Another system building thread - questions inside

I’m finally able to build a new system almost entirely from scratch next month and have a few questions about it.

Here are my planned specs:

Antec Sonata case
Abit IS7-G motherboard
P4-C 2.8 Ghz CPU
1GB Corsair DDR400 RAM (already bought)
Radeon 9700 AIW or 9800 AIW
Western Digital Raptor SATA Drive
Seagate Baracuda SATA Drive (80 or 120 Gb, not sure which yet)
LG CD-RW/DVD combo drive (salvaged from current system)
Vantec AeroFlow heatsink w/TMD fan
Logitech MX Duo

Total ~$1300 at Newegg, depending on the video card and HDD

First of all, I am switching from an AMD/Via/nVidia based system to an Intel/ATI based system. Are there any quirks about building an Intel/ATI system that I should know about before starting? (For example, with a Via based board you always want to download the latest 4n1 drivers. Or when installing new nVidia drivers, you want to use a driver cleaning program. Using a CPU shim. Etc.) Okay, so those aren’t particularly unique, but you get the idea.

Secondly, what are the differences software-wise between the All-in-Wonder 9700 and 9800 cards? Is the software for the 9800 version significantly better than the 9700’s? I’ve read the Extremetech review, which suggests that the ATI-made software (as opposed to the bundled stuff) is improved, but doesn’t really compare them side-by-side. I plan on using the card for occasional/casual TiVo style usage (once I get cable and a jack put in this room) as well as dabbling with the video editing stuff for fun. I have some tapes that I’d like to archive, and I want to try my hand at creating anime music videos. I’ve seen the thread(s) here about comparing the non-AIW versions, so there’s no big need to rehash that info here. What I want to determine is if (~10% better performance) + (software improvements) = (worth the extra money). Also, does anyone know when the 9800 AIW will be available? I couldn’t find it on ATI’s website.

Lastly, there appear to be a few different Seagate Baracuda SATA hard drives out there with very similar model numbers. What are the significant differences between them?

Gaming performance wise, my primary criteria is IL-2 Forgotten Battles. I’ll also be wanting to fire up Jedi Knight II again with the settings cranked up and will probably buy the sequel (Jedi Academy?). I’m not particulary interested in Doom3, though there might someday be a couple of games based on the engine that will interest me.

On a related note, can anyone recommend a decent, cheap and passively cooled video card for a Linux box? (This is where my old parts are going.) It may also be required to fit in a Shuttle XPC case (the VIA based one is $180 after rebate). Looks like the GeForce FX 5200 might be the ticket, unless there’s something better (pricewise and Linux driver-wise) out there.

See my comments below.

Very nice case; somewhat constrained interior (for working inside),
but four hard drive bays, plus two floppy and three 5.25" bays.
It is quieter, too.

Good motherboard, at least, if it’s as stable as its big brother,
the IC7-G.

Good combo, though you may have to manually set the Corsair
memory to 2-3-3-6, as the chipset may not be able to handle
2-2-2-6. Make sure you get the P4/2.8C, not earlier one (i.e.,
the 2.8 with the 800MHz FSB).

The 9800 chip is better at higher res / AA on, and shader code.
Beyond that, there aren’t huge differences, so it’s your call.

I can’t make up my mind whether or not I like this drive now.
It’s fast on access time, but not as fast on streaming data off
the platters, since it’s data density is fairly low. If you’re not
going to pair two of them into a RAID array, I’d just get something
bigger at 7200RPM, like a WD2000JB.

I’d personally go with a WD drive myself. But Seagates are reliable, if
not especially speedy.

I love both these items. Well, I’m not a huge fan of the keyboard, but it should serve unless you do a log of typing. The Aeroflow
is my vote for the most versatile air cooler.

You’ll find the P4 easier to install, particularly the heatsink/fan. It’s not quite as nerve-wracking installing the actual CPU. You’ll have to install
the chipset drivers off the CD, but most everything should come up fine. Just drop me a PM if you run into any specific problems.

The TV stuff is identical between the two; just make sure you download
the latest drivers and software from the ATI site.

