ECS P965T-A Motherboard
ABIT AN8 SLI Motherboard
Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H Motherboard
Foxconn BlackOps Motherboard
The Missing Post Mystery
A post I made to a Vista newsgroup was missing from the Outlook newsreader
Where did it go?
The Missing Post Mystery Revisited
It happened again! A post I made to a Vista newsgroup was missing from the Vista Mail newsreader
Where did it go?
A Case of Maxtaken Identity
When is a hard drive not a hard drive? Find out when!
Vista Image Capture 'Slipstream' SP1 and SP2 into a single Vista install disc
Detailed Instructions for Reverse Integrating SP1 and SP2 into Vista
Ten things you can do to create better documentation
Flash Your BIOS
Three Good Reasons for Flashing Your BIOS
Ten common mistakes you should avoid when flashing your BIOS
Find a new dial-up ISP
Sign up for 10 free hours of NetZero access!
What is a computer guy doing with home remodeling projects on his Website?
Playing the Rebate Game
Know the Rules Before You Play
The four questions you need to ask before buying Vista
Caveats: I am an admitted hardware novice, or at least I was when I started this project. I wanted to write a review of the components of the Intel Conroe Core 2 Duo PC I was building from a beginners perspective, hence this Web page.
Intel E6400 Core 2 Duo CPU 2.13 GHz Conroe
OCZ DDR2 800 PC26400 Platinum 2 x 1GB 240-Pin SDRAM CAS Latency 4 timing 4-5-4-15
eVGA 256-P2-N549-TR Geforce 7600GS 256MB GDDR2 PCI Express x16 Video Card
Maxtor 250 GB SATA I DiamondMax 10 6L250S0, Seagate Barracuda ST330013A, LITE-ON 16X DVD±R DVD Burner With LightScribe and 5X DVD-RAM Write Black ATAPI/E-IDE Model SHM-165H6S, Rosewill RCR-100 USB 2.0 Card Reader
Rosewill RCR-100 USB 2.0 Card Reader
Hiro 56K V.92 PCI Modem S/W W/O Voice Intel 537EP Chip 56 Kbs Modem
Rosewill RD600-2DC-SL ATX Form Factor 12V V2.2 / SSI standard EPS 12V 600W Active PFC Power Supply - SLI Ready
Cooler Master Mystique Aluminum Case w/Window with 1 x 120 mm Blue LED and 1 x 120 mm Fans
Rosewill RM1830 BLK Black 3 Buttons 800DPI USB RF Optical Wireless Mouse
Rosewill RK-680 BK Black USB Wired Standard Keyboard
GWC USB to Parallel Cable (Bi-Directional) Model 80000 – OEM
Surprising low cost for a powerful and energy efficient dual core processor. I was able to buy this as an up-front final solution for my processing needs. I have read reviews stating that the E6300 and E6400 are better bang for the buck processors and overclock better than the E6600 and E6700.
This is a socket 775 'T' CPU. Great CPU for the price. I would highly recommend it. The Vista Beta 2 performance rating is 5.3 and the Vista RC1 performance rating is 4.9.OCZ DDR2 800 PC26400 Platinum 2 x 1GB 240-Pin SDRAM CAS Latency 4 timing 4-5-4-15
I was not aware of the voltage requirement when I purchased my motherboard and the voltage requirement was not listed at the Newegg site. I have noticed that they have been adding this information to the Web site, but as of early October 2006, Newegg is simply referencing the manufacturers Web site.
This memory requires a BIOS able to support DIMM voltages 2.0 volts and higher to fully run at the 800 MHz speed. Some current motherboards will not POST at all and the only fix until a new BIOS is available is to borrow/buy one 512 MB stick of cheap DDR2 533 (if board supports it) or DDR2 667 memory. Most motherboards will boot up at a slower memory setting by default and allow you to manually change the memory settings. Avoid motherboards that won't allow you to change the DIMM voltage at or above 2.0 volts or buy different SDRAM.
The memory seems to be quite stable and fast 667 Mhz in the Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H. I have been able to overclock the motherboard and can now achieve 787 MHz with both a stable POST and operation in Windows. See Problem Resolution for a full description of the BIOS settings needed. It is rated 5.1 in the Vista RC1 Performace Rating. Rev 2 has timings tweaked for better compatibility. Highly recommended if you can verify that it will work with your motherboard or you are willing and able to overclock the motherboard, but seems to be a very good price to performance choice for your memory if you know it will work with your motherboard. The OCZ support people bent over backward to help me, were very fast and friendly with their replies to my questions.
