How to build a good gaming PC for under £1000?

EDITOR NOTE: Since this article was written, many of the links to computer parts have become outdated, so they have all now been removed – note by Christopher

Computer parts and a computer case - a custom PCGaming is a great hobby to have, but to buy all the latest releases, not to mention the latest console that comes equipped with crystal-clear graphics and interactive gameplay, it could cost a small fortune. Many thrifty gamers looking to enjoy themselves without breaking the bank could do worse than build the ultimate gaming machine, especially if they have an affinity with playing on a PC.

It’s possible to get everything you need for less than £1,000. All you need to do is know what components are necessary, how powerful you want your machine to be, a few basic computer building skills and the right places to go for your bargains. My personal favourites are the technology section on netvouchercodes.co.uk, the Amazon discount emails, or their computer component recommendations and of course eBay!

Motherboard – £135

It’s the most important part of any PC – without it, nothing else would function correctly. This motherboard from Asus is ideal as it has no bottlenecks, slots for two graphic cards, processor slot and has capacity for as much as 32GB of RAM. It’s also pretty cheap considering what it enables.

Processor – £168

Also from AMD, this six-core Bulldozer processor is great for processing large amounts of data at speed. Among its other vital stats include an 8MB cache and impressive power of 8.3 GHz per core for a relatively low price, and is ideal for multitasking when playing two or more games at once. I found this particular bargain from CCL through their online voucher page.

Memory – £137

Combined, these products provide an impressive 16GB of RAM. This amount of memory is more than enough for even the most data-intensive games.

Random Access Memory

PSU – £60

Every PC needs a cooling system, and this PSU with inbuilt heatsinks is sufficient for an extremely powerful custom-built computer. It runs at 1333 MHz and has a capacity of 16GB, and controls your PC’s power output with minimum fuss.

Graphics cards – £228

The AMD Radeon graphics processor is the most expensive part of your PC, but it’s also the most important for ensuring the games you want to play look as vivid and lifelike as possible. They have 3GB of GDDR5 memory, 800 MHz clock speed for quick gameplay and has room for a second card if necessary.

Solid State Drive – £195

A hard drive of some sort is something else you’ll need, and this 250GB drive is one of the best available for gaming PCs. It has a 6GB/s transfer rate and is ideal for games which use up a huge amount of data.

All those components come to a grand total of around £930. Once you have all that, you can spend the remainder on a case to keep everything in its right place. £70 is plenty of money to spend on a case, no matter how wacky and original you want it to look. All it involves is a little shopping around.

Some simple ways to speed up your Windows PC

According to StatCounter in August 2012, globally, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 accounted for the operating systems on 87.85% of computers around the world. That means that the majority of people own a PC which runs on Windows, as opposed to one which runs on iOS, MacOSX, Unix or another operating system.

An issue many Windows users often find is that after a while their computer seems to slow down. If this sounds familiar, then you should find this article extremely useful, as in it I am going to give you my personal tips on how to keep your Windows PC (XP, Vista and 7) running fast. This guide applies to both laptops and desktop PCs. 🙂

What Slows Computers Down?

The trick to understanding how to make your machine run faster involves working out what slows your computer down. It would be interesting to know what most people think slows their computer down, so if you have an idea, let me know in the comments.

The first and one of the biggest culprits which slow your computer down are background processes. These are things which go on in the background whilst you are doing things. Say you are trying to open up an internet browser, lets take Firefox as an example, then when you click on Firefox, it is very possible that plugins you have installed also try to start up and do things in the background. Until recently an really good example of this was the Google toolbar, which would start up a process to talk to Google and find out if it was up to date.

There are likely to be a lot of programs trying to do things in the background, whilst you are focusing on your task. Java, Apple, Google, Adobe (Flash Player and Reader) are big culprits, always whirring away in the background. If you have anything Google installed like Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google Talk etc. then the chases are it is taking a lot more resources than it needs. Likewise anything Apple like iTunes, QuickTime etc. are also likely to be slowing your PC down.

