How I built my new PC

 
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Introduction
This article was actually written way back in 2008, and I was almost finished with it when I sort of lost interest of the whole thing. But upon doing a major update of this site, I came across these pages again, and so I decided to finish them. Just have in mind that the information found here still reflects what I knew back then, and that in retrospect I wasn't quite pleased with some of the components I chose.

It was originally meant to be a guide explaing how to build a PC, but for it to be a decent guide it would have had to be much more detailed and more generic where I would cover the various alternatives out there, for example if the computer should be for serious gaming (fast and expensive) or for simple generic stuff like net surfing (slow and cheap) or maybe even a compromise between these two things. So this article can't be considered to be a definitive guide to building a PC, but after reading it you might be inspired to try it yourself. When all this is said, it is quite possible that I will write a more detailed guide in the future.
 
The article is split into four pages:
 
Page 1  -  Introduction, Some general information & The components I used.
Page 2  -  Putting everything together.
Page 3  -  Some later upgrades and problems.
Page 4  -  New motherboard.



Some general information
Before we start I thought I should answer the question some of you might be wondering about now, and that question is:

"Is it very difficult to build a PC?"

And the answer to that is that it all depends on what knowledge you already have, but try to answer the following questions:

1. Can you use a screwdriver?
2. Are you able to read a manual if you're not quite sure how a certain thing should be done
3. If you try to insert a plug or component into a socket and it doesn't seem to fit, are you capable of thinking about turning it around and trying again?
4. After turning the plug/component around only to discover that it still won't fit into the socket, are you able to figure out that maybe the plug/component shouldn't go in there in the first place?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, then yes you should be capable of building a PC! But don't get me wrong, it's not exactly like playing with lego, because components might get damaged if handled carelessly or incorrectly, and they are a bit more expensive than lego too. To put it like this: technical knowledge isn't the most important thing to have for stuff like building a PC, but you should have a certain degree of common sense (and that goes to life in general too :-).

Like mentioned above, you should handle your PC components with care, and one example of this is that you should hold the motherboard, graphics card and all other cards (like PCI) by the edges and not by having your fingers all over the components of the cards. Another thing is that you should never touch the connector part (which goes into the motherboard slots) of the cards.

Other than that I can also mention the dangers of static electricity which you can get in your body by simply walking over a rug or touching a door knob for example. In most cases this is harmless stuff which at worst can be a bit annoying, but it can be enough to kill computer components! The easiest way of getting rid of static electricity is by touching something of metal which is grounded, some examples of this can be the power supply unit in your PC or a radiator, or an alternative to this is to use an antistatic wrist strap.

All in all, it isn't that hard to build a PC since most components are designed to fit only one way, if you try to insert something the wrong way round, it simply won't fit! This goes for both the CPU, power connectors, memory modules, graphics cards, pci cards, pata/sata connectors etc. Another thing is that everything is standardized, this means that you can buy all parts required and everything will fit perfectly together, one example is that any type of cabinet will have pre-made screw holes for mounting any type of motherboard inside it. The only thing to consider here is that both an ATX (big) and an microATX (small) motherboard will fit in an ATX cabinet, but an ATX motherboard will be too big for an microATX cabinet. That being said, one might encounter some small niggles with certain components conflicting with each other, one example of this is the side panel airduct vs. the graphics card cooling element conflict I encountered (which you can read more about later on).

But before you go all willy nilly with purchasing parts for your new PC, there are some certain core components that must fit perfectly together, and these things are the motherboard, CPU and memory module(s). When you find the CPU you want, you must also find a motherboard that supports that processor, likewise if you select the motherboard first, you must also find a CPU that it supports. The same goes with the RAM module(s), be sure to select something that is supported by the motherboard you choose. Another thing is that you must select a CPU cooling element designed to be used with the processor you want, here it isn't only that it physically fits that matters, you must also check that the speed of the CPU is supported by the cooler.

