My Systems, What I Use, And Why


Having read fellow author Richard Pedersen‘s excellent article, laying bare the details of his system, my interest was piqued and I couldn’t resist the chance to show off my systems.

What I Use

I run two main computers which are predominantly gaming machines and I also use them for the more day-to-day things in life such as writing for DCT, editing my books, and the usual general usage. I also have a Lenovo laptop which I only use when travelling. My software collection isn’t as extensive as Richard’s, but we do share the same passion for tinkering with hardware, which in itself is a pleasurable and never-ending quest for perfect PC optimisation.

My Main Gaming Rig

I build all my machines and have done since the late ’90s, as well as building PCs for customers. This PC has always been my main gaming machine and over the years I’ve upgraded it more times than I can remember. From a Pentium 4 in 2005, later upgraded to an AMD Phenom II x 4 965, through to an FX 8320. I’m now running a Ryzen 2600X with the following specs:

 

  • Case – CM Storm Trooper, full tower
  • Motherboard – Asus Crosshair Hero VII WiFi version with X470 chipset
  • CPU – AMD Ryzen 2600X
  • GPU – Asus Strix RX580 8GB
  • RAM – Corsair Vengeance DDR4 2400Mhz 16GB
  • Cooling – Corsair H100i all in one water cooling
  • PSU – Corsair RM 850x full modular

Peripherals


  • Keyboard – Corsair RGB Strafe Silent mechanical
  • Mouse – AFX LM0216 (it’s very heavy)
  • Monitor – Samsung CF591 27″ curved monitor with FreeSync, connected with a Club3D DisplayPort cable
  • Speakers – Cambridge Soundworks 4.1 (AD 2001 vintage)
  • Headphones – Corsair Raptor HS40 7.1 (a life saver)
  • Webcam – Logitech C170

Storage

  • 1 x Kingston 240GB SSD
  • 1 x Western Digital Blue 500GB M.2 2280 SATA
  • 5 x mechanical hard drives 250GB to 1.5TB

This is, without doubt, the most potent machine I’ve ever used and it will play every single game I own, on ultra settings, without even breaking a sweat. Talking of which, the summers in Buenos Aires are very hot and humid, so good cooling is vital, hence the H100i and three 120mm fans in the case. My favourite game genres are first-person shooters and arcade car racing and I always choose the games that look graphically spectacular because of “Shiny Thing Syndrome” (STS).

Software

  • Windows 10 Pro x64 – updated to whatever Microsoft has thrust upon me, which I believe to be Ver 1809
  • Windows Defender – it just sits there quietly and does its thing, without nagging the hell out of me. I don’t use any other form of security
  • Microsoft Office 2013 – I only use Word for book writing and Excel for opening spreadsheets, which seems a bit of a waste really
  • Snagit – the best screen capture and editing program, bar none
  • FastStone Image Viewer – image resizing and many more very useful image manipulation tools
  • Steam – the most comprehensive gaming platform on the planet. I also use Uplay, Origin and GOG Galaxy
  • Glidos and DOSBox – superb x86 emulating programs for very old PC games
  • Stardock Start 10 – because I hate tiles
  • CPU-Z and GPU-Z – great little programs for checking system-related specs
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard – I paid top whack for this remarkable recovery program and it’s never failed me. Mainly used for customer PCs
  • HWiNFO64 – the best hardware monitoring program out there
  • FPS Monitor – a new kid on the block, with an infinitely customisable OSD and monitoring options
  • MSI Afterburner – probably the most popular On-Screen Display (OSD)  and monitoring software available
  • Roboform – a very easy to use password manager for which I pay a subscription. Well worth it
  • Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 13 (Steam version) – one of the best movie editor suites available

I also run numerous proprietary Programs from Corsair and Asus for controlling RGB lighting, fan speeds and other forms of monitoring, but I don’t overclock either the GPU or the CPU. In fact, the Ryzen 2600X CPU has an auto-boost feature bringing the clocks up to 4.3Ghz when needed and then dropping back down. The general consensus is that, with many of these new Ryzens, overclocking just doesn’t achieve very much.

My Work Rig

Although this is also a gaming rig, I use it during work hours and often need to connect customer peripherals and hard drives for testing, so really, it’s more of a workhorse. I originally built it in 2011 and, apart from overclocking the CPU a tad, I probably won’t upgrade it any further. The only component that lets it down is the GPU.


