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#1April 2nd, 2009 · 09:05 PM
24 threads
166 posts
United States of America
Computer Help?

ok.. so I'm looking to purchase a computer in the next 2 or 3 months..
I plan on maybe running it like this...

     buying a HUGE external memory or the (suprisingly) cheaper internal hard drive..

then running a "striped down no fluff" version of my OS just with my DAW and audio stuff
just from this hard drive..

then on the original hardrive i plan to leave the original OS and "fluff" for just normal computing..

now... what hard drives should i look at. is 7200rpm fast enough?

i found one that hold 1TB and runs at 7200rpms... for like 130$
is that good? thats a TON of space but is it fast enough?

and the computer i found runs a AMD Athlon™ X2 proccesor at 2.3ghz

i did some research that said 2.6ghz was a good start for recording computers...

if i don't plan on running a WHOLE LOAD of vst's and other things

is 2.3 ghz ok?


basically i have a BUNCH more questions.....


       Your Friendly Neighborhood Sasquatch
#2April 2nd, 2009 · 09:56 PM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
7200rpm isn't bad.  It's a pretty normal number.  "Gamer" drives usually go at 9xxx or 10xxx something.  I can't seem to come up with what "DAW" means, but for recording and audio stuff, that should be fine.

I'd pay attention to the harddrive interface type, though.  You'll want SATA-II (or SATA 3-Gbit is the real name) drive, and nothing lower... lower drives would be ATA, PATA, IDE, SATA-I (or SATA 1.5Gbit).

As for the processor... a dual core 2.3ghz processor will likely be fine, especially if you're not running much else.  However, you might want to watch http://slickdeals.net for a few weeks and see if you can find better.  You can buy parts on NewEgg.com even, if you care to slap a processor on there yourself.  A coworker of mine just bought a quad-core 2.4ghz processor for hardly anything.

I'd probably make sure your processor was 64-bit (sometimes called x64, as in "not x86" and "not 32-bit").  (Most newer ones from AMD are.)  I'll explain in a moment.

Firewire... unless you're hellbent on wishful thinking, there honestly aren't many uses for it.  It's really fast, but nothing uses it.  (Nothing that Apple doesn't produce, anyway.  And their proprietary butts won't change that anytime soon.)  It is faster than USB (though a new version of USB should be out within a year or two...), but if you were to slap a converter on it, it would defeat the purpose of the speed of firewire.

Unless you have a firewire gadget, I'd say screw it.  The rest of the world gets by without it.

I'd pay attention to your RAM in the computer as well... You'll want a good big amount of that, if you can.  The reason I mentioned getting a x64 processor is because our old standard of x86 can only use a limited amount of RAM.  That limit is decently high, but for a media-processing computer, you'll likely want to make sure that the computer isn't useless in 3 years.  By getting an x64 processor, you're helping to make sure that you can upgrade the computer in the future.

As for the amount of RAM to have, I'd suggest 4gb.  If this were a normal college-kid "email, Word, and Facebook" computer, 1.5gb would be fine.  And if you start getting hammered with RAM terms like DDR2 or DDR3, dual channel, PCxxx (where xxx is a number, not a strip club), just go for the highest numbers that fit your budget.  DDR2 is normal right now, but DDR3 is going to be the new "best" within a month or so.  I don't even know if you can buy non-dual channel RAM anymore.  And for the PCxxx thing, ... don't get something less than 667.  If you do, your RAM will be a huge bottleneck for your computer's performance.

... i think that's all for now.  If you need more info, ask away.  I could write a ton about this sort of thing :P

#3April 2nd, 2009 · 10:26 PM
181 threads / 54 songs
1,930 posts
slickdeals.net and newegg.com rules
#4April 2nd, 2009 · 10:57 PM
24 threads
166 posts
United States of America
TonightsLastSong wrote…
I can't seem to come up with what "DAW" means, but for recording and audio stuff, that should be fine.

I'd pay attention to the harddrive interface type, though.  You'll want SATA-II (or SATA 3-Gbit is the real name) drive, and nothing lower... lower drives would be ATA, PATA, IDE, SATA-I (or SATA 1.5Gbit).

does this apply to external drives because i can't find where it says that for external drives.. i did find a nice western digital 1TB that said it was Serial ATA like 3.0g? is that something whorth my time?

and then i found a AMD Athlon 64 X2 7750 Kuma 2.7GHz proccesor for 70$

but if i change proccesors i'm going to go with an external drive... probably this hitachi 640mb i found for around 70$ now... it is says its FAT32 wich from what i understand means you can only save files 4mb and smaller? if i want to install an OS on this would that deter my effort? should NTFS be what i look for?

