Intel Core i5-3570 Gaming Upgrade

A customer wanted an old gaming machine upgraded. It was running a core 2 duo and Windows XP with 2GB RAM. The Tower was an Antec NSK 4 series which was in good condition and is a pretty good tower so we decided to reuse it. The DVD writer was also working fine and we kept the existing 1TB hard drive as a secondary drive as it had all the customers data and meant there was no need to start transferring all the files.

I recommended the 2GB XFX Radeon HD 7850 Graphics Card as, in my experience, they tend to perform better for gaming at this price point than the Nvidia cards. It is quite a long card but it fitted in safely without having to remove any drive bays.

I also upgraded the PSU as, although the existing PSU was working fine, it fell below the recommended specification for the graphics card. The Coolermaster PSU’s are pretty reliable and offer good value for money.

The full spec;


  • XFX Radeon HD 7850 Graphics Card 2GB (FX-785A-CNJC)
  • Coolermaster Elite 500W PSU
  • 8GB (Kit) DDR3 PC3-12800 / 8-8-8-24 /Unbuffered / NON-ECC / DDR3-1600 / 1.5V
  • Asus P8H77-M LE MATX Desktop Motherboard – Intel H77 Express Chipset
  • Intel Core i5-3570 3.40 GHz Processor
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA600 – 7200rpm 1TB
  • Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit)

Check out Tom’s Hardware for a full Windows 8 review here.

Alesis Masterlink ML-9600 Hard Drive Upgrade

A mastering studio needed the hard drive upgrading in their Alesis Masterlink. Unfortunately, as these units are quite old now, the maximum hard disk size they will accept is 32GB, and it proved impossible to source a drive with a capacity lower than 40GB. This is not a major issue, however, as a number of drives will allow you to limit their capacity to 32GB with a jumper setting. The only problem was that the lowest capacity drive that we could source that supported this feature was a 160GB Seagate Barracuda. Disassembling the unit is pretty straight forward, firstly removing the rack ears then the screws that hold the cover in place. There is a post on this procedure here.

The only thing to note is that the drive needs to have a jumper set to ‘Master’ as well as the ‘limit to 32GB capacity’ jumper, so if anyone is attempting this themselves you may need an extra jumper as drives are often only shipped with one.


Intel Pentium G2120 Workstations

This build was for 5 workstations for a community organisation. They would be used for a number of projects including some video and audio production. The budget was restricted so we needed to balance the cost of the components carefully to make sure we got the most performance for the money. A 250GB hard drive, Asus H61 chipset board and the Foxconn tower allowed us to use 4GB of RAM with the Intel Pentium G2120 CPU keeping the performance of the machines reasonably fast. The drive size would not be too much of an issue as the machines would be connected to a server and external hard drives were available for big video projects.

The full spec…

  • Asus P8H61-M LX3 PLUS R2.0
  • Intel Pentium G2120 (3M Cache, 3.10 GHz)
  • Seagate Barracuda ST250DM000 250GB 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive
  • 4GB kit (2GBx2) 240-pin DIMM DDR3 PC3-12800
  • Optiarc AD-7280S-0B SATA DVD+-R/RW/DL


Clevo Laptop Repair

This Clevo laptop was brought in as it was not starting up. It was running windows 7 home premium 32 bit and was locking up just before the desktop should have loaded. I ran the standard windows start up repair routine from the hard drive and it reported that it could not repair the problem, however, windows then decided to load properly. After a few tests all seemed to be working fine. I checked the windows event manager and it did not show any issues. I then scanned the hard drive for errors which ran fine. As a final test I took the hard drive out and installed it on the test bench to run a full diagnostic on the drive, checking for read and write errors. I also ran memtest86 for a while to check the RAM was not showing any errors and gave the fan and air vent a clean as it was looking a bit dusty.


Toshiba Satellite Pro Celeron B820 Home Laptop

The customer wanted a laptop for use at home. It had to be reliable, have good battery life but be cost effective. I have sold Toshiba laptops for a few years now and have always been impressed with their build quality and reliability. The C850-14D uses a Celeron B820 which is not the fastest CPU in the world but is more than enough for general web and email use. The 500GB hard drive gives loads of space for documents and attachments and the feature list is pretty impressive.

  • Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-14D 39.6 cm (15.6″) 1,366 x 768  LED Notebook
  • Intel Celeron B820 1.70 GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • 500GB 5400rpm HDD
  • Gigabit Ethernet LAN
  • USB 3.0
  • 802.11b/g/n wifi
  • Bluetooth 4
  • HDMI-out
  • multi-card reader