 

 

 

 

  • Case – NZXT Phantom full tower
  • Motherboard – Gigabyte GA770T – USB3 AM3+
  • CPU – Phenom II x 4 965
  • RAM – Kingston DDR3 1333Mhz 16GB
  • GPU – MSI GTX960 4GB
  • Cooling – Cooler Master V6 (air cooling)
  • PSU – Sentey 850W
  • Media – SD card reader and external Iomega DVD drive

Peripherals

  • Keyboard – Corsair Raptor K30
  • Mouse – Corsair Raptor M40 and Genius GX DeathTaker (yes, I know)
  • Monitor – AOC 23″ LED
  • LAN – Tenda 20 port Ethernet switch

Storage

  • 1 x Kingston 250GB SSD
  • 5 x Mechanical drives 250Gb to 1TB

Software

I use exactly the same software as my main gaming rig, with the addition of proprietary hard drive diagnostic programs from WD, Seagate, Hitachi, and others.

Other Toys

As previously mentioned, I also have a Lenovo 15″ laptop, the only computer in our house running an Intel CPU (Core i3), which I’ve upgraded to 8GB RAM and a 250GB SSD. I also run it with a wireless mouse, since I could never get used to the touchpad, which I’ve always considered the work of Lucifer himself. In fact, I bought it for a song from an American expat who was returning home and after fitting a new keyboard for him, I bit his hand off and bought it.

During my last trip to England in August, Shiny Thing Syndrome took a hold of me, so I bought a Galaxy Note 8, which is an incredible smartphone running an octa-core processor, 6GB of RAM, dual rear cameras and 128GB of storage.

It also comes with the incredible S-Pen for doodling, and as shiny things go, it’s the mutts nuts. My wife now has the Galaxy S8, which she’s delighted with.


In our house, we also have three or four other PCs used by my wife and her son, as well as several others knocking about in my workshop– one of which I use for the transfer of VHS to digital as a service to my customers. All are running Windows 10, one with XP and from time to time, when the mood grips me, I play with Linux just to stay up to date. We don’t use any Apple devices except for my wife’s son who has a broken iPhone 7 that Santa will be solving by bringing him over to the dark side– Android.

About Me

When I’m not writing for DCT, which I have done now since Dave brought me on board in January 2014, I write fiction novels, fix PCs for my customers and ride around Buenos Aires on my motorbike. We enjoy a very speedy 100Mbps Internet connection and I often wonder how my brother, who lives in First World England, manages with his not so speedy 3Mbps (1.5 in reality). Maybe we’re not so Third World down here, after all.

I’m very lucky to be able to write for DCT since there are so many subjects that come to mind and it’s certainly true that I’ve picked up an enormous number of tips along the way.


About the Author

Marc Thomas

Marc is an avid traveler, motorcyclist, entrepreneur, and gamer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His interest in computers and technology began in the early 1990's when he was introduced by a friend to a Zenith Data Systems computer running DOS. In the years following he has experienced all versions of the Windows operating system, built hundreds of systems, and fixed many more for his customers. Marc also has an interesting forum you might like to check out at Argentina Expats

6 Comments

  1. Fantastic machines Marc!!!! I have three home built desktop machines in my household, two are running W10v1809, and one is running W8.1, my wife’s machine, keep it around for watching movies with Windows Media Center.
    Always look forward to your tech articles.

  2. Hi Marc,

    Fascinating indeed reading about all your ‘gear’.

    Third world, ‘nanny’ Australia and my top-of-the-range, not cheap, broadband (NBN) connection in a, huh, modern city gets up to 44 Mbps (promises of ‘up to 100’ Mbps) which has never been attained by anyone in the whole country.

    Nice to hear about your general day-to-day life.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

    Kind Regards,

    JonInOz

  3. Someone else has a soundworks! Quadraphonic yes? Your driver?
    Thanks for the Win 10 star dock, just grabbed it for $3.51 Cdn, been looking for something like that for awhile now

    • No driver required, GordN. I simply plug the green and black jacks into the corresponding rear audio jacks on the PC and the Supreme FX audio takes care of the rest.
      My previous motherboard had Via audio which numerous Windows updates messed up big time.
      It’s fun playing with Start 10, even up to changing the Start button, which I now have as the round Vista style orb.

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