Building PCs in 2014

Last year it was time to upgrade the PCs here in learnalittle-land. The old PCs were build around 2008/09 and whilst none of them were failing I thought it was time for upgrades, specifically because:

  1. I wanted a faster PC for photo-editing. Normally I’m patient with a PC, but the only time I really encountered lag was whilst waiting for photo-edits to be applied.
  2. I felt it was good to move to newer hardware. Nothing has failed on my old PCs but it felt it would be safer to buy-in some new technology.
  3. I needed a new PC for our daughter.

Like most families and many small businesses the plan was to build new and then cascade-down the existing PCs, specifically I planned to:

  1. Buy a new PC for myself (for photo-editing)
  2. Buy a new living-room Family PC (just to be generally faster, look better/be smaller than the old one, but still be quiet)
  3. Move the old family PC to act as a dedicated PC for torrents.
  4. Give my old PC to my daughter.

Just to clarify why I build, rather than buy PCs:

  1. Because I can (and it means I can choose the specification)
  2. As I’m a Brit I want UK English version of Windows/MS Office.
  3. I’m used to a US keyboard.
  4. I live in Europe, where the speak foreign and certainly don’t use proper keyboards.

This article is not about the details of the build, but about what has changed, and hopefully improved since I was last building PCs.

What’s Improved since 2008 ?

The single biggest improvement in PC performance is thanks to new Solid State Disks (hereafter SSDs). Both the new PCs got SSDs for the Operating System, whilst retaining a traditional 3.5″ Hard Disk (HD) for storing files. Boot times in particular are massively improved. For our daughter’s PC I ended up only using an SSD. Her needs are mainly for Internet browsing and storing her relatively small collection of photos.

Underneath the bonnet, so to speak, disk speeds have generally improved thanks to the upgrade from SATA II to SATA III, the latter now having a theoretical interface speed 0f 6 Gb/s

Processor speeds have naturally improved since 2008, but to be honest, it’s not that important in my day-to-day work. Let’s face it most of the time my speed barrier s either my reading or typing speed. The only processor upgrade that has really made a difference is replacing an old Intel Celeron processor with and Intel Core™2 Duo E8200. This processor cost around 20 Euro on ebay and fitted an old ASUS P5K-VM motherboard that has been working for years as my test PC.

What still works ?

Windows 7. was launched on 22nd July 2009 and, mostly thanks to the failure of Windows 8 is still going strong. Unlike Windows XP it is supported and unlike Windows Vista and Windows 8 it’s not rubbish.

What’s not better ?

My single biggest headache in the whole upgrade sequence was the switch from BIOS to UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface ). Before the upgrades I had a single PC which booted into Windows 7 and Linux (Opensuse flavour). When installing this combination on my new photo-editing PC I just couldn’t get the Windows 7 part to enter “Sleep” mode. In the end I gave up and separated the two Operating Systems onto 2 PCs.

Other Comments

Despite the rise of the laptop, the smartphone and the tablet I still find an “old-school” PC, with a traditional keyboard, allows me to be most productive. Maybe I’m just too much of a dinosaur to adapt.

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