(btw a DAW is a Digital Audio Workstation i.e. Fruityloops,Cubase,Cakewalk.. etc.)

and what should i look for in a sound card... my budget for the ENTIRE studio of wich i have like 2 mics.... is around 1200$ thats 3 months work for me.. so keep this in mind... i can go over but.. i'm not sure i want to hahahaha but thanks for your help man!!
#5April 3rd, 2009 · 12:10 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
"Serial ATA" is another term for SATA (I missed that nickname in my list I gave).

External drives can be tricky, because you can only cram so much data through them at a time.  If you plan on using like a big hoard of a backup, then it'll probably be fine, but I would not endorse using an external driver for recording stuff directly to it.  That's best done on an internal drive.

No matter what the speed of an external drive, you're probably going to be limited by the speed of the USB port you're plugging it into.  As a backup, external is great.  Performance-wise, though, internal is the way to go.

That processor you mentioned sounds pretty good.

The alternative harddrive you mentioned-- did you mean 640 "gb" instead of "mb"?  Not a bad price--  and if it's SATA-II / SATA3gb / Serial ATA, then it's probably fine.  I'm honestly not sure if a drive can force you to use FAT32.  It's not really something that the drive decides.  It's something you pick when installing your OS. An "FS" (file system, which could be FAT32, NTFS, XFS, the list goes on and on with Unix operating systems) is just a blueprint for how the operating system will record info on your drive.

And yes, FAT32 is limited to file size, so avoid it.  If you're planning on running a unix/linux variant, just let it use its default file system.  If you're using Windows, NTFS is your best bet.

Yeah, i think your budget sounds good.  It's getting easier and easier to make a computer for cheaper and cheaper.  (Especially if you're willing to buy some parts separately for the good deals.)

Thanks for the definition-- I guess I use those things, but never used the acronym!

So yeah.. in terms of the hard drive, I'd at least make sure that your internal one is "operational", or else you'll find yourself having a hard time.  And in the end, external hard drives are easy to purchase and add in later, if needs be.  If you want to have one up front, though, I might try to split the firepower between the internal and external, and then possibly get another external a few months down the road.  Just my thought.  It's really nice to have your data on the internal drive, since it can be loaded faster.
#6April 3rd, 2009 · 12:28 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
You know what i was just thinking... the whole x86 versus x64 processor thing... You might want to investigate if you can find each of the audio programs you want to use has a 64-bit edition.  If not, then you might want to find out if the OS you want to use can easily do x86/32-bit emulation.

If you answered "no" to either of those two things, then you might want to do one of the following:

 - Go back to an x86 processor, understanding that your RAM will be limited to 4gb (minus however much RAM in on your video card / internal GPU (graphics processing unit... an "onboard" video card).  This system won't be able to handler more than 4gb total, ever, unless you get a new processor one day.  (This is not impossible, and is sometimes the better option, over buying a brand new computer in a few years.)

 - Make sure that the AMD x64 chip can run an x86 operating system.  My home computer uses a processor very much like the x64 one you said you found for $70.  It can run an x86/32-bit OS without any problems, even though its an x64 processor.  (If you install a 32-bit OS, you won't be able to use 64-bit programs, though.)

If you pick the x86 processor, then fine.  Just make sure it's fast If you want to stick with the x64 chip, then you should know that Windows Vista is better on x64 than on x86.  They made a lot of optimizations if you choose to run something like Vista or Windows 7 (prolly not Win7 :P , given that this is a media machine).  If you want to run XP, then .. I don't know   Personally, I don't think anybody should be running XP for much of anything anymore, especially if you want to be running new software.

By curiosity, what OS do you want to use?  I'm not sure how many pro audio programs Linux offers.
#7April 3rd, 2009 · 03:34 PM
24 threads
166 posts
United States of America
Vista will be my OS....

I'm not going to do the dual boot thing anymore...

and since the onboard memory is 250gb and writes at 7200rpms

then i'm going to use it for the time being...

after i use it for a while i may upgrade the hard drive but then again...

i may not....

I think i'm going to get a x64 proccessor now.. is x86 better?

is that what vista runs at?

i know fruity loops and cubase and audacity.. all work with vista..

those are the ones i plan to use....

#8April 4th, 2009 · 01:01 AM
159 threads / 32 songs
1,956 posts
United States of America
does it have to be windows,, and as far as the firewire goes. it has to do with latency,  the fastest you can transfer information. firewire audio interfaces with their own pci card are by far faster than any usb interface.

