Help me spec out a new work at home PC?

The fun of this thread inspired me to do a computer upgrade. I signed up for NFL Game Pass last week but decided that $100 could be better spent on the computer. Canceled it yesterday – yay for free 7-day trial – then ordered more RAM.

I originally went with 16 GB of RAM because that’s plenty, but now 32 GB is sounding better to me. So I reordered another two 8 GB sticks, exactly the same as the ones I originally bought. Back in January they cost me $79, right now they are $64.

Should I surreptitiously mark these two new RAM sticks so I can be sure they share a channel while the original two sticks share their own channel? I have a silver sharpie for writing on black discs; I could just put a dot on them.

So I downloaded Steam and my son gave me a key code to a FPS game called ‘Borderlands’ that I messed around with last night. It was kind of fun, and cool graphics, but turns out I really sucked at it! Still got to get the hang of the controls though. I quit pretty quickly and just went with what I was good at, which was building an informational slide carousel for a website. Needed to get ahead of a deadline.

But I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at some online gaming when I have more time. Anybody got any good tips for Steam games that are:

  • fun with maybe not a huge learning curve
  • option for single player (don’t want to go up against a bunch of online 14 year olds kicking my ass)
  • not huge disk hogs ( I was going to download a free F-18 flight simulator, but it was 54GB)
  • free? I understand there’s a diff between ‘free’ which means always free, and ‘free to play’ which means a trial free period, then you shell out.
  • or heck, I’ll shell out money for a good game too.

Epic Game Store has one or two free games a week which are usually of decent quality. It’s a separate, and competing, client from Steam. Coincidentally, the current free game (until tomorrow so get it today if you want it) is PC Builder Simulator, an amusing game about owning a PC repair shop and assembling/fixing PCs.

There’s a thread in the Games forum for free PC Games that gets updated as something comes up though those run the gamut from little janky indie titles to decent AAA games to ancient game relics. Free though!

54GB isn’t a disk hog. At one point I was going to suggest with your fancy new 3060 that you might want to try Microsoft Flight Simulator with a flight stick. If I recall correctly, it’s 150 GB. Figure any AAA title from the past few years is probably 100 GB.

I would point out that you have an unused second M.2 slot. It’s Gen 3 instead of Gen 4, but for a games drive that would be perfectly fine. Excellent, even, since games only really need the hard drive on startup. Figure $100-ish for 1 TB ($150 for a really nice one), and an M.2 drive is about as simple to install as RAM sticks. (No cords to plug in; it just fits in the slot.) 1TB would be a pretty good size for a game drive, leaving your 500 GB C: drive just for Windows and programs. And of course keeping your 2 TB D: drive just for data, as god intended.

One of us. One of us. One of us…

As for a game recommendation, I would suggest Control. Not hard to learn, single player, not a huge disk hog (42 GB), and it features ray tracing, which is one of the big deals of having a 30 series video card. A nice game for system demo.

It’s not free, and it’s pretty short, but being pretty short might actually be a good selling point for you. As opposed to a huge time commitment.

It was just on sale last month for 60% off and likely will be again in the near future.

Thanks EllisDee! I’ll keep an eye out for another sale on that.

But honestly, playing the Borderland game my son gave me a key to, I’m kind of remembering why I’m not really a gamer. So I killed the post-apocalyptic raiders who were shooting at me and got past them, and that was fun.

Then I leveled up, got past the first save stage, and was given a mission. Ans that’s where it gets boring for me. I’m being directed to gather a bunch of stuff-- money, weapons, ammo, then when I think I’m done with that I’m wandering around, covering the same areas, trying to figure out what the next step is. Nobody’s shooting at me, no one to shoot at, at this stage. And it hits me-- I have enough damn chores in real life! I don’t need virtual chores too!!

Turns out each RAM stick includes a date on the sticker. My first two sticks say Jan 2021 while these new ones say Sep 2021, so it’s easy enough to keep them paired together. Otherwise all four sticks are identical.

I disabled XMP before installing the RAM for caution, but changing around your RAM sticks sends you immediately back to BIOS on next bootup so that was probably irrelevant.

Task Manager confirms I now have 32GB of RAM running at 3200.

This is true in a vaccuum, but after opening up my case just now to install more RAM, it occurs to me that if I wanted to install an M.2 drive into slot 2 right now, I would very likely need to pull out both my video card (no problem) AND the dark rock slim air cooler. Pulling out the air cooler might as well be a full rebuild, since now I’m prying the cooler off the cpu, re-applying thermal paste, etc…

Fortunately for me I installed my (only) M.2 drive in slot 2 to begin with. I think I can get to slot 1 without issue, but still. In general I think it would be easier to install a regular SSD than a second M.2.

If you haven’t done this, the easier alternative is to check in Task Manager. Go to the Performance tab up top, then highlight Memory along the left and it should tell you the speed your memory is currently running at in the right pane under the graph.

While I personally like Control and a ton of other similar games, they’re not necessarily for everyone. My wife, for example, wouldn’t really play long before giving up. When it comes to games that seem to be universally liked, my mind drifts to things like Portal. Have you played 1 or 2? Even not on sale they’re dirt cheap these days.

