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Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Old 10-01-12, 08:38 PM
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Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Nice long post with plenty of questions. Thank you for your time and patience.

I'm in the market for a new desktop PC and I want to get a high-performance workhorse for under $1000 total if I can help it. I've purchased desktop towers in 1999 (Dell), 2003 (Dell), and my current machine, an HP m9100z, (2007). I feel like we need a new computer because if the machine is on for more than a few hours it gets excrutiatingly slow to the point I can't use it without shutting it down for a few hours and it being back to normal. This also happens if I do a lot of tab browsing with a lot of Flash, streaming, etc. This has happened more and more over the last year and, essentially, is the main reason I think we need a new machine. Other than that, the machine has had a power supply die and even have to be brought back to life from a crash a few years back. It's kept on ticking, though.

Do I even need a new machine? Is there something I can do about it to make it better, instead? Replace parts? Is there a way to do that easily and inexpensively? Take a look at the current specs and maybe it's a matter of swapping out for new parts:

CURRENT SPECS:

Current Machine: HP m9100z
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5600+ 2.80 GHz
Memory: 3.00 GB of RAM (upgradable to 8 GB, I believe)
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8400
OS: Windows Vista (it's okay; I prefer Windows 7 on my laptop)

If I got a new machine...

BUDGET ~$1000 OR LESS, I NEED A NEW MACHINE THAT:

1. Can run multiple programs at once and display on two monitors at once, no sweat. A typical session might include streaming video / DVD / Blu-ray on one monitor while I use MS Word, multiple tab web browsing, photo editing and/or video editing software on a second monitor, sometimes all at once.

2. Has plenty of room for plenty of USB 2.0 peripherals (and 3.0 now, I suppose) as well as two or more monitor capacity - at least one HDMI and one VGI.

3. Is something that will last a good long while if I take good care of it.

QUESTIONS ABOUT A NEW SYSTEM:

- What's more important for the needs I list above: more memory, better processor, or a better graphics card? Recommendations on those?

- What should I do to set this new system up for success right from the get-go in terms of virus protection, maintenance to avoid slow down, etc.?

- Should I stick with HP or are there other great options out there these days? I owned two Dells ('99, '02) and the HP has lasted the longest ('07)

QUESTIONS ABOUT CANNIBALIZING MY CURRENT MACHINE:

- Can I install my TV tuner card and use the remote control from my current HP computer on a new machine? Does it also have to be HP? The TV tuner card is a ViXS PureTV-U 48B0 (NTSC/ATSC Combo).

- Can I install the DVD burner drive from my old computer on a new one? Does it have to be HP?

- Can I install the HP pocket drive bay ("optional bay," not "optical bay") from my old computer on a new one? Does it have to be HP?

- We've used our current computer and its TV tuner as a DVR in the past. If we wanted to keep it just for that and bring it out of the office and hooked up directly to the TV, what would I need to do to it to ensure it can pretty much stay on most of the time and do record / playback easily without the whole system slow down effect we've been dealing with lately?

SOME OPTIONS:

Finally, I'm looking at a few machines on Tuesday while I'm at Costco and I wonder if anyone has feedback on these set-ups on their website (presuming they're available in-store), as well as thoughts on the pros / cons of buying a computer from Costco:

http://www.costco.com/HP-Pavilion-HP....11768052.html

http://www.costco.com/HP-Pavilion-p7...100001441.html



Thanks for any insight and patience you can give me with all of my questions.

Last edited by story; 10-01-12 at 08:40 PM. Reason: added some specs
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Old 10-01-12, 08:56 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

I have only two comments:
1. These days, I would recommend an Intel Core i5 or i7 over any processor from AMD.
2. I strongly support buying just about anything from Costco.
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Old 10-01-12, 10:34 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

i would go with an i7 for your purposes. if you aren't in a hurry, wait around, i have seen better spec'd systems for less. Costco has a 2 year warranty on most PCs and you can get an extra year using amex or other select cards.


you need a combination of everything really. the i7 3770 is high end, and 16gb ram is good. Dell or HP are similar in quality, imo. there are high end lines for both brands, and mid and low...just depends on what you want to spend.


what remote control do you have? if you have the appropriate drivers for the OS of the new PC, then any hardware could work on the new PC.

dvd burner, if it's sata (it probably is, but you can check connectors to be sure), then it should work.

the pocket drive bay could be proprietary.