Update Dec 7, 2006: One of the sticks of OCZ RAM tested bad in Vista RC1 Memtest. I RMA'ed it for a replacement and received it three days short of four weeks. That included the three day UPS and the two day FedEx shipping time. I wasn't pushy about the length of time it was taking for the RMA. I was more concerned that I would get the latest and best memory that would work and apparently that is exactly what I got. The new RAM has the same timings and speed, but the results when I plugged them in was certainly not the same. I had left the DRAM voltage to default (1.8 Volts) and the DRAM timings to By SPD. When the PC booted, the memory showed as 800 MHz and the computer did not reboot at all. Apparently, whatever issues there were with the OCZ RAM have been fixed with the latest memory. The Fox One application shows the DRAM voltage as 2.06 which is curious. The default DRAM voltage with the new memory is recognized by the BIOS as 2.1 Volts. You shouldn't have to change the DRAM voltage to +.30 Volts as I had to do with the older OCZ Platinum DDR2 800 RAM.
I attempted to do some minimal overclocking without much success at all. When trying to change the DRAM timings manually to 4-5-4-15 and 800 MHz, the system would not boot. I could do some minimal overclocking when leaving the DRAM timings to By SPD. Not being much of an overclocker, I am happy enough that the memory shows 800 MHz, though I wonder what the timings really are since I haven't been able to set them manually.
With the older RAM, the computer was running on the backup BIOS. The primary BIOS is now used with the new RAM. Knock on wood, but I couldn't be more satisfied with the OCZ RAM and the OCZ support.
Update Jan 3, 2007. I have learned that the current version P15 of the BIOS I am using can incorrectly show 667 MHz RAM as 800 MHz, so I am still not sure if my new memory is really running at 800 MHz.
Update August 30, 2007: For a discussion about adding two gigabytes of memory see Adding Two GB of OCZ Platinum 4-5-4-15 Rev. 1 SDRAM. I have flashed the BIOS to the P30 version that is supposed to have a fix for misreporting the RAM speed. I am now confident that all 4 GB of OCZ SDRAM is running at 800 MHz.eVGA 128-TC-2N27-SX Geforce 7600 GS With 256MB On-Board RAM 64-bit DDR2 PCI Express x16 Video Card
I like the fact that there is no fan on the card, just a large heat dissipating chunk of metal (aluminum?). I don't want to have to deal with a non-standard fan dying on the card in a few years.
The video card comes with 256 MB of on board RAM. This video card seems to be more than I need; I am not a big gamer.
This card comes with nVIDIA nView Destop Manager that is loaded with all types of configurable settings. I am able to run my desktop at 1024 by 768 at 85 Hz and 1152 by 864 at 75 Hz, with the only limitation being my inexpensive monitor.
The Vista Beta 2 drivers are already available, both the 32 and 64 bit versions, and they really show off the Aero features of Vista. This card meets the minimum requirements for Vista. The Vista Beta 2 Performance Ratings are 4.9 Graphics and 4.8 Gaming Graphics and the Vista RC1 Performance Ratings are 4.7 Desktop Performance (Aero) and 4.8 Gaming Graphics.
I am a little bit disappointed that the performance in Windows does not seem to be that much different than the 6200 LE TC card that I have. That may be in part because I haven't done any gaming or graphics intensive work and it shows the performance per buck value of the 6200 LE TC video card. The Vista Beta 2 and RC1 performance rating shows a big difference though and I should see that performance when I do more graphic intensive work.2 x Maxtor DiamondMax 10 250 GB SATA I Hard Drive 6L250S0
Update June 11, 2007: I ended up with a refurbished drive after ordering an 'Open Box' item from Newegg. Apparently the term 'Open Box' can also mean 'Refurbished' - be careful! See A Case of Maxtaken Identity for the whole story of how it died and replacing it.
Update July 23, 2007: The replacement refurbished Maxtor drive is still working, knock on wood although I have had lots of trouble getting my prepaid return label from Seagate/Maxtor.
Seagate Barracuda 30GB ATA Hard Drive ST330013A
LITE-ON 16X DVD±R DVD Burner W/ LightScribe and 5X DVD-RAM Write Black ATAPI/E-IDE Model SHM-165H6S Burner with Software
This DVD seems to do a better job of reading troublesome DVD's than the NEC drive I had. It has acquired an annoying habit of making a grinding or scraping sound when the computer goes through the POST process, but that doesn't seem to have affected the performance of the drive.
