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 Forum index » Instruments and Equipment » Windows as a music workstation
Building a budget PC
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v-un-v
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 1:23 pm    Post subject: Building a budget PC Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm having to cross from my beloved Mac OS platform (although not necessarily away from it for good!!)- for work related reasons but being a 'mature student' with a mortgage and young kids to feed I've got to throw one together on a VERY STRICT budget. When I say strict- I mean about £75- £150 MAXIMUM!!

What are the best cheapo motherboards out there worth looking for (in the secondhand pages)?

...and while we are on the subject, what are the best 'budget' CPU's to go for- for the money?

all comments welcome Smile

Tom
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Have you considered just picking up a complete second hand PC? I think that wold be much cheaper than getting all the parts second hand. Not to mention a whole lot easier. You'd be hard pressed to meet a sub £150 budget buying parts, but you might just do it if you get a complete box. Building one from parts is perhaps best left until you are on a roll to get a good/fast/cool PC.

The bottom line power-wise for you depends on what you want to use it for. If it's not to be used for DAW, CAD, gaming and so on, then IMO anything AMD or Intel above 1 GHz with 512MB ought to do fine. That is, it will run office, internet and multimedia applications just fine.

Of the current crop of CPUs the "AMD Socket 754" CPUs are the cheapest. The previous generations AMD using "Socet A" are also fine. Intel P4 CPUs are fine as well. AMD is generally cheaper.

As for motherboards, brand new ones are now so cheap that it's silly. £40-£50 should land you one with all the bells and whistles. Personally I like Asus, but Abit, MSI, Epox and a few others are fine too.

Not that informative, I know. There is an almost infinite number of possibilities if you want to roll your own. If you let us know what the machine will be used for, it'll be easier to gauge the requirements.

For reference, my most used computer is a Pentium 3 at 750MHz with 128MB RAM running Windows 98. I'm typing this message on it. With that machine I surf the net, do e-mail, write and compile code, watch videos play music and run lots of other applications. My fastest machine is an AMD socket A box at 1.6GHz (XP1900) with 768MB RAM. It runs all the heavy CAD applications, games, music software etc. that I care to throw at it, and it always feels fast and nimble. I don't really understand why people feel they must have multiple 4GHz CPUs and several GB RAM before they can do anything... I'll be fine with what I have for now Smile

Oh, and don't worry about picking up a second platform, you'll become an unbeatable advanced multi dexterous super user Cool

DJ
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Last edited by DrJustice on Thu Feb 23, 2006 2:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Why not buy a used one ?

Just a quote from somewhere
Quote:
Dell OPTIPLEX GX110 #FEV20 $74
PIII 450 13.0G IDE 128M, Small FF, 1.44FD, IDE CD-ROM, 32MB Video, 1 Parallel, 2 Serial, USB, 10/100 Int., Sound

Then "find" a win98 CD somewhere (buying win-xp will, even without a pc, lift you out of your budget I'm affraid). 2nd hand monitors are dirt cheap as well, and so are new keyboards.

Run only the things you must run on it and keep your Mac for the fun stuff.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

DrJustice wrote:
My fastest machine is an AMD socket A box at 1.6GHz (XP1900) with 768MB RAM. It runs all the heavy CAD applications, games, music software etc. that I care to throw at it, and it always feels fast and nimble.



DJ,

I'll be using it mainly for PTC Pro Engineer/ Wildfire and perhaps SolidWorks too. So yeah, CAD. But I'm also playing around with BRL-CAD and Gimp and Eagle CAD which all run on Ubuntu Linux/ X11 (for PC and Mac)- and not to mention that freeware open-source 'Pro-Tools'-like software for Linux (which name currently escapes me
Embarassed )

But it will also be used for Nord Mod programming (no problem at all!!!), Audiomulch, Ray's Schematic Designer and a few other bits and bobs.

