Tuesday 23 June 2015

Building your own computer. And why I will continue to do it.

I build my own comptuers, and while some people think that's a huge deal it's really not. I don't do it because I have some need for a computer that's super powerful that you can't get through a retail outlet I do it largely because I'm picky about the hardware going in and how it's configured.

My use of the home computer is a bit different than most people in that I spend a lot of time working with Virtual Machines and watching movies / videos on the machine. So as it stands I have the following needs;
  • Graphics Card that can drive more than two displays without issue.
  • Storage, lots and lots of storage.
  • Lots and lots of RAM.
The processor isn't as huge a deal for me these days as it used to be since even lower end chips run pretty well these days, but getting storage space is something of a issue in some cases. Running VM's on a desktop machine requires more than one disk. It's not even the size of the disk itself but more that you have more than one sitting there so that when your run multiple VM's things can respond quickly.

This generally dictates a number of things;
  • The motherboard needs enough SATA ports to run at least six disks.
  • The case that the computer is built in needs to have space for that many disks.
  • The power supply has to handle the load.
You can do this every easy with server hardware, but given the price difference between server class gear and desktop class gear I'd rather avoid spending the extra for the limited benefit that I would get from it.

The problem that I ran into last time was that the desktop machines that fit my needs where either rather high end workstation class hardware, or higher end gaming gear. The workstation class stuff is nice but the price is a deterrant. And while a higher end gaming system would work there's a lot of them out there that look just horrid, and I don't play enough games to get use out of something with a 500$ video card installed.

There are some exceptions in the business class of machines put out by Dell, Lenovo, and others, however the cases where limited as to what I could put in them and the Power Supplies would generally require being replaced almost out of the box. We do use a number of Dell workstations at work for similar purposes and adding more than two disks required me rigging the third disk in using adapters or duct tape - adding a fourth, fifth, and sixth - forget it.

So custom building my own saves me a large chunk of change, and I don't mind the work in doing so because it's a relaxing project for me in most cases. That being said my dad's last computer, my mother in laws last computer and probably my wife's next machines will be coming off the shelf of a local retailer because they simply don't care if it's hand built and I don't have time to spend handling the warranty issues (if any occur) that may take the computer offline.

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