Building the Perfect PC

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Overview

Written by hardware experts, this book delivers complete instructions for creating your ideal machine-and every system in this book has been designed to run well under Linux and Windows Vista. Straightforward language, clear directions, and extensive illustrations make this guide a breeze for computer builders of any skill level-even those with little or no experience. It covers the fundamentals: reasons why you'd want to build your own PC, how to plan your project, and how to ...
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Overview

Written by hardware experts, this book delivers complete instructions for creating your ideal machine-and every system in this book has been designed to run well under Linux and Windows Vista. Straightforward language, clear directions, and extensive illustrations make this guide a breeze for computer builders of any skill level-even those with little or no experience. It covers the fundamentals: reasons why you'd want to build your own PC, how to plan your project, and how to find high-quality components.

Learn how to: Choose best-quality hardware for the perfect PC, Take the dual-core leap with the latest Core 2 Duo and Athlon X2 CPUs, Assemble, test and configure a PC, Build a reliable and affordable general purpose PC, Balance size and power as you build a small form factor PC, Replace your VCR, TiVo, DVD, and CD player with the perfect media center PC.

This popular Build-It-Yourself (BIY) PC book covers every step in building one's own system: planning and picking out the right components, step-by-step assembly instructions, and an insightful discussion of why someone would want to do it in the first place.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
“Have it your way” doesn’t just apply to burgers anymore: It applies to PCs, too. If the prefabricated choices out there don’t float your boat, just build your own. There’s no better way to ensure superior quality, or to make sure your PC meets your specialized needs -- gaming, Linux, whatever. Building the Perfect PC will be your start-to-finish guide and companion.

The authors walk you through five separate projects: building a mainstream PC, a small office/home office server, home theater PC, miniature “small form factor” PC, and a LAN party PC. They don’t just offer step-by-step construction techniques; they also illuminate the thinking that led them to choose each component. That way, as new components arrive, you can still use their advice to make wise choices. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2003 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449388249
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Edition description: Third Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 533,267
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Bruce Thompson is a coauthor of Building the Perfect PC, PC Hardware Buyer's Guide, Astronomy Hacks, and PC Hardware in a Nutshell. Robert built his first computer in 1976 from discrete chips. It had 256 bytes of memory, used toggle switches and LEDs for I/O, ran at less than 1MHz, and had no operating system. Since then, he has bought, built, upgraded, and repaired hundreds of PCs for himself, employers, customers, friends, and clients. Robert reads mysteries and nonfiction for relaxation, but only on cloudy nights. He spends most clear, moonless nights outdoors with his 10-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope, hunting down faint fuzzies, and is currently designing a larger truss-tube Dobsonian (computerized, of course) that he plans to build.

Barbara Fritchman Thompson is a coauthor of Building the Perfect PC, PC Hardware Buyer's Guide, Astronomy Hacks, and PC Hardware in a Nutshell. Barbara worked for 20 years as a librarian before starting her own home-based consulting practice, Research Solutions, and is also a researcher for the law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge, & Rice, PLLC. During her leisure hours, Barbara reads, works out, plays golf, and, like Robert, is an avid amateur astronomer.

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Table of Contents

1 Fundamentals 1
2 Choosing and buying components 41
3 Building a mainstream PC 81
4 Building a SOHO server 127
5 Building a kick-ass LAN party PC 173
6 Building a home theater PC 225
7 Building a small form factor PC 279
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2004

    Another great Thompson hardware book to keep near at hand.