Update July 23, 2007: The Lite-On DVD burner suddenly died while watching a DVD. It runs very hot and with my room temperatures, I thought I had fried a component on the PCB board. The drive was not recognized during POST and the Seagate hard drive that was on the same PATA channel also failed to be recognized. I pulled the burner and moved the jumper to master and placed it on the second PATA channel with a different cable. After turning on the JMicron IDE channel in the BIOS and rebooting, the DVD burner was recognized. I put the jumper back to slave and put the burner back on the 18" Link Depot IDE cable. The problem returned. I replaced the IDE cable with one of the high quality Foxconn IDE cables that came with the motherboard. The burner was recognized again, so it was a simple cable problem.
Good price, works great for my SD cards, supposed to support xD. The card reader requires two USB headers on your motherboard, one for the reader itself and one for the on-board USB port.
This is a great little modem for about $10. I wanted a controller-based modem, but couldn't find one that would work in XP Pro x64. This modem will work in XP Pro x64 and Vista Beta 2 x86 and x64. You will need to download the x64 drivers from the Intel Web site for the 64 bit version of Windows. Once downloaded, extract to a temporary directory and install from the Add Hardware icon in the control panel. Do not use the Phone and Modem Options in the control panel. I was unable to get this to work but didn't spend much time with it. I was also unable to get this modem to work in NT 4.0, but didn't spend a lot of time trying that either. I have had a lot of trouble in the past getting modems to work in NT 4.0!
I did have trouble when I didn't properly install the drivers from the Found New Hardware wizard in XP Pro x64 and from the initial Device Installer in Vista Beta 2 x64 and trying to install them later, but I haven't confirmed that it is a problem that can't be solved.
I was pleasantly surprised when I connected at 44.0 Kbps and regularly connect at 46.6 Kbps and rarely at even 50.6 Kbps in XP Pro x64 and 40.0 Kbps in Vista Beta 2 x86 (32 bit) using the XP drivers. Thankfully, the new Vista drivers are available and Vista found them for me as an optional update. Performance is now the same as in XP x64 and I now connect more often at 50.6 Kb in Vista than I do in XP x64. I have also noticed that if I wait 45-60 seconds after XP x64 Windows starts before trying to connect and after the gadgets load in Vista Beta 2, I can get faster connect speeds, probably because this is a software modem and various system and user services are still starting in the first minute after Windows startup.
Be careful installing or removing this card. There are resisters on the card that are not surface mount and stick out. They can easily be bent and broken of the circuit board. I accidentally did this in frustration trying to remove the card. It was hung up on a slot cover and I should have been more patient and careful. I was fortunate to be able to bend it back in place and the board still works even though I definitely broke it from the circuit card.
If you are looking for a cheap, basic, good performing modem, this is a modem that you shouldn't be disappointed with.
This modem is highly recommended. How can you go wrong for ten bucks?Rosewill RD600-2DC-SL ATX Form Factor 12V V2.2 / SSI standard EPS 12V 600W Active PFC Power Supply - SLI Ready
The case of the PSU is a brilliant chrome, nice but shows off fingerprints easily. There is the typical On / Off power switch on the back and automatic voltage sensing.
The voltage for the +5V line was reported as 4.86 in the BIOS of the ECS P965T-A. I'm not sure if that is mis-reported by the motherboard or is an accurate measurement. I contacted Rosewill tech support and they replied very quickly noting that anything from 4.75 to 5.25 is considered normal. Note that in my Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H BIOS, the +5.0 volts shows as +5.00 volts, so the 4.86 measurement was probably inaccurate.
|Voltages||Actual Voltage (BIOS)||Actual Voltage (Fox One)|
|Vcore||1.28 V||1.22 V|
|VCC +3.3 V||3.31 V||3.30 V|
|+3.3 V||3.28 V||3.30 V|
|+1.8 V||2.06 V||2.06 V|
|+1.5 V||1.49 V||1.57 V|
|+5 V||5.00 V||5.11 V|
|+12 V||12.14 V||12.10 V|
This thing is really heavy! There has to be some good stuff in there somewhere! Peeking into the interior, the power supply looks solid with large capacitors. The overall look and feel of the power supply says 'quality' from the case to the nylon mesh on the connectors.
Highly Recommended - I like the high efficiency of this power supply. It matches well with the new Core 2 Duo processors. I have grown to like the Rosewill power supplies.
