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I need a new computer. I spend a good portion of the day on mine doing random home-officey and schooly things. I have like 50 tabs open at any given time, and I'm almost always streaming something. I prefer a desktop to a laptop. 

So tell me what I should be looking for here. From what I'm reading I need as much RAM as I can afford and probably an SSD over HDD. Is that right? And is there anything else?

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I would suggest something with a lot of RAM (I have 12 gb on my laptop and wish I had a little more).

I would also look for a dual drive - something with both an SSD and HDD.  The SSD holds the operating system and does the heavy lifting for the operational stuff, and the HDD is more for storage. It's a cheaper option than getting a large HDD.

What's your budget?

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MMMMM Best Buy out of box specials. I got my desk top for like half off. It was missing a keyboard and a mouse and no monitor but I got it for a deal because it was a floor model which had been retired and had some dumb scratch on it. 

SSD mixed is an excellent suggestion. That's going to bring up a lot of stuff fast. Also as much RAM as you can get for your money 16 or more. AMD motherboards are going to give you a cheaper computer but they also are slower. Aim for an i9 or i7 processor but if you can't get that do a i5.

I personally like IBM best like their ThinkCenters but Dells or ASUS aren't so bad and it's like cars now. Everything's the same and built super well. I hate HP and Dell but that's because it's mostly what I deal with at school and I have to work with their tech support which makes me angry and yelly because of their phone trees.

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My recommendation is get as much as you can afford.  Future proof as best as you can.  Here are my stat recommendations, and you should be able to find this if you are PC for $800-$1000. Costco and Best Buy often have good deals.  YOu can order direct from manufacturer, too. 

CPU: I recommend at least an Intel i5 or better if you can afford it. Aim for 10th generation or better.

I like standard power consumption over low power or ultra low power because I generally feel they run faster and I usually am either plugged into a charger or dock station.  I don't use AMD processors for laptops. 

Memory: Minimum 16GB RAM, again more is better.

Hard drive: NO mechanical drives, get an SSD or better yet M.2 drive.  DO NOT get a SSD/mechanical drive hybrid! Hybrid drives are an evolutionary dead end. Big a few years ago when SSDs were more expensive, but SSD and M.2 drives are much cheaper now, making hybrids obsolete.  Get at least 256 GB storage space capacity, but aim for a  500GB drive, even if you think you don't need it because you use cloud storage.  It is ALWAYS better to have more space than you need, than to need more space and not have it. 

Video Card: NVIDIA video card if you can afford it.

Brands I like if you are PC: ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo (formerly IBM). Alienware is owned by Dell, just FYI and is a gamer laptop.  Bonus if you get the business models over consumer models (if feasible/affordable for you). Get as good a warranty as you can afford.  

Apple: even though it is larger, I prefer Macbook Pro over Macbook air.  

 

 

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1 hour ago, Zathras said:

My recommendation is get as much as you can afford.  Future proof as best as you can.  Here are my stat recommendations, and you should be able to find this if you are PC for $800-$1000. Costco and Best Buy often have good deals.  YOu can order direct from manufacturer, too. 

CPU: I recommend at least an Intel i5 or better if you can afford it. Aim for 10th generation or better.

I like standard power consumption over low power or ultra low power because I generally feel they run faster and I usually am either plugged into a charger or dock station.  I don't use AMD processors for laptops. 

Memory: Minimum 16GB RAM, again more is better.

Hard drive: NO mechanical drives, get an SSD or better yet M.2 drive.  DO NOT get a SSD/mechanical drive hybrid! Hybrid drives are an evolutionary dead end. Big a few years ago when SSDs were more expensive, but SSD and M.2 drives are much cheaper now, making hybrids obsolete.  Get at least 256 GB storage space capacity, but aim for a  500GB drive, even if you think you don't need it because you use cloud storage.  It is ALWAYS better to have more space than you need, than to need more space and not have it. 

Video Card: NVIDIA video card if you can afford it.

Brands I like if you are PC: ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo (formerly IBM). Alienware is owned by Dell, just FYI and is a gamer laptop.  Bonus if you get the business models over consumer models (if feasible/affordable for you). Get as good a warranty as you can afford.  

Apple: even though it is larger, I prefer Macbook Pro over Macbook air.  

 

 

Obviously that’s a lot of great advice and you know what you’re talking about, but it seems like your advice is mostly aimed at laptops, and Cerina is asking about desktops, or at least stated that she prefers desktops. Do you have any more specific desktop advice?

