Category Archives: Custom PC

What Computer – Which Computer is best?

What Computer

As technology is ever improving computers are equally changing, getting faster and smaller. The choice of computer was relatively simple when it used to be limited to either a Desktop or Laptop. Now we have Netbooks and Tablet PC’s to also consider.

What Computer – The Desktop

Custom PC - Cube PC
Custom PC – Cube PC

The Desktop PC is a relatively large computer and as the name suggests it normally sits on top of your desk with a separate display, keyboard and mouse. But even this format has expanded to include all-in-one computers like the Apple iMAC and Acers Z5700 touch screen. There’s also small format media PC’s similar in size to a shoebox but retaining the separate display keyboard and mouse.

The Pros/Cons: Generally you get more performance for your money and they are upgradable so there is some obsolescence built in. The Cons: Generally they are large and need a lot of desk space (but not always see Cube PC).

What Computer – Custom PC  the desktop solution

We still think the desktop PC has a lot to offer, particularly in its future proofing. We build custom PC’s using standard components which means that we can generally offer upgrades keeping pace with advances in technology and changing needs.

For example a customer buying a entry level custom PC  from us for say running Microsoft’s Office and maybe surfing the Internet then develops an interest in digital photography. In most cases this would generally mean buying a new computer or laptop but for our customers we can upgrade the memory and add better graphics capabilities and so for a much smaller cost they can continue to use the same computer for their new interest.

We’ve added more details on this in another post which can be read here.

Laptops Netbooks and ChromeAcer Ultrabook

Laptops have become much more popular in recent years with rapidly falling prices and ever increasing specs. However they do have drawbacks – not all Laptops are equal, they may look the same but what is inside can make a huge difference to the performance. Some laptops are just not that well made, check the reviews before buying and watch for the catch behind that temptingly low price. Some Laptops come with the previous generation CPU a slow Dual Core will frustrate even the most patient user. They can run very hot and even though they go also by the name laptop it’s best not to use them in your lap.

It’s also rare that they can be significantly upgraded so buy the best you can otherwise you could be forced into an early replacement purchase defeating that initial low cost outlay.

But get it right and a Laptop can be a great purchase – spend more than £600 to get a good one check that the processor is at least an i5 or AMD’s equivalent. Get one with at least 4Gb memory and 500Gb hard drive. And don’t forget that screen look for a bright HD screen that can be viewed in daylight.

Netbooks – those cut size Laptops have had their day tablet computers have over taken from them, but saying that I still use one for photography on the go, my Acer One has a ITB hard drive and built in SD card support meaning I can transfer my photos to the hard drive on the fly and view them on a relatively large screen.

Chrome – a new entry to the market, these are restricted to the Chrome OS (Linux) so you can forget running Microsoft’s products e.g. Office on them but you can add Apps, so there is some useful software out there. They are relatively slow though and are best restricted for use on the Internet. More powerful versions are coming online so watch out these could be the Laptops to have in the future.

Custom PC Builder – Cube PC or SFF Computers

Cube PC or SFF Computers


Cube PC or SFF Computers

We have built a number of these Cube machines now and have been really impressed with the amount space available inside.

Although not as compact as some of the SFF (small form factor) Computers such as the Biostar and Shuttle ranges they are still smaller than a standard sized Mini Tower PC. They offer internal space for a mATX motherboard, 2x 5.25″ Optical Drives and 2x 3.5″ hard drives. There’s a large system fan which is virtually silent and with the right choice of CPU Fan and PSU you can not only have a very quiet but also a very powerful PC.

‘Please note this case as shown here will accommodate a full ATX motherboard’

This type of case we have found provides the customer  with a genuine platform for future upgrading. There is space to accommodate high degree of future proofing as it uses standard size components, for example the power supply is standard ATX, the motherboard standard mATX or full size ATX in this example.