I have the HP W2371d that is bundled with the i7, the monitor is decent, but is a lower end monitor. Not complaining since HP gave it to me free, but if I were paying for it, I would probably spend a little more for a better monitor.
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Old 10-02-12, 08:26 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

I personally agree to stick with Intel at this stage, but that's all preference.

You're better off starting from scratch and moving this computer to be used elsewhere, it's still solid but it is pretty badly outdated at this point in time.

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5600+ 2.80 GHz
Memory: 3.00 GB of RAM (upgradable to 8 GB, I believe)
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8400
OS: Windows Vista (it's okay; I prefer Windows 7 on my laptop)

I'd upgrade to a Core i5 or i7 Ivy Bridge Processor with 8 gb of RAM, and Windows 7. A graphics card may not be necessary if you don't intent to play games. Multi-monitor should be supported directly by the motherboard/core i5/i7 combo. You can re-use your Hard Drive from the HP if you'd like, though i'd recommend either buying a SSD (improves performance immensely) or a large standard HDD of 7200 or higher.
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Old 10-02-12, 10:04 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Yeah, the 2007 HP probably is DDR2 ram.

For $1k, I think I'd get the Dell XPS with i7, 8GB ram, ssd for the boot drive, and blu-ray drive. Disappointing to see that most pcs still don't offer ssd and br as default options even for the high end pcs.
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Old 10-02-12, 10:05 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

...which is weird since SSD and BD are relatively cheap now. I bought a Blu-ray Burner for $60 and a 128gb (boot drive) SSD for $75 in the last couple weeks.
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Old 10-02-12, 01:44 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

it is really about what people care about. most see the big numbers on the HD and go ooohhh. or something. if it came default with an ssd, it would typically have a secondary drive adding more cost. a br burner isn't too costly, but i picked up a dvd burner for under $15. So a dvd burner is still much cheaper.

the psu is another thing. the HP is an i7 yet has a 300w psu. I picked up an Antec 400W 80+ bronze made by Seasonic for a whopping $11. How much could they be saving by going down to 300w?

this isn't even factoring in that they get prices at steep discounts.
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Old 10-02-12, 10:24 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Thank you for all of the advice so far!

The guy at Costco said to just wait three or four weeks for a price drop once Windows 8 hits and that the software requires a touch screen monitor?! What are they doing with Windows 8?!

I haven't found a machine that's 100% what I'm looking for. For example, those two Costco links I posted? One has got a tremendous more amount of memory and hard drive space and a larger monitor but the AMD processor. The one with the i7 has, well, an i7, yet has room to grow in the memory department and only has four USB ports total which seems low. Plus, I was surprised neither one has a Blu-ray drive.

Considering if it's better to go to Costco now or in a month, either way to get a unit with the Costco two-year warranty plan and then add memory and/or a Blu-ray player or to go through Dell or HP direct and get exactly what I want but pay a few hundred more.
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Old 10-02-12, 11:16 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Windows 8 most certainly doesn't require a touch screen. I have been using windows 8 for several months now on a regular monitor. If you are not in a hurry, wait around, I am sure that there will be better deals, i have seen better deals even from costco before.

Personally, the usb ports don't really deter me so long as it has usb 3.0. You can always get a usb hub, or if you want a usb pci card. Memory is relatively cheap, but honestly, 12gb is plenty for most people. I would try what you have now and add more ram later if needed.
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Old 10-16-12, 01:42 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

I haven't bought Dell in ten years and I wonder if any of you would go Dell over HP and if so, why?

Costco lists these three models I've been comparing:

The HP I originally posted at $999:
http://www.costco.com/HP-Pavilion-HP....11768052.html

A Dell at $1299 - the first is available and the second says it's ready for pre-order but as far as I can tell they're the same computer except the pre-order comes with Windows 8:
http://www.costco.com/Dell-XPS-8500-....11767192.html
http://www.costco.com/Pre-order-Dell...100011672.html

Is Windows 8 better than Windows 7? I like 7 on my Toshiba laptop. Plus, the Dell and HP each have the option of buying Windows 8 for just $14.99. If I buy Windows 8 and decide I don't like it can I go back to Windows 7 on any of these machines?

Comparing the HP and Dell I see a few big differences and I'm trying to decide of the extra $300 is worth it for:
- 2.0 TB hard drive while the HP has 1.0 TB.
- Blu-ray drive while the HP has a DVD drive.
- 10 USB ports (4 of them 3.0) while the HP has 4 total (2 of them 3.0).
- 24" LED HD monitor while the HP has a 27" LCD HD monitor.