With a desktop, I personally prefer the dual drive setup. Not a hybrid, because I agree those are gross, but having a solid state drive as the primary drive and a traditional hard drive for storage. It’s obviously a personal preference, but I prefer to have a lot of storage and a 1 TB+ solid state drive is cost prohibitive. 
 

Everything you said about future proofing and storage is spot on. If one can afford it, they need to do it.

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I missed that part.  But, most of the advice I gave there still carries over to desktops.  I do the same thing with my desktops: SSD as a boot drive, and I have multiple mechanical 2TB-4tb drives as storage drives.  Unlike laptops, where you likely just have 1 drive, in desktops it is OKAY to have mechanical drives as secondary storage drives, because they don't get the spin like a boot drive does.  I find Dell desktops easiest to add/remove components because they are generally designed to be tooless.  Desktops are a lot easier to cut corners on, when it comes to memory and HDD because you can upgrade RAM and drives easier.  For example, you can order a desktop with like 8 GB, and later upgrade to 16 or 32 GB, and pop in a secondary storage HDD.  Tons of how-toos on youtube if you are a beginner for this.  Even by specific model.

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One other thing, if you are looking at a Dell desktop, know that the Optiplex line is the business line, and is better quality and has a better warranty than the consumer line which is Inspiron.  I have worked with Optiplex computers all my career at ASU and they are sturdy workhorses and reliable.  If you order from Dell directly, you sometimes can get a good deal if you mention you have a small business or are using it for educational purposes.  

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RAM upgrades aren't that difficult. Most difficult bit (but still not that difficult) is identifying the type of RAM you have and whether you can just add another "stick" or have to replace what you have, and if you can increase the amount in the first place.

So on the PC I'm typing this on (an all-in-one), there are two RAM slots and I'd have to buy a 2x8 GB kit to upgrade it to 16 GB because there is already a 4 GB stick in each slot. And 16 GB is the maximum.

You should be able to change the HDD to an SSD, but it will probably have to be a SATA SSD instead of an M2/NVME one because your PC might not be new enough to have M2 slots.

SATA (same interface as your HDD unless your PC is really old) SSDs won't be as fast as M2/NVME, but still several times faster than a HDD.

I changed the 2.5 inch HDD on this PC to a SATA SSD and rarely notice the speed difference between it and the M2 SSD on my other PC.

Changing is easy, but the SATA SSD will be in a 2.5 inch plastic shell instead of being the same size as a 3.5 inch HDD. You can buy adapters which will allow you to put a 2.5 inch drive in a 3.5 inch bay, but because SATA SSDs are very light and have no moving parts / vibration, you can secure them with tape instead.

Some SATA SSDs are sold as HDD replacement kits which include cloning software / cables so you don't have to reinstall everything.

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Sounds simple enough. And cheaper. I can save the big upgrade for after we move. 

Now how do I find out what the max RAM this computer will support is? I can probably Google that, right?

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Something like CPU-Z - link - can tell you what mother/mainboard you have if the website for Dell or whoever made your PC doesn't (assuming it's not a DIY one)

That will help for Google

Have also included the memory tab, you can look at each memory slot and see what's installed without having to open the case

cpu_z_motherboard.jpg

cpu_z_memory.jpg

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CPU-Z  can be confusing to someone that doesn't know anything about computers. You're running DDR3 1600Mhz RAM with 4 GB modules, for a maximum of 8 GB (2 slots?! eww!) of memory. "But why does CPU-Z say it's 800 Mhz?" Some might ask. It's because it double pumped (as they say), so you take the shown number and double it for the real results.

 

We really need to know how old this computer is, and if it can be upgraded. I'm thinking since she's not really experienced, that she should just buy a new PC with modern specs.

I'd suggest a pre-built like this one, featuring the 8 core/16 thread i7 10700. It comes with a 512 GB SSD boot drive and 1 TB of HDD storage. I don't use HDDs anymore, but it is what it is.

 

https://www.amazon.com/HP-Desktop-Computer-i7-10700-TE01-1022/dp/B089K5J3PT/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=5IQO8DP5FWS7&dchild=1&keywords=desktop+computers&qid=1616877696&sprefix=Desktop+%2Caps%2C189&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzUk1WMFRUTFdPTlJUJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTk0Njk2VDNKTFZXREIwMVNQJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA2OTk4NjEzR1Q2QjZZUDkxV00wJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

 

Or even better, this 3rd gen Ryzen 7 4700G CPU with 32GB of RAM and a 1 TB NVME drive.

 

https://www.amazon.com/HP-Desktop-Bluetooth-Keyboard-Windows/dp/B08RRW82RQ/ref=sr_1_14?dchild=1&keywords=desktop+computers&qid=1616878219&refinements=p_n_feature_five_browse-bin%3A13580788011&rnid=2257851011&s=pc&sr=1-14

 

 

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Gamevet, I am drooling over that spec sheet. But then it's an HP and I'm like nah.

