Building a Trading Computer

Black_Knight  

Okay, reconnecting with my inner geek...

Several of you have asked me about specs for building a powerful PC. While I do not claim to be an IT expert, I did recently build a trading workstation for myself, and am happy to share what worked and didn't work for me.

Before we get started, for those of you who are outright terrified at the thought of digging inside a machine or building your own, I'd like to point out 3 companies who clearly lead the pre-built PC market:

Falcon Trading Systems designs systems specifically for traders and multiple-monitors:

https://www.mql5.com/go?link=https://www.configure-cart.com/cgi-bin/affiliate/clickme.cgi?exec=fxKnight&site=site2

Dell Inc. - https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.dell.com/

Known for the industry's best warranty... 3-year next-day on-site, meaning if they can't fix it over the phone for you, someone will ring your doorbell the following morning (and usually they give you a loaner PC if they need to take yours). Do look closely at their configuration options however, as their "default" systems aren't always the best performers.

Alienware Computers - https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.alienware.com/

Can't go wrong with a gamer PC, they tend to be the fastest out there. Particularly attractive is their new notebook, for those who need mobility (without sacrificing power).

My Specs:

NZXT Apollo case

Netzteil Xilence 800watt power supply

ASUS Striker Extreme motherboard (powerful + cooling features, even internal working lights)

Intel Q6600 Quad Core CPU (2.40 GHz, 1.333 FSB) *

Arctic Freezer7 Pro cooling fan (Intel's stock fan isn't the best, it's also loud)

4GB RAM (2x 2GB, CSX 800MHz CL5 DDR2)

XpertVision 8800GT Sonic (512MB) VGA adapter (I have 2, driving 4 monitors total) **

Samsung HD501LJ 500GB 7200rpm 16MB SATA hard drives (3 total - C: for system, D: for data, plus external back-up) ***

RaidSonic ICY Box IB-168SK-B (to make the back-up drive easily removable)

DVD Burner - LG GSA-H55N 18x (Samsung is more common, but has a driver bug which affects Steinberg software)

DVD Reader - LG GDR-H30N (I recommend a separate reader to save wear on your writing laser)

Black Manhattan internal card reader

TEAC floppy drive (I'm old school - and modern Windows versions no longer boot into DOS)

Windows XP Professional SP3 (stay away from "Home" versions, and Vista is a risk - though SP1 is certainly better)

Notes:

* This is no longer the fastest processor out there, however spending $500-800 more will only get you about 0.333 faster FSB (stands for front-side bus.... don't just look at processor speed, as most often the bottleneck is in the throughput, how fast the data can be moved rather than processed). The Q6600 still remains in my opinion the best price/performance value, and if you ever need more power the "latest & greatest" still use the same socket configuration, meaning an upgrade takes 5 minutes (and will cost you less than half a year from now). I would not recommend AMD - at one point they had better products than Intel, but not this generation.

** The XpertVision is a slightly faster over-clocked version of the well-known NVidia 8800GT card. If you go with XpertVision, be sure to get their "Sonic" version. Since I built my PC, a whole new generation of graphics cards have been released, including the 9000-series and the NVidia Quadro FX 4700 X2, which supports 4 monitors with a single card (https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.nvidia.com/object/quadro_fx_4700_x2.html). Chris from TopGun Software seems to prefer ATI, however admits this has more to do with price rather than any specific performance feature. Whichever card you choose, make sure you download new drivers from the manufacturer's website at least once per month.

*** I'm very disappointed in this purchase and would not recommend Samsung drives. I simply went with the shop's recommendation - they told me I could save a lot of money. Well, you get what you pay for. I experienced a (hardware) drive failure when my system was only 4 months old! For over 10 years now, I have been using Seagate Barracuda drives, and have yet to have one fail (and, yes, I do still occasionally boot the older machines up - mainly when testing automated trading systems). Will never again buy any other drive. I would recommend staying away from both WesternDigital and Maxtor, as I have known both to fail fairly young into their service lives in the past, and WD's customer support is probably the worst out there. No need to go beyond 7200rpm - unless you intend to edit feature films - it only creates more noise, heat, and friction (drive wear).

