Back in May 2009 I wrote a series of posts (parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) and this partial article as I built my new PC, my first ever attempt to build a PC. At some point (in the last 24 months) I obtained a spare Titan CPU heatsink and fan as an opportunistic freebie and upgraded the stock fan and sink that came with the original CPU, I changed the motherboard battery, and learned how to let the mobo manage the fans (which rendered my LED fan quieter but unlit), but other than that my build has served me well since 2009. Trigger’s Broom has done very well indeed for a PC – 5 years to the month and it still generally functions. If I didn’t want to push it a bit further with Minecraft rendering it would probably manage ok for another year or so, but I’m fed up of not being able to see far away and occasionally glitching and falling endlessly.
However the hard drive is getting full, the RAM runs at 93%+ when playing Minecraft, and I have to crochet during boot up so that it has time to settle down and become functional. So sadly, it is time to rebuild. This time I hope to engage a little patience and a little more brain and plan ahead better, though I suspect a few mistakes will be expected.
– Galaxy (bling bling) case: it’s crass but I like it. It’s an ATX form with reasonable space (aka it’s mahusive), fits my CPU cooler and drives, has unnecessary LED bling and a window so I can admire my generally unremarkable components and watch dust collect at my leisure; why change? However perhaps it is a little boring, so I sought opinions on how to paint it up, and got the best (and most obvious) suggestion from my cat-related Canadian friend. She suggested spray painting it to look like space/nebulae. So I went to Halfords and bought Mercedes Black, VW Tornado Red, Rover Kingfisher Blue and Ford Purple Velvet. Dad says he has some white for stars and clear laquer. Total cost so far, £25.96 (case was initially £30 which included a PSU that won’t be saved). Not painted it yet, the proof will be in the spraying. Also intend to stuff some LED fairy lights inside the case and spray the window too to complete the nebula effect (seriously, window is fairly pointless given my boring components…)
– Titan heat sink and fan, forgotten model: It keeps things cool. Coolio. Cost – free initially, free now, did bend the mobo a bit (a lot) when attaching so potentially expensive.
– LG DVD RW with Lightscribe (a feature which I have never used, I’m sure it’s lovely). Since building this PC I can probably count the CDs I’ve burnt on one hand. If I want to watch a film, I won’t be doing so at my desk for heavens sake, so I see no need to replace this. Initial cost £20 according to this blog (thank you useful blog).
– Peripherals – keyboard (newish), mouse (newish) and monitors (one bought 2009 running on VGA, one free from work with VGA->DVI converter into the DVI slot of the same graphics card), speakers (can’t even remember, probably date from 2006 Tesco PC purchase) all cheapish – I may upgrade monitors eventually but generally with peripherals I’m all about function over style. It works? Bonus. Carry on.
– 500GB 7200rpm Western Digital hard drive with Vista Home Premium installed – if I can get the existing HDD running as a dual boot I will be a happy bunny. It won’t, since Vista hates extra RAM, but I only really want it for emergency budget games, since I likely should get Windows 8 for the new harddrive. I don’t bother with Ubuntu any more, sadly. Or perhaps I should get some kind of virtual boot and use that drive for backup. I haven’t planned ahead this far.
– Case fans – they all do ok at the moment, and since being throttled by appropriate fan speed control on the mobo any case fan noise is drowned out by the PSU and CPU fans. I may upgrade them eventually but they are not a priority. I’ll give them a clean anyway!
I think that’s it. The stock card reader that was the only remaining component from the earlier PC of 2006 never actually worked in the 2009 build (didn’t miss it really, I have a USB adaptor for the rare occasions I need to read SD cards), and although installing an ancient 80GB PATA HDD from another culled PC via a PCI card worked initially that too failed at some point, and since I wasn’t actually making any use of it I didn’t even notice…
New Shiny Things!
– PSU – been researching this today. They are rated in the 80+ system which means they achieve 80%+ efficiency at 20%, 50% and 100% load. What it makes no comment on is how it functions below 20%, or other features such as build quality or reliability. For the former, apparently the key is to buy the wattage you need – no sense buying 1000W and then only using 50W as you have no idea how it functions at 5% load. This video article is interesting also, suggesting that my sort of PC (low end of the high market) really doesn’t use that much power. So for me a 500-550W should be plenty. For quality and reliability, brand and reviews are key. My current PSU rattles on booting, it is a generic that came with the case. Point taken, I’ll buy a brand. Then there is wired, modular or semi-modular. Wired is what it says – has all the wires you need or may need, some of which you don’t need. For modular you plug in all wires as needed. Semi is the compromise – it comes with things you will probably need wired in, and then anything extra is modular. Fewer wires means better airflow and better organisation, but higher cost. So I’ve gone for semi-modular (as I have relatively few components) and have decided on a Coolmaster GM550W semi-modular PSU. It has a bronze 80+ rating and a five year warranty, reasonable reviews and appears to be competitively priced at about £45.
– Graphics Card – This area I always have trouble with. Need to do more research. Potentially might be able to keep the existing card too for the second monitor? Not sure how that works…
– CPU – I think Intel over AMD, for no really strong reason, and I have read that the i5 will suit me fine and the i7 is unnecessarily beefy. I have yet to think further.
– Motherboard – My ASUS has served me well. I shall repay this by probably going for whatever accepts the CPU I want and has DDR3. Sorry ASUS, I’m not good at brand loyalty.
– RAM – DDR3 I believe is now normal, and I want to get one stick of 8GB I think. Or two sticks of 4GB. Probably doesn’t matter – technically two sticks is better than one as more channels is generally more efficient that crowding into one, unless you later plan to increase to 16GB. In reality, I am unlikely to notice the difference between 1 and 2 sticks and unlikely to need to upgrade to 16GB while still using the same PC. So I think I should get whatever is more economical, ideally 2 sticks as that’s likely to give me the most benefit longterm.Given that if I were buying a PC (the legit alternative to building one) I would have to pay full price, I’ll consider recycled components free. So cost so far for new build 2014 is £71 (paint and PSU).
– HDD – Looking for a mid-upper range 1TB drive I think. Slightly above average speed, 1TB is more than enough as I only use 265MB now. Could in theory stick with the existing 500MB drive as it’s fine and just install a new OS, but it would cause issues with reinstalling Vista and Office elsewhere as Office was limited installs and I assume installing off the Vista disc again would cause some arguments with keys etc.
– OS – Windows 7 or 8, though as stated am keen to keep Vista available as a dual boot/virtual OS somewhere for very old games. No idea which is best of 7 or 8, will need to research.
Part 2 to come when I have done more research into the remaining components!