While both have the same i7 processor they also have an AMD graphics card. Issues with this?

Last edited by story; 10-16-12 at 02:10 AM.
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Old 10-16-12, 08:11 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

I just answered your questions as if this were a laptop

Alright some notes - Windows 7 is superior to Windows 8 unless you plan on using it with a touch screen. Windows 7 is more refined, more stable, more cohesive and looks better. Windows 8 works well if you plan on getting finger prints on your screen.

I haven't used an HP in a while but I have to imagine most Desktops are about on par these days.

The HP has a 2GB AMD Radeon 7570, the Dell has a 1GB 7570. If you plan on gaming the HP may be a better deal.

The rest is dependent on you, both Dell and HP have nice monitors, 27" is huge so that may tilt the scale in favor of HP, I've read a couple reviews that state the HP actually has 8 USB ports, 6 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0. You can purchase a blu-ray reader/burner for $60 online and install it yourself, though the HP is apparently a pain in the ass to modify.

IMO, both are overpriced and I'm still a big supporter of getting a 128gb SSD as your primary drive, the performance gain is awesome (install everything else on the HDD). There are absolutely no issues with the AMD cards on Intel processors. It's simply ATI (who was bought by AMD) vs Nvidia.

Last edited by RichC2; 10-16-12 at 08:17 AM.
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Old 10-16-12, 09:06 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Good thoughts on Windows 7 / 8. Looks like the window for getting Windows 7 is shutting up pretty quick, though.

I don't have any plans on gaming though I said the same when I bought my PS3 and look where that got me...

The HP may have up to that many USB ports capability and yet it may not have that many in the pre-configured Costco model. When I went to check them out physically at a Costco it was obvious were there would be more ports but was just a sheet of metal instead. Sort of like when you get the base model of a car and see where all the "sport" model features would be if you had bought that instead.

Overpriced. Can you say more about that?

Can you give me the two-sentence version of SATA vs. SSD?

Keep in mind these models are all preconfigs though Costco which I'm considering instead of going to Dell or HP directly because it looks like it would save me money and their maintenance / repair / return policies seem, to my limited knowledge, to be pretty good and inexpensive, yes?
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Old 10-16-12, 09:13 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Gotcha, you are paying for the warranty basically with the extra costs. I'm used to building my own machines and sort of piecing things together so I never anticipate paying a whole lot, $1000 just seems high, but you are getting monitors and warranties with Core i7s so it isn't too bad.

SATA vs SSD isn't actually a comparison that can be made, it's HDD vs SSD. They both use SATA which is a connection type (Serial ATA). SSD is solid state, no moving parts, which makes loading and writing of files very quick. HDD is mechnical and is slower/louder/uses more power but can store a great deal of space for a very cheap price.

Performance comparison on something very basic (boot-up):



SSD on Left, HDD on Right.

I'm trying to compare the Dells, the Pre-order and the Standard. I can't tell much of a difference just skimming and would highly recommend you get the Windows 7 edition if there are no real differences as it comes with Windows 7 with the option to upgrade to Windows 8 for $15. Versus being stuck with Windows 8.

Last edited by RichC2; 10-16-12 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 10-16-12, 09:39 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Since the model configurations at Costco (and HP and Dell, for that matter) only offer SATA HDD instead of SSD, are you suggesting I get a smaller SSD to go in the second hard drive expansion bay to serve as the boot hard drive to run programs off of and use whatever HDD that comes with the machine for storage? Would I make the SSD be the main one / master instead?

If that sounded knowledgeable / informed / accurate at all please know that my computer knowledge tanks are going to run dry pretty soon in this conversation.
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Old 10-16-12, 09:50 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Haha it's a personal preference, really SSD is more of an asset on Laptops than they are on Desktops since you want a Laptop to respond immediately when you open it. But yes ideally having a SSD as your master will yield the best performance.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just to specify there are two popular types of internal Hard Drive connectors out there - PATA and SATA. SATA is Serial ATA (it's a small-ish cable), PATA is Parallel ATA and is also known as IDE (a big-ish cable).

IDE is pretty much extinct at this point in regards to new gear, but you will see it supported on some pieces of hardware for legacy purposes.

