Building a new Gigabyte PC for my Dad

My dad’s been complaining of slow internet connection despite having signed with Streamyx broadband service. He was expecting a better user experience with the cyberworld with the broadband but unfortunately it was not the case.

In most cases like this, it is usually the old PC system that was the culprit. A slower computer meant that it could not process the deluge of data fast enough, and thus a slower internet connection would be experienced. My dad was using a Pentium III PC which he got it around mid year of 2001 and upgraded from Windows 98SE to a Windows 2000. It was getting very dated.

Obsolete before even before even taking out of the box? As this popular saying goes, well nobody got loads of money to buy the highest end PC. While the technology advances, the poor old PC could not cope with the ever newer software and hardware updates.

Time to upgrade. For a budget simple user like my dad, a simple PC sufficiently powerful enough to run a Window Vista system and have a good fast internet connection was all it was needed. I was looking at the specs given by All IT using an Abit motherboard. I asked them to show me the board itself, and one looked at it after opening the box, I decided to give it up because it was too simple and not worth looking at it.

The other choice was the Asus M2A-VM board using an ATI690G chipset. Unfortunately it was out of stock at that time. My dad was with me at that time and said he didn’t mind paying a little extra for a good system. So, I went for the same motherboard that I had, the Gigabyte GA-MA69G-S3H. As for the CPU, I opted for lesser powered AMD4200+ to save on cost figuring that it was still quite sufficient to do what he needed it to do.

As for the DDR2-RAM I went for a slightly faster 800MHz since the price gap was not too much from the 667MHz version. This should speed up the memory speed to compensate for the slower CPU chosen. To run a Windows Vista system smoothly, 2GB (1GB x 2 pieces) was needed plus I wanted to make use of the dual-channel architecture for faster memory utilization.

Also selected a SATA based Lite-On DVD±RW RAM, but regretted the decision later when I found out that its smart spin down feature actually hampered its reading ability. I had a lot of problem trying to install the operating system and software from DVD disk with read errors. I had to key in any details quickly whenever the installation pauses for user to key in details to avoid letting the spinning disk slow down and stop thereby causing read errors because it wouldn’t speed up again to allow disk reading.

It was an overall simple budget PC system costing RM1050 comprising:

M/B = Gigabyte GA-MA690-S3H
CPU = AMD64 X2 Athlon 4200+
RAM = DDR2 800MHz * 2 pieces
HDD = Western Digital 160GB SATA2

Choosing the components was the easy part. Installing the operating system and software to make it completely usable for my dad took out a lot of time. It took me two solid nights of installation to put in the required software. Plus another night at his house to install the HP5610 all-in-one printer drivers and software because I had to download a Vista compatible version and the HP server was extremely slow. It took like 3 hours+ to download a 160MB worth of data! I don’t know why the HP server was so slooooow. I recalled Dell servers were just as bad when I had to download the latest drivers and a 70MB download also took about 2 hours+. Crazy!

That’s why I don’t relish installing operating system for people especially if they don’t have the required drivers because it requires a lot of time and effort. That’s why some shops charge as much as RM100 to do this service and that also no guarantee they will do a good job like ensuring that each device will install properly because of missing drivers. I remembered my dad-in-law hired a technician who charged RM80 to have his PC reinstalled, but ended up in a much worse condition then before the re-installation. Missing drivers was one thing, but there was also some old hardware that needed to be disabled before re-installation that the technician didn’t know about. My dad-in-law should have more patience and waited when I was free to fix the PC, but now ended up with a completely clobbered PC that took me a week’s worth of free time to fix.

Some software was quite dangerous. Along with the drivers for the Gigabyte motherboard, was a software called Face Wizard to change the splash screen during boot up. This required flashing the BIOS, and flashing BIOS was inherently risky. I could change my Gigabyte splash screen without any untoward incident, but my dad’s PC was a different case altogether. Somehow it didn’t flash properly and the BIOS was messed up. I could not boot the whole system again! No matter what I tried like clearing the CMOS, it would not boot. Fortunately I could claim warranty for defective board and All IT changed the board for me. They had a good one-to-one exchange policy for any defective components. I wondered why Gigabyte provided the software if it was so risky to use it?

Finally the whole system was completed and I passed it to my dad who was very pleased with the new system. Only thing now he has to learn how to use the new Vista operating system and latest software application. I hope he would be able to master it coz I dread receiving a phone call from him asking me how to do this, how to do that. Sigh…!

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