Update Jan 3, 2007. The lower fan spins slowly and sticks, stopping completely for a second or two. Fans have always been a curse of mine but to have one misbehave after only a month is unacceptable.
Update July 23, 2007: I owe Rosewill an apology. I finally decided to pull the Rosewill power supply and return it for a replacement. To my surprise, the 80 mm LED fan in the bottom of the power supply that wasn't spinning at all during the winter is working at full speed now. The PSU has a temperature sensor that automatically slows down the bottom fan when the temperature is low. It's been great performer.COOLER MASTER Mystique 631 RC-631-KWN1-GP Black Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
The front of the case has some really nice features. Only the top half of the front door opens, which is fine with me. The door can be reversed to open from either direction, very nice since easy access can be gained with the computer on the left of right of the monitor. The case came with the door on the left with the hinge on the right, perfect for me.
The front door is made out of a solid piece of aluminum with nice curves. A very classy looking and somewhat subdued model name, Mystique is labeled on the upper right corner of the bottom panel. If you don't like the offset of the top door, you can change that so that the curves line up with the bottom part of the front panel. Inside the front panel there is a black plastic panel, which is OK, but aluminum would be preferable here. The empty drive bay covers are black plastic too, so at least they are consistent. The whole front panel attaches to the case with four prongs, one in each corner, not my favorite solution to attaching the front panel to the case.
The front door does not lock, but there are two nice magnets built into the front panel and two flat head screws that meet flush with the magnets making a very neat solution to securing the front door shut. In addition, there are two soft plastic studs just above the metal screws to deaden the noise when closing the door, very well engineered.
The power button and reset button are on the opposite side of my DVD burner where they should be, an often overlooked simple design flaw, and are beautiful aluminum buttons with flat black paint on the front and aluminum beveled edges on the side. High quality for sure and it is a pleasure turning on your break your wallet PC with a button that says I am a power user!
There are slots in the panel and door going horizontally across each. This allows just enough of the light from the blue LED's on the 120 mm fan through the bottom panel to be noticeable but not gaudy.
The front panel includes the usual power and hard disk drive LED's. Unfortunately, they are both blue and very close to each other. The hard disk LED is hard to see unless you are looking at it head on - the power LED washes it out. Serendipitously, both LED's came out when I had removed the front panel. That got me to thinking. I could move the power LED to the inside of the case to light it up. I zip-tied it to the lower drive bay and pointed it toward the middle of the motherboard. The useless power LED now highlights the motherboard and the yellow plastic headers look like they are glowing. It's a very good modification and now the hard disk LED stands out and is clearly visible when there is disk activity.
The case itself is brushed aluminum with flat black paint and is very nice for hiding fingerprints and has a very nice look overall. The only negative here is that the grade of aluminum sheeting used is a little bit thin. I would have preferred a more substantial grade of sheeting, but it is acceptable.
The top panel has a section on the right front for the case ports. They are clearly marked, from back to front, two USB ports, one MIC mini plug and one headphone or speaker out mini plug connector and one IEEE 1394 Firewire port. This is almost an afterthought in my mind. There is no cover for the ports and dust can easily accumulate here. If you are going to build it uncovered, at least put it on the front panel, not the top!
The left side panel comes in two models, with or without a clear side panel. I ordered the clear side panel model. It is a nice large square piece of solid clear plastic. There are nine shiny chrome rounded studs that hold the clear window in place, all very nice. Then in the left upper corner of the window there is a screened port to allow for airflow into the case. It obstructs a large part of the interior and is one of the low points of the case in my opinion. There must be a better way to allow airflow and an unobstructed view. That is after all, why I ordered the clear side panel! On the plus side, there is no fan on the side panel, so you can completely remove the panel and set it off to the side when working on the inside of the case. The panel does not lock and there is one sliding handle in the middle rear of the panel that is satisfactory.
The back panel is fairly standard with a non-LED 120 mm fan, a nice solid color coded I/O shield, two holes for water cooling covered by a flexible slit black plastic shield, and seven card slots. The inside of the back panel uses a tooless swinging bracket to secure the PCI and PCIe cards. It is awkward at best since there is only one handle, on the top. I had to push the bottom of the bracket with some difficulty to get the bracket to stay closed.
The inside of the case is well built with no sharp edges. My hands spent a lot of time in this case and the only blood spilled occurred when my index finger was lightly cut installing a PCIe video card, the slot shields being the apparent culprit.