Another big culprit is disorganised hard disk files. Every time you delete something, move something, create a new file or folder etc. you change the layout of your hard disk and the structure of your files. This can often mean that related files can be put far apart on the disk, which is not optimal, also in order to get to a file, the computer may first have to locate it via following a redirect from where it used to be – this takes time.

The final major culprit I am going to address is unnecessary visual effects. Your computer can often get really bogged down trying to display fancy effects which you don’t really need, meaning you can’t get on and do what you wanted to do.

Now we know three of the main issues, lets fix them!

Stopping Unnecessary Background Processes

A tortoise with a rocket on its backStopping bad background processes is easier than you might think. There are a few ways to go about it, the way I find the most effective is though a tool named ‘MSConfig’. This can be found on Vista and 7 by typing in msconfig into the search box on the start menu, in in Windows XP by typing msconfig into the Run command box.

MSConfig allows you to make a lot of changes to your system, but unless you know what you are doing, I would stick to just two tabs, Services and Startup. To start speeding up your PC, go to the ‘Services’ tab and click ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’, which will stop you accidental stopping anything you need. Now untick anything you don’t feel you need. An example of a service you might want to untick is ‘Google Update Service‘, whilst an example of one you probably don’t want to is your Anti-Virus software’s one.

Remember stopping a service does not stop you opening a program. Say there is an Office service which you stop, it will not run in the background, but you will still be able to run Word, Excel and Outlook.

Now lets move onto the ‘Startup’ tab. Here you can also remove any service you don’t want to run, but this is specifically when you start up your PC. For example, if you have Skype installed, but don’t want it to run when your computer starts, then untick the Skype service. Likewise if you don’t want Google Talk to automatically start running, untick googletalk.exe – the Google Talk service.

Reorganise Your Hard Disk

Reorganising your files is really easy, it just takes time. A disk defragmenter is what you need for this, and Windows comes with one built in for free! There are third party ones available too, some of which are good, and others not so – your choice.

Simply start Windows Disk Defragmenter via searching for it in the start menu, or open My Computer >> right-click on the hard disk you want to defragment >> click Properties >> click the Tools tab >> click click Defragment now.

It may take any amount of time from 5 minutes to 12 hours (potentially more if you have a really big and messy hard disk) and during the process, I would advise against using your computer. Typically it takes an hour or two to defragment a hard disk.

Turn Off Unneeded Visual Effects

If you are happy to loose some of the sleekness your system has then this tip could really boost your computers performance.

First you need to open the visual effects panel. In Windows 7 right-click Computer on the start menu >> click Properties >> click Advanced system settings (on the left) >> then select Settings under the Performance section. In XP right-click My Computer >> click Properties >> click the Advanced tab >> then select Settings under the Performance section.

From here you can remove visual effects you don’t really need. If you like you can remove them all, but that could really change how your PC looks. Animate windows when minimizing and maximising, Show shadows under mouse pointer and Show window contents while dragging are all effects which really slow down your PC, but you are unlikely to miss. Experiment, and see which ones you can live without.

I hope these tips work for you, and have fun with your fast(er) computer!

Got any tips yourself? Why not share them below?

Infix PDF Editor – Review

This is a sponsored review on behalf of Infix. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

In this article I am going to review a piece of software by Iceni Technology, called Infix PDF Editor. The version I will be reviewing is Infix Professional for PC.

Infix PDF Editor is a program that enables you to edit and then save PDF documents. As Iceni put it:

“Infix Pro includes tools for handling graphics such as grouping, hiding and locking. It also adds the ability to edit and create clipping masks plus a vertical ruler to allow easier object alignment together with grids, guides and page margins.”

The quote mentions ‘Infix Pro’; this is because there are three different versions of the software. Form-Filler – a free version of the software which only lets you edit and reflow text. The ‘Standard‘ version of the software offers a lot more functionality, also allowing you to convert PDF files into other formats (ePub, RTF and HTML), add notes to the document, among other things. The ‘Professional‘ version lets you do even more, including joining multiple PDFs into one document, automatically renumber pages and adding/removing watermarks.

For full details of what the different versions offer, check out the table below which is from iceni.com.

