This is originally for my group “Die-hard Progressive Builders” on overclock.net, but what the hell I guess others can read it too.
I started my build (my first and only personal build) several years ago. Around that time a friend convinced me to stop buying pre-built computers from local stores and build my own. After all, one could build a comparatively priced PC that works better than pre-built machines of the same era. Since then I’ve had a goal to build the best PC I could while still going on a budget.
My job was unstable, my income low, but my parents allowed me to stay at home. School was busy, but I always seemed to find time for building my computer. These things allowed me enough freedom to begin the build. However, I had no idea where to begin with my build. I was told Micro Center was the place place in town to find parts for a computer. That was a good lead. But when I went to the store I didn’t know the first thing about components I would need. There were parts everywhere but I didn’t know what to get to accomplish that goal of building something stronger than the last store-bought piece-of-under-performing crap I got from Office Depot on special sale! Basically, it was like sky diving into a forest without any destination and no clue where to begin or how to navigate out of the forest while hoping for the best.
Keep in mind, my income was low, so I had to go performance on-a-budget. Lucky for me, I met a uniquely understanding person who started me off down the right path. Curiously enough, the gentleman I met was Asian and not even part of Micro Center’s staff. (Hooray for Asians!) He showed me a great performance budget motherboard to start off with: a Gigabyte GA-EP43-UD3L rev. 1.1 priced at about $90. Perfect. Then he showed me performance RAM. This stuff wasn’t cheap. I didn’t really go on a budget here. He told me, “if you want performance, buy these.” as he showed me a pair of OCZ Gold PC-8500 1066Mhz RAM, 2GB a piece, priced at $110. (Once again, keep in mind this was a few years ago) I didn’t like the price, but I like the suggestion. More so, I liked the thick gold-colored, heat-sinked appearance of the RAM modules. I trusted him on this and bought a pair.
At this point I was a few hours in and the man had to leave. Or he was getting sick of me asking for help. Not sure. Regardless, damn!
So then it was time to get a processor. “Who am I going to ask?” (do I really need to say I said? Look, there are quotes.) blah, blah, blah, I found a guy. We settled on a Core 2 quad Q9550 as that was about the best the time had to offer. Again, not really budget, but it was, and still is, certainly worth the $200! “Now I’m broke. Looks like I’ll have to wait till next paycheck.”
Jump ahead to my next paycheck. “Ok, that covers the core components. Time to finish this thing!” haha Not. I hit up Best Buy this time. A high performing budget machine (actually, scratch the whole budget thing. I realized by this point I had to dish out some money) requires a good power supply and case. I ended up getting a 750 Watt Corsair power supply ($120, thanks for helping me pay mom!) and an Antec 900 gaming case ($50 now that’s budget!). I wish I would have realized then how small that case really is! Oh wait, I forgot to mention that I bought a crappy Pioneer disk drive that wasn’t even SATA (forget I mentioned that). “Time to put this thing together!”
I began work on my machine. Grab the case, put in the motherboard, screw it down, forget to put in some screw sockets, take the board back out, put in the sockets, put the board back, screw it down (again), read the motherboard manual, put in the CPU, get scared because of the pressure the socket bracket puts on it, realize its ok (phew!), put in the RAM, struggle with the power supply (“too many damn cables! What do I do with them?!”), slide in the disk drive and hard drive, connect all the headers, power, SATA, etc., stand it up, stare at it, admire it, and check the time. HOLY CRAP ITS MIDNIGHT AND I STARTED AT 5PM!! “Ok, time to turn it on!”
I dig out some periphrials and an old graphics card (an ATi x800 go ahead and laugh, I am too) from the basement and hook em up. *Click* (I push the power button) The computer starts. YAY!!! I watch the flashy logo screen and the post-logo, device screen. By now I’m really excited that its working.
Then the screen reads “FAILED TO BOOT: NO OPERATING SYSTEM”
“CRAAAAAAAAAP. I forgot to an operating system!”
“But wait, I’ll just grab that spare Windows XP SP2 disk! Whoo hoo!” (Once again, let’s laugh but this time for the fact that Vista and 7 were out and I didn’t have either). Ok, I installed XP and got it running. Well, the computer still performed better than my previous store-bought-crap. “But seriously, I need some better parts to replace that crappy graphics card and periphrials.”