Well that's it, in the next part of this article you can read about the components I chose for my new PC.



The components I used
Before I start to explain the process that was involved when I built my new PC, I thought I should give some information about the parts I used and some explenations about why I selected exactly these components:
 
Tower cabinet: Fanner Tech Spire - BlackFin SP-7090B
  
I had the following criterions for selecting a cabinet for my new PC:
 
1. The main color had to be black, this is because I'm so freakin tired of beige/grey cabinets now.
2. It should have plenty of space on the inside for adding more drives later on.
3. It should not have a front panel door that has to be opened everytime I want to insert a cd/dvd.
4. It should not have a lot of fancy lights everywhere since I personally don't like pc's that lights up like christmas trees.
5. The cabinet should not be too "experimental" in the design.
6. It should have a couple of external front usb connectors which is not located at the bottom of the cabinet.

It turned out to be a rather difficult task finding a cabinet which matched everything mentioned above, so I had to compromise a little. After comparing a couple of cabinets, my choice fell in the end on this Spire midi tower, this was despite the fact that it has the front usb connectors at the bottom, something which means that I have to bend down and fiddle around a bit for connecting stuff to the usb ports. It is a rather cheap cabinet, but I'm quite happy with it since more expensive cabinets in my experience cost more because of the design and fancy details (which doesn't have any real functionality whatsoever).

The only small niggle I have with the cabinet is that the manufacturer could have added a couple more standoffs (which goes between the motherboard and the plate it is mounted on) in the package.
 
   
PSU: Chieftech PSU Turbo Series 750W
  
You might wonder about why on earth I need such a beefy psu, well the answer is quite simply because I want to buy a second graphics card in the future, and the plan is to run both graphics cards in SLI mode for improved performance in certain games. In order to achive this I must have a rather beefy psu where the minimum is 650 watts. It must be said however that it doesn't mean that 750 watts will constantly be drained from the psu, no 750 watts is the maximum load that the psu can deliver.

My choice fell on this Chieftech psu simply because I think it's good value for money, and another reason is the cable management system it offers. The latter means that the user have the possibility to only attach the most necessary cables internally, and cables that are not meant to be used can simply be left out. This means less clutter in the cabinet + much better airflow.
 
   
Motherboard: MSI K9N SLI Platinum
  
I was considering several motherboards for my new pc, but in the end I decided to go for this MSI motherboard. the main reason for this was the expansion possibility it offers. Not only is it possible to attach two graphics cards to it (for running them in SLI mode), this mb also have two PCI Express x1 slots and three PCI slots. In addition it has six SATA II ports and three USB 2.0 connectors (which supports up to six additional USB ports). I'm not sure if I ever will have the need for all these slots & ports, but it is nice to know that my pc really can be expanded in the future.

Another thing is that this motherboard still supports the old legacy ports which are the parallel, serial (COM1), PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse ports (one of each). I'm currently using the keyboard and mouse ports right now, but I don't know if I ever will use a parallel or serial port again, but it is nice to know that I have this possibility.
 
   
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ Socket AM2 - 3.0 GHz
  
The CPU was the first thing I selected for my new pc. I must say that I generally prefer AMD processors over Intels offerings, this is because I think AMD represents better value for money. So just like with my old pc, I also decided to go for an AMD processor this time, but unlike with my old pc where I bought a CPU in the lower range of AMD processors (Duron), I decided to go the other way this time and buy a CPU in the higher range instead. It must be said however that my CPU isn't the fastest in this particular family of AMD processors, the top one is the Athlon 64 X2 6400+ at 3.2 GHz, but at the time when I bought my CPU, I didn't think that the extra 0.2 GHz really was worth the cost, so decided to go for the one I have now.

In addition to the CPU itself, the box also included a CPU cooler which I'm currently using now, I have however plans of replacing it with a more quieter one in the future.
 
