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Author Topic: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer  (Read 8770 times)

mouser

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Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« on: August 01, 2007, 12:11:25 PM »
Quote
The computer world has known for a long time that girls are to be taken seriously. Games can be ridiculously fun and appeal to everyone. And it's not just about The Sims and Bejeweled; girls want to grab a lightsaber or don platemail and save the world from Oblivion just as much as boys do, so what's stopping us from building our own computers?

Instead, we buy the first computer our budget allows just to get away from condescending sales people, or we accept hand-me-down machines that have been configured by someone else and are slow, buggy, and dirty. In both cases, we aren't getting our money's worth.

I have always enjoyed playing video games with my brothers. We fought each other over who gets to use the computer next. Eventually, we had new computers replace old, and we each had a machine to ourselves. Even though I was the oldest, the computers were the boys' endeavors, and I was stuck with the hand-me-down of the hand-me-downs. And when they both left for college, I had the same tattered and torn computer, only even more out-of-date.

I guess I didn't really mind, but my family took notice, and one Christmas I got upgrades. A new case, a new hard drive--and by the time it was all unwrapped, I had a completely new computer!--all in separate parts. This was orchestrated by my best friend, who then walked me through assembling and setting up my amazing, tiny (it's the size of a shoe box) computer. He didn't do any of the work, since he knew I liked to do things at least once by myself. It was terrific, and once again, I had to fight my brothers over who got to use it first. This time, I had the upper hand. This computer was all mine.

This taught me how easy it is to do, and proved to me that I could handle the upgrades from then on out. I mean, I built the thing myself. Everything else is just a walk in the park.

Truthfully, it's not too hard to build a computer by yourself. It saves a lot of money over buying one off the shelf, and it's a lot of fun to do. Once you're done, you'll know exactly how your computer is configured and what hardware you've got, because you picked out the parts yourself.


tomos

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2007, 12:17:17 PM »
something for me to consider...  :D
Tom

tomos

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2007, 12:34:47 PM »
it does make it sound very non-threatening for, well, anyone who doesnt really know about these things  :-\ *
I'm looking at buying a new pc but guess I'd get much better value for money building one.
But then you hear the scare stories about this not being compatibleö with that & having to uninstal those drivers before you add the other...

* an aside about smileys  :)
second time today I'm looking for a different smiley.
I often looking for a whistling while looking innocent one.
Earlier I was looking for a - "[I need a scratch my head smiley here]"
 :) end of spoiler :)

Tom

mouser

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2007, 12:41:09 PM »
Quote
I'd get much better value for money building one.
just a warning: my experience has been that this is *not* the case.  i would highly recommend you try to build a pc for one and only one reason: because you enjoy the process.  My belief is that currently building your own will cost you more in parts, is MUCH more risky in terms of something going wrong, and puts you in a much more precarious situation should your computer need repair.

in summary: building a pc on your own can be fun -- but that's the only reason you should try it.

mouser

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2007, 12:41:53 PM »
smilie aside answer
Quote
second time today I'm looking for a different smiley. I often looking for a whistling while looking innocent one.
there is such a smiley, i've seen it.  anyone have a link?


tomos

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2007, 12:44:26 PM »
Quote
I'd get much better value for money building one.
just a warning: my experience has been that this is *not* the case.  i would highly recommend you try to build a pc for one and only one reason: because you enjoy the process.  My belief is that currently building your own will cost you more in parts, is MUCH more risky in terms of something going wrong, and puts you in a much more precarious situation should your computer need repair.

in summary: building a pc on your own can be fun -- but that's the only reason you should try it.

:'( now I'm scared again :P
Tom

Wordzilla

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2007, 12:45:13 PM »
there is such a smiley, i've seen it.  anyone have a link?[/spoiler]

Search!!  8)

http://www.donationc...3/1Small/WHISTLE.GIF

tomos

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2007, 12:49:32 PM »
there is such a smiley, i've seen it.  anyone have a link?[/spoiler]

Search!!  8)

http://www.donationc...3/1Small/WHISTLE.GIF

oops didnt think of that
Tom

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2007, 07:02:49 PM »
nah, building your own computer can be enjoyed more in that, you can pick out the exact parts you want, and end up making a computer that is several times better than one you buy that is pre-built.
[Insert really cool signature here]

Lashiec

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2007, 07:34:13 PM »
Good read. I might add that it's quite a good article, not only for women, but also for men, which I know by experience they're not exactly masters at computer assembly ;). It's even better if you compare it to those entries Jeff Atwood wrote in Coding Horror recently about assembling a computer for other coder (hah! I told you ;D), which was directed towards those glass-eyed men she mentions at the end (despite making some questionable component-choosing decisions)

