The Unix Hardware Buyer HOWTO

Eric Raymond


Revision History
Revision 4.22010-04-11Revised by: esr
DVD region-locking firmware is no longer an issue,
Revision 4.12009-07-01Revised by: esr
DTX failed. Finally deprecate SCSI. 32-bit is dead. Avoiding the printer-consumables trap. Invasion of the netbooks.
Revision 4.02007-11-02Revised by: esr
Major revisions by Jonathan Marsden on SATA, bus standards, DVDs and other topics, followed by a cleanup pass from me.
Revision 3.32007-18-13Revised by: esr
Updated for 2007 conditions. CRTs are dead. BTX is dead. CD-ROMs are competely generic now. USB modems are recommended.
Revision 3.22004-10-28Revised by: esr
Fix and remove bad links.
Revision 3.12004-08-03Revised by: esr
Sound cards don't matter any more.
Revision 3.02004-02-21Revised by: esr
Power-protection stuff moved to UPS HOWTO. DIMM memory is gone. Tape drives don't make sense any more. Lots of the theory from my "Ultimate Linux Box" articles now lives here.
Revision 2.42003-02-22Revised by: esr
URL fixes.
Revision 2.32002-08-06Revised by: esr
Buying at the low end isn't a lose anymore. I recommend Athlons. Nuked the section on video standards, EDID takes care of all that now. Also removed the section on older memory types. And keyboards, as the "ergonomic" ones all vanished along with the 1990s carpal-tunnel scare.
Revision 2.22002-08-05Revised by: esr
New section on DVD drives.
Revision 2.12002-07-08Revised by: esr
Corrected Kingston URL. Various small updates for the last year. This HOWTO is much more stable than it used to be.
Revision 2.02001-08-09Revised by: esr
Major update. Revisions based on Ultimate Linux Box experience. Caches are on-chip now. DDS4 tape drives are here. 486 machines, CD caddies, and most non-DDS backup technologies are gone.
Revision 1.12001-06-13Revised by: esr
Mid-2001 update.
Revision 1.02001-02-06Revised by: esr
Initial revision; but see the history in the introduction.

This is your one-stop resource for information about how to buy and configure generic PC hardware for cheap, powerful Unix systems.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
1.1. Purpose of this document
1.2. New versions of this document
1.3. Feedback and corrections
1.4. Related resources
2. Overview of the Market
3. Buying the Basics
3.1. Things to Not Care About
3.2. How To Pick Your Processor
3.3. One Disk or Two?
3.4. Getting Down to Cases
3.5. Power Supplies and Fans
3.6. Motherboards
3.7. Monitor and Video
3.8. DVD Drives
3.9. Sound Cards and Speakers
3.10. Modems
3.11. Printers
3.12. Power Protection
3.13. Radio Frequency Interference
4. What To Optimize
4.1. First, add more memory
4.2. Bus and Disk speeds
4.3. Optimizing your disk subsystem
4.4. Tuning Your I/O Subsystem
5. But What If I'm Economizing?
6. Noise Control and Heat Dissipation
7. Special Considerations When Buying Laptops and Netbboks
8. How to Buy
8.1. When to Buy
8.2. Where to Buy
8.3. Computer Fairs
8.4. Mail Order
8.5. Computer Superstores
8.6. Other Buying Tips
9. Questions You Should Always Ask Your Vendor
9.1. Minimum Warranty Provisions
9.2. Documentation
9.3. A System Quality Checklist
10. Things to Check when Buying
10.1. Tricks and Traps in Warranties
10.2. Special Questions to Ask Web/Mail-Order Vendors Before Buying
10.3. Payment Method
10.4. Which Clone Vendors to Talk To
11. After You Take Delivery
12. Software to go with your hardware
13. Other Resources on Building Linux PCs