The Penguin Plunge: Part 0 - The Build

You may recall from the Intro of my switching-to-Linux series that I plan to upgrade my PC prior to making the switch. This is a pretty major upgrade… Really, it’s more like building a new PC, but reusing some of my old components. Let’s take a look at the old build and then I’ll highlight the changes…

Out With the Old

Copied straight from my Newegg history, here’s my original build from 2005/02/07:

Qty Product Description Price
MSI K8T NEO-FSR 754 VIA K8T800 ATX AMD Motherboard
Item #: N82E16813130449
MSI 626 913 0828
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD800JD 80GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Item #: N82E16822135106
This item is serviced by the Western Digital. Please call 800 832 4778 for service.
($65.00 ea)
Microsoft Natural Multimedia K50-00022 2-Tone PS/2 Wired Ergonomic Keyboard - OEM
Item #: N82E16823109116
Please Note CD keys are listed on the outside of the plastic wrap accompanying your product.
Logitech MX510 931162-0403 Blue 8 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB or PS/2 Optical Mouse
Item #: N82E16826104151
Microsoft Windows XP HOME Edition with Service Pack 2 - OEM
Item #: N82E16837102151
Please Note CD keys are listed on the outside of the plastic wrap accompanying your product.
ZALMAN CNPS7000B-AlCu LED 2 Ball Cooling Fan
Item #: N82E16835118118
NEC DVD Burner Black IDE Model ND-3520A BLACK - OEM
Item #: N82E16827152038
Antec TruePower TRUEBLUE 480 480W ATX12V Power Supply
Item #: N82E16817103914
MSI NX6600GT-VTD128 GeForce 6600GT 128MB 128-bit GDDR3 AGP 4X/8X VIVO Video Card
Item #: N82E16814127150
MSI 626 913 0828
AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Newcastle 2.2GHz Socket 754 Single-Core Processor ADA3200AEP4AX - OEM
Item #: N82E16819103487
NEC Black 1.44MB 3.5" Internal Floppy Drive - OEM
Item #: N82E16821152005
CORSAIR XMS 1GB (2 x 512MB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWINX1024-3200C2PT
Item #: N82E16820145450
Logitech X-530 70 Watts 5.1 Speaker
Item #: N82E16836121118
NEC Display Solutions FE991SB-BK Black 19" CRT Monitor Captive 15-pin mini D-SUB connector
Item #: N82E16824002037
Please call 800-632-0487 for NEC 's direct, quick and perfect service.
LIAN LI PC-61 USB Black Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Item #: N82E16811112025
Subtotal $1,532.92
Tax $0.00
 FedEx 2Day $111.91
Order Total $1,644.83

In 2005, it was uber, trust me.

I also have a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum which I ordered from another website since it was out of stock at Newegg at the time, and I was impatient. :)

I built this PC at exactly the wrong time, I think. AGP video cards were still king, but PCI-E was gaining speed. Rather than shell out the extra cash for a PCI-E card and a motherboard to match, I opted for the AGP route… big mistake. After a few months, PCI-E came to dominance and AGP cards became more and more difficult to find. I was pretty much at the top of the food chain with a GeForce 6600GT and there was no place to go but sideways.

You know what happened next… After a couple of years, I was ready to upgrade, but to upgrade my video capabilities, I needed a PCI-E motherboard. To do that, I would have to change my CPU and memory, and so I was pretty much building a whole new PC instead of simply plugging in a new video card. I just kept putting it off because the costs would have been too high.

Over the past 6+ years, I’ve upgraded the memory a little bit (can’t believe I paid $190 for 1GB of RAM!), and that’s pretty much it. My epic 19" NEC CRT monitor died about a year ago, and after struggling with a 15" Dell CRT for a while (thanks for the loaner, Dad!), I finally caved a couple months ago and bought a nice 23-inch Asus LED LCD with HDMI, 1080p, and all that stuff. It’s pretty sweet. I highly recommend it.

In With the New

Finally, the time is right, and I have a few extra bucks to throw at this major component swap. I plan for this build to last me at least 2 years, at which point I hope to be in a position to upgrade again (I figure $10/week = $1040 = new PC every 2 years) . Six years is just too long in between PC’s (granted, I’ve had a pretty sweet laptop for the past 2 of those 6 years, otherwise the upgrade would have come much sooner).

So, let’s see what’s going to get upgraded. I will pretty much be retaining only the Lian-Li case and its four 80mm case fans, the 3.5" floppy drive (useless as it is these days), and I may see if the Audigy 2 and its front I/O panel will still work with Linux and Windows 7, even though the new motherboard will have onboard sound. My peripherals will stay, but all the other internal components are seeing an upgrade:

Qty Product Description Price
SAPPHIRE 100283-3L Radeon HD 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
Item #: N82E16814102873
VGA Standard Return Policy
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL
Item #: N82E16820231277
Memory Standard Return Policy
Antec BP550 Plus 550W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
Item #: N82E16817371016
Standard Return Policy
Western Digital Caviar Black WD6402AAEX 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Item #: N82E16822136544
Standard Return Policy
ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM
Item #: N82E16827135204
Standard Return Policy
ASUS M4A87TD EVO AM3 AMD 870 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
Item #: N82E16813131647
Standard Return Policy
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit English 1-Pack - OEM
Item #: N82E16832116986
Software Standard Return Policy
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor HDZ955FBGMBOX
Item #: N82E16819103808
CPU Replacement Only Return Policy
Subtotal $635.92
Tax $0.00
 UPS 3 DAYS $10.98
Rush Processing (Preferred Account) -$3.99
Rush Processing $3.99
Order Total $646.90

Not bad, eh? I originally went for a little bit higher end build (pushing about $850), but I decided I needed to keep it closer to $500 if at all possible. That turned out not to happen when I realized I’d forgotten Windows 7 would cost me another $100. That left a bad taste in my mouth, especially since I plan to use Linux as the primary OS, but I bit the bullet anyway. The good news is, I hope to regret it and not have to revert to using Windows as my primary OS after this experiment.

As you can see, I’m finally getting that PCI-E upgrade I needed about 4 years ago. And with it, a new motherboard, CPU, and RAM. Apparently IDE is dead now, so I had to replace my DVD burner with a SATA model, and since my power supply only has 2 SATA plugs and I will need at least 3, that meant it had to be upgraded, too.

I think this will turn out to be a pretty good build for the money. I’m getting quad core crunching power with an L3 cache, a spacious 6 GB/s hard disk, and pretty spiffy mid-range video performance for the money. The power supply is modular and energy efficient, and the memory is cheap and highly rated (I still can’t believe it cost me $190 for 1GB in 2005 and now I can get 4GB for $40).

Next up, I’ll give a brief run through the computer build (the parts haven’t even shipped yet!) and detail the dual-boot environment setup and all the trials and tribulations that go with each.

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