PS Glad that you’re enjoying the machine!

Yeah I also thought of Subnautica, but then I started thinking of what would be a good game to demo the system. I think Control would be a better demo game than Portal, though Portal could well be more fun. Same on both counts with Subnautica.

I should pick up Portal myself. Never played any of them, and my only awareness of the games is that they are viewed fondly, and the cake is a lie.

Huh. When I signed up for Steam, Portal was free. I never realized that was some sort of special. I thought it just came with the service.

Portal is a first person puzzle platformer. It fortunately doesn’t use precision jumping. And it’s generally structured so you can try again if you miss something.

I agree it wouldn’t be a great demo, as I doubt there are many computers in use today that can’t run it. The game only requires DirectX 8.1 and 512MB of RAM.

Wasn’t trying to get him to demo his capabilities, I was trying to show him he’s a gamer, but just hasn’t found the right game. I’d agree that Subnautica is also likely to be enjoyed, but I’ve found a few people who got annoyed at times when they didn’t know what to do next. I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t like Portal.

If I just wanted him to see how cool his system is, I’d probably push something like Cyberpunk 2077. But the game is just not to everyone’s taste.



Cyberpunk is a good suggestion. It didn’t occur to me that a AAA title like that would be a reasonable size, but Google says it’s a svelte 70 GB.

The AAA price tag is a bit of a bummer but there are always good sales eventually.

Control checks all three boxes I was considering: modest hard drive space, indie game pricing, ray tracing. It is definitely not for everybody, though, that’s true.

I absolutely loved Control, but not everyone does. If solost doesn’t like Portal, solost is probably not a gamer and that’s okay.

Thanks for all the great suggestions! Will definitely look into Control and Portal. Cyberpunk 2077 sounds cool. I like the idea of checking out a world-exploring game or two. Thought about getting something like GTA V or Red Dead Redemption that some of my much younger coworkers (and my son) were playing a couple years back.

I’m not not a gamer…I like puzzle and strategy games I can play on my iPad when the TV show my wife and I are watching is not that interesting. I like a good FPS-- my son recommended ‘Hitman | Sniper’ for my iPad and I had fun playing that for awhile. I like building things, so my son recommended some civilization-building sims, but again, since I build websites for a living, a game where I build things might just seem like another chore :slightly_smiling_face:

I know from my son that Steam has discount promos all the time. Before he got a job and started making his own money he’d always be saying “Steam is having a 90% off sale that ends at midnight! Can I have $20 to buy 57 games pleeeeease??”

Went into the Task Manager and my RAM speed is at 2666 MHz. Seems a little slow, no? Maybe tonight when I have time I’ll get into the BIOS and poke around.

That’s the speed of the RAM that came in the machine, so it’s behaving properly.

OK, cool. For some reason I thought it was supposed to be closer to 3K.

If you were running a high end CPU, many people recommend going with 3600 or greater, but that does cost more. You are running a mid-range CPU and it is less necessary. Remember, RAM speed only matters if RAM speed is your bottleneck and that’s just not often going to be the case for you. First gen Ryzen did have an architecture where faster RAM had more impact, but your CPU is not first generation.

In the end, if you spent the extra money to get 3200 or more vs the 2666 you currently have, you might see a couple of FPS improvement in some games. I don’t personally know anyone who can tell the difference between 91 FPS and 95 FPS.

The fact that you got 32 GB over 16 GB is likely to bring a much greater and more noticeable improvement when compared to different RAM speeds.

Agreed on the memory. It’s worth making sure you have the maximum speed just cause it’s there but not worth worrying that you “only” have 2666. Especially for an Intel processor (AMDs rely more on high memory speed) and the 32GB means more than the clock timings.

Edit: I see on review that you do have an AMD Ryzen processor but still wouldn’t worry about it.

The listing for your machine specifies 2666, so you’re good to go. Checking your system specs, your motherboard supports ridiculously fast RAM, but Google says your CPU (Ryzen 5600x) can handle up to 3200. So you could in theory buy four new 3200 RAM sticks if RAM speed becomes a problem. My understanding is that all memory runs at the speed of the slowest stick.

My “plumber’s joke” ala Steve Martin upthread was about spending $80 too much on a nicer motherboard than I needed. The appropriate motherboard I should have bought maxed out with 2666 RAM. Fortunately you’re not limited in that way.

DMC is pretty accurate in characterizing the difference between 2666 and 3200. Here’s a YouTube video comparing them:

The frustrating thing is that I’m not sure how much cheaper it is. The 16 GB of 3200 RAM I just bought this week only cost $64 plus tax. It’s the kind of corner that gets cut on a prebuild. Fortunately it’s a very minor advantage, at least based on that YouTube video.

EDIT: The build-your-own I spec’d out in post 42 includes 16 GB of 3600 Crucial RAM for $70.

Yeah, I’m very glad I sprang for the extra 16GB. Even with 32GB, I’m routinely getting close to 50% memory capacity while working-- the biggest memory hogs (at least at the moment) being Chrome, Firefox, and Photoshop, with Dreamweaver and VS Code bringing up the 4th and 5th spot.