I apologize in advance for the length of this posting, but I think my recent build highlighted several circumstances that many people will face in building a computer, be it their first or their fiftieth. With that in mind, I will run through my build, pointing out obstacles, solutions and advice along the way. If nothing else, this will be cathartic for me.
This is my eleventh build (not all of them were for me). As mentioned in numerous posts before, this is the one way I get to treat myself so the components may exceed what I require, but they are not unreasonable and they are well within my budget. TIP: make a budget and stick to it.
My original intent was to build a new computer last year, but I was still quite happy with my i7-870 so I saw no need to make the build. Not only did this allow components to advance an additional generation but it also helped in the following ways:
TIP: Do your research. I’ve always suggested a minimum of 40 hours of research on the components you’re considering before you purchase and assemble your computer.
- I was able to accumulate more funds
- I was able to set better goals and objectives with this build
- I was able to snatch up good deals when I saw the opportunity
- I was able to research components and computer technology better
So here’s the build:
This is my second most expensive computer (The most expensive computer I’ve ever owned was my Compaq Pentium II 266MHz: $1680+tax open box special sans monitor)NOTE:
I only included 1 670 GTX in the price since I had purchased the other as a component for previous build. Just like I didn’t include monitor, speakers, etc. since these were salvaged from prior builds.
Many of the larger components, including the CPU and motherboard were purchased at Micro Center. As I did my shopping, I saw a notice posted by the motherboards. At the time I thought nothing of it:
With the parts assembled, it was time to start…er…assembling the parts into my computer. Obviously, experience is a tremendous tool when building a computer, but it has its downsides, too. You become confident (not cocky, but too self-assured) in your ability. As a result, you get ahead of yourself and forgo important steps. This occurred to me.TIP: try to get a build to POST as early as possible.
Getting the basic components to POST is a major milestone in a computer build. In my case, I didn’t attempt to POST until well into the process – most components were in place and some basic cable routing had already been performed. Needless to say, when I hit that power button, nothing happened. No fans. No lights. Nothing.TIP: When you hit a roadblock, despite every natural instinct to panic, remain calm and revert to your fundamental troubleshooting. Trust me, I know this one is hard.
Knowing I needed a CPU, mobo, RAM and PSU to perform the POST (I didn’t need a GPU since the mobo had integrated graphics), I removed unnecessary components and began eliminating the possible culprits one by one. I moved the RAM and then replaced it with known good ones. I swapped out the PSU. I confirmed all the components were getting the power needed.
The only components left were the CPU and motherboard. After spending the last 3 hours assembling the computer, I had to undo the majority of what I had completed. Once access to the motherboard and CPU was achieved, I found the culprit:
I had never bent a pin in the past so I was completely caught off guard. And while I would like to brag that the motherboard must have come that way because I would never do this, the odds indicate it probably happened on my watch. And if it didn’t, I must not have inspected the board properly when I bought it. Either way, the replacement board would be on me. So back to Micro Center I went (NOTE:
the price of both boards is included in the Grand Total above).
Having learned my lesson, I used the stock cooler and attached the bare minimum to perform the POST:
As much as I was frustrated before, it was nothing compared to my frustration when nothing changed. No fans. No lights. Nothing.
At this point, my instinct tells me to press on until I find the problem. At the same time, I thankfully realized I was not mentally attuned to do it – frustrated, angry and tired are not a good mix. As much as it pained me, I took a rest and walked away from the build for the day.TIP: Always be willing to ask for help and take a rest if your patience wear thin.
While I wasn’t thrilled that this half-day project was now moving into its 3rd day, I was better prepared mentally to resume. Carefully going through the troubleshooting process, I finally figured out my problem:
For some reason, I read the manual incorrectly and mixed up the case wiring. THREE times. Realizing my mistake and hoping this was the real cause, I corrected the wiring, crossed my fingers, and voila:
FINALLY, I could press on with the build. I won’t bore you with much more of the gritty details of the build, but I did want to mention the CPU cooler. In Dream Machine’s Mini-Me
(Sept 2013, p 69), Tom McNamara mentions the Kraken support ring doesn’t line up totally square on the motherboard, but that the slightly rotated look is normal. He’s right, but when you first see it you do a double-take because it doesn’t look right:
The Kraken x40 is a 140mm radiator and luckily for me the case has several options for me to attach the radiator…however, with a push/pull configuration the motherboard interfered with most of these places, leaving the back of the case as the only option. Another point: the heads of the radiator screws are pretty small; compounded with the unusually large holes in the case and the rubber grommets that easily push out, securing the radiator was quite a challenge. I was fortunate enough to find some extremely thin washers that gave me the surface area I needed:
With that, the assembly was complete:Final thoughts
Obviously, I wish the build went smoother, but I know experiencing these obstacles and roadblocks will better prepare me for the future, and hopefully you’ll learn something as well. And I’m not out of the water yet – my goal of running SLI hit a snag and I’m still trying to work this out.
On the plus side, I was able to OC the build to 4.2GHz with the help of this Youtube video
. Being my first foray into OCing I’m glad I came across the video, but I’d still like to learn a little more about OCing, like how to intelligently adjust clock speeds and voltage, so if you happen to know of some good tutorials be sure to share them.
Also, if people wonder whether the aftermarket CPU cooler is worth it, you might be interested in this. In the picture above, you'll notice the temperature is 50 C. Now, the same screen with the Kraken:
Even at 4.2 and running Prime95 for an hour, the CPU cores averaged low 60s C with the Kraken; at idle they hover around mid 20C. That’s pretty good.
And that’s that. If you’ve managed to make it all the way to here, I appreciate your patience and dedication. Thank you for letting me share and don’t hesitate to ask questions or leave any personal advice you may have.
Hope this helps.