It’s been two years since I built my new computer. Well, it’s been about two months since I built my computer, but before that, it was two years.
Well, not since I built this computer. This computer was built under harsh conditions in a Chinese factory, with the rest of the MacBook Airs, but my desktop computer, my gaming machine, was two years old.
There’s something very Grandfather’s Axe about the home-built computer. I say it’s a new machine, because my definition of a new machine is the new Motherboard/CPU and usually Case combo. In this case, it’s a new primary hard drive as well, but the other three drives in the machine came directly out of the old one, as did the graphics card, which I’ll replace this or next month as a separate thing. So it’s a lot of the old desktop, but with a new CPU, a new Motherboard, and a new name.
Building my own machine is more of a hobby than a dedication. I could buy a new gaming machine, but that’s a lot of money to spend all at once. Also, while mass-produced gaming PCs are now closer to the same bang-for-buck rating as home built machines, it’s a lot easier to get a mid-range variation. In this case, I knew my CPU was my main weak point – I’d under-specced on the last rebuild two years ago due to a temporary price spike – so I was looking for a new CPU/Mobo combo combination.
Building a PC is practically lego. There are compatibility things to be aware of, but in general if it fits, it works, so long as it’s the right generation. So since I’m build from a CPU, everything will flow from what of those I buy. The full and eventual specs of the machine are online if you want the numbers.
Scan were selling a bundle on a CPU, Ram, Motherboard, SSD and Water Cooling set for less than the CPU + Mobo + SSD would cost me, so I went for that. It’s the first time I’ve ever used water cooling, and while it’s an integral unit, it was an absolute arse to fit. rigid tubes inside the tight space of a midi-tower make me sad, and my hands are slightly too big to make sodding around with plugging things into the CPU easy or fun.
Once that was in, the rest of it was mostly clockwork. The concept of a single separate block to plug all the random wires from the case into (LED lights for power/hdd, power & reset switches) which then plugs into the motherboard was really handy, as it meant a lot less faffing around with the Motherboard manual and wiring diagrams. The Asus Ranger motherboard I’m using also has a segmented LCD display to show a double-hex code indicating current boot status, which is handy for debugging (6A – Your memory hasn’t been seated properly).
The biggest problem turned out to be that my new machine didn’t have a working DVD drive – my new Motherboard is the first I’ve ever bought with no IDE ports at all, which my existing optical drive needed – and the motherboard’s network port was too new to be supported by standard Windows built-in drivers, so there was a certain amount of faffery getting the contents of the driver DVD onto the machine.
The hard part was, as it ever is, naming it. The tradition for my windows desktop has been precipitation-based weather systems (It’s 12 years since me and ccooke came up with the naming system for gkhs.net computers, but all mine are still water-based). The last several have been Maelstrom (2006), Tsunami (2008), Cloudburst (2010), Thundersnow (2012). Stumble around on Wikipedia for a while. New machine is Graupel.
Other than that, it’s amazing. It’s running so quiet most of the time I’m occasionally worried it’s not cooling at all, though that will automatically flip up a few levels if the cooling needs it (Plus it goes into jet-engine mode for a second or so on reboot, just to make sure everything’s working).
A few weeks later, my partner’s PC got mostly replaced with bits that used to be in the old machine, plus a new power supply, and suddenly everyone can run Dragon Age Inquisition, the machines all run moderately quietly, and all is quiet, peaceful, serene.