Not gonna lie. I like the all in ones and almost bought one but bowed out because I'm pretty okay at working with changing and moving things in a standard desktop platform. All in Ones feel like those old TV VHS combos. If one breaks then you just really have clonky computer screen that does nothing. 

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I like my all-in-one, but I can only replace the memory or drives if they break. Also didn't pay much for it, was a lightly used bargain.

Sorry, should have pointed out the relevant numbers for memory etc, like DDR3 and PC3-12800, but just Googling the part number (or part of it) can get you a match or equivalent

Crucial.com have a click through upgrade finder too

On the SSD v HDD thing, where I live a (not-fancy) 1 TB SATA SSD costs about the same as a 4 TB 3.5 inch HDD, but I don't need 4 TB (and still haven't filled a 2 TB drive with stuff yet) and the benefits of SSDs are worth it, like not having to wait ages when searching lots of files or when a folder with hundreds of images has to refresh its thumbnails

Although I'm old-fashioned and like having the operating system + apps on their own drive and mostly read-only data on another one, having them on the same drive, especially an SSD, is no big deal if you have backups

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8 hours ago, Ms. Spam said:

Gamevet, I am drooling over that spec sheet. But then it's an HP and I'm like nah.

Not gonna lie. I like the all in ones and almost bought one but bowed out because I'm pretty okay at working with changing and moving things in a standard desktop platform. All in Ones feel like those old TV VHS combos. If one breaks then you just really have clonky computer screen that does nothing. 

 

I'm all about building my own PC, but I had used my old HP Pavilion as a start to learn how to fiddle around with PC building. I replaced the Pentium E6300 (2.8 Ghz dual-core) with an Intel Q9650 (3 Ghz Core2Quad) along with upgrading the power supply and dropping in an old Nvidia GTX 460 in 2010. I still have that PC for use with my office software and odd stuff that I don't want on my i9 gaming PC. HP actually builds solid computers, unlike Dell with their bare minimum boards.

I put together a build for a friend last summer, using my old PC parts. I gave him a 2500K (overclocked to 4.7Ghz) with 16GB of DDR3-1600Mhz RAM, my old EVGA GTX 780 Classified and a couple of SSDs I had sitting around. I had to buy the case (got it from Fry's) for $60 and really had to scrounge around the internet to find a really solid 750 Watt Gold rated PSU for $75. 

 

Back of case.jpeg

Casefan.jpeg

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22 hours ago, Cerina said:

I need a new computer. I spend a good portion of the day on mine doing random home-officey and schooly things. I have like 50 tabs open at any given time, and I'm almost always streaming something. I prefer a desktop to a laptop. 

So tell me what I should be looking for here. From what I'm reading I need as much RAM as I can afford and probably an SSD over HDD. Is that right? And is there anything else?

Alright, I just realized that you live in Houston. You do have a MicroCenter in there, so that's a big win. I can put together a list of parts that would cost a lot less than the prebuilt computers. MicroCenter will put together your PC for a $60 assembly fee and their PC parts prices are amazing.

 

https://www.microcenter.com/

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Cool, if you give me a list of parts, I'll definitely look into it as well. 

I have an Acer Aspire TC-780. It's only like 18 months old or so, but we bought it when our old desktop died and we needed something urgent and cheap. I think this was even like a Black Friday special on Amazon. So it's super-cheap and starting to really drag. My son and husband both have laptops for their school work, but I use desktop to run our business, home, and school while also being a hub my stupidly underpaid "volunteer" positions. I don't do any gaming or super-computing here. Mostly, it's non-stop research and web-browsing while streaming shows to keep me sane, but I do constantly have open at least 4 Chrome windows with about 50+ tabs, several Word and Excel docs, a bunch of PDFs, and a handful of communications/conferencing apps (mostly Slack, Zoom, and FB messenger). People are calling and chatting all day about various things, mostly looking for information from me, so I keep the communications stuff open. 

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Heh, I presumed it was older

It has one M2 SATA slot, not NVME, so the only difference between a 2.5 inch SATA SSD and an M2 SATA SSD will be physical size, and two RAM slots, up to 32 GB (2 x 16 GB)

(dunno about 16 v 32 GB; I've never needed more than 16 GB, but I've never done that much multi-tasking either)

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Yeah, having 40 tabs open will eat up her 12 GB of system RAM, leading to the HDD being used as virtual RAM. Youtube channel Byte Size Tech talked about that a little over a week ago.