What this means that as the Cube PC becomes older and appears out of date or unable to run the latest software versions, it is possible to update all components within these Cube PC’s to keep abreast of new technology advances. We actually have some customers who are extremely reluctant to replace their Cube PC’s and have replaced and upgraded the internal components several times over the years. Some have even customised them fitting neon style lighting, elaborate CPU fans and illuminated case fans. Some even go to the expense of specifying specially designed cabling, purely to enhance the look of the internal components visible through the transparent panels.

When we build for a Media Studio or customer from a Media company we find that the look of the Cube PC is as important as the performance. For these customers we usually specify a highly polished Piano Black or Silver Aluminium finish to match their large screen monitors or to compliment the design of the MAC’s which they usually also have sitting on their desks.

Typical build cost for an entry level machine (i3 processor) is around £450 + vat, adding a more powerful i5 processor, graphics card and WiFi etc still means a good Cube PC can be had for around £550 + vat, giving you a unique and desirable PC for not much more money than an off the shelf PC from the big retailers.

What Computer – Which Computer is best?

What Computer

As technology is ever improving computers are equally changing, getting faster and smaller. The choice of computer was relatively simple when it used to be limited to either a Desktop or Laptop. Now we have Netbooks and Tablet PC’s to also consider.

What Computer – The Desktop

Custom PC - Cube PC
Custom PC - Cube PC

The Desktop PC is a relatively large computer and as the name suggests it normally sits on top of your desk with a separate display, keyboard and mouse. But even this format has expanded to include all-in-one computers like the Apple iMAC and Acers Z5700 touch screen. There’s also small format media PC’s similar in size to a shoebox but retaining the separate display keyboard and mouse.

The Pros/Cons: Generally you get more performance for your money and they are upgradable so there is some obsolescence built in. The Cons: Generally they are large and need a lot of desk space (but not always see Cube PC).

What Computer – Custom PC  the desktop solution

We still think the desktop PC has a lot to offer, particularly in its future proofing. We build custom PC’s using standard components which means that we can generally offer upgrades keeping pace with advances in technology and changing needs.

For example a customer buying a entry level custom PC  from us for say running Microsoft’s Office and maybe surfing the Internet then develops an interest in digital photography. In most cases this would generally mean buying a new computer or laptop but for our customers we can upgrade the memory and add better graphics capabilities and so for a much smaller cost they can continue to use the same computer for their new interest.

We’ve added more details on this in another post which can be read here.

What is a Network – What is a PC Network?

PC Networks are simply a way of connecting 2 or more PC computers together to share information, files, music, pictures and these days a printer and Internet connection.

BT Hub
BT Hub

Most of you will have all you need to put together a PC Network for example if you are connected to the Internet chances are you are using a Wireless Hub that’s the box connected to your telephone/cable connection. You either already connect to it using either a wireless connection or a cable connected to one of the sockets on your Hub.

If your lucky your hub has 4 of these sockets which means you can connect up to 3 more PC computers by cable (cat5) to the hub. You can connect considerably more using WiFi usually up to 255 computers.

BT Hub network connections
BT Hub network connections

Now it gets difficult you’ve connected your computers together but now you have to get them to share data by setting up the PC computer for File and Print Sharing. This should be all that is necessary but experience tells us that there maybe problems with permissions, security and policies etc.

Unless your fully knowledgeable on PC computers I recommend that you talk to us about setting up your PC Network when you get to this point.

Maxed out your hard drive! – clone a new one

I’ve had to do this myself on numerous occasions now – you’ve maxed out your hard drive there’s just no more room left for all those programs, images and music files you’ve downloaded.

Internal Hard Drive
Internal Hard Drive

An easy solution is buy yourself an external disk and move your data to that, but sometimes, particularly if it’s a laptop you just want a bigger drive.

I’d say this is not a job for the non technical as you need to go inside the laptop at some point but here’s the process.

