This blog has been pretty dead for the last few days with good reason — the hand-me-down PC I have been using for the past year finally decided to give out, at least partially. Though it wasn’t my intention to build a whole new rig right off the bat, that’s what ended up happening, and I couldn’t be happier!
Saturday evening I was supposed to be online at a certain time so that I could record this week’s episode of Couch Podtatoes, when for some reason my computer wouldn’t boot. It would power on, fans would spin, the hard drive light flickered but nothing would be displayed on the screen. It was clearly failing to boot, so the first problem we (my Dad and I) believed was going on was that the boot drive was failing. However, that created a whole other problem with the operating system. There was a subscription service provided by Microsoft that was recently abandoned, in which you could get keys for the operating system, office, etc. The copy of Windows 7 I had installed was done so with a key from that service, and my Dad had recently tried using one of his other keys on his own computer only to find out that the key was no longer valid. As such, replacing the hard drive in the old machine would mean also buying a new copy of windows to install on it.
I didn’t mention the problem to him until Sunday, so we headed to Fry’s and picked up a hard drive, but they didn’t have a copy of Windows 8.1 in stock, and by that time it was already late enough in the day most places would be closed, so we put it off another day. On Monday we went to a couple more locations and ended up getting the copy of Windows. We thought we were about done with the project at that point, but when trying to boot from the Windows disc, we were still having the same problems. We determined that there had to be an issue with the motherboard then, because it wasn’t even getting us to the bios, which is on the motherboard itself. It was a pretty old piece of hardware, and he was pleased that it lasted as long as it did, though now it looked like a whole new rig was in order. I made an agreement to make payments on whatever was purchased, and the only parts I could really transfer over to the new machine was the video card (GeForce 750ti) and the two hard drives.
We went back to Fry’s and started picking out parts, though we had already done a bit of research and figured out mostly what we wanted before getting there. They had mostly everything we wanted in stock, though a couple of concessions had to be made despite being pretty negligible. The only other issue that arose was we picked a Corsair case and when we got home, looking at the reviews for it online discouraged us from even opening the box. We decided to take it back and pick out a new case, from a different location, and it ended up being a much better decision outside of one small problem which I’ll talk about in a bit. Here’s a couple pictures of the haul:
Asus Z97-AR motherboard
Intel i7 4790K Quad Core Processor
Patriot Viper DDR3 16GB Ram
Corsair 860 Fully Modular Power Supply
Corsair H110i GTX Liquid CPU Cooler
Asus 16x Blu-Ray Writer
Thermaltake Core v71 Full Tower
2x 500 GB Western Digital Blue Harddrives (transferred from old system)
128 GB Samsung SSD (boot drive)
MSI GeForce 750ti GPU Graphics Card (also transferred)
The build happened yesterday and took quite a long time, but I was learning as I went. I had prior experience with installing upgrades or swapping out drives, but I had never actually built a PC from the ground up. First things first, we removed the spare parts from the old machine and then unboxed the new case:
Next, we figured out how to remove the front and top panels, located all of the dust filters, and got a good feel for what the case had to offer. Then it was time to install the motherboard.
The next step was installing the processor, which isn’t as hard as what I remember from seeing older ones installed (with the billion pins you had to worry about bending) but I still let my dad handle it, because I didn’t want anything terrible to happen.
Next up was installing the RAM and the Video Card:
I didn’t take a picture of the hard drive installation process, but this is a “tool-less” case in that the hard drive cages come out with little effort and popping in hard drives was cake. The same can be said of the blu-ray drive bay, though removing the face plate was a little bit of a bitch. Next up was putting in the power supply:
Then we tackled the wiring. I didn’t take a photo of the back side of the case, but there are the rubber grommets on next to the motherboard where you can feed wires through, and the back side has a recessed area where you can get all of your cables in order without having them take up the bulk of the empty space in the case (or block air flow).
The next step saw us hooking up the radiator. It came packaged with two fans, and my Dad had a couple of extra fans lying around, so we set it up in a “push-pull” fashion. This means that the two fans on the bottom of the radiator pull air towards it, and the two on the top push air out of the case. Or maybe it’s vice versa, but either way, there are four fans surrounding the radiator that we mounted at the top of the case:
Here’s a view of the case after replacing the top and front panels. You can also see the blu-ray drive has been installed:
Next up, attaching the pump to the processor:
The process was finished late last night, and then I started installing Windows 8.1 and its updates. I crashed out early this AM and then set about installing all of my programs from there this afternoon. I’m still downloading and installing games at this point, but the bulk of the project is finished. It’s been a long ride and a learning experience but it was a lot of fun and I’m thrilled with the end result. The only qualm I have is that the top panel has some fan controls for the fans that came pre-installed on the case, and the controller doesn’t seem to work. It’s not a huge deal, but we did troubleshoot it and all signs point to a small circuit board that controls the fan speeds. We by passed the controller and still got power to those fans, but now I can’t use the top panel’s control buttons. Again, not a huge deal but frustrating when you pay $150 for a case and can’t really test that out until everything’s already installed.
So there you have it. Hopefully that’s a good excuse for my absence. I should also mention that there were some screens/photos that I lost in the process, so some of the posts I had in the works are fubar now, but I’m going to try and get back to my regular posting schedule from here on out. See ya around.
It seems that the fan controller issue I described earlier in this post wasn’t a problem at all. There was a bunch of wires that were already bundled on the side of the case that lead down from the ports and fan controller board on top. Most of these wires plugged directly into the motherboard, but the power supply for the fan controller was hidden among them. I had noticed it before while we were doing the build but it was thought to be for something else, and then forgotten. Once we connected that to the power supply, viola, the fan speed/LED controls worked, and now the fans are pushing harder, along with the LED’s shining brighter. Total derp moment, but it’s now fixed and I am pleased to know that the case was a great purchase (it was already, but that was annoying when I thought the controller was faulty). Here’s an updated picture: