Tag Archives: HDD

Dabs Magnificent Seven

Component Advice: Motherboard checklist

With the help of our friends at Asus, we have put together the first in a series of a component checklist.  This will be aimed at giving a bit of advice on what features to check for when you’re on the look out for upgrade components to your PC.

First up, we’re looking at Motherboards and we have condensed the major requirements down to a magnificent seven (unrelated to the name of the Beckham baby girl).

Socket Type

The crucial point with socket types is that it must be compatible with your CPU choice.  The main benefit of buying the latest socket is that it allows for an extended potential for future upgrades, thus a careful investment now should ensure that you go longer before you need to consider reinvesting.  The current set of sockets of choice include Intel 1155, 1366 or AMD AM3 or AM3+.

Peripheral Connectivity

Think carefully about what you want to use your PC for and what peripherals you’ll need to fulfill those requirements.  What do you want to connect it to?  If you have a USB3.0 external hard drive then you’ll want to have USB3.0 on-board.  External HDDs, Monitors, printers and cameras can all have specific connections, a few quick checks beforehand can make things a lot smoother in the long run.

RAM Type

Perhaps the most important considerations for RAM choice is the type and capacity.  The main types of RAM include, SDRAM, DDR and Rambus DRAM.  Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) is one of the older formats and as such would be slow by today’s standards.  DDR3 would be a good choice for most.  Capacity doubles in size from 8GB to 16GB to 32GB and so on.  Also important to be aware of is the number of dual in-line memory modules or DIMM slots that are available, more slots mean better upgrade flexibility.

Storage Connectivity

Storage connectivity can vary from HDD to SSD to Firewire and more.  Do you need SATA 6GB or SATA 3GB?  It comes down to future upgradability and overall performance you want to achieve.

Graphics Solution

Essentially there are two options; On-board or Dedicated.  With on-board graphics you’ll be equipped for basic computing with outputs along the line of DSUB, DVI, HDMI or DP.  If your rig is going to be built with gaming in mind you’ll need multiple PCI-Ex16 slots for up to three add on graphics cards.

Size

The size of your case will dictate what size motherboard you can use.  The typical range of sizes are Mini ITX, mATX, ATX or E-ATX.

Expansion Slots

The final point on the motherboard magnificent seven is expansion slots. The two main varieties are PCi and the newer PCI-e, which has improvements which include a more detailed error detection and reporting mechanism.

Now that you’re more familiar with our chosen ‘motherboard magnificent seven’, let me know what you think of them all.  Is there any others that you think should be included?  Are there any that you’d like more information on?

Let me know and I’d be happy to produce a more detailed profile.

Network Attached Storage

The benefits of NAS

I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who is overly techy. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the technology I have in the house and will always look for the next gadget to own, but I spend a lot of time with friends who aren’t particularly interested in motherboards, BIOS settings or the reasons to upgrade to solid state drives (here’s my blog post on this: SSHD). Therefore, I find myself trying to explain the vast amount of technology I have lying around and, more importantly, why I’m replacing a perfectly good graphics card, hard drive or [insert any type of technology, here...] with a newer technology. The most recent occurrence of this has been the inspiration for this blog post, namely, trying to explain why I have chosen to use NAS (Network Attached Storage) over a simple and perfectly functional external hard drive. So, let’s start by taking a look at the benefits of NAS:

One of the main benefits of NAS over an external HD is that it is a standalone device so it does not have to be directly attached to a computer, rather it is attached to the network and is therefore easier and quicker to access from multiple places or computers directly connected to the network. If you have multiple computers in the house (laptop, desktop or workstation, home media system in the lounge, etc) or a few flatmates that also want access, then NAS is the fastest way for all of these devices to access the data.

Most NAS drives give you the option to add more hard drives to the configuration. This has two benefits. Firstly, you can easily upgrade your storage without having to transfer everything across to a new and larger drive. You simply slot in a second drive and go from there. Most consumer NAS systems have space for up to two hard drives, so the ability to add a second can be invaluable. The second benefit comes from when you have this second drive in place, namely, setting the two drives up into a RAID configuration. I won’t get too technical here (there are scores of great sites and blogs that tell you exactly how to do this), but by having the drives set up in this configuration they can “mirror” the data stored on one drive to allow you to access each file far quicker (by downloading half the data from one drive and half from the other, at the same time) and will be protected from drive failures or data loss. If your external hard drive fries itself you’re in a lot of trouble, but if one of your NAS drives fries, the other has the data stored so you can recover your library.

If you pride yourself on your huge movie or music library, are storing large amounts of data for your home office or would like to have faster data access and a more secure place to store your digital stuff, then take a serious look at Network Attached Storage drives.  We have a few great options at the moment, such as the Seagate 2TB GoFlex Home NAS (£119.98 in our sale), the very impressive LG Electronics N2R1 2x1TB NAS with DVD-RW (for £174.99), or the cost effective, entry level D-Link ShareCentre Pulse 2-bay NAS (for only £69.99).

If you have any more questions about NAS, feel free to get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or on the forum. We’ll be more than happy to help you get set up.

SSDBlog3

Solid State Drives: What’s the buzz?

Solid state drives have been a popular inclusion into many PCs recently, and the list of benefits for adding them into your setup is long.  Yet I’ve recently talked to a few people on Twitter and on Facebook to explain why they are a good option, so I thought I’d put together a short guide to walk you through what they can bring to your PC or Laptop.

So, solid state drives. Where to start? I think the main point is to understand the difference between a hard disk drive (HDD) and solid state.  A HDD is a magnetic disc that has data written to it as it spins, from one edge to the other. A solid state hard drive has no moving parts and is very similar to RAM, writing data to a microchip rather than a magnetic disc.

One of the main problems with the more traditional HDD is that it writes data to the magnetic disc in sequential order, meaning that it starts at the edge and writes the data moving inwards or outwards (depending on the manufacturer) in sequence, so that the first file saved is written first, then the second one is placed after that.  When it reads back the data, it has to spin up (making a noise) and find where it stored the files on the disk.  This takes time, and will slow down the data loading process.

 

The other issue with a HDD is with fragmentation.  If you save files in a certain order, and then delete a file, there’s a space left on the disk to fill.  The next time you save a file, it will be saved into that newly emptied space, whether it fits or not.  If it doesn’t fit, then your computer saves part of it into that gap, and the rest of the file to the next available location on the disk.  This fragmentation of files means that to load a program your HDD must find all the pieces of that file seperately and then piece them together, which further slows down the loading time.

There are several other benefits to having a solid state drive which I’ll quickly name check. Lower power consumption, much faster read / write times, noiseless, and mechanical reliability (no moving parts to wear out). However, there are draw backs too.  Solid state drives are more expensive, so generally they are sold with smaller capacities than HDDs. This means that they may not be for everyone.. However, if you’re not a power user or work with smaller volumes of data and are happy with 120GBs worth of space, then a solid state drive is a fantastic way to improve your system boot times, speed up your PC and keep the noise down.  Couple this with an external hard drive to store your music or videos and you have yourself the perfect set up.

So, if you’re interested in seeing what’s on offer, take a look at Intel’s range of Solid State hard drives, or the excellent Kingston V100 range.  If you have any questions about choosing the right SS HD, get in touch via Facebook or our Dabsdotcom Twitter page and I’ll be happy to walk you through it.