Continuing on the inside, the upper 5.25 inch drive bay and the 3.5 inch middle drive bay employ purple plastic sliders to lock the drives in place. Being new, one of these was very stiff and it took some real muscle power to not only get the drive in place, but also to get the slider in the fully locked position. You need to be careful here, the fully locked position can be deceptive. The slider should be very close to the front of the case to be fully closed. I found that sliding the sliders would loosen them up enough to help ease the installation. It's not a bad solution if the sliders are not too tight.
The bottom drive bay is a real problem. Instead of pointing toward the rear like most cases, the rear of the drive bay points directly toward the clear side panel. The problem with this setup is that some connectors may touch the side window and if you have an adapter on your hard drive, the clearance may not be enough. The Rosewill IDE to SATA adapter I was using barely cleared the side panel, but it did fit. A much better solution for the bottom drive bay is a removable cage. I can live with the drive bay as is, but it is not one of the better features of the case. The cables to the case ports are good with Azalia configured as individual pins and one pre-configured connector. Both the USB and Firewire connectors are one-piece connectors for easy setup. The case comes with one handy cable tie that affixes to the case.
The bottom of the case has four 'Hi-Fi' type round feet. They seem to keep the case stable enough and each foot has a black rubber washer like insert that keeps your desktop scratch free, much appreciated for my teak desktop.
The case comes with the very least amount of hardware needed to install a motherboard. I was disappointed with this especially after using the hardware supplied with the ThermalTake case and considering that the case is advertised as 'tool free installation'. The screws for the motherboard require a Philips head screw driver and cannot be tightened by hand.
Overall, I like it a little bit better than the similar ThermalTake model, but both have their poorly designed drawbacks and wonderfully engineered pluses. I would give the case an overall moderate recommendation.Rosewill RM1830 BLK Black 3 Buttons 800DPI USB RF Optical Wireless Mouse
When I first used this mouse, I thought 'this thing is terrible'. It ate up batteries in a few days, the cursor seemed to fly and skip across the screen and it was very uncomfortable in my hand. As a part of a package deal, the wireless mouse and USB keyboard were very reasonably priced, so I didn't expect a lot. I was still disappointed with the mouse. Now after using it for a while, I have adapted to using it and perhaps primarily because I am writing less of late, the batteries are now lasting from one to two weeks on average.
I was able to smooth the movement of the cursor on the screen by changing the mouse options in the Control Panel. I had to retrain my hand to rest closer to the back of the mouse, opposite the buttons and wheel, so I could easily use the buttons with my fingertips.
It's not a bad mouse and for the price, I can't really complain. I often place my monitor in power down mode after only one minute of idle time, so I often have to 'wake up' the monitor. Early on I couldn't simply move the mouse to reawaken the monitor, although for some reason it seems to be working of late. I had to click a button or move the scroll wheel to reawaken the monitor. This can be a problem if you press the left mouse button. You may select something blindly that you don't want to, so be careful to click the right button or move the scroll wheel if you can't simply move the mouse to 'wake up' the monitor.
You definitely are going to need rechargeable batteries and a charger to keep this mouse going, so plan on including it as an essential part of your order.Rosewill RK-680 BK Black USB Wired Standard Keyboard
The left [CTRL] key has to be pressed very firmly to engage. This is very annoying since it is a key I often use to cut and paste.
The middle key on the left of the keyboard is supposed to open the My Documents folder, but it does nothing in Windows XP x64 for me. The key above it has a picture of a monitor. When the monitor powers down, you can press this key to turn the monitor back on.
The Sleep/Suspend key is too close to the Open EMail key and should be in a separate part of the keyboard, off by itself.
Fast Forward and Reverse are more like Jump Forward and Jump Back since the program being viewed is changed by huge chunks of time.
The Volume Increase and Volume Decrease buttons move the Master Volume in the XP x64 Volume Control, but not the volume control in Media Player.
The features listed on the back of the keyboard box are listed in Chinglish. It is a pet peeve of mine. These manufacturers really should have someone who can speak and write the English language review manuals, Web sites, software, etc. And no, my writing skills aren't perfect either, and not to pick on Rosewill in particular, but the Chinglish I am seeing more and more in the computer world is obvious and annoying.
I must admit that old habits are hard to break. I have forced myself to use the Play/Pause key when using the Windows Media Player, but have yet to routinely use the other 'quick keys'.