Several weeks pass. I get another paycheck. “Time to get myself a graphics card!” By now I’ve learned about the awesome online parts store Newegg.com. I order an ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card ($170 still got some budget attitude left in me). I put it in the computer. “Whoo, that’s waaaaay better than the X800!” At this time I didn’t know what really good graphics are, so this was enough to impress me, a lot.
Several more weeks pass. I get a Razer Lycosa keyboard (cool) from Micro Center ($100 did I say budget earlier? My bad.) and a simple laser mouse (oh nevermind, maybe I’m still on budget.). More time passes. I get Crysis and enjoy playing that, although at this point my comp’s still not good enough to handle the final boss stably. “But I’m still impressed with the build!”
Then after a month or so I start to miss the thrill of building a computer. Its already built, but I just really loved the idea of building it. Could I do it again? Not likely. “Then what do I do?” Welllll, my friend (the one who convinced me to start building my own computer) convinces me to start overclocking. Not gonna get into that story right now. But I did get my Core 2 Quad to 3.4GHz stably. That distracts me from building for a while. Then a couple months later I get the feeling again. “There’s gotta be something else I can do with my computer!”
(Congratulations you’ve made it past the prologue haha this might be one of those stories where the prologue is actually longer than the story though so chin up!)
“I got it! Upgrades!” Yes, upgrades. So many upgrades. Oh, the upgrades! (You see my friends don’t understand my obsession with upgrading and find it to be quite excessive. I can hear them complaining already.) Where to start? Damn… hang on…oh, I got it (not yet, but I’m typing this anyway…ah, there we go!) The liquid cooler. I was sick of my CPU not being able to handle Crysis’s final boss fight without locking up from the heat, so I got a liquid cooler to manage it: The Bigwater 760is (didn’t realize it was one of the over-priced low-end ones, but hey this is a learning experience, right? Besides it still got the job done). Cool, but several weeks later, I was still feeling the feeling again.
Once again, my friend convinces me (go figure) to get a Cooler Master HAF 922. Thank god for that case! I still have it too. It really helped with the whole BILLIONS OF POWER CABLES thing. “Its starting to look good!” But here comes another problem. “My fans are blue and the front 200mm case fan is red! AHHHH” So, I got red case fans, including another 200mm (I even replaced the thermaltake fan on the liquid cooling radiator, which was failing anyway). By now, my friends were thinking of how snobbish I was becoming. But no matter! Let’s just go ahead and get a blu-ray drive! (If you couldn’t tell by now, I gave up on that whole budget thing. I think I was up to about 1.5 grand by now.)
“Oh, I could really use a better mouse.” So I got a Razer Naga. “And a better keyboard.” (A Logitech G110, which is WAY better than the Razer Lycosa mind you.) “And why not a fan controller?” “And a RAM cooler!” *Insert line about friends response here* Moving on… Here comes the big one: A nVidia GTX 470 to replace the ATI 5770. (Budget? Really?! Also, nVidia for (the rest of my) life!)
Where to go from here…hmm oh yes, 4GB more of RAM! (That’s 8GB) But wait! I’m not done yet! Three more hard drives! A raid controller! (RAID 0 with two 1TB WDs) A PCI Slot fan! A TV card! A sound card! A better monitor! Better speakers! Tablet! Games! What am I at now? 3 grand? I dunno, I forgot.
“OK! OK! JUST STOP!” Yeah, its probably getting too long huh? “YES!” But, but… “NO BUTS!” Alright, just an outlook on where to go from here. “UGGGH”
So anyway, this is getting pretty long. And if anyone’s read up to hear and liked it I thank you. That pretty much sums up all the changes made to my computer so far, as it is. But don’t think its over! I’m bound to get bored soon! (Although, I do need another job right now… damn!)
Ideas on what to upgrade next:
-Liquid Cooling system? (a D.I.Y. [do it yourself] loop most likely)
-Another RAM module? (to replace one of the bad ones)
-Modular Power Supply?
-New core components?