Building your own trading computer

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Bolimomo, Apr 6, 2010.

  1. About a week ago I had built a new computer from parts. I had received a few PMs on the details so let me just jot down my experiences here for those who are interested.

    My need:

    I had mentioned in this thread:

    2 of my existing computers (HP-Compaq SR5610F) are too slow to process data to display some of the more complicated indicators that I developed. My need is primarily speed. In shopping for a new computer replacement, I was frustrated in seeing most of the new computers made by HP, Acer, Toshiba, e-Machine, etc. offer only 1 or max 2 open slots. I need my computer to drive a minimum of 6 monitors (3 video cards, 2 video ports each). I would not be able to use any of those models. So I have decided to build my own.


    Total price for the computer (excluding OS): about $1200
    3 add-on video cards, PCIeX16: about $150 total
    Windows OS: about $200

    The price can vary a bit, depending on the speed of processor you pick, amount of RAM, hard-disk, DVDROM, chassis and power supply, etc..

    Time spent in building the box was about 4 to 5 hours, plus some time in installing Windows. Assembling the parts is not too difficult. It helps if you have some general PC knowledge.


    #1. Pick your processor first. Because that determines everything. The performance, motherboard, RAM, etc.. I picked Intel i7 930 2.8GHz (price around $300). Because it seems to be the fastest processor available for home users without spending a lot of money. The next one up is i7 980 3.3GHz but it costs around $1000.

    Check the following resources for the CPU performance ranking and wiki for more detail descriptions on what processors are available:

    The Intel i7 930 2.8GHz chip is ranked at 5908.
    The old AMD Athlon 64 X2 (B) 4800+ 2.5 GHz is ranked at 1255.

    So I expected my new computer would perform about 4 times faster than my old one. (And it did, pretty much).

    #2. Pick a motherboard. Each processor requires a different socket. You have to get the motherboard that has the right socket. Ask the technician to help you get a motherboard that is designed for the processor/socket/speed that you are using.

    I took their recommendation and bought ASUS P6T motherboard.

    Other most important considerations on picking the motherboard:

    - How many open slots for expansion, and what type? (PCI, PCIeX1, PCIeX16, etc.) The ASUS P6T MoBo has 3 PCIeX16, 2 PCI and 1 PCIeX1.

    The motherboard nowadays pretty much has built-in audio, disk controller (IDE and SATA, maybe SCSI), USB 2.0 (mine has 6 USB ports), keyboard/mouse minidin, RJ45 Ethernet socket. Some has one built-in VGA video output port, some don't. (Mine doesn't) If you plan on using multiple external video cards, the built-in video port may or may not be disabled.

    #3. Pick your RAM (memory). The i7 processor uses DDR3 memories. There are different configurations depending on how many DDR3 slots are available and the memory modules that you buy. I have a total of 12GB. 6 DDR3 clips, each 2GB.

    #4. Pick the chassis. Depends on how many disk drives you want to have, DVDROM/CDROM and other peripherals. Pick a big one if you plan to have many disk drives (e.g. building a RAID). A small one if you only need the minimal stuff.

    #5. Pick the power supply. Add up all the power ratings of your components. A 300W is minimal. 600W is probably good enough. 1000W is probably an overkill - only if you have a lot of disk drives. The higher the wattage the more expensive the power supply.

    #6. Pick the hard drive. SATA is the common interface these days. IDE and SCSI are the older standards. I picked a Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB drive, on sale for about $90.

    #7. Pick a DVDRW drive. The prices are very competitive these days. I picked a Lite-On DVDRW for about $40.

    #8. Windows OS (or other OS of your choice).