Now that you've got your system put together, don't overlook security and stability! I personally run anti-virus and anti-spyware software, plus both a software and a hardware firewall (most routers these days include strong firewall features, and I absolutely recommend sticking one in between your modem and your PC, even if you have no need to share the Internet connection).

Symantec/Norton is probably the most well-known name in anti-virus protection, however I recently read a press release where they admitted their products include a back-door to accommodate government snooping on our hard drives (and these days no warrant is needed to do so). Plus my experience with back-doors is that it doesn't take long before governments aren't the only ones aware of them. I have been using Sophos and SpySweeper to this point quite successfully, however the new version of Webroot's firewall seems to have a bug requiring occasional re-installs (mostly when you install new software). After the last round of tests & reviews, I am leading towards giving BitDefender a try (their English website is at https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.bitdefender.com/world/).

Most compare these products based upon the size of their "known threat" databases, however what I feel is far more important is the ability to adapt to new threats (often called "zero day" threats), plus how well they do at finding root-kits (the hardest of all threats to detect). The amount of both incidents and kinds of threats have grown exponentially in recent years, so do not underestimate the danger. Also keep in mind that the more you visit financial websites, the more of a tempting target you potentially become for hackers.

For the latest independent research, please see https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.fx-knight.com/dl/AV2008.xls

Lastly, a few words about back-ups and disaster recovery. First of all, I absolutely insist that you use two drives - keep your programs and your data separate (physically separate, partitions do not count). This way if your computer ever dies, you can easily move your data to another (plus most viruses are programmed to seek out and attack the C: drive). The easiest way to back-up your hard drive is to create a drive image, this way you will not have to re-install all your software when you restore. My favourite tool for this is Acronis True Image (https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage). In addition, I like to have a copy of all my individual files on an external drive, and I use SmartSync Pro to accomplish this (https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.smartsync.com/). Both images and the file copies reside on a drive I can easily remove (thanks to the RaidSonic ICY Box IB-168SK-B) and store off-site. Also, keep in mind that in the event of a fire, you will most likely have no time or interest in climbing under your desk to mess with disconnecting cables (the idea is to save the data, the PC can be replaced).

Trading software is notorious for fragmenting hard drives - this is due the amount of raw data they pull down and then re-calculate every single second to plot your indicators. I recommend running a defrag on your system drive at least once a week, and on your data drive about once a month. The defrag software which comes with Windows is not enough - PerfectDisk from Raxco Software (https://www.mql5.com/go?link=http://www.raxco.com/home_office/home_perfectdisk_professional.cfm) will do a far more thorough job. If your trading software (especially MetaTrader) continues to act slow following a defrag (most noticeable when you change timeframes), then try uninstalling and re-installing the software.

All three pieces of software have really nice automation and scheduling features, so keeping your data safe will not occupy a lot of your time or attention once you get everything set up correctly.

There is another, more automatic alternative to drive imaging known as RAID, but not all RAIDs are created equal. RAID1 (otherwise known as "drive mirroring"), for example, works fine in most situations, but especially when it comes to trading software (due to the frequency of C: writes) has been known to create some slow-down. RAID5, on the other hand, not only does mirroring, but also adds redundancy and a performance boost (since a multiple-Core PC can read from all the drives simultaneously). However keeping in mind that you want to keep your programs and data on separate drives, you would be looking at a minimum of 6 drives to get this set up properly (and that's not yet counting any external back-ups).

Basically, if a drive ever fails in a RAID5 configuration, you simply yank it out and replace it with a new one - and the RAID array is automatically re-built the next time you reboot. NO downtime at all. This is the way most corporate servers are built. Keeping this in mind, you may also want the drives to be easily removable - to do this you will need several RaidSonic ICY Boxes, and also a tall tower case which has more bays than the NZXT Apollo does (8-9 perhaps... 6 drives, 2 DVD players, plus an external/removable back-up).

