Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Software Installs

This post will probably be rather short but I just wanted to chronicle my experience in installing the software on the new system. As stated in the previous post, the build began with a nice fresh version of Windows 7 Home Premium. As the system booted and started the install, I was expecting it to take quite a bit of time. Imagine my delight when everything went very smoothly and the system soon rebooted and I was presented with the Windows login screen.

After my initial login I installed my Avast! anti-virus software and prepared to let Windows start doing its updates. Oops! I had no internet connection. My last to computers were built by Dell so I had forgotten that all those drivers which were preinstalled on those systems now had to be installed by me. I rummaged around in the manuals and disks that came with all the parts and found the driver disk for the motherboard and inserted it. I followed the prompts and in a couple of minutes the drivers for the sound card, network card and a few other motherboard items were installed and running.

After a reboot, it was time for the video card driver disk followed by the driver disk for the SSD drive. I'm not sure the SSD driver disk was really necessary but it did have some good utilities on it. When the video software ran, it found a new version available on the internet and installed it. Windows then started its updates and while those took a little time, it was again relatively easy. It wasn't very long until everything was up to date and my system was ready to start installing games. Before I installed the games, I did do a backup of the system using my Acronis True Image software. This will ensure I don't have to go through a lot of those things again should I need to format the hard drive at a future date and start over.

In conclusion, I have to say this was one of the easiest builds and software installs I have ever done. Things really have changed for the better!

The Build

It has been probably ten or more years since I assembled a new system so I was rather excited to jump into this one. I remember the cuts and scrapes from the sheet metal cases, working to get the motherboard to fit into the case properly, setting motherboard jumpers to get things to work together, etc. Times have changed. I will walk through this build using pictures and a small amount of commentary.

As you can see from the photo above, I started the evening with a pile of boxes from the three different vendors I used.

Upon opening the case, I was surprised at the quality and lack of really sharp edges. It was organized very well. It came with three fans installed, one in the top, one in the front and one in the rear. As you can see in the photos there are plenty of drive bays (more than I will need or use I'm sure).

The first step was to install the power supply. I used pcpartpicker.com to mock up the system. This allowed me to determine all the parts would work together and estimated the wattage needed by the selected components. It estimated less than 350 watts so the 500 watt power supply should be more than adequate for now.

After attaching the CPU and CPU fan to the motherboard, it was time to fight with getting it to fit in the case properly.

I was again pleasantly surprised! After attaching the screw posts in the proper holes on the case, the motherboard lined up PERFECTLY and I then secured it with six screws. So far so good.

I installed the SSD drive in the slip-in drive holder provided, snapped it into place and attached the cables.

I then installed the memory, the graphics card and DVD-RW drive. Then it was time to attach all the cables. Again, this turned out to be a relatively painless process. I did have to spend a whopping two or three minutes looking at the manual to see where a couple of the front panel cables needed to be attached to the motherboard. Other than that, everything was color coded and labeled and very easy to connect.

I then spent a few minutes organizing and putting cable ties on the cables to increase the ease of air flow through the case. I probably could have done a neater job but I was in a bit of a hurry to test out the new system.

I added two case fans to the side panel of the case and then I was ready to close everything. As you can see from the photos below, I only hooked the power to on of the fans. If I have a problem with heat (which I doubt), I will power the other one up. This reduced the noise produced by the system a little.

Finally, with everything all buttoned up, it was time to do the "smoke test". The pretty blue lights came on and everything was off to a good start. I inserted the Windows 7 DVD and the install started. But that is the subject for the next post.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The New Machine

I'm a gamer. Once upon a time I was strictly a PC Gamer and had a vanity plate on my car to prove it. My wife bought me an XBox 360 several years ago and I started primarily playing games there but I missed gaming on the PC. The sense of control I have with a keyboard and mouse is light years ahead of anything I ever felt while playing on the console. The graphics also are usually much better on a PC (if your system can handle it).

I have amassed quite a few games on Steam during their "Christmas" and "Summer" sales and many of them have not been played. The other day while thinking about my game collection for the console and the massive quantity of PC games I own on Steam, I realized that buying a PS4 right now would not be the brightest move. What I really needed was a system that was capable of running the games I already own. I cancelled my PS4 pre-order and started working on a list of components to build me a new desktop gaming rig.

My son-in-law recently had someone put him a new computer together so I used his parts as a starting point. He is not a gamer so I knew I would have to make some changes but it was a decent place to start.I asked for suggestions from a co-worker regarding the video card and was initially looking to spend around $100. I went a bit over that amount. I had originally budgeted $600 for the system but I went a bit over that as well.

For the case, I went with the same one my son-in-law has:
Rosewill Challenger-U3 ATX Mid Tower Case       $59.99

Some other components I pretty much matched to his were:
LEPA ATX 500 Power Supply  N500-SA                $39.24
MSI 970A-G43 ATX AM3+ Motherboard               $66.99
Patriot Signature DDR3 8GB (2 x 4 GB)                 $72.29
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit(OEM)          $89.00

On the other parts, I strayed from his build a little bit (in the case of the graphics card, a lot). He told me the fans he bought were a bit noisy so I went with a different choice since they were about ten decibels quieter.
Cooler Master SickleFlow 120mm Blue LED Computer Case Fan x 2    $17.40

For the primary hard drive, I think he went with a 60 GB SSD but I bumped that up a bit so I could actually install a few of the games directly to the SSD.
Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 120GB 2.5-Inch SATA III      $99.99

For the processor I decided to go with AMD. I have good success with them in the past and I really liked this 6-core version.
AMD FX-6100 Zambezi AM3+ 95W Hex-Core 3.3GHz      $114.97
For the video card I wanted something quite a bit more than my son-in-law's machine AS I said, he is not a gamer and did not need the kind of graphics power I knew a lot of my games would require. I have always had good luck with nVidia cards in the past and since my last experience with ATI graphics cards left a bad taste in my mouth, I went with the GeForce again.

ASUS GTX650TIB-DC2OC-2GD5 GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB 192-bit GDDR5   $149.99 + 7.56 S&H

I already have a spare DVD-RW drive and currently have no need for a BluRay drive on this machine. I also have a spare secondary HDD for storage.

The grand total for the parts was  $717.42 not including the parts I already had.

My next post will describe the actual task of putting it together.

Thursday, February 2, 2012