    I just put down my copy of O'Reilly's 'Building the Perfect PC' by Robert and Barbara Thompson, following a cover-to-cover read. There are a number of reasons for going through this book like a banshee. First off, I'm a System Administrator by trade, and keeping up with the latest best practices in PC hardware is a must. Next, once started, the book is a good read. It flows as well as any highly technical documentation possibly can, with a mix of hard data, diagrams and photos, sidebars and anecdotes. Finally, I've counted on Bob and Barbara to answer my PC hardware questions for years, both personally and via their excellent 'PC Hardware in a Nutshell' editions (also from O'Reilly). The book starts with a Fundamentals chapter that takes a non-partisan look at the whole process of selecting components, tools, and utilities in preparation for a self-built PC. It's got the same feel as a Consumer Reports article: Vendor independent, but the authors are not afraid to recommend their choices for manufacturers in each category of component. One thing I liked very much was the Troubleshooting section in this chapter. In many other works, by the time you've found the Troubleshooting pages back in the Appendices somewhere, it's far too late to be of great help. By bringing that section up front, it helps every reader, from novice to expert, keep an eye out for possible problems before they become troubles that need shooting. Through the component selection and project chapters that populate the rest of this 300+ page book, there is a wealth of great information. From the painfully obvious 'Benchmarks lie.' to specifying the correct quiet cooler for an AMD Athlon XP processor, the Thompson's have covered nearly every base. Another standout feature of this book (and a first from O'Reilly) is the superb 4-color printing throughout the book. Most computer works are in grayscale, possibly with one accent color. But there are a few hundred pictures in this book, illustrating each step of building each project PC. Color matters when aligning ribbon cables, getting audio connections right, and in a myriad other little ways. O'Reilly's done every reader a great service in going to the expense of printing this book in full color. Bravo! The project chapters are Mainstream PC, SOHO Server, Kickass LAN Party PC, Home Theater PC, and Small Form Factor PC. Each project chapter is written and copiously illustrated with images to provide all the guidance needed to get the box built right the first time and running without a hassle. That makes for some repetition when read straight through, but all of the repeats are worth hearing: Ground yourself before handling static-sensitive components, check the motherboard mounts against the hole pattern carefully, and many more lessons well worth deeply embedding. Additionally, while addressing the specific needs of each project, the Thompson's are giving the reader the tools and opportunity to take the vicarious experience of building these systems to meet virtually any type of PC requirement. I've been building systems for about as many years as Bob has, and I learned new things (as well as refreshed my memory in several areas) from 'Building the Perfect PC'. Having it as a guide to getting components selected and balanced properly against needs, wants, and budget is a great tool. For the novice or casual system builder, this book will be invaluable. The only oversight that I caught on this reading was near the beginning, where the authors claim that you can build every project in the book with just a Number One Philips screwdriver. You simply must have some sharp implement, possibly even a bench-mounted sheet metal shear, to open some of the tempest-hardened and atomically welded plastic packaging that some components ship in. I also sent an email to Bob to suggest that with so many fingers and thumbs appearing in the pictures (assembling the computers, inserting cables an

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2004

    colour photos distinguish the book

    Outside of graphics, it is somewhat rare for computer books to be in full colour. It adds heavily to the printing cost. And most computer ideas, sans graphics, can be perfectly well accompanied by greyscale images, of screen captures, say. So imagine my surprise when I found that this book has gorgeous colour photos. Of the innards of computers, often showing, and this is important, a person's hands adjusting or otherwise manipulating some portion of the hardware. Makes for a compelling and easy to follow user's manual. Directed at the tinkerer. Perhaps you want to save money by constructing your own PC. Or perhaps you just like to soup up a generic PC? You have probably suffered through trying to decipher assembly instructions on some hobbyist kits, where the text is often on small pamphlets, with black and white schematics that are maddeningly obtuse. This book is a pleasant alternative to all that. The text is well written. But what truly distinguishes the book are the copious colour photos.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2007