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2 hours ago, Cerina said:

Cool, if you give me a list of parts, I'll definitely look into it as well. 

I have an Acer Aspire TC-780. It's only like 18 months old or so, but we bought it when our old desktop died and we needed something urgent and cheap. I think this was even like a Black Friday special on Amazon. So it's super-cheap and starting to really drag. My son and husband both have laptops for their school work, but I use desktop to run our business, home, and school while also being a hub my stupidly underpaid "volunteer" positions. I don't do any gaming or super-computing here. Mostly, it's non-stop research and web-browsing while streaming shows to keep me sane, but I do constantly have open at least 4 Chrome windows with about 50+ tabs, several Word and Excel docs, a bunch of PDFs, and a handful of communications/conferencing apps (mostly Slack, Zoom, and FB messenger). People are calling and chatting all day about various things, mostly looking for information from me, so I keep the communications stuff open. 

Here's the parts list. I wanted to go with Intel for the integrated graphics, but for some reason Houston shows all of their CPUs to be sold out. It must be a glitch. I was also wrong on their build price. They've moved it up to $149 and that is without an operating system. You can easily install a free copy of Windows 10 from Microsoft, put it on a thumb drive and have the PC boot from that drive to install it on the SSD. There's a site called CD keys, where you can purchase a windows 10 key for under $20.

Personally, I think that your biggest bottleneck is that weak 4 core i5. I'd suggest you hit control-alt-delete to open task manager, so you can see how much memory your system is using when it's bogging down. If the CPU is pegged at near 100%, then that is your culprit. If physical RAM is tapped out at 12 GB (what your system has) and virtual memory is quite large, then 32 GB of RAM is the way to go. 

 

 

 

The build is $877 with 32 GB of RAM and with 16 GB it's $797 plus tax. 


R5 3600 6 core/12 thread CPU with motherboard  $289

https://www.microcenter.com/product/5004506/-amd-ryzen-5-3600-with-wraith-stealth-cooler,-msi-b450-gaming-plus-max,-cpu---motherboard-bundle

32GB of G-Skill DDR4-3200Mhz RAM $169

https://www.microcenter.com/product/467049/gskill-ripjaws-v-32gb-(2-x-16gb)-ddr4-3200-pc4-25600-cl16-dual-channel-desktop-memory-kit-f4-3200c16d-32g---black

Or 16 GB of Crucial DDR4-3200 RAM for $89

https://www.microcenter.com/product/618847/crucial-ballistix-gaming-16gb-(2-x-8gb)-ddr4-3200-pc4-25600-cl16-dual-channel-desktop-memory-kit-bl2k8g32c16u4b---black

Nvidia 710 2 GB video card  $59

https://www.microcenter.com/product/460004/msi-geforce-gt-710-low-profile-passive-cooled-2gb-ddr3-pcie-30-graphics-card

EVGA 500 Watt 80+ PSU $60

https://www.microcenter.com/product/457414/evga-500-watt-80-plus-atx-non-modular-power-supply

NZXT Mid-tower case (black or white) $70

https://www.microcenter.com/product/606972/nzxt-h510-tempered-glass-atx-mid-tower-computer-case---black-white

Inland 2.5" 1TB SSD $90

https://www.microcenter.com/product/617875/inland-premium-1tb-3d-qlc-nand-sata-30-6gb-s-25-internal-ssd

 


Build cost $149

https://www.microcenter.com/product/398177/micro-center-custom-pc-building-service---tier-1


 

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Whenever I check the Task Manager, the CPU is typically 30-60%. Memory is typically nearly tapped out 85-100%. And the HDD is typically 70-100%. 

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1 hour ago, Cerina said:

Whenever I check the Task Manager, the CPU is typically 30-60%. Memory is typically nearly tapped out 85-100%. And the HDD is typically 70-100%. 

I'm dumbfounded by the fact that they had paired an 8GB stick of memory with a 4GB stick of memory.  I'd suggest replacing the 4GB stick with an 8GB stick, but this PC appears to have been designed by people that didn't have a clue about building PCs. 

 

https://www.pcbuildadvisor.com/acer-aspire-desktop-tc-780-acki5-7th-gen-intel-i5-7400-12gb-ddr4-2tb-hdd-review/

"The TC-780-ACKi5 has a total of 12GB of DDR4 RAM at 2400MHz. The RAM is implemented in two separate sticks: one 8GB stick and one 4GB stick."

Here's the youtube video I was talking about. He's a bit on the extreme with what he is doing, but he shows how system RAM starts being cached by his SSD once he goes past his physical RAM.

 

 

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