I built a new machine as an early Christmas present for both my son and I over the past couple of days. My son helped me build it which was a cool experience for him. He is getting my current machine as a nice upgrade. His older AMD machine has been having all sorts of issues from not wanting to boot to booting but then not seeing the NIC or having the sound be bad. It could be a flaky power supply but I was due an upgrade anyway. Since I program for a living a 5 year old machine running a 32bit OS was starting to show its age.
It was a fun experience for him. I have a feeling we are not very far off from never building again so he may never use these skills. I looked for a pre-built box just to avoid the potential build headaches but could not find anything set up the way I wanted for a good price. If the price was good it was some crappy brand. If the parts were good it was $350-$500 more than the parts. I also drive a manual transmission. Cars and computers are like my coding - closer to the bare metal that many like to go. I write custom controls and never shy away from writing gut level code.
Here is the configuration
Intel Core i5 2500K
Thermaltake TR2 RX 750W Modular Power Supply
Samsung 22X DVD‘RW Burner with Dual Layer Support
Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 LGA 1155 Z68 ATX Intel Motherboard
Sentey Extreme Division Optimus GS-6000R Mid Tower
OCZ Technology Vertex 3 Series VTX3-25SAT3-120G
Zotac ZT-50303-10M GTX 560 Ti Overclocked 1024MB
ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 PCI Sound Card
Corsair 8GB DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800)
I went i5 instead of i7 after seeing in various websites that the i5 is a better gaming CPU due the hyperthreading getting in the way on the i7. I am not one of those "must have the top of everything" guys. I want a system that is stable and comes at a reasonable price. This is also why I did not get the $600 video card or the $1,200 dual video card set up. I bought all of it at the local MicroCenter. I normally order off NewEgg but they had a very limited processor selection and the price was higher than just picking it up local. NewEgg were cheaper on the sound card and DVD player but only by a few bucks. I just wanted to get it all at the same time ready to build.
I did go with a sound card even though the MB has built in sound. I have never been super impressed with motherboard sound and research shows the ASUS $30 to be a nice upgrade for a really good price. It is the 5.1 card, not 7.1, but I have a 5.1 setup I am happy with so it was the proper fit.
The SSD was a bit of a splurge. I have SSD at work and it is so nice to boot quickly and move right along after that. I am also moving over a normal HD to this setup to store music, images, etc. The case has a ton of fans but they are all pretty large and spinning slowly making the setup very quiet. The sound of a HD spinning is so familiar this just seems like it is not working at all. Guess I will even hear more of my game sounds when I get the chance to play.
Once it burns in for a few days I will fill out all the rebate paperwork and get that sent off. I hate rebates but I do have $100 coming back to me so it will be worth filling it out. I also need to download Assassin's Creed Brotherhood which I got for free with the video card.
I installed Win7 Ultimate 64bit and the Windows Experience comes to 7.5 with 7.8 being the highest and everything pretty much in that zone. Install was quick from DVD to SSD and boot time is faster than any machine I have ever used.
The build had two difficult areas. One was getting the stinking CPU cooling fan to seat properly. Seems I could get 3 corners in and have one pop out. The second was getting it to boot. Initially fans would kick on, single beep from post and then no video. I tried all sorts of things and gave up for the night thus making this a two day build. Finally used a screwdriver to short the CMOS jumper and then it booted. Not sure what in CMOS / BIOS was so annoyed it needed a reset especially since this is a brand new board and setup but that worked.
I turned off on-board sound in BIOS then watched the CPU health for a bit. CPU temp kept climbing so I shut it down and reseated the CPU fan again. Fired it up and CPU stayed at 45C for 20 minutes so I was happy and did the OS install.
I copied various files over from my server, installed updated video, sound and MB drivers along with Java and Eclipse. I still have a ton of other work to do to get it all in shape. I need to pull the HD out of my son's original machine and put it in my old machine so he can copy over files as he needs them. He will get to reinstall some of his games too. I did a backup of my Steam games and will move that over.
The new MB does not have IDE on it and I was planning on moving my secondary IDE drive into this machine. Guess I need a IDE / SATA adapter to do that. Right now all HD prices are up due to flooding so I hate to buy a SATA drive when I have usable drives to store music and what not. They might not be super new, fast and shiny but they spin up and hold data. I have access to what I need on our shared server drive so it is not a critical item but I hate to get in and out of the case too many times. I need to go in again to route power supply cables in a cleaner manner at the very least.
Going to be a number of days / weeks before I figure out everything I am missing. Always some utility you use rarely but need from time to time. Since my old machine is just going to my son and we are not reformatting it I will be able to move across anything I need with ease. That machine has dual HD right now so I will copy over everything I can think of from one drive to the other and put that drive in my new machine then put his old drive in there as his D: drive so he has access to his stuff.
Now I am ready to play some new games to see how this thing really works. I have Gears of War that I got for $20 a long time back. It always stuttered on the old box so I could never get into playing it. Now it should run just fine. Might be the first thing I install to prove this new beast was worth it.
Means I wont have much to open under the tree this year but really the holidays are all about watching other people open stuff you bought them. Shame I did not have the new setup over Thanksgiving when I got a second copy of Portal 2 during the Steam sale. My son and I played the co-op all day long finishing all levels. Near the end his machine would not show where the white goo was on the level so he could not place portals. My machine did things just fine. Could be a reboot of his machine would have kicked it in, could be his flaky machine would have never worked or his video card was just too old or memory shy to every handle it. He is so ready to play single player Portal 2 on a "real" machine that getting him to do homework is going to be rough. When daddy gets a new machine everyone wins.
* UPDATE *
Did a ton of data transfer last night. I now have my backed up Steam games installed (overnight process) and am downloading my free copy of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood today as it refused to accept $0.00 payment last night but did allow it this morning following exact same steps.
I have my son's old IDE drive in his new / my old machine and I copied over all his documents to the C: drive. As he reinstalls games we will move over the save game data from that drive and eventually we will remove it from the system as it is a waste of power to spin it up. I set up a new account for him and left my account so I can copy up to the network if I would happen to need something I forgot over there.
There were two IDE DVD drives in the case but only one is set to run right now as I stole the other IDE channel for the old HD. He is running without a burner at this point but with a slot load reader. Lets him install games but I need to get the burner back in place so he can burn videos and other school projects in the future. Of course we can burn them from the server, my wife's laptop, my machine or my other son's laptop meaning it is a hassle but not a big deal.
I installed Gears of War. It would not run saying I had a modified EXE. I installed the patch and it ran but it will not let me leave the video set up screen. I assume it is a Win7 64bit issue but gave up and went to bed instead of trying over and over. I will try a Steam game tonight but the ones I have use the old source engine so I doubt they show off the graphics card. I need to break down and by Skyrim but I really want it to go on sale. I have never paid $60 for a game and hate to start now.