    Building the Perfect PC (2nd) - review

    [lack or paragraphs courtesy of this site, any way to create them?] Cordwainer Smith's telepathic Martian Scientist politely introduces himself to his American visitor as a Lotan, among other things. And, answering the obvious question, that a Lotan was an Arhat. To many people the workings of a computer, hardware or software, are equally transparent as our exiled Martian's answer. The Thompson's 'Building the Perfect PC' aims to clarify what the some of Computer industry's hardware Arhats are. The book's chapters (Fundamentals, Choosing and Buying and building 6 types of PC) take the reader from the asking the most important question, why build a PC yourself, to closing up the Budget PC case in the last chapter. Each chapter progresses the same way, clearly showing the reader *a* method to determine what one wants, how to select components to meet that need, alternates or restrictions and slapping the thing together. The writing style is *not* corporate-speak. The Thompson tell you what they thinks and why but also gives marginal room (literally, you'll see) to advice from others and a few dissenting opinions. The book is written (surpirse) and photographed entirely by the authors. Assembly was done on the kitchen table on a sheet, just to show the reader one can assemble a PC at home. And that if you get one's Wife to do the assembly for the photos she can't complain about the use of her sheets. There is inevitable repetition, one learns how to open the case 6 times. Repetition is necessary if the chapters are to stand alone so don't worry about it when you come across it. The text is descriptive as text can be (how many ways are there to write 'take the screwdriver in your gripping hand, unscrew the screw and drop it in the most inaccessible crevice of the case'?) and there are plenty of pictures (see below). One clear mistake is the Thompson's opinion that once the voltage of the power supply is set correctly you can't, really, hurt anything. This opinion could stand some revision. We recently set fire, *accidentally set fire*, to a hard drive by shorting the contacts on the drive behind the Molex power plug. This prevents the PC from booting and should be avoided. And, no, we did not use a screwdriver. Which brings us to the best photo in the book, one lone Phillips screwdriver in figure 1-1. The entire arsenal of tools one needs to assemble a PC. Minus the explosives needed to open blister packaging, but that activity is not assembly. It would have been better to show one with a bent blade and a scorched handle, just to make a point, but one can't have everything. The screwdriver on the cover is not the same one illustrated in figure 1-1. The one on the cover is fancy. The author's own photography is excellent in terms of content and there are many photos in each chapter showing all stages of assembly. And, surprisingly to this reviewer, all are in colour for a book of this sort. Maybe we are just out of date. Most are on the same page as the relevant text, very Tufte-like. Well done. But. Exposure problems make some of the illustrations close to unusable. The content is there but many are too dark to make out clearly. Cameras are very good at making a white sheet look 18% gray! Chapter 8 seems to be affected most, figure 8-52 shows a black SATA plug being attached to a black drive. All we can see are fingers and a bit of green motherboard. Channeling Hotblack Desiato are we? C'mon O'Reilly, give Bob a couple of flashes and Photoshop elements. Seriously, the next edition of the book needs to rectify this issue, luckily the tools are readily available for the home-based author. Building the Photo-Processing PC, anyone? Hmm...that's actually a pretty good idea, come to think of it. We own 8 cameras of various types but *no* computer games. There is a market there. The cover fell off as we were leafing through our review copy looking for figure 8-52. Serves us right. The book takes the

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2007

    Never built one before, but now...

    I¿ve been using, maintaining, troubleshooting and repairing computer systems since my first Apple II+ in 1980 ¿ but in that quarter-century, I¿ve never built my own machine from scratch. It was something I¿ve always wanted to do, but never quite got up the nerve. With the myriad of potentially incompatible components on the market, how can a person possibly decipher the jargon and buzzwords to purchase only, and all of, the parts needed to build and configure a modern computer? Easier, I thought, to pay somebody else to select and assemble the parts and make it all work together. But now Robert Bruce Thompson has put his knowledge and experience together into a ¿cookbook¿ on how to brew your own computer. In this, the 2nd edition of ¿Building the Perfect PC¿, you will find exhaustive and painstaking instruction and examples in how, and WHY, to build your own computer. How to design the machine that YOU need, not just a ¿generic box¿. RBT goes into a lot of detail as to what components he recommends, and why, and what alternatives you might choose instead. Any technical reference should be (said my tech writing professor in 1977) clear, complete and concise. If this book has any flaw, it is that the book is not concise. Thompson repeats many of the same recommendations in each of the six ¿recipe¿ PCs he builds. But is this really a problem? Any 'How To' book ought to emphasize the potential pitfalls and the techniques to avoid them, and RBT points them out. So if you start building the 'Home Theater' system while skipping over the 'SOHO Server' chapter, you won't have missed anything critical. The 2nd Edition is complete, comprehensive, almost exhaustive. He shows you with innumerable photos exactly what he¿s doing, and explains why. He even shows a couple of times when things went wrong, and how you can prevent his mistakes. And while ¿Building the Perfect PC¿ is not advertised as a humor book, I would not advise that you read it while drinking hot liquids. RBT¿s dry wit could easily cause you to end up wearing them. So, have I built my own PC? Not yet. But I have started shopping for parts, and I have complete confidence that within a couple of weeks, I¿ll be able to write a follow-up to this review using my home-brew PC.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2007

