The Build Process

I got a stack of boxes last Thursday, somewhat previously discussed.

I already owned the case.  It’s this one here.  It’s basic, holds a shitload of hard drives, and has several huge quiet 120mm fans.  I also already had a 1TB SATA drive to use.

It’s been a while since I have built a PC, but, in general, it’s pretty simple.  The hard part is picking out the components really, which obviously, I’ve already done.  He was not around for the build but my son asked if I thought I would be done putting my computer together within a few months.  He seemed surprised when I told him it would take maybe an hour, once I had all of the parts.

The only real key is making sure the heat sink on the processor makes good contact and works, since otherwise, you’re liable to burn up an expensive component.

The place to start is the Motherboard.  Here it is, removed from the box and placed on its static bag.

This part is essentially the central nervous system of the computer.  It connects all of the other parts together and lets them communicate.  It does a few other things but at it’s core, that’s what it does.  The Motherboard can’t do math for crap though, which is why the next step is to add the Processor, which more or less only does math… very very quickly. 

It’s small, maybe an inch and a half square.  This one runs at I believe 3.3 Ghz, with 4 cores, which essentially means it does 3.3 Billion calculations per second and can do four calculations at a time.  This chip costs more than any other individual component in this computer.  Because it works hard and runs everything, it also gets hot quickly.  Which is why the next step is to add the heat sink. 

Ok, so a little story on this humongous heatsink and fan.  The last time i bought a processor, it did not include a heatsink of it’s own.  Heatsinks, personally, a pretty generic and unless you’re overclocking the CPU, you really don’t need much.  So I threw the “Number one selling CPU Heatsink on Amazon that was only like $20 anyway” on my order.  The pictures on Amazon make it look like a standard chunk of metal that sits on the CPU with the fan on top.

Turns out the chip came with a heatsink and fan.  It also turns out that the one I bought was like four times larger than expected.  I decided that since it was cheap, I may aw well use it rather than return it.

Hence, gigantic heat sink.  Fortunately, the case I’m using is pretty large.

The last step before bolting the Motherboard assembly into the case is to stick the RAM in.  It’s nothing particularly exciting other than I had to consult the manual to figure out the optimal slot placement.

After the board is in the case, the power supply can be strapped in as well.  The manual suggested putting the PS in first but my experience has been that often the PS obstructs access to the Mother Board.  It didn’t in this case (pun intended) but I waited anyway.  I also stuck the hard drive into the drive bay and reinserted it.

While the view is still relatively clear, I also wired in all of the front panel controls and lights.  Just a side note, I ended up putting all of these in reverse, which meant opening the case later and flipping them all over.  No biggie.

Finally, the Graphics card is inserted.

The desire to upgrade the GPU was a heavy driver in my decision to build a PC to begin with.  This one can be expanded to a second card using some ATI technology that I forget the name of if I want to add a second one.  It’s huge and pretty impressive to look at.

Finally, everything is assembled and it’s time to power things up.

I go through and describe the build Process for a home desktop PC.

Aside from the flipped button leads, I also had a bit of a worry when turning it on with the cooling.  The PS fan doesn’t power up unless it’s needed, so it didn’t immediately spring to life as expected.   This wasn’t helped by rear fan, which it turns out is dead.  I’ve since bought a replacement for it though I have not installed it yet.

I also ran into a slight snag when I went to install the OS.  I don’t own any SATA CD/DVD/BluRay/Disc drives.  Fortunately, I have a USB DVD drive for my netbook, which functioned just fine for this use.

I also had to wait a day for my Monitor to come in and later realized I don’t own a second USB Keyboard or Mouse (no PS/2 Ports).

It’s been running just fine for several days now.

I can run all of my games on super uber graphics mode with no stutter or slow downs.  It boots up very quickly, despite the non SSD hard drive.  Basically, it’s everything it’s supposed to be.