    Here is the inventory list:

    #1. Processor: Intel i7 930 2.8GHz chip
    #2. Motherboard: ASUS P6T motherboard
    #3. 6 X 2GB RAM module, DDR3
    #4. Chassis
    #5. 600W power supply
    #6. Harddrive: Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB drive
    #7. DVDRW drive: Lite-On DVDRW
    #8. Windows OS (or other OS of your choice).
    (Not including - you can reuse old ones: keyboard and mouse)

    The assembly:

    #1. The Intel processor comes with the heatsink and cooling fan. Just plug it in on to the motherboard.
    #2. Plug in all the RAM modules.
    #3. Bolt the motherboard onto the chassis. The chassis comes with all the screws that you would need.
    #4. Bolt down your hard drives and DVDRW drives, etc..
    #5. Bolt the power supply onto the chassis. Connect the power cables onto the mother board and all the peripherals (e.g. hard drives) and cooling fans.
    #6. Follow the user guide from the mother board, connect all cables to the appropriate sockets (e.g. SATA cable, power button, rest button, USB cables, audio, etc..)
    #7. Install the add-on video cards. If you have more than 1 video card, I would suggest to install only the first one when you install Windows and add the other ones later on.
    #8. Hook up the keyboard, mouse, network cable (RJ45), etc..

    That is roughly it. (But there are many details.)

    Boot up your computer. Make sure you can get into BIOS first. Use your keyboard to set options and date/time and booting sequences, and check on the RAM size. If all works well, put the Windows disk in the DVDRW drive and start installing the OS. After the OS is up and running, need to install a few drivers that comes with the motherboard and the video cards. When you have one video card working (2 monitors), then shutdown the PC and install other additional video cards. At last hook up whatever USB-based peripherals that you normally use (e.g. printer, additional disk drive, thumb drive, etc.).

    On top of that, download the latest updates of Windows and download/install your trading software and all other apps.
  2. oraclewizard77

    oraclewizard77 Moderator

    Or if you find a trusted local computer store, you give them the specs of want you want, and they build it including giving you a 1 year warranty.

    At the place I used to work at, yes, we could have beaten that price and included the warranty.

    The reason why both Dell, HP, and local stores can give you a better deal is based on volume. We get to pay wholesale prices for the parts so that the cost is much lower than what you paid, and then still make a profit.

    Also, I have seen people who bring in their computers to us after they tried to build the system themselves. Sometimes what happens is that they don't ground the parts correctly and fry something. If you do that yourself, you usually will not be able to return the parts for a refund.
  3. Here is a configuration I did on Dell, maximizing the Optiplex:. Note, I only did 160Gb Hard Drive, but not sure why you need 1.5 Terabyte. And this comes with a 3 year warranty - parts and labor. Free Shipping. Total cost, $671...

    BASE OptiPlex 380 Desktop Base Up to 88 Percent Efficient PSU edit
    OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows Vista® Home Basic Service Pack 2, With media, 32 edit
    PROCESSOR Intel® Core™ 2 Duo E7600 with VT (3.06GHz, 3M, 1066MHz FSB) edit
    ENERGY SMART No Energy Smart Selected edit
    SECURITY SOFTWARE Norton Internet Security™ 2010 30 Day Trial edit
    WARRANTY & SERVICE 3 Year Basic Limited Warranty and 3 Year NBD On-Site Service edit
    On-Site Service after Remote Diagnosis: for issues covered by Limited Hardware Warranty, technician and/or part will be dispatched, if necessary, usually within 1 business day following Remote Diagnosis. During Remote Diagnosis, you may be asked to access the inside of your system (where safe to do so) or to participate in troubleshooting until a cause can be isolated.
    MEMORY 8GB DDR3 Non-ECC SDRAM, 1333MHz, (4 DIMM) edit
    HARD DRIVE 160GB SATA 3.0Gb/s and 8MB DataBurst Cache™ edit
    OPTICAL DRIVE 16X DVD-ROM, Cyberlink Power DVD™ edit
    VIDEO CARD 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 9300 (2 DVI /1 TV-out), Low Profile edit
    MONITOR No Monitor edit
    RESOURCE DVD Resource DVD - contains Diagnostics and Drivers edit
    KEYBOARD Dell USB Entry Keyboard edit
    MOUSE Dell USB 2-Button Entry Mouse with Scroll, Black edit
    SPEAKERS No Speaker, OptiPlex edit
    TECH SHEET No Tech Sheet edit
    My Accessories
    My Services & Warranties
    POWER SUPPLY OptiPlex 380 Desktop Up to 88 Percent Efficient Power Supply
    SHIPPING DOCUMENTATION Shipping Material for System, Desktop
    SYSTEM DOCUMENTATION Documentation, English, with 125V Power Cord
    Thermal Heat Sink for Intel Celeron Core 2 Duo Processors, Desktop
  4. good guide. i love building my own pc's. same goes for gardening, woodwork around the house and custom fishing rods. ofcourse i don't give a shit about how much it costs or cutomer support till later. it's just the BIY i like doing.
  5. I built my first computer about a month ago, strictly for trading. I was using a Dell 9200 with an Intel Core 2 Duo but noticed that the dual cores were lagging while running Multicharts. When the markets started humming or I had several workspaces open at once the lag was prohibitive to trading as I waited for everything to catch up to my Broker's feed without charting. This was pretty shocking as I figured having dual cores would be plenty but I thought wrong. So, I decided to upgrade to a quad-core system.