Infix Version Comparison Table

The Form-Filler version of the software is free to download. The Standard version costs £59 and the Pro version £99.

So, that is the technical specifications of what the three different versions of the software offer, but, the real proof of the pudding is in the using – how easy the software is to use, and does it really work like it says it does.

The Interface

The interface is very easy to follow. It works in the same way that many programs do, so that you can find your way around it really easily, and you don’t have to spend a long time pondering what buttons do. I call this type of approach to software interface design KISS – Keep It Super Simple.

A KISS approach to interface design is, in my opinion the best. People don’t buy software for it to look good on their PC, they buy it because they want to increase their productivity, learning or enjoyment in some way.

As a result of the KISS approach, the interface does look a little basic. Basic is easy to understand, but not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing.

In my opinion the functionality of software comes first, and aesthetics comes second. If you want software that looks okay and works well, then Infix fits the bill, however if you must have designer looking software, then you might be better looking elsewhere.

Below is a screenshot I have taken of the software.

Infix PDF Editing software interface

The interface design of Infix PDF Editing software

Ease of Use

As I mentioned above, the design really aids the usability of the software. It is easy to find the function you want with the various optional toolbars, and the menu options.

Much of the software on your computer is probably not made by Microsoft, however you will probably notice that most software designers stick to the standardised layout. File, edit, view and help are standard on the top menu, below the top menu comes some optional toolbars, then the main content you are viewing, with a few options (often involving resizing and scrolling) at the bottom of the window.

There are some software producers who stray away from this tried and tested design. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t. In Infix PDF Editor, the design conforms to the standard design, meaning that it is really easy to work out what is what.

Does It Work!

Iceni Technology LogoOkay, the software may be easy to use, affordably priced, etc. however if it doesn’t work, you aren’t going to want to buy it. I can inform you that it does work, and it works really well!

I have tried editing various different PDF documents with the software and it has surprised me every time with the functionality it offers. Like in Microsoft Word, you can ask the software to track changes, and put them in a different colour. This can be really handy if you want to show someone what you have edited.

You can also add notes when editing PDFs, sticky-notes, scribbles, text highlights and stamps are all available options, and as you would expect, when you save, you can view the edits with any PDF viewer. For more details, check out this handy screenshot and explanation on the Iceni site.

Not only does the software make it easy to edit PDFs, but it also makes is it easy to copy data from them. Sometimes, the way the PDF is constructed, if you try to copy some of the contents, say to quote it, when it goes into your document, it can often be a little mixed up. Infix makes it really easy to copy data from PDFs and transfer it to other locations.

The software also makes finding and replacing text really easy. Edit > Find and Replace > Replace > type in the word(s) you want to be changed and what you want the change to be to > click ‘replace’ and the software will chew its way through the document, changing any occurrences of the terms you asked it to. If you are tracking changes, you can then see the words that have been changed.

There are so many other things this software can do, it would take far too long for me to talk about them all. To mention a few you can: adjust paragraph indents, add header and footers, add new text, merge PDFs and renumber pages.

Help

Good software always needs to be backed up by good help and support. Iceni Technology don’t fall down in this area though, not with Infix at least. Their website hosts a series of screenshot guides and video tutorials which help you get to grips with all the different functions of the software.

They also have a support helpline and email address.

Compatibility

Infix is very diverse, and can be installed on a USB memory stick, Windows PC (2003, XP, Vista and 7) or a Mac (with MacOSX 10.5 or above).

For Windows 2003/XP you need at least 512MB of RAM (almost all PC’s do) or 1GB for Windows Vista/7, as well as a 1GHz x86 processor/CPU and 60MB free disk space – that should be no problem.

In terms of weight (power and space needed to run the software) I would say it is relatively light. I have some programs that require around 15GB of hard disk space, and a very capable graphics card, along with a large amount of system memory. Don’t get me wrong, still check your PC is up to the job, but I personally think most peoples will be.

Is Infix Value for Money?

Like I almost always say when I end a review, whether you think the product or service is value for money really depends upon what your use for it would be. If you occasionally use PDF documents and would like to be able to change them as a convenience, but don’t really need the software for any reason, I would suggest that it probably isn’t going to be that useful to you.