   
RAM: OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Platinum Revision 2 XTC Dual Ch. 2 GB Kit
  
One thing I knew for sure before I started purchasing parts for my new pc was that I wanted plenty of RAM for it, so I decided to go for a 4 GB solution. The reason for this was that although 2 GB seems to be the current standard nowadays, I wanted to be prepared for the future. My choice fell on memory modules from OCZ since I have heard good things about the quality of their products, so I bought two 2 GB kits leading to a total of four memory modules with 1 GB RAM on each. One nice feature of these modules is the heatspreaders that are mounted on them, this surely helps with the heat dissipation and cools down the chips.

I'm currently using only three of the modules since I couldn't get the fourth one to work properly with my current setup, I will try the remaining one again later on.
   
Graphics card: MSI 512 MB NV G8600GT PCIE
  
Since I wanted my new pc to be able to run the most recent games, I wanted a graphics card that could handle this task. Other than that, I was also looking for a card with 512 MB RAM which also had the possibility of running a secondary graphics card in SLI mode. Based upon these criterions, my choice in the end fell on this card from MSI which at the time of writing can be considered to be in the upper part of the mid.range graphics cards. I was a bit worried about there not being a cooling fan mounted on the card, and that it instead have a rather large cooling element. I wasn't sure if this was enough to provide efficient cooling, but it turned out to work well, it must be said however that the fan attached to the side panel of the tower surely helps with the cooling. It almost seems like new technology have made it possible to manufacture fanless graphics card nowadays. As a matter of fact, many modern graphic cards are now fanless, at least in the low and mid range spectrum of cards.

My future plans involves buying a similar graphics card and then running them both in SLI mode for improved performance in games.
 
   
Harddisk: Samsung SpinPoint T166 320GB SATA2 16MB 7200RPM
  
I remember the very first time I tried a harddisk from Samsung, this was when I bought a 10 GB drive as a replacement for the broken one in my Amiga 1200. I remember that I was quite surprised and also a bit worried since I could not hear any noise from it when my Amiga was accessing it. This was not something I was used to, and I really thought I had purchased a faulty harddisk back then. But it turned out that Samsung disks really are that quiet, and I have had nothing but good experiences with all Samsung drives I have bought from then on. There are of course other harddisk brands that are faster then Samsung, but they are also much more noisier, and in my opinion Samsung makes reliable harddisks with a good balance between speed and quietness.

Needless to say, I went for a Samsung drive also this time. I was originally thinking about bying two identical drives for running them in raid mode, but I decided to drop this idea, and it later turned out that my current setup is fast enough for me. There are however a possibility that I will buy a second harddisk for increasing the total storage capacity on my pc in the future.
   
DVD recorder: Samsung 20x +R/+RW -R/-RW Lightscribe SATA
  
I was originally thinking about moving the DVD recorder presernt in my old pc to the new one, but I decided to go for a new recorder instead. The main features I wanted from it was that it supported both the +R and -R formats and that it had a SATA connector.(I got six SATA ports on the motherboard after all). I went for a Samsung drive simply because  I thought that since I went for Samsung on the magnetical drive I could do the same thing for the optical drive as well.
   


So there you have it - the main components of my new pc. In addition I can mention that this is the first computer I own which doesn't have a floppy drive, I decided to drop this since it was only on rare occasions I used the disk drive in my old pc anyway. Nowadays I consider the 3.5" floppy disk to be a really slow and unreliable storage medium with very limited capacity (just like the rest of the world :-). There might be certain situations however where access to a floppy drive will be required, but for these moments I can simply use my old pc or I can buy an external USB floppy drive. Another thing I can mention is that I decided to continue using my old Logitech mouse and multimedia keyboard since I'm quite satisfied with them, and since my new motherboard includes PS/2 ports, this isn't a problem. A bonus is that this allows me to have two of the USB ports on the back of my pc free to be used for other USB devices.

In the next part of this article you can read about how I actually put everything together.


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