Saturday, September 30, 2006

You Want to Buy a New Computer?

... and you don't know what hardware it should contain? Well... here are some tips for you. This is not going to be a Brand X or Brand Y discussion. I will not cover laptops in this topic.

First of all answer the basic question: For what role I will use my computer? Workstation or Server? It is important to answer this because hardware requirements differs.

For workstations, answer this question: What I am going to do with it mostly? Play games? Use office applications? Surf the Internet? Create 3D graphics? Let's take them one by one.


  • It needs first of all the best processor + corresponding motherboard you can get. Games use the processor at its maximum. Also you may consider getting a better cooler than the one shipped by the processor manufacturer, since it will heat a lot (in games the processor usage does not drop under 100%).
  • Memory should be at least 1 GB (1024 KB) DDR2 in Dual Channel Mode (that means that you need 2 identical memory modules).
  • Hard drive should be a SATA one or an ATA 133 one (and the motherboard to support such transfers - many motherboards support only ATA 100). The capacity should be around 200 GB.
  • DVD ROM (or a DVD writer) drive as almost all games come on DVDs now.
  • 5.1 or better yet 7.1 Channels sound card and corresponding speakers.
  • A very good graphics card with at least 256 MB of video memory. Those come in 2 flavors: on AGP 8x bus or on PCIx16 bus. Nowadays, they come in pairs of 2 and use 2 PCIx16 slots.
  • Depending on the type of games you play, a joystick, a drive wheel and a better mouse (with a higher sensibility than usual models)
  • Also, if you play network games a Gigabit Ethernet would be usefull.
  • If you want a LCD monitor that goes with this configuration, you will need a verry good one with very low response time (<8>

This is not a cheap configuration at all! That's the price you pay for playing games...

Office applications: That's easy. All you need is a functional computer with about 256 or 512 MB of memory, 80 GB hard drive (any kind). No special requirements here, as the demands of such software are not high.

Surf the Internet: That's also easy. take the above configuration for office applications and add a broadband Internet connection to it (ADSL, Wireless, Cable TV etc.). You may also want to add more memory since you will need to be running a firewall and an antivirus at all time.

Create 3D graphics: Well, that it is an expensive configuration too. You need in this case a dual-processor system, 2 GB (2048 MB) of memory in dual channel mode, SCSI or SATA-2 hard drives. The monitor should be at least 19". From this you should start adding what you need for your particular case (like pen input devices).

That's for workstations... choose between the configurations before you buy. As you can see, you can easily be fooled by a shinny configuration, but if you don't need it why buy it?

For servers, the question is what type of server will it be? A file server? A database server? An Internet server?

For file servers, the processor is not important as well as the graphic card, but the following ones are:

  • 1 GB of DDR 2 memory (in dual channel mode) - as the unused memory is used as file cache, thus boosting the overall performance of the server.
  • SCSI interface with hardware-based RAID-5 capabilities, as you will need data protection.
  • At least 3 SCSI hard drives (so you can build the RAID-5), capacity should be over 200 GB.
  • Gigabit Ethernet controller.
  • A tape controller for backups.

Database servers need as many processors as you can give them plus 2 or 4 GB of DDR 2 memory (in dual channel mode) to help them out. You do not need RAID here but you do need SCSI hard drives with large capacity (as databases use lot of storage space) and a Gigabit Ethernet controller.

Internet servers do need about 1 GB of memory and a good firewall. Plain and simple. A Gigabit Ethernet controller may help. From this configuration add up what you need. For example if it runs lots of mailboxes, you need some extra hard drive space to store them.

I hope those pointers will help you decide what hardware you need for your future computers.

No comments: