For the final entry on my new computer, I would like to cover my experience building it. The parts all arrived in time for me to spend Memorial Day weekend building and configuring my new system. As luck would have it, this was by far the smoothest a custom build has ever gone for me.
First off, meet The Beast. This is the first system I ever built on my own, about 7 years ago. Incidentally, it’s the system I’m just now replacing. I’ve put together other computers in the meantime, mostly for my roommate. But, I never got around to upgrading my own computer, despite needing to do so for quite some time.
Now, on to the new. All of the parts arrived the same week they shipped. You can see most of them in their original packaging below. The media card reader, as it turns out, was hiding in the box for the case, so it isn’t in this picture. The hard drive is there, but it’s hiding behind the Corsair
memory. It was packaged OEM, anyway, so it doesn’t need to be in this shot. On the right, everything is visible out-of-box with a few of the more useful accessories.
After opening everything up, I decided that I would try to read along with the instructions (one of many odd quirks of mine) during assembly. This had me cross-referencing between two sets of instructions for each component, as I saw how it was expected to be installed from both sides of the installation. Doing that also had the benefit of prolonging the building experience to nearly 7 hours. The only component that gave me any trouble was the CPU cooler. After installing it, I noticed it caused the board to bend just under the CPU. It was a severe enough distortion that I removed the cooler and checked to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently left a clear cover, or some other obstruction, between the CPU and the cooler. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary and the thermal compound was smeared properly, so I put the cooler back on and just accepted the disdain with which it was treating my motherboard (the single most expensive component of this computer).
After I got everything installed and hooked up, I noticed that there really wasn’t enough room for the power cables to reach their little inlets inside the main chamber and still be able to reach around the motherboard to their respective plugs. The instructions had said to feed the power cables into the main chamber and pass any cables needed for the lower hard drives back down to the lower chamber on the other side of the central fan. I left that last part as instructed, but I decided to try something different with the rest of the power. I fed all of the cables for the main chamber directly behind the motherboard and to the slots that allowed them back into the main chamber. Since the slots are intended to line up with the plugs on an ATX motherboard, the cables reached with very little excess around the board. The 8-pin CPU power cable was a bit of a stretch to get in place, but fitting it onto the board left it with just enough slack for me to decide to leave it as it was. I was also able to connect 3 of my 4 fans behind the motherboard. The front panel cables and Serial ATA cables were easy enough to coil the excess and tuck away out of the path of airflow.
My old case just didn’t have a good place to put excess cables. Also, I had a pair of round IDE cables I needed to deal with. Throw in 8 case fans and I couldn’t figure out any way of hiding the excess. I tried stuffing as much as I could in the drive cage above the optical drive, but that left a good deal still hanging out. I tried to stuff everything else to the side out of the airflow, but I couldn’t get it in the far side and it just looked terrible near the windowed side panel. I left it that way, though. I might be able to do something with it now, but it’s just not worth the trouble.
Once I got everything together and running, it was time to install my OS. The initial installation of Kubuntu 8.04
went smoothly. Kubuntu
saw the SATA hard drive and placed itself across most of the free space, setting up a 6 GB swap partition on the rest of the drive. After that, I decided to transfer all of my Kubuntu
data from my old computer. So, I took out the old hard drive, hooked it up so it sat on my desk and booted up to start the transfer. At first, I couldn’t boot. I checked the BIOS and found that it wanted to boot to the IDE drive, so I gave the SATA drive priority and tried again. It worked. I then transferred my entire Home directory onto the new drive. That was a mistake. Kubuntu
immediately accepted every setting in there, which didn’t work with a fresh installation that was lacking many of the programs I had used before. I decided to try again with a fresh install. It took me awhile to figure out that I couldn’t reinstall without first removing the IDE drive. After that, I put only the data I really needed onto my new system and it’s been running beautifully. The only problem so far is how slow it reads data over IDE. The transfer rates I was getting were usually around 200 KB/s and I never saw them spike above 8 MB/s. Since I’m not actually using IDE, that shouldn’t matter now that I’ve transferred everything over.
So far, my new computer is great! Even with four case fans it runs quietly, especially compared to my old computer. The case is big, but it has an excellent design and a sleek, simple look. I love the silence, the cable management and the front panel that swings out flush with the side panel. I’m sure I’m going to like the air filters being so easy to get to and clean. The hard drive is awesome. It’s screaming fast, but so quiet I barely notice it. It has a clear plexiglass window to show off the top platter and read/write head. It’s a shame my case isn’t designed to show it off, though. Most of all, I love the motherboard I got. It is a thing of beauty. I was wary of the price, but it looks like it’s going to be worth every penny. The layout is standard ATX, but with a few design improvements to make connections more convenient. The heat pipe system is perfectly situated to utilize spilloff from the CPU cooler and includes a water block over the northbridge chipset, allowing for seamless integration with a liquid cooling system. The audio card that was included with it rivals my old SoundBlaster Audigy 2
. It has enough ports that I’ll probably never utilize them all, but it sure is nice to have the option. It also has a slew of handy overclocking features that I may use some time down the road. Hopefully, the rest of the components work out as well. Although, I am a bit worried about the power supply. I can accept that it isn’t modular, since my case has brilliant cable management features. But, it occasionally makes a subtle buzzing sound that has me a bit worried. I may just be paranoid since my last power supply incident, but I’m going to keep a close eye on it.
This project was long overdue. I’ve needed a new computer for years. Fortunately, it looks like I picked a pretty good time to put one together. Also, coupled with what I’ve learned over the years about selecting components, I was able to make choices that, so far, I’m pretty happy with. I hope that all of my future upgrades go as smoothly as this one did. Fare thee well!