It probably won't be connected to the web and I've got very little interest in games- apart from the odd game of chess hehe) and with so many years being virus-free on the Mac, that can stay where it is! Smile

Is the '64' in AMD to do with bit rate? It's crazy I used to love the whole ethos of AMD against the big Intel- and now Intel are in bed with my favourite OS! Life's strange sometimes Very Happy
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v-un-v
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Blue Hell wrote:
Why not buy a used one ?

Just a quote from somewhere
Quote:
Dell OPTIPLEX GX110 #FEV20 $74
PIII 450 13.0G IDE 128M, Small FF, 1.44FD, IDE CD-ROM, 32MB Video, 1 Parallel, 2 Serial, USB, 10/100 Int., Sound

Then "find" a win98 CD somewhere (buying win-xp will, even without a pc, lift you out of your budget I'm affraid). 2nd hand monitors are dirt cheap as well, and so are new keyboards.

Run only the things you must run on it and keep your Mac for the fun stuff.


Yes- Secondhand is exactly what I've got in mind Jan Smile

PTC recommend Dell too- as long as it can take a couple of PCI cards or so- I'll be happy.

I'd be happy with w98- it was okay for a M$ product Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

v-un-v wrote:
Is the '64' in AMD to do with bit rate? It's crazy I used to love the whole ethos of AMD against the big Intel- and now Intel are in bed with my favourite OS! Life's strange sometimes Very Happy

The '64' means its a real 64 bit CPU.

Of course, the most avant garde thing now would be to run OS X on an AMD Very Happy (ought to work BTW, unless it's made impossible on purpose)

So Blue Hell, you and I agree then(?), get a complete 2nd hand PC... and yes a Dell is generally fine for a cheap ready made PC. Most Dells will have been delivered with an OEM Windows 98 or XP, so that might secure you an OS.

Good luck now, and let us know how it goes!

DJ
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

DrJustice wrote:
and yes a Dell is generally fine


The Dell was just an example. 2nd hand compaqs are not expensive either, and those usually have a pretty quiet fan, something I really appreciate (but something non standard usually as well, like an odd video card or something which will work ok but its hard to replace).

Refurbished stuff usually goes without an OS I think (?)

And yes I'm all in favor of 2nd hand PCs especially for work. For office (generically meant, not the specific brand) stuff, there really is no need for anything fancy. And when performance does get a problem a faster harddisk and more memory does more good than a faster processor, it also costs less that way.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Blue Hell wrote:
And when performance does get a problem a faster harddisk and more memory does more good than a faster processor, it also costs less that way.


Yeah it's the same for this Mac (which is quite fast considering its age). It has 512mb- but it really needs twice that. Also because it's a laptop- it's got the smaller IDE drive- but I believe IBM now make a 7200rpm drive- which sounds cool- but pricey.

My advice don't be tempted with a laptop. Expensive and ergonomically very bad for you! (Top-tip of tonite! Wink )

Thanks for the suggestions chaps Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

One more thing:

If you hook that Windows box up to the net, or otherwise want to run software of dubious origins, install Avast antivirus.

DJ
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

thanks for the link to the free anti-virus program! Very Happy


best regards

eike
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yeah, definately a second hand job is the way to go. Ebay will probably have something not too old, just waiting to go for a song. If anything, only research the motherboard/CPU as everything else could be easily pumped up if and when you need it.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

BTW,
Yes, Avast rocks. I've had it for over a year now. Avoid Mr Norton like the plague!!! Wink

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Uncle Krunkus wrote:
Avoid Mr Norton like the plague!!! Wink


It always makes me chuckle when PC owners tell us Mac owners what works and what doesn't! A colleague who I used to work with once asked me if Macs could read pdf files for eg. Andrew, Norton was originally created for us Mac users. Initially Norton Tools were excellent- but once X came along Norton completely lost it- and they never bounced back- in fact Diskwarrior stole their crown- and quite rightly so!

