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Free computer - will it work?

Discussion in 'Computing' started by ocdstudios, Mar 20, 2010.

  1. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    I had a networking friend offer me a computer, he knows I've been looking for one.

    Right now I am Running Cubase 4LE on an older compaq pentium 4 2.6ghz, 1 gig ram, 2 big drives (1 system, 1 data) plus external backup hard drive. Stripped setup. Only use it for Cubase, cd design/artwork, and burning inital CD copy of mixes. I use a Tascam US-1641. I really have had no issues except the occasional freeze or Cunase overloading the ASIO at file startup (usually closing the file and re-opening solves that issue). I plan on upgrading to Cubase 5 this week and having a A&H ZED-16 firewire board here in a week or two to replace the tascam.

    I currently am up to projects that have 11-12 original mono tracks routed to 11-14 group stereo tracks that either dump straight to stereo out of get routed/grouped through a few more stero group tracks. EQ's on most group channels (all cubase eq's unless i want a specific eq plug) lots of verb/delay/comp/etc plugs. On a few mixes I have hit the max on the ASIO meter and have audio drop out. never really hit disc drive useage max out.

    Question 1 - am I maxing out the computer capabilities or the Tascams when I max out ASIO useage?

    question 2 - My friend offered me a free rackmount server computer, loaded with Windows 7 Pro, 2 Intel Xeon 3.0ghz dual core processors(so 4 cores), 4 gigs of ram, and 2 10,000rpm 36gig hard drives. I know I will need a good external drive (like a Glyph?) for file storage/access and I already have an external burner. Does anyone thing this computer would work well and/or anything else I would need and why on either count? If you think it's not worth messing with please say so and why.

    It sounds too good to be true, I'm just hoping I can use it! It would allow me to get some other gear I've been wanting.
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The offered computer should work. It will need to be tweaked for audio of course. You wouldn't necessarily need an external hard drive if you have room for multiple internal drives on separate cables-never chain hard drives on the same cable for audio work or other storage intensive applications. The 36 gb drives are fast but really tiny for actual use even in a server. You'd be better off with a SSD drive for the operating system and use the 10000rpm drives for recording projects. Since they still aren't very big you could archive finished projects to an external.

    Now comes the big fat hairy caveat. Not all motherboards are good for audio work. You won't know for sure without googling the specific model or trying it out.
  3. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    I've been reading too. It seem I need to see if it has a firewire chipset on it and if so if it's compatable too. I will try to get a motherboard model number to verify before proceeding. It sounds like a pretty fast machine compared to what I have now so hopefully it will work out! Thanks for the tips I'll let you know what I find out.
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Compared to what you have now it's greased lighting. You can just assume that it doesn't have firewire (since it is a server board) or if it does then it isn't a Texas Instruments chipset. Hey, they cost less than $25 for the proper card. That isn't the thing to sweat. Take the free computer and start tweaking it up.
  5. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    I'm about to pull my hair out!!!

    I have read and read and read... We are now not sure the server is the way to go. Drawbacks are:
    Limited expandability - memory is expensive (has 4 gig now), only has 1 full and 1 1/2 size pci slots. so that's a FW card and basically nothing else. No audio so no verifying mixes on computer speakers quickly. going to deal with basic on board graphics too, no room for a video card after the FW card.. need a USB hub as it only has 2 usb ports (1 frt and 1 rear). processers are decent and can hyper-thread and memory is good.

    So we started looking... Found 2 computer, resonably priced that are faster -

    1) $479 Micro Center - Pavilion p6267c Refurbished
    This is a HP 2.5ghz core 2 quad w/8 gig mem G33 express chipset 4mb cache and a 1333 frt side bus


    2) $560 Micro Center - SX2840-01
    Gateway i3-530 2.93ghz 4mb cache 6gig ddr3-1333 mem h57 express chipset

    #2 is faster but I think 1 would be faster than the server and plenty fast for me. more than 6gig of mem is kind of a waste. I believe I am going to run Cubase 5 in 32 bit so I will only access 4 gig. but all my plug ins will work. Its better than what I have now - I've got XP and Cubase running off 1 gig DDR (1st gen so it probably 333mhz) and a 2.6 hyperthreaded pentium 4 cpu!

    OPINIONS PLEASE!! I can't decide what to do. I always do this! I am paralyzed by fear of the unknown (and throwing out $500 just to pull my hair out some more!!)

    If it matters - I am trying to upgrade/simplify my system into just a computer, cubase 5 and a ZED-16. So I'm trying to find a computer that will work for a few years and won't need replacing in a year.

    Thanks for putting up with my questioning/indecisivness (is that a word) and giving me some guidance. I really appreciate it!

    Matt in GA
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    It isn't a problem to me.

    The average consumer mass produced PC or basic Mac is not geared for recording. Can they be made to work? Sometimes depending on the load. I don't however have a crystal ball that tells me which ones indeed will. Whatever computer you purchase you will want to do a clean and very minimal install of your choice operating system. And I mean minimal. Make sure your firewire card is based on Texas Instruments chipset. All the bloat-ware will be gone with the clean install. Don't install all of the pet helper programs from HP or Gateway or whomever. You can look at the Device Manager to see if you have to find additional drivers.
  7. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    My friend is in the business (he just can't really advise me on a DAW computer - he's a network guy) so a clean minimal install of win7 pro is no problem, figure I'd have to do that. Prob is if I do that and the thing does not play well with ZED and Cubase5, wouldn't you say I'm stuck with the thing since I uninstalled all of their pretty commercial software? In other words, I can rerturn it b/c I don't like it?
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Returns on computers or computer equipment are not as liberal as for many or most retail items. You'll want to make 100% sure of that policy prior to purchase.