Building a New PC

I am extremely familiar with the insides and mechanics behind build a PC from scratch.  I’ve put together several machines for both personal use and at (my old) work.  I also have done numerous upgrades to hard drives, RAM, GPUs, etc over the years.  I’ve wired up cases for better cooling and upgraded a PC so much that I rebuilt the original PC with all of it’s original parts.

I’ve never ever bought all the parts at once to put them together as a cohesive whole at the same time.

In the recent move, I’ve gained an office space.  Part of my desire for this office space is that it’s not going to be where the kids hang out to play on the computer.  Unfortunately, I can’t just stick them with one of my extra older PCs, it’ll never work out.  So I’m using the opportunity to build myself a new gaming rig.  Computer components have gotten so ridiculously confusing these days.  The last time I seriously build a PC it was simple.  If the processor speed was higher, it was better.  A 2 GHZ PC was pretty much always going to be better than a 1.8ghz PC.  Unless it’s a Celeron, then it just sucked no matter what.

Now it’s all Cores and i7s, and i3s and Phenom IIs and crazy numbers that are mostly just ePeen related.  Fortunately I am aware than GPU means more to a PC than CPU.  That’s why I started with GPU.  My old machine actually performs much better than I would ever expect considering it’s only Dual core and it’s a stock Dell machine with a new GPU and some RAM.  The key was, I picked out a good GPU when I bought it.

So I did some research on benchmarks and performance and came up with a Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6850.  It’s not a top of the line card but it ranks very highly and costs about half as much as the cards ranking similarly.  I’m still being budget conscious with my choices and trying to get the best value I can.

I then did move on to processor.  As I said, modern processors confuse me, so I started off looking into the AMD chip recommended by Amazon to go with the GPU.  It was a place to start more than anything.  I’ve had a lot of AMD CPUs and always liked them.  They used to be the top dog but I was pretty sure Intel had come back to the lead.

Some Google searching suggested that it’s not real great unless it’s overclocked and I’m not really interested in trying to overclock anything.  It’s not that I don’t think I could do it, it’s more than I don’t want to have to buy another $150 processor when I fuck it up.  One thread I found on this chip had several recommendations for the Intel i5 2500 3.3Ghz.  It’s a Quad Core chip.   I did a bit more research and decided to go for this chip.  Mostly my research was into i5 vs i7, but this i5 is supposed to be pretty decent.  Besides, CPU is less important and I’m going to better value with a good punch.

On a side note, I also am hazy on the details but I also know that more cores doesn’t always mean better.  4 cores doesn’t make this a 12 Ghz processor, not every application uses multiple cores.  However I do a fair amount of Photo editing with Photoshop and I do a fair amount of editing with Adobe Premier, BOTH programs I know benefit from using multiple cores.

At this point I threw on a compatible fan nothing fancy, it was cheap and ranked 1st in fans on Amazon so I bought it.  I also threw on a 500W power supply to run it all.  I have a 500W power supply but it’s got some bad bearings in the fans and runs loud.  I could probably fix it but electricity scares me and I am pretty sure power supplies can be dangerous even when un plugged.

all that was left was to tie it together with a motherboard.  I picked up one from the list of recommended ones, it’s listed as Gigabyte Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2133 LGA 1155 Motherboard GA-Z68A-D3H-B3 and is very Blue.

So, because it coordinates, I picked up 8 GB of Blue RAM with flashy cooling fins to go in it.

I didn’t need to get a case, I have a very large and nice case I bought last time I built a machine.  it is absolutely boring as hell in it’s designs but that was what I wanted, something that “wasn’t curvy and swoopy and neon and looked like a Riced up Honda PC”.

I’m not showing this thing off for looks.

I also already have some hard drives.  I have a 1 TB that I’ll probably stick in it out of my current machine.  It keeps disappearing from the OS, but I am 90% sure it’s because that stock Dell Power supply sucks and can’t handle running 3 hard drives and a GPU.

I also don’t need a Monitor.  I ordered a decently large LCD a week ago when I thought I was going to be running a different older machine in the office.

Anyway, I’m pretty stoked.  I also went in for the Amazon Prime trial so everything should be here by Thursday.