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•Processor (CPU): In a cruncher, the processor is the most important factor in determining how much crunching is done. The faster the processor, the faster work gets done. Choice of manufacturer is an individual thing, but generally try to buy the best you can afford. Money spent here pays off!
•Memory (RAM): RAM is also a very important component and the more you have the better. Larger amounts of RAM may speed up crunching by a modest amount, but mainly serves to keep your system running smoothly. 512 MB is the minimum recommended for Windows XP machines but more will work far better. Many if not most run 1GB (one gigabyte) and more. Most current machines will accept 2GB and up. Vista works best with 2 GB or more.
•Motherboard: The motherboard is the guts of a computer and can influence the speed of crunching. Some motherboard chipsets are faster than others which will result in faster crunching times. Do some research here ... and make an effort to match your mobo to your new CPU.
•Hard Drive: Every computer requires a hard drive, but it does not really affect the speed of crunching. 7200 RPM hard drives will give you faster performance in load times of applications, but should have little to no effect on crunching.
•CD/DVD Drive: While not an every day requirement in a pure cruncher, you will need an optical drive to initially load the operating system onto your hard drive. This may be temporary in nature, and a good external drive will work too.
•Video Card: Every computer requires a video card even if there is no monitor hooked up. A faster video card will not speed up crunching but will allow your games to run faster. For pure crunching, many motherboards contain "on board" video that should be sufficient.
•Operating System: Having a stable operating system is important to efficient crunching. If the OS routinely crashes, crunch time is lost. Microsoft's Windows 7 is the latest Microsoft operating system and is very stable.
•Power Supply: While some case manufacturers include a PSU, you would do well to invest in a quality unit, with more than ample power. When a power supply fails, it can take out other components.
Stable voltage is key here to feed your system continually.
•Network Device: You must have either a Network Card or a modem in your cruncher in order to send and receive work from the servers. Once again, most motherboards now have on board NIC's.
In addition to the above, you will might need a case, proper cables, fans, and a heatsink unit.
Ceramique is a good recommended thermal paste as well.
Hey all, how about a section here on GPU's now that they're in full swing :). May want to talk about integrated vs discrete graphics, overheating issues, how to run multiple tasks on one GPU, etc.