You need to buy a replacement hard drive – I’d go for a minimum of 500GB it should be a 2.5″ drive and as this is an upgrade I’d buy one with a spin rate of 7200 rpm and go for a 16MB cache. This can have a significant improvement on the original 5400rpm drive, making power up and the running of programs almost a third faster.

You also need a external hard drive enclosure with USB – you need this as you will fit your new drive in this for the cloning process before installing into your laptop.

You will also need some software to be able to clone your drive – I’d recommend a free program called TODO Backup which can be downloaded from here:- http://www.todo-backup.com/

The Process

  1. Install your new hard drive into it’s enclosure
  2. Connect to your laptop via USB and make sure that your computer recognises it.
  3. Run your cloning software and following the instructions, make sure you se t your laptop drive as the source and the USB drive as your destination.
  4. Depending on the size of your drive the cloning process can take several hours so make sure your laptop is connected to the supply otherwise the process will fail when your laptop runs out of power and shuts down.
  5. When the cloning process is complete shut down your laptop.
  6. Remove the new cloned drive from it’s enclosure.
  7. Remove your drive from your laptop – it usually just slides out but sometimes it’s in a cradle and so you will have remove the drive from this.
  8. Install the new drive first into the cradle if it has one  and then slide into the connectors on the laptop.
  9. Now comes the good part – restart your laptop and all being well your new drive boots and shows your all your programs and Windows Explorer lets you see how much more space you have.
  10. However you may find it’s exactly the same size as the old drive as it’s cloned it exactly. To get around this you need to resize the partition for which you will need Partition Software which is also a free download from here:- http://www.partition-tool.com/
  11. Now you can install your old drive into the enclosure and this gives you the bonus of an external drive that’s a complete backup of your original files and data.

I need to add a note here – sometimes the new drive needs to be re-mounted – what this means is you need a Windows systems disk to run Repair and this will remount your drive and update your boot record.

Maxed out your hard drive! – clone a new one

I’ve had to do this myself on numerous occasions now – you’ve maxed out your hard drive there’s just no more room left for all those programs, images and music files you’ve downloaded.

Internal Hard Drive
Internal Hard Drive

An easy solution is buy yourself an external disk and move your data to that, but sometimes, particularly if it’s a laptop you just want a bigger drive.

I’d say this is not a job for the non technical as you need to go inside the laptop at some point but here’s the process.

You need to buy a replacement hard drive – I’d go for a minimum of 500GB it should be a 2.5″ drive and as this is an upgrade I’d buy one with a spin rate of 7200 rpm and go for a 16MB cache. This can have a significant improvement on the original 5400rpm drive, making power up and the running of programs almost a third faster.

You also need a external hard drive enclosure with USB – you need this as you will fit your new drive in this for the cloning process before installing into your laptop.

You will also need some software to be able to clone your drive – I’d recommend a free program called TODO Backup which can be downloaded from here:- http://www.todo-backup.com/

The Process

  1. Install your new hard drive into it’s enclosure
  2. Connect to your laptop via USB and make sure that your computer recognises it.
  3. Run your cloning software and following the instructions, make sure you se t your laptop drive as the source and the USB drive as your destination.
  4. Depending on the size of your drive the cloning process can take several hours so make sure your laptop is connected to the supply otherwise the process will fail when your laptop runs out of power and shuts down.
  5. When the cloning process is complete shut down your laptop.
  6. Remove the new cloned drive from it’s enclosure.
  7. Remove your drive from your laptop – it usually just slides out but sometimes it’s in a cradle and so you will have remove the drive from this.
  8. Install the new drive first into the cradle if it has one  and then slide into the connectors on the laptop.
  9. Now comes the good part – restart your laptop and all being well your new drive boots and shows your all your programs and Windows Explorer lets you see how much more space you have.
  10. However you may find it’s exactly the same size as the old drive as it’s cloned it exactly. To get around this you need to resize the partition for which you will need Partition Software which is also a free download from here:- http://www.partition-tool.com/
  11. Now you can install your old drive into the enclosure and this gives you the bonus of an external drive that’s a complete backup of your original files and data.

