Meanwhile, I got my computer parts all together and began building the Windows 7 box.
PART I: How to build Windows 7 PC from parts.
I have ordered all my computer parts on the Internet. Some of them from Amazon.com since the price was one of the best + free delivery.
1. I used an old but very strong computer case from burned PC that one my customer brought to repair 1 year ago. Since everything (including PS) was burned due to the overloaded Audio, he just decided to buy another PC.
2. Fist of all, I bought 650W power supply with 6 SATA power connectors.
3. Based on the benchmark of the CPUs (it's easy to find one through Google), I have chosen the one pretty close to i7 from Intel. It's AMD Phenom II 3 GHz (Quad) that is cheaper than Intel's but is quite a good performer (almost the best of AMD CPUs).
4. Browsing the pricewatch.com, I found several compatible motherboards and have chosen A780GM-M3 from Elitegroup.
5. Comparing the prices, I found a great deal on NewEgg.com and bought the motherboard combo with a desired CPU. In addition, I have purchasaed 4 GB of compatible RAM (2x2GB).
6. Now, the video card. I could use one that comes built-in with the motherboard but since I watch movies on my PC pretty often (24" Samsung T240 monitor), I have decided to buy the Video card with at least 1GB of RAM. My choice was ATI R4550 that comes with HDMA port and without a fan but a large heatsink. The advantage: no moving parts. I purchased it on Amazon.com.
7. I have also bought 1 TB Maxtor Hard Drive with the same delivery.
8. At this point, I had everything I need except the DVD writer. Usualy you buy one based on what you expect to do with it. Since I am burning a lot of DVDs, I have decided to buy one with Lightscribe capability to be able to burn the label on the face side of DVD. It was Sony 22X DVD writer.
9. I have to mention another piece that I have decided to buy since my motherboard had only 4 USB ports on the back panel and two connectors on the board for add-on USB ports. I have purchased the front panel with 3 USB ports, slots for memory chips (SD, MicroSD, etc), Audio ports, and the E-SATA connector for external SATA device (very useful if you have to backup/move/copy hard drive content to another hard drive).
After assembly, the board booted fine and asked for a hard drive boot sector. At this point, I had to decide how to install my Windows 7 PC (upgrade version). I have decided to install XP with SP2 32-bit, and then upgrade to Windows 7, 64-bit. After almost 3 hrs of formatting the 2/3 of my hard drive (I left 1/3 for another OS - Ubuntu or second partition if I need in the future), the OS began copying the files.
PART II: How to install Windows 7 upgrade version.
Suddenly, the PC began beeping during the first reboot required for installation. First, the beeps were short, then longer and longer until the PC has rebooted. I have restarted the PC but the beeps were long and troubling. Hm-m-m, I did not like it. I began to shuffle the hardware suspecting some hardware problem (memory, video,CPU, etc). Nothing helped, the beeping started exactly at the same point even when I re-started the installation over.
OK, maybe it happened because the motherboard is quite specific? An overheated CPU? I was confused. Then, using my SHOE troubleshooting principle (software-hardware-operator-environment), I have decided to try installing Vista 32-bit instead of Windows XP. To my surprise, the installation went smoothly and without beeping. Bingo! The only explanation I found that the CPU did not handle Windows XP code well. What else?
I was impatient and did not bother to enter the Vista serial number. I have rebooted the PC, loaded Windows 64-bit Upgrade DVD, and using Explorer tried to run the setup. Hold on, boy! I am 64-bit baby, not 32! The setup has refused to continue. I have rebooted the PC again and booted the same DVD instead of Vista.
To my third surprise, the operating system ignored that fact that Vista is not licensed, and installed Windows 7 without any glitch!
Now, what to install on Windows 7 PC?
Beyond updates to Windows 7 from Microsoft web sites, I installed immediately the following programs:
1. VIPRE Antivirus+Antispyware (see why here)
2. ZoneAlarm Software Firewall
3. Adobe Reader 9.2
4. Total Commander v. 7.5a to use instead of File Explorer, WinZIP, FTP client, and perhaps, many more other utilities. This utility is very unique and I highly recommend it. I have registered the copy of this utility but if you are REALLY short on money, it can be used for free with one small annoyance.
5. StarDock's Fences: to group the icons on my desktop and avoid clattering.
6. Office 2007 (ask your kids who have college e-mail (with EDU extension) to buy it for you for only $49.95 from MIcrosoft web site). Also, since the Office 2010 is coming soon, the upgrade to 2010 will be cheaper than full version. Unconfirmed data suggest that the student's copy of Office 2010 will cost $99.95 per copy.
7 . How many browsers should you use on Windows 7 PC?
My answer is 3-4. Of course, it depends on your needs but I use IE8 only when the web site requires IE, otherwise, I use Firefox for everyday browsing with normally 15-25 tabs opened at the same time. I like Firefox for a great set of free plug-ins that enhance browsing, saving, bookmarking, tabbbing, etc.
For short web inquires, I use Google's Chrome 2.0 - it's plain, quick, and doesn't take a lot of memory comparing to Firefox and IE. Sometimes, I also install the Apple's Safari 4.0 for Windows. It's the fastest browser that allows me to test the compatibilities of the web pages when I design the web sites.
Now, some recommendations based on my experience with Windows 7 OS:
1. NEVER install the 32-bit programs into default directories but only to c:\Program Files (x86)\ folder. Otherwise, you will see the degraded performance of the hard drive's I/O operations as well as the CPU overloads to the degree that your PC will start complaining by bipping with an internal PC speaker.
2. If you have the Smart Phone/PDA to synchronize with Windows 7, you should use new Microsoft Windows Mobile Device Center 6.1 Driver for Windows Vista (64-bit), (you should have the valid copy of Windows 7 since you must install the Windows Genuine Software update unless you find the software elsewhere on the web).
3. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to Netflix online movies delivery for only $7.95 (or $8.95 with a delivery of one DVD to your mail box in addition to unlimited number of online movies). With all mentioned above hardware, you can watch plenty of movies through your PC right on your PC monitor or just connect the HDMA cable to your LCD TV (if it has the free port).