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Components for Building Computers From Scratch/building a computer that would last for many years

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QUESTION: hi im Jeric..
2 years ago i thought of buying a laptop and said to myself that's the last computer i would buy
its a vaio E series
with intel core i5 processor 2.66ghz with turbo boos up to 3.20ghz
an ATI Radeon graphics card
4gb ram and 500gb hard drive

i'm satisfied with it till i realized its prone to overheat therefore its lifespan may be shorter than i would expect it to have.

now im thinking should i switch to desktop? since it have more options and stop it from overheating and deteriorating..

QUESTIONS:
Q1. am i taking the right path?

i already asked for quotations on how much a desktop with i7 processor and many fans and filter would cost and its still much cheaper than my Vaio E series
Q2. what brands of motherboard is most durable? i think the one
they game me was MSI. i asked about motherboard brand because from my experience its the one that breaks first

the sales clerk was also mentioning it being military grade
Q3. is there really such thing and is much better/durable?

from where i see it its kinda going overboard using i7 processor since most processing on my computer is used when only passing time to play a game. work and productive softwares doesnt really need much processing power i think. so having a desktop with i7 would still be good for me even if 10 years pass by
Q4. what do you think? would it still be useful around 10 years from now?

Q5. tips on prolonging computer lifespan? right now im just trying to preventing from overheating

hope you dont mind answering all my concerns..
thanks a lot in advance

ANSWER: Have you considered a cooling pad type device for the existing laptop? It may help to prevent the overheating. You are correct, however, that overheating will shorten the life-cycle of any machine, and that a desktop in general will not have as many problems with heating as a laptop does.

Having said all of that, ten years is an unrealistic expectation for any computer - while the hardware itself may physically last, it will not be up to date or usable with contemporary applications. To give you an example, a ten year old computer today would be equipped with a Pentium 3 or Athlon XP processor; it could not suitably run Windows Vista or Windows 7, let alone handle applications on top of that. The i7 will not provide much advantage in the longevity of the machine either. In truth, 2-4 years is a more realistic time-frame.

My advice at this point would be to try a cooling device for the laptop, and if that fails, consider a desktop computer. If you can purchase a machine from a large OEM, like Dell, in your region of the world, that's what I would suggest (as it will have a solid warranty behind it, and none of the corner-cutting associated with most "small shops"). If you do plan to go with the shop, I would avoid MSI as a boardmaker - look at Intel's own motherboards, or motherboards from Gigabyte, ASRock, or BioStar. Ensure that the power supply is of high quality (Enermax, Antec, PC Power & Cooling, XFX, etc), and that the case is appropriate to the hardware being installed.

If you have further questions, feel free to ask.

-bob


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: hmmm 2-4 years? it doesn't seem practical buying a new computer all the time.
i think my laptop isnt even using much of its processing power with the things im doing on it. it can still be upgraded to 8gb ram if want to but dont really need it.

i do know that 10 years would be too long for a computer. i still have a pentium 4 and i think a pentium 3 too that still works just fine. it may not be able to run windows 7 but i can still do what i need to do on it.
1. surf the net
2. download stuff using utorrent
3. watch movie using vlc player
4. a couple of games just to pass time

Q1. as long as the hardware is okay ill still be able to do this for years right? its not like movie player uses much processing power and for an i7 would be able to do it even if years pass by right? the salesman also said i can put 16gb or ram on that motherboard i think or is it 32gb ram not sure...

Q2. i also want to ask, isnt the only point of upgrading or changing computer just to have more processing power and also storage capacity?
if im on windows xp and theres a windows 7 if i can do my stuff on xp then i wouldnt really need windows 7 right? like if i can edit photo on photoshop cs5 i wont be needing the future version of photoshop. right?
for normal people who doesnt do their work on computer like editing video/photos/programs etc. wouldnt i7 be enough and maybe 16gb of ram for many years?

Q3. i think you didnt mention anything about the military grade motherboard. is there such a thing? does intel have their own military grade motherboard?

will take note of your brand suggestions..
hope you dont mind answering these followup questions..
thank a lot in advance

Answer
Two to four years isn't quite what I'd consider "all the time" - and replacement cycles certainly do vary with usage and user needs. Generally speaking going much beyond the five year mark is where you start getting into hardware failures due to age - mechanical drives tend to become increasingly unreliable as they age, and power supplies (and other devices with capacitors) tend to see higher failure rates. For a lightly used machine, 4-6 years may be more realistic, but eventually the machine will need to be replaced (either due to the hardware failing, or in order to run more current software).

The note on current software is perhaps more pertinent; as software evolves it generally becomes more demanding of the host machine. For example changes to the Windows operating system over the last decade. It must also be remembered that Microsoft does not support all versions of Windows indefinitely, and as support is discontinued for older versions they become increasingly unsafe to use on an Internet-connected machine (currently it is not considered "best practices" to deploy anything older than Windows XP, and Windows XP should be replaced before the lifecycle termination in April 2014). While this is all just a matter of updating software licences and perhaps reinstalling a few applications, older hardware will struggle with the newer applications. It will also struggle with newer, media-heavy content (a Pentium 3, and most Pentium 4 systems, will not handle 1080p video seamlessly, and will often struggle with the more media-rich Flash content found on some websites). Extra memory will do little to assist this problem, as memory does not correlate to processing power.

You mention games and movie watching, which can be very performance intensive tasks - HD video is not "a light task" for even modern computers, and many 3D games are among the most demanding tasks that most computers are likely to be faced with.

In response to your specific questions:

1. Assuming no hardware failures (which isn't entirely unrealistic), the machine will be able to do whatever it could do on day 1, until the point the hardware fails. In other words, if it can play a Blu-ray today, it will be able to do that until it breaks. However this does not speak to future performance requirements. For example, most Pentium 4 computers can play DVDs but this does not mean they can play Blu-rays, even if equipped with the appropriate drive.

2. In theory yes. Just keep in mind that many applications have limited support cycles, after which point you are often forced to upgrade, or use the application in an unsupported (and depending on its type, unsecure) state. In the case of an old videogame or old version of Photoshop this isn't really a problem - many gamers still enjoy titles that are quickly becoming "vintage" (like Quake), and many graphics professionals still use older versions of Photoshop (owing primarily to familiarity and the cost of upgrades). The operating system, however, is another story - best practices are to have an up to date operating system. This is not just true of Windows; OS X and other POSIX-compatible systems should also be kept up to date. And in some cases those upgrades require additional licencing (like moving from Windows XP to Windows 7), or improved hardware capabilities (for example Windows 7 requires more disk space than Windows XP for its system files, and requires a more powerful processor to run). Roughly this fits into the 2-4 year figure; while a Core i7 is very powerful by modern standards, in 4 years it will be midling, and while it will be capable of running whatever operating system it shipped with (likely Windows 8, if purchasing a new computer today), it may or may not be suitable for a newer operating system. For more about the Windows lifecycle in particular:
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/lifecycle

3. The "military grade" branding is marketing run amok.

-bob

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Bobbert

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.

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I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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