Monday, September 11, 2006

My first Windows XP 64-bit computer

I've always built my own computers, and in 2001 I put together an Athlon 1.1Ghz machine on an FIC AD11 motherboard. I put in a geForce 4 TI-4400 256MB video card and 512MB ECC PC2100 RAM. It has served me very well for the past five years. However I need more memory but can't find compatible modules, the fan on the video card died a few months ago and can't be replaced, and the 400W power supply is extremely loud and getting on my nerves. I also need a DVD drive but my current case is out of 5.25" bays. So I decided it was time to upgrade. This time I considered some pre-built computers, but to get the features I wanted was going to cost me over $1,200 and still not be exactly what I wanted:

Must haves:
  • Quiet
  • PCI-E 16X
  • DDR2 support
  • DVD±RW
  • Upgradeable
Nice to haves:
  • Small form factor
  • Built-in card reader
  • LightScribe DVD
  • 64-bit
  • Stylish
Based on that criteria, here's the component list I selected. I got all this for about $550:
  • Antec Aria case
  • Asus M2NPV-VM motherboard
  • Sony DWQ-120A 16X Super All-Write DVD±RW
  • AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (Orleans)
  • 2GB DDR2-533 RAM
  • Windows XP Professional 64-bit
That's everything on my wish list except the LightScribe, which I honestly forgot about when I was selecting the components. I'm not sorry I got the Sony, it works perfectly and is fast and quiet. Whenever I decide that writing on my CD's and DVD's with a Sharpie isn't good enough I'll spend $40 on a new drive. Many small form factor cases, such as nearly everything by Shuttle, are not very upgradeable. You're stuck with the motherboard that comes in the case. The Antec Aria supports any micro-ATX board, so you can put whatever you want in it.

The Asus M2NPV-VM has 4 SATA2 ports, the most I found on any micro-ATX motherboard, and has pretty much everything built in: geForce graphics, gigabit Ethernet, 7.1 audio, support for up to DDR2-800, and support for Athlon FX2 CPU's. I started out mid-level and now I have a lot of headroom to upgrade into.

I purchased everything here except the Antec Aria case from They have fair prices, an excellent selection, and are extremely easy to do business with. I have been ordering from them for years and never had any problems. The Aria is an older case and relatively hard to find. I got mine from eBay for about $60, not including shipping.

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