I am shooting for this DAW set up. next.

you need to study up on what DAW interfaces you would like to use..

firewire interfaces outperform usb interfaces by a bunch.. I have both. my firewire interfaces with their own pci card are 3 times faster than the next firewire interface I have, and 4 times faster than the fastest usb interface
 I have.  It's all about Latency.. The less you have the tighter your recordings.  fastest computer, with the best ram set up with the fastest hard drives set up.  fastest transfer of information = lowest latency.

don't get in a hurry, try to get a quad or 8 core if possible with the fastest speed you can get,  big super fast honking hardrives ( the deeper the bit depth the more HD you use up).  load it up on as much ram as you can put in it.

then look around for a very good used  DAW set up. you can get pro tool digi oo2 and oo3's for cheap
 or the motu 2408 III's  ,. you might even get lucky and find some apogee stuff for sell used.

check on gearslutz.com for lots of great useful info.
#9April 5th, 2009 · 02:28 PM
24 threads
166 posts
United States of America
ok... firstly....

does it have to be windows

it dosn't nesecarilly but here is my reasoning...
it is the most familiar to me...
Linux is a bunch of open source coding..
and mac's cost like WAY over my budget....
so vista is about my only option... (that i see)

if you could point me into a better direction i would be grateful!!!

and secondly...

what if i just buy an okay computer from dell or hp or something
and then upgrade the proccesor, ram, and the hard drive...
would that be cheaper...
plus i can kindof customize it...
#10April 5th, 2009 · 04:37 PM
159 threads / 32 songs
1,956 posts
United States of America
I have both. mac and pc.. when I went with my pc.. I found out I could build one lots cheaper than buy one.
they are not hard to put together. check at newegg or other computer places.  you can get a box
 and load it up for a lot cheaper than buying brand name computers.

if you are not sure about building it yourself, I am certain you can find someone in your area than had the knowledge to put one together for you for cheap.. and those guys usually have lots of great software that is usable for recordings and such.

you can find very good macs for sale on ebay Sometimes you can find em already loaded up with pro tools and the pro tools interfaces, or  motu interfaces , ect. and they come with the recording software packages already. so by the time you look at buying a computer,. then all the software and interface.. you are sometimes cheaper just buying one of the used ones already loaded up with what you need.
#11April 5th, 2009 · 05:54 PM
340 threads / 59 songs
4,344 posts
United Kingdom
It's cheaper to build your own.....you've had loads of info from this thread, you could still ask for some more, you can look on line , talk to people in shops....get informed.
Then buy the bits you need for your 'project', find a totally cool cheap tower, make sure you can stick a few good silent fans in it. Get the motherboard you need, a power supply, video card, a really good audio card, a lot of memory, a couple of HD's and a DVD burner.
The tower can be second-hand, the mother board new, video card could be a 'reasonable' second-hand one but the audio card must be very good.....
There's an installation hand-book with a motherboard anyway and a cd with the drivers and help.

You'll learn so much more by doing it your self.
And you'll come to 'appreciate' your system, what does what and why.

Once you have your super dooper whooper of a pc DAW, go searching on line on how to optimize your system for 'music production'. The simple things like not having loads of crap starting up and staying on in the background.

Just a thought.....There is a program called 'XPlite', which you can use to create your own Windows XP, I dont know about Vista or 7.
You install a fresh WindowsXP, start up XPlite, customize your windows, like get rid of shit, and then let it create a new minimized windowsXP installation CD, which you then install as your OS.

What I'm saying is that if your serious about it you could have a maga custom PC system run by the minimum required Windows so that you can have the maximum amount of resources to run your DAW.
Or you could by a Mac!    
#12April 5th, 2009 · 06:16 PM
24 threads
166 posts
United States of America
hahaha thank man.. i really think i'm just going to build my own
this can't end well.....
i guess the first thing to do is..
look up what parts i need...
do you guys have any advice on a motherboard?
i am clueless...
#13April 5th, 2009 · 08:45 PM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
Well, please read my long-winded explanations.  Here's what I think:

Just about any OS you want to use can work on an x64 processor.  It's more a question of if the programs you want to use have an x64 version.  This is different than finding out if they simply "work on vista".  It depends on if you were running x86 vista or x64 vista.

Frankly, x64 will get faster.  x64 vista already *is* faster.  Within 3 or 4 years, x86 will die out, but not all programs have made an x64 version yet.