Intel i5-3550 Ivy Bridge Studio Office PC

This machine was for a customer who runs a mastering studio. They wanted a machine that was to be used in the office for email and admin stuff but would also be used for some general audio and video production.
The audio tasks would mainly be auditioning audio projects sent in from clients, this could be 2 track masters or possibly even multitrack arrangements. The customer wanted to run Cubase v5, Protools V9 and Wavelab V6. We decided on the Focusrite Saffire PRO 14 audio interface as it has proved itself very reliable on all the software I have tested it on, it also had the advantage of an s/pdif digital in and out which would connect to the customers DAC1 digital-to-analog converter.
The video tasks would not be too intensive, it was mainly going to be used for some promotional web videos and importing video files from a consumer video camera.
I used a StarTech PCI1394MP PCI firewire card to provide 3 x Firewire 400 ports which features a Texas Instruments chipset. These could be used to connect the Focusrite audio interface and any digital cameras.
The customer also wanted an old 5.25″ IDE hard drive caddy fitting as they also had a Mackie HDR unit that they still used. This allowed them to easily copy projects straight on to the PC. I used a StarTech PCI Express IDE Controller card to provide an IDE connection to the caddy which was fitted into one of the 5.25″ bays.
2 Seagate Barracuda drives were fitted, one for windows and all the software and a second drive for data storage of video and audio files.
We also fitted a LiteOn iHES112-115 Blu ray drive, mainly for the larger backup capabilities of blu ray disk.
A CIT card reader was fitted for any projects that might be sent on flash media.
All this was fitted into a Foxconn TLM-397 micro ATX tower as it needed to sit on a desk and be as compact as possible. I have found the Foxconn towers to be very good for their cost. I don’t think they are the most aesthetically pleasing towers on the market but they are fairly robust and don’t cost anywhere near as much as some of the other brands.

The full spec was as follows;

  • Asus P8H77-M LE MATX Motherboard – Intel H77 Chipset – Socket H2 LGA-1155
  • Intel Core i5 i5-3550 3.30 GHz Processor – Socket H2 LGA-1155
  • XFX Pro 450W Power Supply Unit (Core Edition)
  • 4GB kit (2GBx2) DDR3 PC3-12800 CL=11 Unbuffered NON-ECC 1.5V
  • 2 x Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1 TB 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive
  • LiteOn iHES112-115 12x Blu-Ray Combo drive SATA internal optical drive (black)
  • CIT IO-001B USB2 3.5″ Internal Card Reader with SIM slot
  • Gainward GeForce GT520 SilentFX 1024MB PCI-E VGA/DVI/HDMI
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4-Port IEEE-1394a PCI Firewire Card TI chipset (PCI1394MP )
  • StarTech 1 Port PCI Express IDE Controller PCI Express x1
  • Focusrite Saffire PRO 14 Firewire Interface

Intel i7-3770 & GeForce GTX 680 Gaming Machine

This build was used mainly as a gaming machine. The Gainward GTX 680 card is very long!
The Antec tower has a removable 3.5″ bay and taking this out leaves plenty of room for the graphics card (see images). I can then fit the hard drive in the 5.25″ bay with the Akasa adapter. I have used this adapter in the past for fitting SSDs, I prefer these kinds of adapters to the brackets as they are less fiddly. The only problem with this is that you don’t get as many spaces for hard drives. I like the Antec NSK4000 tower. It looks good and is robust. The customer did not specify a particularly quiet machine but the Zalman PSUs have proved very reliable and have all the right connectors for the motherboard and graphics card. Suppliers don’t always seem to list the connectors properly on PSUs so it is sometimes hard to work out if it will fit out of the box. I hate using any kind of adapters, though Gainward seem to anticipate this as they provide a power adapter in the box. The CPU is running with the standard Intel stock cooler. The system was set up running Windows 7 home premium 64 bit.
The build went well with no problems.

  • Antec NSK4000 B2 Tower
  • Zalman ZM600-GT 600W 80-PLUS Quiet Power Supply
  • Asus P8Z77-V PRO Desktop Motherboard – Intel Z77 – Socket H2 LGA-1155
  • Intel Core i7 i7-3770 3.40 GHz CPU – Socket H2 LGA-1155
  • Crucial 8GB Kit (4GBx2), Ballistix 240-pin DIMM, DDR3 PC3-12800 memory module
  • Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1 TB Internal Hard Drive
  • Optiarc AD-7241S-0B DVDRW SATA Black
  • Akasa SSD/HDD 2.5 & 3.5 Adapter AK-HDA-01
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 2048MB Graphics Card 426018336-2500 (PCIE 3.0 x16)


i7-2700K 19″ Rack PC

This was a build for a University. It had to be relatively quiet and they wanted it in the rack. It was going to be used for both music production software, mainly Cubase but also some video editing, hence the 2 x 2TB Seagate drives. They were using a Focusrite firewire interface. I have found the Zalman PSUs to offer good noise levels for their cost. You can get quieter PSUs. The Scythe Shuriken also offers good noise levels for its cost. The intel Z68 chipset also offers the option of a raid setup using the the Intel(R) Rapid Storage Technology. There is a related post here.
The customer has commented on how quiet the machine runs. It was set up running Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. The StarTech PCI1394MP firewire card has proven to be very reliable with both firewire soundcards and connecting to various cameras. I also removed one of the internal fans to help with the noise levels.
The build went well with no problems.

  • Lian Li PC-C32B Aluminium Desktop CAse
  • Zalman ZM600-ST 600W Quiet ATX PSU
  • Asus P8Z68-V/GEN3 Desktop Motherboard
  • Intel Core i7 2700K 3.50 GHz Processor – Socket H2 LGA-1155
  • Scythe Shuriken RevB Quiet Low Profile CPU Cooler
  • 8GB Kit (4GBx2), Ballistix 240-pin DIMM, DDR3 PC3-12800
  • 1 x Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1 TB / SATA600 / 7200 rpm / 64 MB
  • 2 x Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 2TB HDD / SATA600 / 7200rpm / 64MB
  • Optiarc AD-7240S-0B SATA DVDRW
  • Asus NVIDIA GeForce GT520 1GB Graphics Card 90-C1CQQ0-L0UANAYZ
  • 4-Port IEEE-1394a PCI Firewire Card TI chipset (PCI1394MP )