HDD and SSDs are both SATA at this point in time, there is another thing called mSATA that applies only to SSDs but we won't get into that.

Last edited by RichC2; 10-16-12 at 10:00 AM.
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Old 10-16-12, 10:24 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

dogmatica

I will try my best not to add any confusion to the info you have already

Originally Posted by dogmatica View Post
I haven't bought Dell in ten years and I wonder if any of you would go Dell over HP and if so, why?
I would buy either (and I would put Lenovo into the choices). Both (all three) companies are solid and produce similar products and offer similar support at similar price points. Find some obscure reason to choose one over the other


Originally Posted by dogmatica View Post

Comparing the HP and Dell I see a few big differences and I'm trying to decide of the extra $300 is worth it for:
- 2.0 TB hard drive while the HP has 1.0 TB.
- Blu-ray drive while the HP has a DVD drive.
- 10 USB ports (4 of them 3.0) while the HP has 4 total (2 of them 3.0).
- 24" LED HD monitor while the HP has a 27" LCD HD monitor.
Trying to price the difference between these items, I come up with about $150-$175 at most (the monitors appear to only be 1" difference in the description I read, a 23" vs a 24" not a 27" as you write) so these items are not worth $300 IMO.

Both appear to have the same Graphic Card: AMD Radeon HD 7570

RAM speed is different though. The Dell is 1600mhz and the HP is 1333 (that is worth maybe $30)

The dell has a high capacity power supply (460 vs 300) that is worth something (although it may not matter to you in the long run) maybe $30

If I quote all retail prices for all differences I see, I might get to $300, but it would be a stretch.


At this point in time, I would stick with Windows 7 (no question)


The SSD boot hard drive config is for advanced users If you are not a 'computer person' don't do this. This is why companies like Dell don't offer a configuration like that for sale to the general public. It "can" complicate things beyond what most end users want to deal with, and Dell doesn't want the potential complication in support phone calls either.

I have an SSD boot drive on my home machine, but I am an IT guy and build my own computers (not to save money, but simply to have control over components used).


and now to add the complication, if you want a 'build your own' without actually building your own, you can look at something like this (and have the option for a boot SSD)

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/C..._Configurator/

Last edited by 4KRG; 10-16-12 at 11:39 AM.
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Old 10-16-12, 10:29 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

^ I tend to agree, there are several configuration considerations with a SSD main. The reason I brought it up, oddly enough, is because the Dells come with a 32gb SSD -- though doubtful they use them as bootdrives.
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Old 10-16-12, 03:11 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

the Dell isn't worth the extra $300. the extra hdd space is nice, but you can buy another 1gb hd for probably $50, and you may not even need the space. the bluray drive is another maybe $70. cost between a 23" and 24" monitor is pretty close, maybe $20 more or so.

ram - 1333 vs 1600 is a very marginal increase, i would not make my decision based on this. if you OC, then yeah, it might make a difference, but i doubt that this is the case.

the 7570 is a lower end video card. fine so long as you aren't gaming, and i doubt that 2gb vs 1gb on that card would really make any difference on that card.

power supply, unless you are upgrading the video card, it won't matter. and if you get a high end video card, the 460w won't be enough anyway.
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Old 10-16-12, 10:34 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Bad times for PC maker/sellers. I've noticed prices are really down from just a few weeks ago for Windows 7 machines. Where I specifically noticed it was on the Toshiba website. Price for a customized Qosmio (X870) has dropped from $1,908 (when I ordered it 2 weeks ago) to $1,400 a couple of days ago, but right now it's back up to $1,733. Hmmm, I guess this means one has to check every day.

Now they are offering both Windows 7 and Windows 8 Qosmio models, maybe they drastically reduced the price of the Windows 7 ones and then there was a surge of sales, they realized that Windows 7 is not dead and raised the price back up?! Who knows?
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Old 10-16-12, 10:57 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Originally Posted by danwiz View Post
Bad times for PC maker/sellers. I've noticed prices are really down from just a few weeks ago for Windows 7 machines. Where I specifically noticed it was on the Toshiba website. Price for a customized Qosmio (X870) has dropped from $1,908 (when I ordered it 2 weeks ago) to $1,400 a couple of days ago, but right now it's back up to $1,733. Hmmm, I guess this means one has to check every day.

