Scott Hanselman

The CodingHorror Ultimate Developer Rig Throwdown: Part 3

July 11, 2007 Comment on this post [32] Posted in Musings
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765359714_f1acd91935_oThe building has begun - Jeff's got pics over at CodingHorror as he gets my new system to boot. If you build a lot of systems it might be old hat to you, but we figured it'd be nice to go through the whole process from building, to software, to benchmarks, in detail - step by step. You can read about Part 1 and Part 2 if you like.

Seriously, you could literally fight off a mugger with that heat sink.

I'm still going back and forth about Vista 32-bit versus Vista-64. Sure, everyone's complained about Vista 64-bit having driver problems, but do most apps work?

Apple handled their PowerPC->Intel transition fairly smoothly, and it's nice that there's only one two version(s) of the OS. I believe that Vista is the LAST 32-bit OS from Microsoft, so it seems like 64-bit might be the way to go.

How much trouble am I going to get myself into? There are those that swear by 64-bit XP...

UPDATE: Jeff's got Building a PC, Part II up where he installs the hard drive and figures out the wattage, and Building a PC, Part III, where he overclocks my Quad Core2Duo. It's getting exciting!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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July 11, 2007 8:04
If I'm reading your parts list correctly, you're going to be running 4GB of RAM, which means you'll be running 64-bit Windows. The drivers issues are more relevant to legacy hardware, you should be fine.
July 11, 2007 8:20
Go with Vista 64-bit. Legacy hardware drivers can be a pain but this is a new system with brand name parts. From my experience, 64-bit seems a lot more peppy when you have 4+ applications running at once. My only major gripe (and it's really very minor) is the missing JET components in ASP.NET 2.0 64-bit. The few times I need develop a web app that needs to import from an Excel or CSV file require me to develop against a separate 32-bit machine. In reality, I've only crossed that issue twice since RTM.
July 11, 2007 8:24
Scott, I’ve been running on x64 since the XP/2003 release. Vista x64 is rock solid and driver manufacturers are required to provide 64-bit drivers to qualify their hardware. There is the odd tardy company that doesn’t care about testing their software on x64 (Apple comes to mind, although the latest version of iTunes managed to install itself) but for the most part you shouldn’t have a problem. I’ve always felt that it is our duty as developers to ensure that our stuff works on x64 and what better way than to run it every day.

There’s always the memory argument: if you have much more than 2GB of RAM you’re just throwing it away if you’re using x86. Go with x64 and there’s no limit on the amount of RAM you can take advantage of.
July 11, 2007 8:47
I've been running 64-vista for awhile now. Most everything works, but there are some wierd things mostly annoying - no real show stoppers.

If you use web service enhancements 3.0 - you can't update web references in visual studio - just doesn't work - no fix is planned.

Some things won't install without trickery.

Printers tend to have dodgy drivers.

There seems to be quirky things around different video codecs with media player - some stuff just won't play.

Mostly it's annoying little things - nothing that made it unusable though.
July 11, 2007 9:13
I ran Vista Beta 2 in 64-bit. Overall, it didn't suck. My biggest problem at the time was lack of drivers, but it WAS beta.
July 11, 2007 9:29
Hi Scott,

I've been running Vista Business x64 on my HP dc7700 for a few months now. I run VS2005 and SQL2005 x64 as non-admin and I have nothing to complain about. Like you, my biggest concern was hardware support but my iPod works fine with iTunes, my TomTom GPS works fine and my HP networked multifunction centre is great.

I love that Flash isn't available for IE7-x64 and often use it instead of IE7-32 to avoid noisy advertising. The new Microsoft guidelines for Vista certified software insist that 64-bit is supported (even if 64-bit native isn't provided).

If you get really stuck, you can run Virtual PC with 32-bit Vista inside it, or you can reinstall to 32-bit and use the great Windows Easy Transfer wizard to migrate your files and settings.

As a community leader, you should be showing the way with 64-bit.

- Jason
Developer/IT Masochist
July 11, 2007 9:38

If you use Cisco's VPN client to access work from remote, you will run into problems. I eventually gave up waiting for Cisco to write drivers for 64 bit Vista and went back to the 32 bit version. If this is a non-work related machine and a VPN client isn't a huge requirement, you should be fine.