The two first paragraphs remind me of a girl we helped buy a computer in another forum. Despite she didn't assemble the system by herself, she really wanted to have the best components for her money, and she made quite a good selection, despite being her first time doing that. With some fixes here and there, she ended up with a helluva computer (better than mine I might say :-[), and went to the shop to do the order. Well, the shopkeeper tried to do exactly what this "Molly" says in her article, dumbing down the system to something not that capable. But the girl stood firm, and was victorious :). Ah, she also wanted to play Oblivion in its full glory ;)

laughinglizard

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2007, 10:41:42 PM »
Quote
nah, building your own computer can be enjoyed more in that, you can pick out the exact parts you want, and end up making a computer that is several times better than one you buy that is pre-built.

I think you're right on target there nite_monkey.

I've spent the last few days comparing the two.
I used the specs from a Dell desktop mid range setup (as much as they will give you) and compared them to similar components from newegg.com.

I chose Dell because they use decent hardware in their machines for the most part. Usually nothing proprietary, and often what I would call solid but low range components. You can usually replace anything on a Dell desktop and some laptops with the same thing from several manufacturers.

The conclusion I came to after running a few figures is that if you built a computer using the same type of parts that Dell does, you come out roughly even to somewhat more expensive since the price of memory and processors tends to go up and down and the quality of the hardware is unknown - that figures in the price considerably.
As I don't have manufacturers on Dell components, I was comparing things like a 250 watt power supply that's in a Dell to a decent one of the same wattage.

So why build a computer? It started out with me replacing hardware when it would die. If you have a computer long enough every single component on it will go out eventually. I started replacing and upgrading. Then I started building them from the hardware I wanted. Then friends wanted me to build them because it was less expensive. Before I knew it several systems had gone out the door and I got to enjoying that rush when you've put a system together and you turn the power button on for the first time and everything powers up smooth as silk.
Then you get to play with the software! Best of both worlds.

I've been thinking of upgrading and wanted to see how buying a computer compared to building or upgrading, which is why I've been looking.

I've decided to upgrade because I can put together a system with the best hardware (yeah, I'm picky) with bigger, better, faster, more features for not much more than the mid-range Dell.
That was if I putting together a whole system, which I'm not.

Dell's are good computers - but I would never have a 250 watt power supply in my computer. Like nite_monkey says, you end up with a computer that is several times better than one pre-built. (unless of course you are buying a computer from alienware or custom built)

Hardware compatibility is not much of an issue these days, the vendors decided to play nice apparently.

I'm not a guy, and I'm not much of a gamer, though it is useful to be able to go anywhere that sells or repairs computers and be able to discern with a few questions whether they are competent or not.

I buy online but I have friends in other states, and when their computers go down, I look up computer repair places in their local yellow pages and start making phone calls.  ;D

I would guess its like you coders - you have your own vocabulary, and it can't be faked. You either know it, or you don't; it quickly becomes obvious either way.

One very good thing about knowing something about the insides of your computer, is that when something goes out, you can get another one and put it in. You don't have to take it to a shop or get another one. You can get a bigger/better/faster replacement. Saves lots of money. Everything inside that case is replaceable. Including the case.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2007, 10:43:18 PM by laughinglizard »

Carol Haynes

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2007, 05:58:51 PM »
Quote
I'd get much better value for money building one.
just a warning: my experience has been that this is *not* the case.  i would highly recommend you try to build a pc for one and only one reason: because you enjoy the process.  My belief is that currently building your own will cost you more in parts, is MUCH more risky in terms of something going wrong, and puts you in a much more precarious situation should your computer need repair.

in summary: building a pc on your own can be fun -- but that's the only reason you should try it.

Just to add my 2p - I agree with Mouser ... building a computer is fun and you get what you want. What you don't get is a cheap computer.

The reason Dell and Co. can produce rock bottom prices is because they have a large sales capacity and small profit margin. Plus because they buy components and software in bulk they get huge discounts, add to that they install extra crap (eg. Symantex stuff) which brings in advertising/promotional revenue from the crap producers.