If however you are regularly dealing with PDFs, for whatever reason, be it part of your job, hobby or whatever, and would find it helpful to be able to make changes to them, then I think you would benefit from Infix software. Whether you go Standard or Pro is for you to decide, I think they are both reasonably priced for the services they provide, and the additional help that you get online.

If you are interested in Infix PDF editing software feel free to visit the link which follows through to the software’s site, where you can learn more about it.

What are your thoughts about the software? Would you find it useful? If so, will you be buying it? Any questions, feedback or comments, as always, leave them below.

Back to the Basics: De-cluttering your Computer

If you own a PC or if you are using one at work then you just earned for yourself an extra responsibility of organizing your files and even your folders. This is one task that could sound really easy when the PC is still new until you start accumulating hundreds of different files and see the bad effects of cluttering your computer with both important and useless files. Of course the most apparent effect of file chaos can be seen on the PC’s speed as it tends to become slow as the day goes by and then errors start to appear, and then the PC crashes ultimately. Again, it all began in ignoring a rather simple task – organizing your files.

Saving files, regardless of its size, can influence PC clog up. But this is one convenience of owning a PC; you can create files such as photos, documents, movies, music, and more, store them and retrieve them later when necessary. This is just the way it’s supposed to be, right? We cannot not save files in our PCs, most of the times it is a necessity. Thus, the best way to attack this challenge is to intelligently organize files and folders. When I said intelligently, I meant not just simply arranging files in a specific way, it means de-cluttering both your PC and your life.

The truth is, file organization is not really a complicated task; it’s just as straightforward as organizing paper files. It all comes down to storing files in folders by categories and sequences that make sense.

A Laptop Full of FilesBefore organizing your files though, make a habit of classifying files as important or useless at the earliest phase possible: before saving files. If you can, avoid saving redundant and unnecessary files, then please do. It doesn’t take much time to evaluate a file’s importance to see if you should save it or not. While you master this habit, try another one: design and follow a consistent way of naming your files and folders. For instance, if you are using a PC at work wherein you need to store files related to customers, dealers and even colleagues, you may want to create sub-folders for each group and then store all files and folders related to each group under them. You can make organization more fun and effective by applying related icons to each sub-folder for easy identification.

It may be wiser to group related files together whatever its type. It doesn’t help to create specific folder for Word files, a folder for Excel files, a folder for PowerPoint files and so on. In Windows Explorer, you can set it to arrange files in a folder alphabetically and by type so it is easier to identify each file type. Besides, each file type is represented by distinguishing icons so it won’t be hard to identify a file by its type. It is smart to group files by project though if this makes sense to you or by month if date is an essence.

Another way to organize files is to separate current files to the completed ones. You may want to create a folder named “On-going” for current files and “Completed” for the finished files. Once you are done with a current file, you can just transfer it to the completed folder. Again, you can use this method only of it makes sense to you and your nature of work.

Also, it would be wiser to break a large number of files into separate sub-folders. This would make navigating into a folder easier. You can create sequential subfolders for invoices for instance. Thus, if you have an “Invoices” subfolder, you may want to create subfolders “Invoice_Jan”, “Invoices_Feb”, “Invoices_Mar” and so on within it. The notion is to store files in a group of logical folders instead of having one big folder. It makes sense then not to create subfolders for a lesser number of files. It would only take time to click on different folders if you only store at most 5 files in each folder.

Now, this will be an entirely different story if you already cluttered your PC with files (probably most are unimportant). You may have to spend time cleaning up your PC by deleting unnecessary files first and then reorganize your important files into separate folders. In organizing files, an optimization tool can certainly help. Optimization tools can automatically delete unimportant files and even temporary files that may have been affecting your PC’s speed and performance.

File organization is one task you should not avoid, no matter how trivial or boring you may think it is. This is definitely a prevention task rather than a cure as it could prevent future problems in time management as well as in your PC’s performance. If you want to make your work and your life less complicated, get better in organizing your files. It’s easy when you know how!