I doubt if I will ever connect the PC to the web- unless it's running Ubuntu Linux.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Oh well, I spose if Norton was originally made for Macs then it was only a matter of time before it became irrelevant. Rolling Eyes

(sorry Tom, couldn't help myself)

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

There is software and there is software. Nortonware on the other hand is something else as PC owners now are starting to realise. If there is one work of art that will take your PC out of the loop it would be the Norton Tools and the Firewall/NAV suites. Try installing the lot and set it up for that really obtrusive probing. OMG. Ouch. You will always need two PCs. One for the Norton stuff and one you can work on.
If it is any consolation Norton on a mac is even more useless.
"Do you want to have Norton repair a serious problem?"
As if.
Rolling Eyes

Nortonware is wormware and they have been using a free copy of the Spiderman DVD as bait. Rolling Eyes

Hey, I really admire that wonderful way the autolearn mode in Norton FW is set up.
Quote:
"Something" wants full access to everything out there all over the place all the time. We suggest you let it set up a rule for just that.




Rolling Eyes

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 9:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

If you are going to go Windows on this I recomend 98-lite; look into that. Slap on Firefox instead of IE.

But; does it realy *need* to be windows? Linux might also do and installing it isn't quite as scary as it used to be.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
But; does it realy *need* to be windows? Linux might also do and installing it isn't quite as scary as it used to be.


http://www.ubuntu.com/

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've just bought into the darkside and bought a Dell Optiplex P3 1gHz GX150 (won one on ebay for 80ukp- including a 17" monitor)

Crikey!

Don't know what the OS is- but it's probably 2000 or XP- either way I should now be able to get involved with some more electronics DIY

-That's of course after I've got it past the fuhrer and fobbed her off with some story about it being 'donated' to me!! Laughing
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

v-un-v wrote:

-That's of course after I've got it past the fuhrer and fobbed her off with some story about it being 'donated' to me!! Laughing

you can truely say it was donated to you simply omissing that the donor is yourself Twisted Evil

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sounds like a great deal.
Anything over 1G for less than $100 including a monitor has got to be good.
Still, I remember when RAM was $10 per MB!! Smile

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You should consider getting a soundblaster Live! card, or maybe two. I use a 500mhz machine with two Live! cards and the kX drivers. Using soundfonts lets you put a lot of samples onto the cards hardware, and there's even cheap reverb and delays and so on that wont consume any cpu.

It's not great, but I can't think of anything better for the same price. You do need some kind of midi-joystick adapter though, to hook up any midi gear, but the live! cards can be found in any flea market for next to nothing
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 4:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mi_dach wrote:
You should consider getting a soundblaster Live! card, or maybe two. I use a 500mhz machine with two Live! cards and the kX drivers.


I've got a really old Emagic Audiowerk 8 card (2in 8 out + spdif (or spliff connections as they're known round here Very Happy )- and also a Firewire card- so at least I can use my Lacie DVD burner with it (to back-up stuff)
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mi_dach wrote:
You do need some kind of midi-joystick adapter though, to hook up any midi gear,


Thanks for the tip on the soundblaster card btw Smile

My existing midi interface is an Emagic mt4. It works great on both platforms- so that's great. Also the G2 (oh yes I'm after one of those now Wink ) works without a midi interface so the mt4 may just stay on the Mac.

As for Ubuntu, I've been reading intersting threads about that. Apparently those who are using Apple architecture with it aren't really Apple users at all- they just like the look of Macintosh Shocked All those who are real Mac users are just slating Ubuntu saying it looks and works like shit- and Mac OSX is far better. I think I have a tendency to agree with that (although I haven't used it yet!) Laughing


edit- just got an email from the seller- apparently it comes with a full version of XP professional- whoopie!
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've had 3.1, 95a, 95b, 95c, 98, 98SE, and I've gotta say that XP Pro shits all over them. Probably because XP is the first one which isn't just a re-patched version of 3.1. It's based on NT/2000. Very stable and very kind on resources.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

yes! xp is the first windows i've liked since 3.1. if the used pc comes with original disks, i'd do fresh install...and then get rid of everything not needed.

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