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Friday
Nov282014

Time to build a new PC

My main ‘work’ PC is on its knees after ten years of faithful service. I built a pair of them in 2004/ 2005 using AOpen motherboards (the fab AX4SPE Max II) and Pentium 3.0 / 3.2GHz CPUs, capable of mixing PATA and SATA drives, and having plenty of expansion slots for a wide variety of gadgetry that I would install in years head. Extra USB, Firewire, a twin tuner TV card, an eSATA port, an Ethernet card (after the onboard one failed), Lightscribe DVD writers, card reader & floppy... the trusty PC has taken everything in its stride and generally vindicated my decision to try building one myself.

I repaired it once when a small heatsink clip fell off due to a broken solder joint. The AOpen failed safe and shut itself down right on cue. I also upgraded it with a silent graphics card with no fan, and a near-silent Samsung hard disk. I stretched things out a couple more years by upgrading to Windows 7 Professional.

You know it’s time to swap though when it takes 10 seconds to open a window, nothing happens so you click two or three more times, then you get two or three windows opening at once. Web browsing grinds to a halt and anti-virus software brings it to its knees.  You have time to make a coffee while it updates itself. So, I’ve decided to build myself another, and I expect it will last me another ten years or till I hang up my guns.

Santa's come early with this pile of goodies! Intel i7-4790, Asus Z97-C mobo, Corsair memory and case, Gigabyte video, Thermaltake 630W Berlin, oh and Windows 7 Pro Here’s the final list of ingredients:

Asus Z97-C , a full size ATX motherboard with PCI Express 3.0/2.0 (2 off), PCI Express 2.0 (2 off) and vanilla PCI (3 off, but one will be lost) slots for any legacy stuff or expansion cards I might want to throw in, in years to come.  It has SSD support (M2 Socket 3) for the future too. In short it’s a pretty decent size compared to a micro ATX and it gives me room to upgrade it in the future.

The Asus Z97-C has clever fan cooling software (Fan Xpert 3) which I hope to fine tune and eliminate unnecessary fan noise. Because I can. Can’t stand fan noise when I’m working.

It’s LGA1150, so my choice of CPU is (slight overkill for now) an Intel Core i7 4790 3.6GHz, a quad core processor which supports hyperthreading, unlike the i5.  My old Pentiums dissipate some 100W and happily cycled between 35-50°C for ten years. I hope the i7 stock CPU cooler included by Intel is adequate, I expect it will be and I can upgrade to e.g. watercooling later if I want to play. I’ve bought some Arctic MX-4 thermal heatsink paste to improve heat transfer a bit.

Memory, it’ll be 2 x 4GB 1866MHz Dual Channel 1.5V DDR3 (Corsair Vengeance Low Profile). Middling price bracket. Don’t you just hate dumb, aggressive names.

Hard disk, 1TB Western Digital ‘Black’  SATA with 64MB cache.

While the motherboard has onboard Intel HD graphics support and graphics cards don’t excite me much, I’ve beefed it up slightly with a Gigabyte GT730  2GB (NVidia Geforce again), as a mid-budget compromise. Mine’s another silent type that has a big heatsink and no fan. It’s PCI-E 2.0. Cheekily the box says it’s compatible with PCIE-3.0 motherboards, (then in small letters: running at PCI-E 2.0 speeds). Some end-on manufacturer's photos imply it's a single-slot width, but in fact like most such videos cards, it takes up two slots because of the 35mm deep heatsink so I’ll lose the neighbouring PCI slot.  But the quietness will compensate for that, and no fan means less moving parts to go wrong. The power supply (see next) will easily cope with it (needs 300W+).

Power supply:  a 650W Thermaltake W0393RE ‘Berlin’ which meets the demands of the Intel i7. I chose to avoid more expensive ‘modular’ types where you only plug in the leads that you need to use (theory being that less wiring means better air circulation). The Thermaltake is a classic wire-ended, middling performance (700W peak) so should be future proof. Mainly, it is well priced and has intelligent fan cooling and is said to be ultra quiet. I found these are (don’t know why) part of their ‘German’ series. So the carton and instructions are in German. (Darn!) It auto-detects the mains voltage, and a UK mains lead was included.

I chose a couple of Asus DVD SATA writers, but separately I’m going to try rigging up my LG IDE/ PATA Lightscribe drives instead, once I figure out an adaptor. More on that later....

Next, the midi tower case: after a lot of mooching around I chose the popular Corsair Carbide 300R.  It’s well equipped with two fans (intake, 140mm on the front and exhaust, 120mm on the rear) and removable dust filters. There’s space for four hard disks, three optical drives and (importantly) seven expansion slots. USB3.0 on the front along with power and reset (‘cos not all have a reset button these days). It’s tool free. Seems like the days of the 80mm fan have passed.

Lastly, the operating system – I chose Windows 7 Professional OEM. I’m not interested in re-learning Windows 8 and I have a few legacy software compatibility issues to handle (more about those as time unfolds).

The whole of the above has been delivered by Scan International whose service was excellent from start to finish. So I’ve got a lot of unboxing to do! Over the coming days and weeks I’ll keep you posted with my progress. Can't wait to get started!

Reader Comments (1)

I agree, there is nothing more satisfying than building your own PC, be it for work or gaming. It is also a lot cheaper too when you consider that a top of the range motherboard and CPU can cost significantly less than an average or even poor pre built PC.

Nice Work!

August 16, 2015 at 9:31 | Unregistered CommenterSammy

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