NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, October 2007
Building a PC for Vista
By Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek
(click to email author)

Obtained from APCUG with the author's permission for publication by APCUG member groups.

The Great Lakes Geek needed to build a new PC for the Computers Assisting People (CAP Inc.) Resource Center. It will be used for CAP operations but also so that the volunteers and others can become familiar with Windows Vista and learn about it the CAP way - hands on.

Windows Vista is the first version of Windows that provides different user experiences depending on the hardware it is running on. We wanted to have the “ultimate” Vista experience so I built a hot machine and loaded Windows Vista Ultimate on it.

Ultimate is just as described - the ultimate version. It includes all the features of the Home, Premium, Media Center, Mobile and Business versions.

As the ad says, Windows Vista Ultimate is "The most complete edition of Windows Vista—with the power, security, and mobility features that you need for work, and all of the entertainment features that you want for fun."

We unveiled the new system at the Hardware SIG and everyone took a look at the guts of the PC. The crew wanted to know the specs of the PC and why some of the components were chosen. So I created a webpage at


that explains what's in the PC, why those components were selected and what it all means. It also has lots of links to Windows Vista resources and info and reviews of the components.

Since Vista provides different experiences for different hardware, you need to have some kind of metric to let you know what can and cannot run. This metric is a built-in feature called the WEI - the Windows Experience Index.

The WEI is designed to help consumers understand how well Windows Vista and the software running on it will perform on a specific PC. So if you check your WEI score (from Control Panel - Performance Information and Tools) and it turns out to be 3.2 and the new game you want to play requires a 4.1, you know that you need to upgrade your hardware (and hence your WEI score) or you won’t be able to play the game as intended.

The WEI score comes from the assessment of 5 different areas of your system:

1. Processor - Calculations per second
2. Memory - Operations per second
3. Graphics - Desktop performance for Windows Aero graphics
4. Gaming graphics - 3D graphics performance. Useful for gaming and 3D business applications
5. Primary hard disk - The data transfer rate of the primary hard disk

Higher scores indicate a better Vista experience on your PC. The hot new CAP PC almost maxed out the WEI with a smoking 5.8 score! You can see the exact components at the afore-mentioned webpage but basically the system has 2GB of fast DDR2-667 RAM, an Intel motherboard with Intel 975X Express Chipset and Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4GHZ CPU.

The graphics are great – an NVIDIA GeForce PCI Express card with 512MB so we can run the cool Aero interface and everything else.

It has a fast 300GB SATA drive (lots of SATA ports on the motherboard for other drives which we may set up in a RAID array) and what was described as “The Worlds fastest DVD rewriter.”

I figured the power consumed would be around 300W so went with a power supply of 460W to handle growth.

Good thing because the CAP guys immediately installed a floppy drive (I don’t build them into systems anymore except by special request) and a 2nd hard drive.

Be sure to visit http://www.greatlakesgeek.com/other/cap-pc.htm for more details on the components of this PC and why they were chosen as well as plenty of useful links about Windows Vista and hardware.

This article has been provided to APCUG by the author solely for publication by APCUG member groups. All other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

Click here to return to top