If you are considering using RAID, make sure you have a motherboard which has a dedicated controller chip to support this (the ASUS Striker Extreme does) - do not use the Windows software RAID, it will cause slow-downs.

Now, before you sit back and congratulate yourself on having the fastest PC out there, I just wanted to point out that NVidia recently unveiled their Tesla line... which can be configured with up to 240 cores and 64 monitors. However most of us are only trading oil, not digging for it.

Hope this helps!

Black Knight

fxKnight.com

Scorpion  

Whoa! That's an absolute overkill. It's a perfect system that will serve for the next five years or more.

Black_Knight  

It is overkill, granted, but technology is cheap these days - might as well invest into something which will serve for years to come (I think).

AVG is pretty good (and you're right - free!) - however the ones I mentioned did beat it in independent testing. Guess it all depends if you're a home user or big firm - AVG will probably serve the needs of most home users.

Black Knight

fxKnight.com

Scorpion  

Yes, technologies are cheap these days. It's always better to pack more punches into the workstation. More powerful hardware convert directly into higher productivity.

Anyway, here are some suggestions for system builder:

Multiple Screens

Go multiple screens for higher productively. I'm using two screens (going three soon) with UltraMon software running the second task bar. It automatically switch application between task bars. It's not free though; it is a however must-have utility to maximize the productivity.

System Memory

I recommend using 64-bit version of Windows, either XP 64-bit or Vista 64-Bit, for a system that has 2GB or more of RAM, because 32-bit Windows recognizes at most 3.75GB due to its memory addressing limitation. That max memory limitation get worse if your VGA has more RAM of its own. Using two VGA cards, each with 512MB, will result in 2GB to 3GB of usable system RAM. Not good! So 64-bit windows should be installed to utilize all the RAM.

RAID and Backup Plan

Black Knight's backup plan is just perfect. Some people use RAID exclusively for data backup. The problem is that RAID is not a substitution of a good backup plan. RAID won't protect files on accidental deletion, virus infection, RAID controller malfunction, fire, and lightning. It is used only for preventing data loss in case of a physical hard disk damage or failure. From my experience, using RAID plus drive backup is the best option.

Security

AVG Free is suffice for killing some viruses, but you need to secure your computer. Most people will use Administrator account for everyday activities. It is not a good practice. If a new virus runs with Administrator's privileges, it goes to the heart of the system. It might install drivers or services that prevent anti-virus from detecting or removing it. It can even kill the anti-virus. The best practice is that a Standard account is used instead. As soon as you have installed the OS, create a standard user account with a strong login password and use it from then on. Use the Administrator account only when you need to install system-wide application such as driver or anti-virus.

Scorpion  

That's wicked! Totally awesome!

Is that a TV on the top? Seems like CNBC.

Black_Knight  

Thanks, mate. Good eye... yes, CNBC on a satellite feed. Didn't make much sense to use up precious bandwidth for that.

Black Knight

fxKnight.com

ut2DaMax  

Black Knight

or Scorpion,

Hi, I am from the US and some of these Items seem to be unavailabe here::: I am trying to put a PC together that will work for MT4 Platforms , and at the moment just one will slow down everything on my 2002 XP with 1G Processor, 2 G Ram. I know it should run better but MT4 Spooks it!

I want to stay with XP I have now decided. I don't have a lot to spend. Would like to keep it under2k if I can. I was thinking to use the ASUS EXLink Monitors, but I don't know if it works like a replicator. U can add up to 6 monitors on a daisy Chain.

.....................................................................................................

Scorpion will ....XP 64-bit allow any more Ram to be added? Some are saying u can't get an antivirus program for XP 64bit? Newegg.com - Microsoft Windows XP Professional 64Bit SP2C for System Builders - Operating Systems

.....................................................................................................

OK, would the following make a Super Fast system? I have to have Speed so I can use many instances of MT4 and I use a lot of indicators! And I would probably let a shop put it all together as I have never built a PC before from scratch.