Now they are offering both Windows 7 and Windows 8 Qosmio models, maybe they drastically reduced the price of the Windows 7 ones and then there was a surge of sales, they realized that Windows 7 is not dead and raised the price back up?! Who knows?
Prices fluctuate a lot on manufacturer websites. Windows 7 isn't dead by any stretch, and it's only $15 to upgrade to Windows 8 so I'm pretty sure that isn't a sticking point. You sure they weren't burning off some Sandy Bridge systems?
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Old 11-23-12, 11:59 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Update: I picked up the Dell XPS 8500 as a $799.99 lightning deal at Amazon tonight.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ls_o00_s00_i00

It has the i7-3770, 12GB of RAM, the NVIDIA card, etc. I think it will be a tremendous system. I contacted my local Costco and they had the exact same machine for the exact same price. They also highly recommend going with their new partner, Square Trade, for an extra-extended warranty even over their own (an extra $100). Amazon had the same Square Trade warranty available for $85. So in the end, I went with Amazon because:
1. The warranty is the same and $15 cheaper.
2. No sales tax.
3. Triple points on our Amazon Visa (Costco would have us use a debit card only) so that's 3% cash back on $800 or $24.

Thank you to everyone for your friendly, helpful advice. If you feel like giving me more, I'm looking for a reliable cordless keyboard and an internal blu-ray drive. Lots of mixed reviews for pretty much everything I'm finding in both departments, especially they blu-ray drives!
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Old 11-26-12, 10:29 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

The tower arrived today and I would love any advice you all have on the following:

1. I see how to install a second HDD but I don't see any way to install a third hard drive. There is a cable running from the power supply to the HDD it came with and that cable has a second plug coming out of it, I'm assuming so a second HDD can be installed to run as slave. How to install a third, however, is lost on me. Thoughts?

2. I also notice the mother board has four data plugs. One is used for a HDD and another for the DVD drive. Am thinking of filling the other drive bay with a Blu ray drive and then, of course, add a second HDD. That combo eats up all four slots so maybe a third HDD simply is out of the question, then, yes?

3. There is a black and yellow cable with six pins and then another cable coming out of it also with six pins. What are these cables for?

4. If I install a Blu-ray drive in the second bay, should I make it the master disc drive? Is that even a thing? I ask because, like the HDD cables, there is one cable and then another comes out of it. Does it matter which is plugged into which?

5. School me on partitioning drives. In lieu of getting an SSD, will this be helpful for my computer's performance and/or data security?

6. Any other tips on how to set this computer up for success immediately? I would love to treat it right on day one.
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Old 11-27-12, 12:52 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

Can't answer many of your questions, but looking at the picture at amazon, does that really have 6 external SATA ports? damn! Easiest way to do it is just do external drives and hook that junk up to the back.

Otherwise if you HAVE to have internal, you can buy PCI SATA cards like these:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...=PCI+SATA+card
(Assuming you have an empty PCI slot!!)
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Old 11-27-12, 01:15 AM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

1. what connectors do you have available? sometimes, the sata power cables come on two different lines. Also, if you don't have any free sata but have a free molex, then get a molex to sata power cable. if you don't have a free molex, then get a molex y splitter then the molex to sata power cable. or you can also get an sata power y splitter.

2. if you only have 4 sata power connectors, then you can get an sata pci (e) card (make sure you have an available pci(e) slot), or get an external drive.

3. 6 pin connector could be the pci-e (video card) power. there is also a 6 pin aux power cable, but typically it isn't black/yellow,and it is extremely rare and used on ancient computers.

4. with sata, it doesn't matter.
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Old 02-11-19, 09:21 PM
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Re: Yet Another Computer Buying Advice Thread

A few months ago I posted in another thread about trying to upgrade my computer but I can't find that thread now. But I did find this thread for when I originally bought the computer, so I'll pick it up from here.

This Dell XPS-X8500 is getting slow, sometimes too slow to use for extended periods of time. I really like this tower, it has everything I want in terms of slots, two optical drives, USB 3.0, 3 HDDs, etc. I upgraded to 12MB or 16MB of memory a while ago, I forget when and how much. I think it's still running Vista or Windows 7, I forget. I'm used to Windows 10 on my work laptop, though, and would upgrade, if needed. I'm hoping I don't have to buy a whole new tower and I'm wondering if there's a way to speed this up. At some point in that other thread, someone mentioned ways to speed up an old computer but like I say, I can't find that thread.

Ideas? Thanks!
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