    Most every computer sold today comes with a set of restore discs or a means to burn off a set of restore discs. Alternatively you can burn an image of the hard drive (saved on an external). Any of these methods would allow you to restore the computer to it's original state. In fact, after you do you clean install of Win7 and get it running smoothly, you should burn a master image of the OS drive at that time. This makes undoing botched driver installs or god forbid other trouble very easy.
  9. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    Suppose I use the large drive that comes in the computer for storage. How big of a sata drive would I need to hold window, cubase 5 and a few other design programs. What do you think a safe / inexpensive size would be?
  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    First: Make sure you buy a separate SATA cable too when you purchase the drive. You do not want to chain the drives together.

    Second: If all you want on the OS drive is Win7 and Cubase then you only need about 40gig but since they are so cheap I'd get an 80gb drive (or 60 gb if you could find one but see note below). SATA 3.

    Another reason for the 80gb drive is that Windows works better if it has lots of free space for swap files. I try to never utilize more than 60% of an OS drive (desktop) for that reason.
  11. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Have you considered taking the server and with the help of your IT friend finding a different motherboard for the Xeon's?
    Those processors are smoking fast! If you found the right board you could certainly reuse everything else and add the FW card.
    Maybe spend $500 on that and build an actual DAW audio computer. I don't know what brand the server is, but it might be worth the effort..servers generally are well built and have solid power supplies and components, so it makes for a good reliable computer base system.
    HP and Gateway are fine for surfing the web and running minor standard programs and stuff but they aren't that good at running large audio software, just like they're not so good at graphics or CAD software..they're so full of extraneous factory software and really difficult to modify, plus you can't do anything except reinstall the restore factory disks any time you have a problem. I've always told friends to either buy a striped down computer box (or build they're own) and then get your own actual OEM copy of the OS that you want. Which for you is Win7 Pro...That way you can fully customize the hardware and software on your computer at any time....factory units are fine for someone who isn't planning on doing anything real serious with a computer....especially refurbished ones made by HP...LOL....and they're just not that user friendly when you try to customize them...least that's my 2 cents worth!
  12. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    djmukilteo -

    I will be wiping the drive and installing win7 pro only as soon as I get one my friend has a legal copy he will give me. The problem is I can dissasemble the server. Basically I can have it indefintely but cant scrap or sell. If he ever needs it back it's still technically his. I don't think he would want to pull parts to do another build.

    Curiously, I know store bought boxes aren't that good supposedly. BUT, my old compaq (HP) that I stuck new HD's in and loaded a clean version of XP Pro works pretty good considering it's a pent. 4 2.6ghz hyperthreaded with only 1 gig or ram installed. I use a USB Tascam US-1641. I can run 12-16 or so original tracks, 10-16 group tracks and lots of cubase eq's and plugins. Only the biggest files start over-running the asio/cpu. If IT works that well, I am hoping that a store-bought (really my only option price wise) with a fresh load of Win7 and only a few other design programs I use for printing and graphics and the new ZED 16 will be good for what I do now, it should be WAY faster and capable than what I have now. I really can't believe my arcaic system works as well as it does. Maybe I did just get lucky.

    What do you think?
  13. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    So the server idea is out then....I really don't like HP for some reason (maybe it's the bloat crap they install everywhere) so maybe the Gateway would be better...I've never owned a Gateway so hard for me to say...I had a Compaq Presario myself back when it was still Compaq not owned by HP...and it was actually a pretty good computer but still you were locked into using they're drivers and software etc...
    flip a coin I guess
    I think you should just go for the best bang for your buck with a system that has a Texas Instrument IEEE1394 FW port and I would try and get at least the i5 rather than the i3 with as much RAM as you can...maybe check online...NewEgg.com, Amazon, Fry's (if you have those in GA) and see what other bare bone box PC's there are available out there...
    Good luck!
  14. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    checked fry's and best buy. Fry's is getting out of hand with pricing. Those 2 are at micro center. They are the best in that price range I can find in stock locally. I will look for an i5. I think it's a toss between the two i listed. an i5 would be better with the quad core as the i3 is dual. I'll see what I can find. The clean install should cure the bloat ware - correct?
  15. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    The problem is all the HP/Gateway BIOS, drivers, restore backup routines, restore partitions etc etc etc...some of that stuff you can't remove..you need their drivers....
    Might just uninstall everything not needed on the system you get, then use a good registry cleaner and then defrag...then install any new hardware, Cubase and whatever else you need....it might be less hassle..the most important part to that is the registry cleaner!
    Were you planning on installing an internal secondary HDD for recording your audio files onto?
  16. ocdstudios

    ocdstudios Active Member

    Yes, for sure. I will run a 2nd (sep. cable) sata internal for current work and a usb external for archive storage of projects. do you reccommend a reg. cleaner?
  17. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I have had better luck in recent years with the HP machines. With any machine, I would only install the Windows drivers (which are often provided by the manufacturers) first. Then go to the device manager and see if anything has an exclamation point. Then you can pick and choose what to install. Windows 7 will come up with 99% workable drivers. Mobo drivers no, and possible not the memory card reader/express card (often combined). You won't know till you try.
  18. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Reg cleaners don't work on 64bit operating systems. They don't reach the dark 64bit places.
  19. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    I use TuneUp Utilities...
  20. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Just my two cents... I would take the FREE computer and make it work for a lot less than your going to by a new pc for....

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