Just one example - if you buy Windows Vista OEM version for own build (perfectly legal) it will cost ~ £50-100 (in the UK) depending on the edition you choose. If you buy from a system builder they are probably bulk buying those licenses for a few pounds each (plus they always install the cheapest version and charge a premium for any upgrade to a more reasonable version). MS are keen for them to do this - it makes the Vista sales figures look good and encourages customers to future upgrades to Windows (at a price) - and so they give large OEMs huge discounts to promote their operating systems. If MS charged the going OEM rate Dell would simply install Linux on all their machines which is not in MS's interests (and they know Dell have the dominance to cause them damage). There are loads of such OEMs out there (Gateway etc.) so MS knows what it is doing.

The same is true for all the graphics cards and hard discs that are installed on OEM builds.

steeladept

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2007, 03:25:18 PM »
EDIT:  WARNING - As usual for me, a much longer than expected response....END WARNING....

As someone who does this type of thing every day, I too will side with mouser on the price.  I find Dell, HP, etc. quite a bit more expensive - usually due to warranty and support offerings that smaller integrators don't provide (though they do tend to offer more personalized experiences that allow for similar effects).  Comparing my Newegg purchases and build with a local computer shop came up with prices about the same with more "risk" associated with it.  The "risk" I speak of is in the area of incompatibilities.  However, my experiences also point to 99% of those inocompatibilities stemming from a few avoidable sources.  1) Not doing the research.  If the equipment is not brand new to the market or VERY niche, then there is almost always a good base of compatibility testing available.  Check forums and such to find if there is anyone who has had issues with it in the past.  If you don't find ANYTHING about it, it is likely okay.  That leads to 2) Don't buy anything so new to the market that no one has tested it yet.  This seems like a no brainer, but if you do buy it, you are in for headaches.  Which leads to 3) If you buy it anyway, look for firmware updates.  Firmware updates frequently fix incompatibilities with the hardware.  As the system matures, the firmware makes the hardware work nicely with other hardware. 

I learned this lesson the hard way on my first system.  I bought a new motherboard that looked great on paper (specs).  I shortlisted several video cards and found one was by the same maker as the motherboard.  Among other reasons, I chose that video card because of the likely compatibility from the same manufacturer.  Can anyone say microsoft compatibility testing? Needless to say, the motherboard was bleeding edge.  I started it up several times before I went back to the old PC to look up the website.  It was sparse, but I found WinXP pre-install drivers (who knew I needed those  :P) and more importantly, the firmware update - 4 versions newer.  With those pieces of software installed, WinXP worked like a champ.  Within 2 months, 3 newer versions came out to allow all my SATA drive connectors to work.  Apparently there was a bug in the second SATA chipset that was onboard.  Good thing I didn't try using that ;).  Anyway, I learned from this experience and my work experiences what I stated above.  If you like the bleeding edge, be prepared for that.  If not, just stick with popular hardware that meets your specifications, and do your research.

Oh, and on the article - they are right about the simplicity of it all.  It is the research to ensure compatibility that is a pain.  Once you know the system will work together, the actual construction is a breeze.  Also mouser, there is a second reason to build your own.  So you can match the specs to your needs.  Of course a local computer store that will actually listen to you could do so too, but they usually don't listen because the brands and models your research provided for you to specify are not their standard offerings...

mouser

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2007, 04:24:08 PM »
When you build a PC, there is a good chance everything will go fairly smoothly, and you will come out of it having had a lot of fun.  But there is also a reasonable change (25%?) that you will hit some snags and spend a day cursing out the motherboard manufacturer and trying to decipher motherboard beep codes and figure out why your system is booting.  Some people actually enjoy this experience, like playing detective.  If you are not the kind of person who enjoys this kind of thing, think twice about going down this route.

One thing that is true though, is that there is some real pride of accomplishment in putting together a pc, and it can be one of those things that gives you a closer bond between you and your pc  :-*

Deozaan

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2007, 04:22:45 AM »
Not sure why people think Dell is inexpensive. Every time I look at what I get for their prices I think so many times I can build my own better system for about the same amount of money or less.

For someone who doesn't know how to troubleshoot a computer, I say get a Dell with a good warranty. But if you know anything about computer hardware, build your own.


Laughing Man

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2007, 11:36:29 PM »
Haha I have to agree. My first PC building experience didn't work out so well. But luckily at the time the reason why I was interested in building a PC was overclocking (the folks at extremeoverclocking) helped me pick out the parts. So they also helped me troubleshoot it. It was from them that I learned alot about the hardware side of computers (and later the software side).