I need to add a note here – sometimes the new drive needs to be re-mounted – what this means is you need a Windows systems disk to run Repair and this will remount your drive and update your boot record.

NTFS for MAC – NTFS file system support for MAC’s

NTFS for MAC


NTFS for MAC – NTFS file system support for MAC’s

If like me you find yourself using both a PC and a MAC on a regular basis you must have come across the situation where swapping files between the 2 is needed. Unfortunately MAC does not support NTFS file systems.

Fortunately there is a utility which you can download to get around this NTFS for MAC. NTFS-3G installing this lets you read and write to NTFS formatted external hard drives. It also supports other file formats as well which is a bonus.

Apple – Downloads – System/Disk Utilities – NTFS-3G

A file system driver for the NTFS file system, enabling write support and other advanced features.

NTFS-3G Screenshot
NTFS-3G Screenshot

New Website – LifeStyle Computers goes live

Friday 24th June 2011

The New website for LifeStyle Computers went live today.

We’ve been researching all kinds of ideas and designs for a replacement to our previous Website and in the end we decided to go with a design based on WordPress App.

WordPress is incredibly flexible and allows us to add new pages and information (posts) without major changes to the design and just as importantly we can add this information without the use of editing apps or any special skills. This allows other members of the company to add new information and it immediately goes live on the site.

I created this website as an intern forming part of my course work for the Digital Media Production course at the Arts University Bournemouth.

 

New Website – Now Online

Friday 24th June 2011

The New website for LifeStyle Computers went live today.

We’ve been researching all kinds of ideas and designs for a replacement to our previous Website and in the end we decided to go with a design based on WordPress App.

WordPress is incredibly flexible and allows us to add new pages and information (posts) without major changes to the design and just as importantly we can add this information without the use of editing apps or any special skills. This allows other members of the company to add new information and it immediately goes live on the site.

 

MAC G4 to PC conversion project (Part 8 – Project Update)

The previous post hinted at future upgrades and some of these have now been completed:-

CPU Fan: ZALMAN 7000B ALCU Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler

MAC - PC Zalman CPU Fan Installed
MAC - PC Zalman CPU Fan Installed

The Zalman fan turned out to be as good as we had expected although this is the first time that we have specified this particular fan for a Media Center PC we usually install one of the larger versions. As you can see in the picture it fits extremely well although there is no space at all for anything bigger. The fixing point on one side actually touches one of the capacitors but importantly does not apply any force against it. The top of the fan clears the power supply by just millimetres. The good news is that due to its design the hot air is forced sideways through the heat sink and so there is no hot air blown directly against the power supply. In fact the design seems to be cooling the surrounding components as well which is a real benefit. The CPU temperatures are much more reasonable, with the side panel shut the temps are 40C at idle and the highest we have seen is 48C at high loading. The fan seems to be running at 1800rpm and cannot be heard above the case fan (which may have to be changed again to a speed controlled version to reduce noise).

Audio: Sound card Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Music OEM

MAC - PC X - Fi Sound Card Installed
MAC - PC X - Fi Sound Card Installed

The standard onboard sound was to be honest not that good especially when hooked up to a state of the art 5.1 sound system and playing MP3’s but adding the creative X-Fi brings a whole new dimension to the audio experience (Sorry to sound like an advert for them) this card is a must buy for a Media Center and we will be fitting this into all our systems from now on. WARNING – remove your onboard sound drivers and disable in BIOS to avoid conflicts when installing this card and drivers.

Conclusion:

MAC - PC View inside showing the modifications
MAC - PC View inside showing the modifications

This is most probably as far as we are going to take this project unless we suddenly get the urge to go for a full HDTV setup but watch this space as we seem to be under a lot of pressure to build more or a similar setup to this for some of our current customers.

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