I'd really forget the firewire thing, unless you're really bent on using recording hardware that needs it.  It's faster by a lot, but it's sooo not worth it to buy the card needed for the computer to use it.  I swear to you that you'll never use it unless you already need to.  And by then, USB 3 will be out (we're at USB 2).  Just give it a year, and you'll never regret it.

Building your own computer... I think this is a good opportunity to remind the masses that mathematical addition is commutative, and so if you buy the pieces individually, it won't be much different than buying them all together.  This used to not be true, but more and more, it really isn't going to give you much of a return on the pricing, unless you find sales on individual items.  Prices on computers are only stupid if you're standing at walmart trying to buy something off the shelf.  To build your own you'll have to find a good price on a processor, a motherboard, power supply, ram (which fits your motherboard's slot types), yada yada.  And then you're opening up yourself to aspects of the technicalities that you may not like.  If you've got the courage, then go for it.  And if you've got more questions because of it, then ask away.

Honestly, linux will be a pain in the freaking butt if you don't know if your programs are going to work on it.  Trust me... there is a good reason why even Ubuntu (the "easy" flagship of them all) will not be for the common user for years yet to come.  If you don't know what "chmod" means, or if the significance of "becoming root" is, then go with windows and never look back until the Linux crowd can clean up the command-line messes.

And if you're screwing Linux, and you're going for vista, then I would strongly urge you to not go for XP, despite other recommendations.  Vista is a good thing.  Windows 7 is on the verge of being released, and it is a huge improvement on Vista.  Windows 7 does better with memory, which is what most blind gripes about Vista are all about.  XP is dated.  It has lived long past its intended life span, but that doesn't mean you should depend on it.

If you don't already have a copy of Vista, you can do one of two things:
1) find someone with some magic, "magic" meaning an MSDN account with microsoft.  Anybody working for MS will have one.  Just ask them for a serial key to the OS.  Alternatively, find a university student who has no idea what "vista" means, and ask them for their University-supplied download of the OS.  Take it from them, since they won't miss it, and it won't cost you anything.

2) Ask me-- I've got an extra copy of Vista's Business edition that I don't use.  I could care less who I give it to.  It's just a serial number to me.  (Note that I'm not trying to pirate it to you-- I simply don't use it.)  You can download the actual disk anywhere.  It's not the cd that is worth all the money, it's the serial key, and I can give that to you for nothing.

Either way, the point is that you should find every way to avoid paying money for an operating system.  For some people that means "use linux".  For me, that means use Windows, and find a (100% legal) way to get it for free.  If you get Vista for little or no cost, then you can get the upgrade to Windows 7 sometime relatively soon.  The upgrade will be well worth it.

If you think that XP may be worth it (since, as kings mentioned, there are ways to strip it down even more), I've got a (legal) serial key for that, too.  Just let me know if you want one of the OS keys.
#14April 5th, 2009 · 10:26 PM
24 threads
166 posts
United States of America

ok its a eMachines EL1210-09

it has a 64-bit processor... (2.4ghz)

and peaks just over 300$

now.. the RAM is what is call 2gb DDR2 (240 pin)
from what i understand... it is 2 different 1gb RAMs

now for 50$ i found 4gb 2gbx2 DDR2 (240 pin)


will this work?

and the hard drive in this is SATA-II

can i get a serial ATA 640gb and put it in there?

it transfers 3.0g/s (gigs per second?)

will it just connect and go?

adn as for the audio... i think i'm going to go with

a break out box...

any suggestions on a good one?
#15April 5th, 2009 · 11:59 PM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
The 4gb of ram sounds good-- can you say any more about the speed?  usually they write it as "PC330" or "PC877" or something.  If it's a decent number, it's probably worth getting.

The hard drive also sounds good.

You should know, that if you are looking for a motherboard on your own, a few things:
- Motherboards are what have the slots for the actual RAM itself.  A decent board will have usually 4 slots, and should have at least a 2-4 gb "slot max".  That just refers to the maximum size of a single stick of RAM you could put in any single slot.  Like you said, you found 4gb in a 2gbx2 form, so you'd need a motherboard with at least a 2gb slot max.  (Ideally, you'd shoot for 4, but 2 is just fine.)

- The motherboard will also determine what kind of hard drive(s) you can use.  Any decent motherboard worth 50 cents should be able to use that SATA drive you talked about.  It might also make reference to having at least one "parallel" or "IDE" interface on it.  This is good, because CD/DVD drives use "parallel"/IDE still.

I don't know audio boards as well as the other stuff (surprisingly).  Even if the motherboard you buy as an "onboard" sound card, it'll be crap, so make sure you put some money into an audio board.  You'll probably be best off getting opinions from the others on this one.
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