Though I also enjoy learning about things I use often. For example, I've recently got extremely interested in my car (a 94 Toyota Camry from my parents). Asking my dad if I can take care of all the aspects of a car including learning about the engine. Though he doesn't know much about that so I have to ask the Uncles on my mom side (who are mechanics). Just knowing about what I use gives me an oddly happy feeling. I guess also it provides you with a closer mesh of man and machine. As well as lets you fix your own problems.

I would've built my own laptop if I could.

Though for an OS choice you could always try Ubuntu (or rather any flavor of Linux. I just find Ubuntu the easiest). And for most people who don't use their computers for more then the basics. Buying a computer preloaded with Vista and the specs just to run Vista is a bit absurd to me.  When you could probably build (or find a cheap less then 200 dollars) computer. Throw Ubuntu or XP on there and get the same results for email, chat, office, whatever.


mediaguycouk

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2007, 05:58:49 AM »
I built my first PC about 5 years ago and have enjoyed upgrading parts so that no part is the same as it was when I first bought the thing. From an £85 Antec case to a ATI 1950 graphics card. However I have, in the past month, changed my mind.

My PC is still working, I'm using it now, but I've just spent £850 to buy a new Viglen PC with a 3 year warrentee. The trouble is that every 9 months or so something goes wrong. I've gone through a power supply every year at least and my graphics cards don't seem to last through 3 month hot summer even though that £85 case has more cooling than you can shake a stick at. I even upgraded the graphics fan to an Antec one.

I work as an IT dude in Southampton University. I just can't be arsed to sit at work all day fixing computers to have to come back and sort out mine. I really enjoyed it when it wasn't my day job but when I'm paying out £50 for power supplies I'm just going to pay £30 for (work negotiated) 3 year guarantee.

Build it was fun, and I can do all of the repairs. But I just can't cope with buying the replacement parts, especially when you can't be certain whether the £130 you've just spent on an excellent gaming motherboard was the part that actually broke.

Graham
Learning C# - Graham Robinson

Carol Haynes

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2007, 06:37:01 AM »
??? Not sure I understand that last post.

If you buy a motherboard a lot of manufacturers provide a 3 year guarantee (ASUS and MSI certainly do). OK it isn't as convenient as an on-site service contract - but how many people will be using their current set up in 3 years? Lots of components come with warranties too - 5 years on hard discs isn't uncommon, BFG do lifetime warranty on graphics cards, Corsair & Crucial do life time warranties on memory. Not sure about PSUs but I'd guess you can probably get at least 2 years warranty if you shop around.

My first Windows box was bought from Tiny Computers. It had on-site service but in the first year I had to call them out on no fewer than 5 occasions - and the contract made it clear that if I open the box and change anything the warranty is void - so I didn't have  the option of adding memory, changing a graphics card, upgrading a hard disc unless I bought it from them and got them to install it. They also didn't have a data support system so if they couldn't fix something they swapped components until it worked and then ran the 'factory install' disc - not an ideal solution. You couldn't even update the BIOS without invalidating the warranty.

The biggest issue I had with buying a computer was that when I gave up on their on-site maintenance and opened the box it is patently obvious that every component present was the cheapest possible on the market - and also they had supplied an OEM motherboard from MSI which had a modified BIOS so that most of the settings were missing.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2007, 06:41:21 AM by Carol Haynes »

Mandork

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2007, 06:42:54 AM »
It seems like it's definitely a mixed bag of results.  My husband built his own a few years ago, and the only problem he's had is that the graphics card doesn't play as nicely as it could, but it all works.   

I've always wanted to see what I could build from scavenged parts, and/or see what I could get for some small fixed sum.  Kind of like those silly home-improvement-and-decor-on-a-budget shows.  Now, I know pretty much diddly-squat about how to do any of this, so it's a pipe dream at the moment.  But I long to be able to do things like build a computer in a whiskey bottle, or make my own tiny custom portable device.

However, I was just thinking of looking for advice on how to start researching this very thing, so this was a well-timed post!
Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
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Bjorn_Bear

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Re: Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer
« Reply #19 on: August 17, 2007, 03:40:35 PM »
My belief is that currently building your own will cost you more in parts, is MUCH more risky in terms of something going wrong, and puts you in a much more precarious situation should your computer need repair.
Check out this site http://www.datadockt...n.nu/us_desktop1.php Things you'll need are: Data-grinder, USB-wrenches, card tong, cryptokeys (forged), zip pliers, Defragmagneto, BIOS chisel, CPU lubricant, a weld and a datamachine to modify. ;D


edit by jgpaiva: fixing quote tag
« Last Edit: August 20, 2007, 09:25:48 AM by jgpaiva »