Assuming you go with Seagate, the ST3120026AS is the latest model, I believe.

For those games, you should be fine with either card.

I don’t have an opintion on this, unfortunately.

Good luck!

Good motherboard, at least, if it’s as stable as its big brother,
the IC7-G.[/quote]

I much prefer the Asus P4C800 Deluxe myself. Recently got one and its brilliant. The on-board 3COM Ethernet is worth saving a PCI slot.

Thanks for the input!

I was originally planning on getting the IC7-G but changed my mind since the memory issues with the 865 boards seem to have been resolved. OTOH, I really want a stable system, and can afford the extra $30, so I’m not sure which way to go there.

I might go with a RAID array with Raptors eventually, but probably just have the singe drive for now. Is it possible to install RAID-0 “after the fact” w/o a system reinstall? (Like the way you just plug in a replacement drive into RAID-1 after a failure and the recovery is automatic?) I noticed this comment in the recent ExtremeTech Performance System article: “We opted for the parallel drive over the Serial ATA version, because we wanted to avoid PCI bus traffic generated by using the onboard Silicon Image controller.” That hadn’t occured to me, though I don’t think I fully understand what this means.

Right now the major difference between the 9700 AIW and the 9800 AIW is that the former is available while the latter is not (and will cost $100 more when it is). Since I was hoping to build over the upcoming long weekend, I guess my choice has been made there. :)

Good motherboard, at least, if it’s as stable as its big brother,
the IC7-G.[/quote]

I much prefer the Asus P4C800 Deluxe myself. Recently got one and its brilliant. The on-board 3COM Ethernet is worth saving a PCI slot.[/quote]

All 875P boards have onboard ethernet. The IC7-G uses Intel’s CSA architecture, which is sort of an AGP slot for the network chip (direct access to the memory controller). The Asus is a nice board, but I like the IC7-G better. It actually allows you to have RAID 0 using ICH5R and RAID 1 using an onboard PCI RAID chip. The P4C800 only allows you to have RAID using a motherboard down PCI SATA RAID controller – Asus, for whatever reason, didn’t implement ICH5R. They’re going to ship an updated version, the P4C800-E, next month, that rectifies this.

Yes. You get a partition backup tool, like Drive Image. Back up the partition off the single drive, install and set up the physical array, then restore the partition.

Yep, knew that

The IC7-G uses Intel’s CSA architecture, which is sort of an AGP slot for the network chip (direct access to the memory controller). The Asus is a nice board, but I like the IC7-G better. It actually allows you to have RAID 0 using ICH5R and RAID 1 using an onboard PCI RAID chip. The P4C800 only allows you to have RAID using a motherboard down PCI SATA RAID controller – Asus, for whatever reason, didn’t implement ICH5R. They’re going to ship an updated version, the P4C800-E, next month, that rectifies this.

That I did not know. Good thing too, cuz am not running RAID on that rig :D

Thanks for the input. The order went out tonight, and hopefully the stuff will come in Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what I ended up going with.

Antec Sonata Case
Abit IC7-G
P4 2.8C Ghz
Radeon AIW 9700 Pro
WD Raptor SATA HDD
Vantec Aeroflow HSF
Logitech MX700 mouse (decided I wasn’t really fond of the keyboard after all)
Black floppy to match the case

I’m actually going to get the case from Best Buy, as the 7.5% “instantaneous shipping charge” along with a $20 rebate ends up being cheaper than an online price plus overnight shipping. Plus if I really hate it for some reason, I can take it back much more easily.

Now some more questions:

Up till now I’ve always played games at my desktop’s resolution (1024x768x32) so I haven’t had to deal with the whole Windoze XP refresh rate thing. Now that I’ll be able to game at higher resolutions, what’s the easiest to use utility for overriding the refresh rates with an ATI video card (not sure if this last bit matters or not)? I’m not really interested in overclocking or anything like that, so the KISS principle applies.

I’m sure this will be in the motherboard manual, but I’m impatient to know the answer and might forget to look later: Do I need to install a driver to enable regular SATA support (not RAID) before installing Windows XP?