    I built a Core i7-920 on an ASRock motherboard and cannibalized the dual DVI vid card from my old machine as well as a 300GB HDD I had sitting here to save a little bit on cost. I ended up building the system with Windows 7 64-bit for $720 in total with 6GB DDR3 RAM and room for expansion. The motherboard still has 3 open slots for RAM and I have 2 more x16 PCIe slots available to run additional video cards. Since my graphics needs are very limited and there's not a ton of GPU necessary, basic video cards (around $40 for dual DVI) are all I'd ever need.

    Now with around 8 instances of Multicharts running and my Broker's execution platform running I've yet to see the processor run higher than about 20% of capacity and sitting at idle in a normal volume market in the morning it's around 5%. There's nothing else installed on the machine as it's sole purpose is for trading (I use a 24" iMac for all communication, browsing, etc.) and by not having virus protection, various b*llshit bloatware and such that are found on Dell's and the like the performance is out of this world.

    For anyone out there looking to build a computer I cannot recommend it enough over buying pre-built from Dell or whoever even with a warranty. All the parts in the machine come with their own respective warranties and the items most likely to fail (power supply, HDD) are cheap and easily replaceable on a DIY. If your power supply fails in a Dell, what do you do? Those cases are not built on standard ATX architecture (everything is just sort of close, but not exactly the same, as an ATX) and I can tell you from experience that upgrading or replacing the PSU with one not made by Dell is a total bitch as you are guaranteed to need to cut away the back of the case and jury rig the thing to work with the proprietary case and hardware configuration that each manufacturer uses. So if your PSU fails on a Monday, with a 48 hour turn time on the best warranty from Dell to get you a new machine, the best case is you're back up and running on Wednesday. Compare that to running to Fry's or some other local store selling computer parts and you're back up and running in an hour for about $30. It's things like that I think should really help push people to the DIY route. The process is really easy, fun and rewarding and you'll wonder why you didn't try it earlier.

    The computer manufacturers have sucked their last penny out of me: I build my own machines from now on!

  6. J.P.


    Thanks for all that detail, Bolimomo.
  7. We're all glad that you're proud of yourself for the BIY, but let's be honest...

    Dell's cases take standard PSU's with no "cutting nor jury rigging.. not even bitching". Years ago Dell's PSUs were proprietary, but they wised up on that issue nearly 10 years ago. If under a Dell warranty you could either wait for a tech guy to show up (next day), or run down to Best Buy or MicroCenter and pick up a PSU and replace it yourself.... same as your BIY rig.

    Dell's motherboards don't fit in other cases, and industry mobos don't fit in Dells... but don't we all know that beforehand? How often do you replace the mobo, anyway? As for other parts, I believe Dell's PSUs are OEM for them, but they ARE industry standard for dimensions and pinning... and everything else is off the shelf... just like you'd buy at Newegg.

    Yes, I'm a fan of Dell... on certain models.. I'm also a fan of the truth.
  8. You want the truth? Well here you go...

