Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Computer Build

It's been a while since I've built a complete computer from scratch, since my RedWire days during college. I wasn't what I'd call rusty but I've definitely been out of the industry for a while. I ended up
using an old ATX case I had laying around which worked perfectly but doesn't have much room for too many more devices. The process was a good refresher and reminded me why I left the business years ago.

I was in need of a new computer for some time, and I was trying to decide if I wanted another laptop or a desktop for my office. My only
computer, the trusty Dell E1405 Laptop has been going strong for nearly six years but was struggling with all of the programs I run at once these days. It's maxed out at 2GB of memory and that just wasn't enough when a quarter was bring used for the integrated graphics rendering which were mediocre at best.

I ended up ordering the following components from NewEgg.com. The goal was to build a machine that would last another 5 years and allow me to run any new application that hit the market within that time.

Motherboard: eVGA Intel P55 Core i5/i7 w/Gigabit NIC & SLI Support
CPU: Intel Core i5-750 2.66Ghz Quad-Core Processor
Memory: Geil 8GB DDR3-PC1066 Dual-Channel
Hard Drive: Western Digital 640GB SATA 3GB/s 7,200rpm 16MB Buffer
Video Card: MSI TwinFrozer 512MB GDDR3 PCI-E x16 SLI Video Card
Power Supply: OCZ 600 Watt SLI Slient Power Supply
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake Ti 1128 w/Copper Heatsink & Dual-Ball-Bearing Variable Fan
Optical Drive: Lite-On DVD+/-RW Burner w/Lightscribe
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

The physical configuration went well, even when plugging in the case buttons to the motherboard (usually a pain in the butt). I was able to get everything powered up without too much trouble then started seeing a handful of random blue-screen errors at odd times. I troubleshooted every piece of the machine looking for physical electrical shorts, proper seating of components and updating to the latest Windows 7 drivers. After an exhausting two days of research and testing I ended up determining that I had two bad sticks of memory. To confirm the problem I ran a memory test from www.memtest86.com that told me there were some unidentified errors. It wasn't until I bought a two replacement sticks locally that I confirmed there was in fact an issue. After swapping out the memory sticks and reinstalling the Operating System (for a clean slate) everything has been running great for over a week!

It is really nice to have a new, up to date machine again.

From this process I am certain that leaving the computer service industry was the right move for me. My patience with myself, troubleshooting my own computer was so short I can't imagine what it would be for countless strangers. The good news is that I'm still able to fix any problem... even some of the toughest blue-screen issues that Microsoft likes to deliver when your memory is throwing hidden errors.

Yay to multi-tasking at the speed of life again!

- Mitch G


At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Windows support said...

Anyone needing a new computer faces a tough choice: you can either go for a complete system, or you can build your own PC. As most complete systems are cheaper than the sum of their parts, when is it really worth it to build your own?

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous Technical Support Melbourne said...

Cool rig! I'm planning to assemble my own rig. Building your own rig can really help you save money. Thanks for the post.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Mitch said...

@ Windows Support - It is true, most new systems are cheaper than the sum of their parts but I believe there is still a benefit to building your own system when what is available in the retail market doesn't suit your needs. Even with all of the computer manufacturers in the industry, there isn't a lot of control over which components you receive and in what configuration you use them. Building your own system still allows you full control over the specification to suit your specific needs; it also helps to reduce the amount of waste on components and software that one doesn't need or want. I'd say for 95% of consumers, building their own system isn't worth the expense or hassle--the other 5% can really benefit. I spent a total of $650 on my configuration (not including the case and monitor I already had).

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Mitch said...

@ Technical Support Melbourne - Thank you! It was fun to build a system again, however, I realize why I stopped doing it professionally. It can be stressful when you're not working with a deadline and FAR more stressful when you are. If you need something specific in a computer then you're correct, you can save a lot of money--especially if you are re-using some basic components (monitor, case, etc). Thank you for reading and commenting!


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