Wednesday, April 8, 2015

So...I Built My Own Computer

Over President's Day Weekend, I built my first computer desktop in over 15 years, and boy have things changed! I took extra care to make sure I handled each piece with delicacy and made sure to have my anti-static wristband and anti-static mat available every step of the way.  If you EVER attempt to do this on your own, make sure to have TONS of detailed instructions with you, and the anti-static wristband and mat.  DO NOT overstep these as they could be the saving grace to every component in your computer.  If you try to do the build without these things, you run a VERY high risk of damaging the parts before they are even seated in your brand new computer!

Here are the parts I put in to my desktop and the total cost in the end:

I built this system for a few reasons.
  1. I used to be a strictly desktop person only back in my youth and high school days. Then I purchased a laptop when I went to college, keeping my desktop around until it decided to break down. Four years later, that first laptop broke down as well, so I went ahead and invested $1100 in a more customized HP laptop, leaving my desk empty of any desktop whatsoever. Now, 5 years later, that laptop is finally starting to fail on me, despite a complete refresh of its system and dumping all erroneous junk as much as possible. Thinking about the fact that I own a Chromebook, an older Dell laptop from a past job, a new Dell laptop for work, as well as my partner having her own laptop at home - I figured it was time to delve back in to desktops.
  2. You can't customize anything anymore from Dell, HP, or even Alienware! So I just decided to bite the bullet and build my own dogonnit.
  3. I didn't want to pay a bucket load for a more advanced system just because it was built by someone else and assembled. I'm pretty tech savvy and have engineering blood running through my veins, so I thought this was would be a great project to attempt, while also having a bit of fun.

The build took a long time, longer than I anticipated essentially. I expected to work on this beast for a good 6 hours or so - start to finish (finish being that I had the computer running completely). It ended up taking me 9 hours (10 hours total but I took an hour break for dinner).

I ran into a huge issue on my first attempt at startup...

The machine wouldn't turn on...!

However, the power button on my motherboard turned on, and I checked the voltage on all of the parts - they were all running fine. So it wasn't my power supply (which is usually the first culprit when a new machine won't turn on). 

At that point, I figured it was one of two things - either the graphics card wasn't inserted correctly, or my processor wasn't making appropriate contact with the motherboard through the thermal compound (a gooey, paste-like substance that assists in the processor powering the PC without overheating - can't make ANYTHING work without that gooey paste!).

I opened up the machine again and removed the CPU cooler, a big fan that helps with keeping the processor cool and stuck in its position without movement. As soon as I removed that and took a look at the processor, I noticed the problem. 

There was that gooey pastey thermal compound EVERYWHERE!! 

I removed the processor completely and took to it with my anti-static wristband, TONS of soft tissues, and a prayer or three. I wiped the processor clean of all of the thermal compound that it was basically caked in, wiped the mechanisms on the motherboard to keep the processor sturdy clean as well, and cleaned off the entire surface of the CPU cooler, also covered in compound. Once every piece was completely cleaned off, I went back to reassembling. I applied a MUCH thinner layer of thermal compound to the CPU cooler, spreading it evenly with a soft kitchen rubber spreader like you use to put frosting on cupcakes (still with my anti-static wristband on), and set everything back up. I plugged everything in to the power supply again, and made sure all of the connections were completely set and positioned properly one more time.

Upon my second attempt at powering on the system, it worked! I actually exclaimed "Hallelujah!" at the top of my lungs when it burst to life, and continued on with the initial setup and Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit installation.

The machine is beautiful and I'm quite happy with it. Once I get all of the drivers installed and am able to really stretch it's legs, I plan on putting my three favorite games Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Tomb Raider on my SSD (Solid State Drive) for fast play and load times, and seeing what this baby can handle.

With all of the components, and spending more money in the right places, I hope to have this system for a long time, and build on it as I can through the years.

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