I use RefreshForce 1.10.

How concerned / careful do I need to be regarding the amount of thermal compound I apply to the heat spreader on the P4, especially considering the little hole that’s there? Picture for those who haven’t seen it.

The hole is not an issue. But you want a very thin layer of paste in any case.

Here’s a little how-to we did on installing a heatsink and paste. We mention P4’s in a later page, but the techniques for the Athlon XP apply for the P4, too.

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,3973,1149273,00.asp

Yeah, I was looking at that very article. I wish that I had seen it when building my first AMD system, that HSF clip is a bear compared to the P4’s. What I’ve always wondered thermal compound is: “How thin is thin?” Any suggestions for a substitute for a craft knife?

[Edit - I found my X-acto knife, that’s good enough.]

I use Arctic Silver Ceramique paste on my Athlon’s. It comes in a small syringe. I put a rice grain sized amount in the centre of the Athlon die and then spread it evenly using my credit card. You only want enough to show a thin film of compound on the surface.

I seem to be having several problems.

I can get the system to POST fine, but have been having trouble installing XP. During setup, it gives me an error saying it can’t copy a file. It doesn’t appear to be the same file twice, and if I skip one, there always seems to be another one with the same problem. A few times it has aborted the file copying entirely and given me a message like:

“A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage…” Then a few paragraphs on drivers, anti-virus software, etc, then: “Technical info STOP: 0X0000007E ( a whole bunch of hexidecimal stuff)”

I also noticed that when partitioning the Raptor drive, Windows says it’s a 35300 MB disk (which IIRC is normal), but will only let me make the partition 35291 MB large. It insists on leaving 8 MB unpartitioned. I don’t recall this being normal. :?:

Lastly, it seems that my memory timings keep changing back and forth. It is set to “By SPD” and sometimes it’s correct with 2-2-2-5 and other times it shows up as 2.5-2-2-6 (may not be exactly right).

I’ve flashed the BIOS to Version 15.

/me prays for Case to come to my rescue… :/

This always happens with NT. Nothing wrong here.

Lastly, it seems that my memory timings keep changing back and forth. It is set to “By SPD” and sometimes it’s correct with 2-2-2-5 and other times it shows up as 2.5-2-2-6 (may not be exactly right).

Loyd mentions not using these settings in his initial post above. Can you manually set it to what he suggests?

The copy problem sounds like you might have a funky CD. When’s the last time you installed from it? Can you wipe it down real good, check for scratches, etc.

Thanks for the info about the partitioning, I was starting to think that I had a bad hard drive or something. I’m using XP, but I assume that an NT quirk like that carries over.

Loyd’s comment there was about a different motherboard/chipset (Springdale, whereas I decided to go w/the Canterwood board). Still, it’s a good suggestion, so I’ll do that for now just eliminate that problem for now.

My XP CD is almost brand new (purchased last April), and I think I’ve only used it once. I just checked it and don’t see any scratches or dirt on it, but I’ll try cleaning it anyway.

Windows Setup can sometimes be very finicky about memory timings. Manually set the timings to a very conservative setting (2.5-3-3-7). Then after Windows is installed you can go to 2-3-3-6. You may even be able to go to 2-2-3-5.

Note that you should also wash your CD with warm water and soap, then dry with a lint-free cloth. You’d be surprised at how this simple trick often works. Tolerances on modern high speed optical drives are such that even a bit of dust or oil can create read errors.

Looks like cleaning the CD did the trick. :oops:

When I took a closer look at it using a flashlight I found a very narrow smudge that went almost all the way across one “side” of the disc at an angle (i.e. not along a radius). I found other stuff that simply didn’t show up under ambient light (obscured by all those pretty colors I guess 8)).

So how long will my computer geek license be suspended for this? :roll:

When you can lapp the CPU with rice paper, grasshopper, then you may find the true path.

:lol:

LOL! I use this trick at work. People are always wondering why I am washing CD’s in the mens bathroom. :)