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Windows 7: Advice on a building a workstation

30 Aug 2012   #1

Windows 7 Professional x64
Advice on a building a workstation

I am putting together a Windows 7 workstation for a friend who will be doing a lot of design work using Photoshop, Illustrator, Publisher and some sign design applications, including Flexi10.

While none of these is particularly resource intensive, he does deal with very large files. He wants 16 GB RAM at least.

The Flexi10 program requirements does say it needs 4GB of working disk space. I am not sure if it creates its own swap file or what it needs that for. I have a call in to their tech support, waiting to hear.
I am wondering if he would benefit from a striped RAID or an SSD for the OS and programs, and a RAID for the storage. He needs almost a terrabyte of storage.

Also what are the thoughts regarding enterprise versions of hard drives. Are they worth the extra money for the reliability if you are running regular backups anyway? I plan to set him up with Carbonite, and with a weekly backup to an external disk.


My System SpecsSystem Spec

30 Aug 2012   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 SP1, Home Premium, 64-bit

Pretty much everyone benefits from an SSD for the OS and programs.

The most recommended brands are Samsung, Intel, and Crucial.

I haven't read anything suggesting enterprise drives are more reliable. That kind of info is very difficult to document. Barring that documentation, I wouldn't bother with them, particularly since you are doing regular backups.

Generally, you won't hear a lot of favorable opinions about RAID here, but you may have an unusual case. The more common advice is to go with an SSD.

Personally, I'd back up more often than weekly. Haven't heard much about Carbonite--I think it is an online service and I've heard that online backups can be quite slow. I don't know how reliable they might be, but I'd do local backups anyway.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2012   #3

Windows 7 Professional x64

OK thanks. We were just talking about this, and decided just to go with a standard hard drive.

My next issue is how to tell the quality of the chipset. I don't want to pay top of the line prices, but I want a chipset that will not be creating a bottleneck since we move a lot of data.

One of the other guys took a look at Dell machines, I am thinking that if we go with Dell to go with the Precision line that uses the Intel C216 chipset I believe. I'm am under the impression that the Optiplex with the Intel Express chipset would be a slowdown. Any thoughts on this?

My System SpecsSystem Spec

30 Aug 2012   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 SP1, Home Premium, 64-bit

I think the C200 series chipsets are for Xeon processors. I know nothing about those chipsets and little about Xeons.

I see from Passmark benchmarks that the Xeon E3-1240 used in a $1450 Dell has an overall benchmark just about the same as the i7-3770, but I can't tell you anything about which would be preferable in a workstation as you describe.

All I could suggest is to Google for Intel documentation on chipsets or Xeons or possibly ask about Xeons on a forum dedicated to those who use the applications you mention.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2012   #5

Windows 7 Pro X64 SP1

I believe that the main thing you get with a Xeon based system is the ability to use ECC RAM. (There may be a slight performance penalty for that, to go with the increased reliability.) Also, if you want 8 physical cores, you can't get them in a Core I7. (6 is the maximum for the I7.)

My experience with RAID provided by the mortherboard's chipset was not positive. I used a RAID 10 setup, and it went into verification mode too often. (Takes hours to complete. The drives remain usable, but with reduced performance.) Real hardware RAID, with a dedicated controller, may be better, but I haven't used it.

If your friend only needs 1TB of data storage, that's easily obtained in a single 3.5" drive. 120GB SSDs for the OS and applications are getting to be quite cheap; 256 GB ones are becoming reasonable. (What Dell would do for you in that line, I don't know.)

For sheer memory performance, you might want a system based on Socket 2011. That supports quad channel memory. I'm not sure that there'd be a major real-world gain over a C216 (Socket 1155, dual channel) system, but the benchmarks would be a world apart. Unfortunately, the only Socket 2011 systems that I know of from Dell are Alienware gaming boxes. (Expensive, and silly-looking.)

My own take is that it'd be best to build a system based on an X79 motherboard, with 16GB of RAM (4X4GB, non-ECC DDR3), and an I7-3930k CPU (6 core). It's hard to beat the pricing of appliance PC makers (HP, Dell) at the low end, but the do-it-yourself approach is more cost effective at the higher end. There also seems to be a bit of a technology lag with Dell; they seem to not have Sandy Bridge E systems. (The CPUs were launched in late 2011.) I admit to bias; I've assembled all of my desktop systems since 1997.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Sep 2012   #6

Windows 7 Professional x64

My friend decided to go with the C216 chipset and an I7 processor. We are going with an SSD for the OS too. Thanks to all for your help.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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