    The Dell I had prior to the 9200 had a PSU fail in it. When I went to go buy a replacement @ Fry's, I brought it back and lined it up with the mounts on the Dell and guess what? Dell has a grate on the back of the case that lined up only with their PSU's power socket; it was obstructing where the power cord plugged into the socket. So, I was forced to get out the tin snips and cut back the grate so the power cord could be attached. Granted I only had to cut back about 3/4" of metal around the socket in any direction for it to fit but does that matter? Alteration is alteration, PERIOD. That's a fact and how my actual experience with replacing a PSU on a Dell played out. Have you replaced a PSU on your Dell and had a different experience? Please share if you have as calling me a liar doesn't accomplish much and I'm not calling you a liar, I'm simply stating how that issue played out for me.

    Look at this image. Do you see the grate that's in front of the PSU? See how it completely covers the PSU? Well, that's what needed to be cut back because ONLY Dell's OEM PSU's will align with that opening.


    Now, was this case the only Dell case that would have had the same alignment issue? I don't know; maybe, maybe not...I never tried replacing PSU's on other Dells. But the fact remains that on that Dell (a Dimension 8300 purchased in 2005) if you were to go buy an off-the-shelf PSU it would NOT align with the 2" hole in the grate. Non-proprietary cases have a giant rectangle opening in the back to eliminate this issue; the power socket can be anywhere on a PSU and is not restricted to a defined area as Dell and others do on a great deal of their cases. Maybe that's changed. My current 9200 sitting here has a larger opening but still has a tab that sticks down that may obstruct the power socket of another PSU; we'll never find out as I'm over it.

    Let's be honest here: Dell's and such are going to make things as easy for the end user because the end user isn't regularly going to be replacing PSU's or processors and such as Dell is banking on them being your one and only source of parts, upgrades, etc. and that spells out $$$ for them; captive audience. I'd be hugely surprised if even 2 out of 10 Dell users have ever opened their case to see what's inside and that's fine. I'm simply making the point that it is a fact that OEM computer manufacturers like Dell or HP use proprietary hardware sizes and mounting and such and the chances of 3rd party hardware integrating with them have a much lower chance of success compared to DIY jobs that are built on common sizing (like ATX) and principles and that can be very important in the event that something fails on your OEM machine and you're forced to go out and replace it. It's just easier in a DIY job, period...and that's a fact.

    If your Dell took a dump right now and my DIY did the same (whatever piece of hardware fails) I can and will be up and running in hours and you will be talking with India to get a replacement or a tech to come fix your machine ASAP and what's the best case scenario for that? 24 hours, 48? For me, in a business that is 100% dependent on uptime, I'm not so much concerned with the safety blanket of a warranty as TIME is 100x more valuable than a warranty and if I wanted to be ultra safe I'd take the money saved on a warranty and go buy spare PSU's or backup HDD's or what-not. Proprietary HW, systems and all that jazz are great for certain individuals and businesses...I, myself, don't feel that they are a fit for me as a full-time trader.

    BTW, the 2 items I mentioned as most likely to fail were the PSU and HDD; I never mentioned a mobo, nor have I ever thought that I could install a proprietary mobo in an ATX case and vice versa.

    Listen I can guarantee you I've bought more Dell's than pretty much anyone here (the 9200 I still have here was my 13th, dating back to my 1st in 1995) so I'm obviously a BIG fan of Dell's and what they've done. But their customer service and control over the end product were what killed it for me and it had been building for years yet I stuck with them and brushed off shortcomings but I'm sick of it and I decided to do what I should have done a long time ago which is build my own machine. YMMV.

    I step off my soap box now...

    Maybe you should read up on my Dell experience and the process of building my own machine...
  9. Do you realize the picture you showed is perhaps 10 or more years old? Well, maybe only 7 years.. I had an 8300 where I cut the back plate for a replacement PSU, but that was a long time ago.

    I had a D9200 also. At least by then Dell's cases stopped blocking the PSU power switch. In any event, it's no longer a problem for new buyers... Dell had an issue.. fixed it.. now no longer an issue.
  10. Your credentials, please? I think this is a bad idea for most people.

    Do you build your own car? Your own TV? etc.?
    #10     Apr 7, 2010