    The Only Book You Will Need to Build a PC

    This is the 2nd edition of 'Building the Perfect PC'. This book is primarily geared toward those building a computer from scratch for the first time. That being said, there is still a great deal of good information for even experienced builders to glean from this volume. The book is loaded with numerous clear, color photos that show the detail at each step of a given build (there are six different pcs that are built in the book). Although they list each component they used for every build, components quickly go out of date in the computer world. Be sure to check the authors' website for the latest recommendations. The best book out there for those that are toying with the idea of building their own pc but afraid to get their feet wet. Use this and you will not be disappointed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2004

    You CAN build a PC

    This book gives you all the information you need to build your own PC. It gives you pointers to the components you need and detailed instructions with color pictures of how to put the whole thing together. I have built serveral PC's in the past but I still learned things from this book. Of course, no less is to be expected of a book by the Thompsons.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2004

    Explaines the what and the why

    I've built, rebuilt, and maintained many PCs over the years. Until fairly recently, though, they were pretty much vanilla systems, with parts selected mainly from what the store happened to have on sale. Then I bought and read PC Hardware in a Nutshell (2nd Edition). That opened my eyes to what planned PC building was. Optimizing for reliability, or cost, or whatever. With Building the Perfect PC the Thompsons have put their sage component advice to work: how to select and successfully assemble components for five different kinds of PCs, optimized for different needs. I skimmed through the basic how-to-build chapter in the front, although I read all of the side-bars and all of the 'designing the perfect PC' section. Chapter 2, on choosing and buying components, I read more closely, but still skimmed some of it. I like to read their manufacturer recommendations, they tell it like they see it. The rest of the book I enjoyed reading pretty much in full detail. Some of the detailed assembly instructions are obviously much the same in each section, and that was a bit repetitious. Each of the other chapters is about some specific, different, type of PC. For me it was a lot like having the fun of putting those systems together myself - the great color pictures helped with that feeling. In each chapter, they tell us what the design criteria are, and why, for this specific application. For example: noise matters not at all for a SOHO server that will be hidden in a closet anyway, but is important for a Home Theater PC that will probably sit in the same room with you while you watch your show. Then they tell you what components to select (with alternatives), and why, to meet the design criteria. Except for reliability. The Thompsons always design for nothing less than 4 star reliability and this book is no different. I'm not really interested in spending the dollars to assemble a multi-gigahertz P4 Extreme Edition driven LAN party PC with clear panels and LED bearing fans, but I now have a vicarious idea of what it would be like. The chapters I liked best were the Small Form Factor PC and, especially, the Home Theater PC. They were system types that I knew the least about, and were thus the most fun to read. As to not-likes: I did not really care for what came across to me as an occasional Microsoft-bashing comment by the authors. There wasn't much of that, but I could have used even less. Particularly because they seemed to think that everyone would find it funny. There were a few other things I might quibble over too, such as listing the Celeron as a viable SOHO Server processor. But it was minor stuff. The photos were clear, the captions made sense, the facts are current. What's not to like? And maybe now I can convince my wife that we need a Home Theater PC now that I know how to build one.

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    Posted May 6, 2011

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    Posted September 16, 2010

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    Posted September 29, 2011

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    Posted February 4, 2010

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    Posted December 24, 2008

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