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This computer is going to be for general purpose use. Emails, web browsing, music, pictures, word processing and maybe some games. Is xp 64 necessary or not?

No you do not need to go 64bit for what you want to do.

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I guess after checking the price difference is not that great though.

hey I am 100% ready for x64 im waiting for microsoft to release it.

I am a heavy to extreme gamer and I do some video editing.

Should I go X64 (windows 64)?

A little ambiguous. Do you mean:
Should I go for Athlon XP or Athlon 64?
The price difference between the two is not that much now, so if at all possible I would look at the Athlon 64 for three main reasons:
1 - The chipsets supporting the Athlon 64 are better than those supporting the Athlon XP. I would look into motherboards supporting the nForce3 250 chipset.
2 - The Athlon 64 has an onboard memory controller as opposed to having a memory controller on the motherboard for the Athlon XP. This makes for better/faster memory usage.
3 - You will be able to use future 64 bit operating systems as they come out in the years to come. This saves on having to buy new parts in order to keep using your same computer through the years.
It all comes down to what you want and what you can find at what price. If you do get a 64 bit cpu, don't worry about windows 64 bit for the mean time, there are too many driver issues for most home users to stress over. Wait until an official release and use that IF you need to. Using tried and tested OS's are all good, especially if they do the trick. My parents run Win98 SE on their pc and they haven't had any virus problems for a long time.. ;)

well i am waiting for the release of x64, but I wanted to know what performance or speed boost I could see by switching to X64

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I have decided on the 64. What motherboard do you recommend? Under $100 if possible. No need for overclocking.

I HIGHLY recommend the DFI Nforce 3 250Gb motherboard, it is super realiable, fast, and has builting overclocking if you need it.

The DFI Lanparty is an awesome motherboard, but if you are not overclocking then you may want to look into some other choices as the DFI is constructed with overclocking in mind.
What that means is that the bios and stock setup is not optimal in comparison with other boards, the DFI is a "wee" bit slower than comparable motherboards in the nForce3 range. This is to allow for the large overclocking potential that the board has.
That said, it has high quality parts and should be ultra reliable for years to come, and I can't notice the difference in speed at stock.
(I find it odd that, being a DFI fanboy, I am saying some things which could be construed as negative towards what is a magnificent piece of computer equipment. I just thought I'd put out some info on the board. Knowledge is power.)

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No overclocking will be done on this computer.

I have my amd 3400+ OCed to 2.4Ghz from 2.2Ghz running at 45 degrees, and it is running extremely stable

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I have decided to go with an athlon 64 2800 and a gigabyte mobod. I have a couple of questions now concerning the cpu. I have heard that the heatsink and fan that come with the retail package are not so good. ??? What is your take? If not, what do you suggest? I want something QUIET. Also, need a case. Where can you find the best prices and best selections? I don't want anything fancy. Just a descent looking case under $40 if possible with a power supply. Any suggestions??? Thanks.

The stock heatsink and fan that come with the Athlon 64 cpu's are good enough for standard use. ie. no overclocking.
For the period that I had my stock heatsink/fan on, they seemed relatively quiet enough. I had more noise coming from the case fans than the cpu cooler.
No suggestions on case as it wouldn't be relevant to your area, (I live in New Zealand), although make sure you have at least an exhaust fan in it. (With an intake fan preferably, though if you're worried about noise, you could get by with just an exhaust fan).

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