Would this make a nice system or are there conflicts within my choices:::

/

/ power supply

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Netzteil Xilence 800watt power supply

Cant find Netzteil so would this do ? - ($79.99 after REBATE

PC Power & Cooling S61EPS 610W Continuous @ 40°C EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC

Newegg.com - PC Power & Cooling S61EPS 610W Continuous @ 40°C EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Power Supplies

/

/ motherboard

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ASUS Striker Extreme motherboard (powerful + cooling features, even internal working lights)

Is this a ok replacement for $219.99

EVGA nforce 780i SLI Motherboard - A1 Version, NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI, Socket 775, ATX, Audio, PCI Express 2.0, Dual Gigabit LAN, SPDIF, USB 2.0, Firewire, Serial ATA, RAID 132-CK-NF78-A1 at TigerDirect.com

/

/ CPU

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Intel Q6600 Quad Core CPU (2.40 GHz, 1.333 FSB) *

....2.4GHz OEM........... Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 ............... 94%

Newegg.com - Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Quad-Core Processor - Processors - Desktops

I will try Q6600 unless u think Q9550 is worth the dif in $.

IS this better: than Q9550 4 the money?

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Proces $329.00

Newegg.com - Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor - Processors - Desktops ............ free shipping

/

/ cooling fan

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Arctic Freezer7 Pro cooling fan (Intel's stock fan isn't the best, it's also loud)

Newegg.com - ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler - CPU Fans & Heatsinks

Is NXZT the best case to work with this, and does it have to be a full tower?

/

/ Ram

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4GB RAM (2x 2GB, CSX 800MHz CL5 DDR2)

Is this an OK replacement???

OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory

Newegg.com - OCZ Reaper HPC Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Desktop Memory

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/ VGA

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XpertVision 8800GT Sonic (512MB) VGA adapter (I have 2, driving 4 monitors total) **

This seems to be avail. in UK only.

Would this be a equal card in US or acceptable??? ..........$159.99 each!

Newegg.com - XFX PVT88PYDD4 GeForce 8800GT XXX 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Desktop Graphics / Video Cards

/

Maybe this card would be preferable? ..........$154.99 each - #1 Choice Award winner:

EVGA 512-P3-N802-AR GeForce 8800GT Superclocked 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card

Newegg.com - EVGA 512-P3-N802-AR GeForce 8800GT Superclocked 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Desktop Graphics / Video Cards

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/ Hard Drives

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Samsung HD501LJ 500GB 7200rpm 16MB SATA hard drives (3 total - C: for system, D: for data, plus external back-up) ***

Would these be OK? .....$59.00 ....... Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250410AS 250GB 7200 RPM

Newegg.com - Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250410AS 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - Internal Hard Drives

OR:

Seagate SV35.3 ST3500320SV 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM

Newegg.com - Seagate SV35.3 ST3500320SV 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - Internal Hard Drives

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/ DVDdrive

/

DVD Burner - LG GSA-H55N 18x (Samsung is more common, but has a driver bug which affects Steinberg software)

LG ...Bluray drive $159.00 ………..Is this acceptable ...... BlueRay Drive

Newegg.com - LG Black 16X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 4X DVD+R DL 16X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 5X DVD-RAM DVD-ROM: 16X
Blu-ray DVD-ROM: 6X
HD DVD-ROM: 3X DVD-ROM 40X CD-R 24X CD-RW 4MB Cache SATA Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM & 16X

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/

/

RaidSonic ICY Box IB-168SK-B (to make the back-up drive easily removable)

CANNOT FIND THIS IN THE US & dont know the replacement:

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/

/

Sorry to u all this got just too larg and I hope the links work. Was hoping someone would'nt mind checking the links. I will later remove most of the post later if u want me to. But I hope I can get more answers ASAP so I can build this thing. IMO

THANKS TO U ALL!

Black_Knight  

Forex Flash... very cool! Where can I get one?

Black Knight

fxKnight.com

Reason: