - just as they did with CD and DVD R/RW etc... Of all the components in this build, the BD-ROM player / DVD writer combo will probably be upgraded first. Despite cost considerations, we're still excited about BD support in the build. Without question, HD movies in Blu-ray format look incredible and we're glad our example customer presented the requirement. For this build I selected the Pioneer Black 12X DVD+R 6X DVD+RW 4X DVD+R DL 12X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 5X DVD-RAM 12X DVD-ROM 24X CD-R 24X CD-RW 32X CD-ROM 4MB Cache SATA Blu-Ray DVD-ROM and 12X DVD±R DVD Burner - in OEM trim, since we would be using CyberLink's DVD Ultra for BD playback and many other free burning tools for other purposes.
Media Reader and Floppy Disc Combo... an oldie, but a goodie
One last little bit and some help from HP, our media card reader and floppy disc drive combo. Nothing really special, but certainly a welcome combo and in a funny way, a good place to end the presentation of our design consideration process... all the way back to a very old technology that seems a little out of place in an otherwise very modern build. I kind of like that and the inclusion of a floppy drive is not only useful, it is kind of cool. So as not to throw it too far back, I chose a combo drive with a baked in media reader that runs on a USB 2.0 header - the floppy is old school and uses the all too familiar ribbon cable (red toward the power folks!). A five year old HP PC was and still is the source for the media icons and REG Keys that we still modify and add to Windows Builds. The custom color images are mapped to their appropriate keys and back to the I/O BUS and Port on the reader. It's better than the default drive icons used and far easier to find with media drive to click on. For more on the drive I chose, look here.
I chose Windows Vista Ultimate x64 bit for this build. 64 bit computing has evolved a great deal since Microsoft released Vista. Without question, 64 bit versions of Windows are far more secure and feature Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), which randomizes where system files load at each system restart. A memory offset, which is always the same in 32 bit versions of the OS, is randomly set when the system starts. As a result of this one change, nearly all remote exploits will fail to run as there is no easy way for attackers to know where any one 64 bit Windows Vista computer will have loaded system files. When coupled with NX bit execution protection, Hardware and software DEP, or Data Execution Protection, remote code exploits against Windows Vista x64 will be very hard to execute. Vista x64's enhanced security alone is enough of a reason to select it over any other operating system available.
Parts List Summary and Pricing (all prices are in USD and include shipping)
Antec Nine Hundred Ultimate Gaming Case.....................................98.00
Antec Quattro 850 Watt PSU........................................................199.00
ASUS P5E X38 Main Board..........................................................220.00
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 G0.........................................................245.00
Corsair XMS2 2 x 2GB PC6400 DDR2-PC800 RAM Kit.....................84.00
Zalman 9700 LED Cooler................................................................58.00
Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound.....................................................6.00
BFG 8800 GTX OC2 786 MB Video Card........................................410.00
Pioneer BDC Blu-ray Player and Combination DVD / CDRW Burner..220.00
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3750330AS 750 GB HDD.................160.00
Rosewill RCR-FD200 Combination floppy drive and media reader........30.00
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 OEM.................................................190.00
PowerDVD Ultra Upgrade................................................................79.00
In part 3 of this arc we'll go into how this perfect PC was built and configured. We're not going to spend a lot of time on the usual images and lame instructions showing people how to install a video card. Most online guides, while they mean well, really don't offer much. Instead we're going to focus on the often overlooked details that few guides touch on.