How to ask: System build, buy& upgrade advice

Off Topic Dicussion
I have seen many threads asking for advice on how to build or upgrade a computer system and there is usaully a piece of important information missing for the request. Below is a "template" you could use when asking for advice that will help get more streamlined information.

New Desktop:

System type: (ex. OEM/Prebuilt system or Build Your Own)
Budget: (How much do you want to spend)
Primary purpose: (ex. gaming only, work with some gaming, etc)
Brand preferances: (OEM: Dell, HP, etc.. or Parts: Intel, AMD, nVidia, etc.)
Parts you already have and will use/re-use: (keyboard?, Mouse? Monitor? etc..)
Planning to Overclock?: (Yes/No for BYO systems)

Upgrades (Laptop or Desktop:

System type: (OEM: Brand and Model? Custom built desktop?)
Parts to upgrade: (CPU, video card, RAM etc)
Reason upgrade is needed: (low FPS in large battles, Low FPS overall, stuttering, etc)
Budget: (How much you want to spend)
Performance level expected: (Are you expecting/hoping to play on Extreme, Ultra, High, or Medium?)
Motherboard: (Brand/Model, For custom machines)
Power Supply Wattage: (For custom machines needing GPU upgrades)
Please include the info from running the "DXDiag" command to supply more detailed info

New Laptop:

Budget: (how much do you want to spend?)
Brand Preferances: (Dell, HP, Sony, etc..)
Performance level expected: (Are you expecting/hoping to play on Extreme, Ultra, High, or Medium?)
Primary purpose: (ex. gaming only, work with some gaming, etc)

Re: Laptops and Price - When buying a laptop please keep in mind that when you buy a laptop it will pretty much be the configuration you buy till it dies. Although they can get really high in price, its advisable to spend what you can to upgrade certain parts as MOST laptop parts are Not (or very difficult) upgradeable. List of laptop parts that ARE EASILY UPGRADABLE:
- Hard Dirve
- Battery
Mostly non-upgradeable parts(and should be upgraded before purchase if affordable):
- The video card(even is it is listed as a discrete card) is built into the motherboard and not upgradeable unless you replace the motherboard. (In a laptop the term discrete only means that the video card has its own independant memory and so it does not suffer from sharing the system RAM.) (This requires a full disassembly of the laptop to accomplish)
- The Processor, might be upgradeable but is expensive and there is no guarentee that the system will accept it a different processor. (This requires major disassembly as well)

There are several dependable tech sites on the net these days with alot of info, here is a few:

Here is a "template" that can be used for Answering a request for a full system build:

CPU: (Intel or AMD with price)
Link Here
Motherboard: (Brand and Model with price)
Link Here
RAM: (Brand, Size and Price)
Link Here
GPU: (Brand, Model and Price)
Link Here
PSU: (Brand, Wattage and Price)
Link Here
Hard Drive: (Brand, Size, Type and Price)
Link Here
CD/DVD/Blu-Ray, Player or Burner: (Brand, Model, Price)
Link Here

If Needed:
Monitor: (Brand, Size, Price)
Link Here
Keyboard / Mouse: (Brand, Price)
Link Here
OS: (Windows 7, XP, Linux, 64 or 32-bit and Price)
Link Here
Speakers: (Brand, Model and Price)
Link Here

I have not added a line for the case because picking a case is mostly about what someones personal taste and what they want to look at everyday for the life of the machine. I will give this advice tho:
1) Pick a case that has 2 or more case fans
2) Get one that has a TOP mounted PSU
3) Unless on a really tight budget, I don't recommend getting a case with a PSU already in it
4) Be sure to get a case that matches the form factor of the motherboard. A ATX motherboard will not fit into a Micro-ATX case.
5) ATX Mid-Towers (what I use) generally have all the above and enough room for good airflow.

Opinion or Fact?
When advising someone on hardware, please refrain from making statements that cannot be backed up with fact or experience. While personal opinions, preferances, and experiences are impoortant, some statements can be misleading. (i.e. saying that something is "probably the best bang for the buck" can be misleading. Is it opinion or fact? If a fact, please link to a reputable site that states it.)

Each CPU has a specific Socket that it will require a matching motherboard. Example:
An Intel i5 2500k processor will Require a motherboard that has a 1155 socket. They can't be close, they must be identical sockets, a i5-750 processor needs a 1156 socket and WILL NOT work on a 1155 socket motherboard.

The motherboard you choose will also tell you what type and speed of RAM you can use. DDR2 memory cannot be used in a DDR3 slot. The motherboard often will list the compatible speeds and sizes, getting faster memory or a higher capacity than the board can handle will either not work or the board might "underclock" it to make it work.

When picking a hard drive keep in mind that the capacity is not the only factor, RPM speed and if its a solid state drive are important. The difference between a 5400rpm and a 7200rpm HD is noticable. The difference between a SSD and a 7200rpm is somewhat noticable, but probably not a much as from the 5400.