July 11, 2007 9:40
Drop by my blog (or use your favorite search engine to search against by blog) for "Adventures in Windows Vista (x64)" [1] for a few entries of what I've encountered. Also, as to the comment regarding 4gig of RAM, read the entry on "Widnows Vista 'supports' 4GB of memory. Sure it does..." [2]

[1] -
[2] -
July 11, 2007 10:36
+1 on Vista64. I haven't found any significant problems.
July 11, 2007 11:15
The biggest disappointment when running Vista 64 bit is that the Windows Home Server client doesn't support it and won't be able to do automated backups for you on that machine.
July 11, 2007 11:36
Been using Vista x64 for about a month now after upgrading my machine to 4GB. So far I haven't encountered a single app that wouldn't install or work. Thumbs up from me...
July 11, 2007 11:39

That heat sink looks like a skyscraper. Why not go with a water cooled one? I have one and it works great and my computer sits in a closed closet with no ventilation!
July 11, 2007 13:33
There is so much drool on my laptop already. I miss old days when I used to configure computers for almost all my friends in college. It was such a nice exercise to be able to configure your own computer from scratch up. I am going to go overboard and configure myself a beast one of these days. Of course, over here in India, I won't be able to get some of the things that have gone into your rig.

Good luck with the overclocking... can't wait to see how it turns out.
July 11, 2007 13:45
I've used XP x64 for about a year, and Vista x64 for the last month. Most things just work. The main issues are around drivers, but if you bought your hardware with that in mind you shouldn't have any major worries.
July 11, 2007 16:14
+1 Vista x64, though it'd be nice if VMWare and/or Virtual PC were an x64 exe (must be a good reason, right). If you do use VMWare Server (the free version), I had to disable driver signing to get it installed and to run it each time. Maybe they have a newer release, but this was less than 2 months ago. Pretty disappointing.

Is that a skyscraper in there?!
July 11, 2007 16:21
I've been running XP Pro 64-bit for over a year, and drivers are available for most of my hardware. Notable exceptions include my MICROSOFT fingerprint reader (I don't think they even have 64-bit drivers for Vista yet), Rhapsody radio (uses a driver for DRM), both of our corporate VPNs (64-bit drivers are available for Vista), and CD/DVD packet writing software (I think packet writing is built into Vista). Seems like on Vista-64 you should be reasonably ok. I've put off upgrading because Microsoft doesn't support upgrading 64-bit XP to 64-bit Vista and I'm not eager to reinstall everything.
July 11, 2007 17:05
I built a new pc when Vista RTM'd (Athlon 64 X2 4200+, 1GB RAM, NVidia 6600 Video Card for around $600 for the main box) and installed Vista x64 right away. I haven't had any major issues with it. The only problems I've had are: 1) my old printer (3 years old) doesn't have Vista drivers, and 2) my Phillips MP3 player (I bought it 1.5 yrs ago for $100) doesn't have Vista drivers. These are the only two problems I've had, and they aren't even because I'm running x64; I would still have these if I were running x32. And all my other programs I use (the usual developer tools from Microsoft) and a few other things run perfectly fine.

Vista x64 isn't as scary as everyone is making it out to be. I think they are just scared to try it out.
July 11, 2007 18:04
I haven't tried Vista x64 because of the incompatibility with Windows Home Server. I suppose the Vista automated backup feature could be used instead, and Remote Desktop for administration, but I like WHS too much to give it up. So one vote against...
July 11, 2007 19:10
Good luck with x64, it sounds as though most of the readers have posted positive experiences. When I built my new machine a couple of months ago I considered it, but I'm way too conservative for that -- I'm running Vista 32.

One thing that I strongly recommend: If you plan on playing any games on that PC, set it up to dual-boot to XP-32. A lot of games and kids edutainment packages (even relatively recent ones) flat won't run on Vista (even in compatibility mode).

Something that I have learned running with dual boot: Despite claims to the contrary, XP is a little faster and way more stable than Vista on my hardware (and it's brand-new hardware). I suspect that driver immaturity is to blame. About a month after I built, both nVidia and Creative labs released new Vista drivers for my 8800 card and SB X-Fi card. These drivers went a long way towards closing the performance and stability gaps. The performance differences are only obvious in games, but stability is another story. Vista locks up at least twice a week on that hardware but XP has never, not once, locked up on the same box.
July 11, 2007 21:06
Another +1 for x64 Vista -- only driver issue I've encountered has been with an old Sharp printer. My other old printer was supported out of the box (!). No app compatibility issues whatsoever. The only app I used to use that's not supported on x64 is Windows OneCare. Go figure.
July 11, 2007 22:00
Go with MinuetOS 64-bit. You know you want to write 64-bit assembly.
July 11, 2007 22:26
+1 on 64 bit. My Dell 690 workstation runs it fine.
July 12, 2007 1:30
The word on the street is that a 64-bit Home Server Connector is actively being worked on, so I'm not too worried.
July 12, 2007 19:51
Was also forced back to 32-bit because of the Cisco VPN client (required for work - as per another commenter above).

Go for the nVidia GeForce 8800 video adapter if you can... awesome card and the drivers are stable.
July 12, 2007 21:54
I think I will retrofit my Trane HVAC system at the house with this heat sink. Though, Thermaltake has some that really have a good "sex" factor. And coupled with SBL (sexy blue light) technology, I think a mod'd condenser unit has that extra pizazz the neighborhood charter (probably) intends.
July 13, 2007 3:59
I read on Codinghorror that you are using 2 video cards in order to get 4 display outputs. I definately love the multi-display and evangelize it to anyone who'll hear me. However, I got to thinking about what is an optimum number of displays to have. In essence, how many displays do we really use simultaneously and for me personally, I have come to the conclusion that 2 is where its at.

Now don't get me wrong, I have 2 monitors but use 3 screen. Most monitors (CRT or LCD) these days come with multiple inputs. and the way I have setup my coding machine is more practical for me that anything else.

I found that having 3 always visible displays meant that I had email, IM, and general extraneous windows open on the third monitor while having the first two dedicated to firefox and Visual Studio (and other coding related windows). This meant that I was constantly distracted by my third monitor through email alerts, IM's or other such unnecessary items. Thus, having the 3rd monitor be the second input to my main monitor was extremely useful for improving productivity because now I check that monitor far less frequently that before and that 3rd monitor isn't eating up power, and space on my desk.

Anyways, thats my story. I wish you all the best with your new rig and I look forward to the pics.
July 13, 2007 6:31
I have been running 64 bit Vista for nearly 5 months now without a single problem with drivers Scott, I had 32 bit installed before and decided to make the switch and so far its been nothing but pleasant. I haven't found any software that doesn't work and all my hardware works with the exception of a USB floppy drive which I only used once so don't really care about.
July 17, 2007 12:17
You will run into problems with codecs in Media Center. You can set Media Player to run as 32 bit but there will still be issues with Media Center. The "Vista Codec Pack" solves a lot of these issues by installing both 32 bit and 64 bit codecs however this package is still a work in progress and there is apparently no "Matroska Splitter" for 64 bit so you won't be able to play .mkv files in Media Center.
August 04, 2007 2:56
Cisco has released the AnyConnect VPN client that is supposed to be compatible with Vista 64 bit. Of course finding a copy of it is near impossible.
August 10, 2007 20:57
August 17, 2007 0:54
Thanks. Do you have any ideas on converting or creating the profile? At this point I am no even sure the site is compatible and when you ask their IT department you can see the deer in the headlights look.
August 22, 2007 17:36
I have recently also switched to Vista Ultimate 64bit. I LOVE THIS MACHINE. Any how, I had a need to connect to a Cisco firewall and I thought I was screwed since they do not have a 64bit client yet...LAME!...Anyways, I found a client that works. NCP Secure Entry Client I installed it and with a little configuration was able to get it to connect to the Cisco firewall. Its a bit pricey but if you have a need and DONT want to implement a VM with funky routes etc then this may be the way to go. Hope this helps you fellow 64 bit-ers.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.