Getting a PSU that has a rated Wattage of 1000watts does not mean thats what it will be using all the time, its just what the unit limit is before exceeding the rated wattage. Your system will use what it needs when it needs it, but its important to keep in mind that over 700watts is overkill unless you plan of running a high-end machine (ex: 4 HDs in RAID, 2+ GPUs). Modern Gaming GPUs usually need a 450w minimium so having a 550w to 700w will usually suffice.
Thoughts? Additions? Improvements?

Added a Answer Template and some helpful notes. Thanks CptHavoc.

however i would add a template for all the parts required
also explain some of the requirements to have same socket type/compatible ram/vid card etc.
Upgrades (Laptop or Desktop:

System type: AMD Phenom(tm) II X4 840 Processor (Custom)
Parts to upgrade: GPU
Reason upgrade is needed: Want to play ultra and diablo3
Budget: I only can spend 240 but better if I can spend 120x2 (I have a brother that needs it to)
Performance level expected: Extrem

System Information
Time of this report: 5/30/2011, 09:41:00
Machine name: NAHUEL-PC
Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit (6.1, Build 7601) Service Pack 1 (7601.win7sp1_gdr.110408-1631)
Language: English (Regional Setting: English)
System Manufacturer: System manufacturer
System Model: System Product Name
BIOS: BIOS Date: 08/24/10 17:44:48 Ver: 08.02
Processor: AMD Phenom(tm) II X4 840 Processor (4 CPUs), ~3.2GHz
Memory: 8192MB RAM
Available OS Memory: 3070MB RAM
Page File: 1555MB used, 4582MB available
Windows Dir: C:\Windows
DirectX Version: DirectX 11
DX Setup Parameters: Not found
User DPI Setting: Using System DPI
System DPI Setting: 96 DPI (100 percent)
DWM DPI Scaling: Disabled
DxDiag Version: 6.01.7601.17514 32bit Unicode

DxDiag Notes
Display Tab 1: No problems found.
Sound Tab 1: No problems found.
Sound Tab 2: No problems found.
Sound Tab 3: No problems found.
Input Tab: No problems found.

DirectX Debug Levels
Direct3D: 0/4 (retail)
DirectDraw: 0/4 (retail)
DirectInput: 0/5 (retail)
DirectMusic: 0/5 (retail)
DirectPlay: 0/9 (retail)
DirectSound: 0/5 (retail)
DirectShow: 0/6 (retail)

Display Devices
Card name: NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GT
Manufacturer: NVIDIA
Chip type: GeForce 9400 GT
DAC type: Integrated RAMDAC
Device Key: Enum\PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0641&SUBSYS_15721462&REV_A1
Display Memory: 2286 MB
Dedicated Memory: 1007 MB
Shared Memory: 1279 MB
Current Mode: 1920 x 1080 (32 bit) (60Hz)
Monitor Name: Generic PnP Monitor
Monitor Model: S211HL
Monitor Id: ACR01AA
Native Mode: 1920 x 1080(p) (60.000Hz)
Output Type: DVI
Driver Name: nvd3dum.dll,nvwgf2um.dll,nvwgf2um.dll
Driver File Version: 8.17.0012.7061 (English)
Driver Version:
DDI Version: 10
Driver Model: WDDM 1.1
Driver Attributes: Final Retail
Driver Date/Size: 4/8/2011 01:14:00, 10071656 bytes
WHQL Logo'd: Yes
WHQL Date Stamp:
Device Identifier: {D7B71E3E-4501-11CF-476C-7E351FC2C535}
Vendor ID: 0x10DE
Device ID: 0x0641
SubSys ID: 0x15721462
Revision ID: 0x00A1
i have a ATI 5770 that only costs like 140 i think on newegg
it runs SC2 at extreme with 60fps normally although with vsync off and mouse lag reduced option off it jumps to 75-100fps

but i think i already told you this =)
i have a ATI 5770 that only costs like 140 i think on newegg
it runs SC2 at extreme with 60fps normally although with vsync off and mouse lag reduced option off it jumps to 75-100fps

but i think i already told you this =)

Yeah I'm just making sure
yeah I wish people would follow this so I don't have to go search for parts they list on newegg to find out their quality -_-
sticky requested
i have a ATI 5770 that only costs like 140 i think on newegg
it runs SC2 at extreme with 60fps normally although with vsync off and mouse lag reduced option off it jumps to 75-100fps

but i think i already told you this =)

Yeah I'm just making sure

If you have any issues finding a Radeon 5770, try looking for the 6770. They are the same card but AMD rebadged them so people wouldn't think they are buying a generation behind. They are a solid card and usually perform better than what you might expect for the price.

Also, if you can, re-install Windows 7 with the 64-bit version. Running the 32-bit means that you are wasting over half of your systems RAM capacity. A 32-Bit operating system cannot address over 3.5gb of RAM.
Any other suggestions to improve this?
solid very solid

**round of appluase
Added Laptop Price notes
Added the "Opinion or Fact?" part to the "Answering" section.

Join the Conversation