I will be starting this blog with a series of posts about my recent computer build. I am a first-time builder, so this is very much a newbie story.
First, the background…
I am not a computer geek. I am not an engineer. I am not particularly good at household repairs or do-it-yourself projects. I almost always out-source anything that needs to be done around my house, but especially things that involve tools and come with complex instructions. So it came as quite a surprise to my family and friends when I announced that I was going to build a computer.
They were not surprised that I wanted a new computer, only that I had waited five years since the last one. I am a gamer, so I was accustomed to replacing my computer every two to three years to stay current in CPU and graphics technology. The cycle extended itself by a couple of years this time, because I had been playing World of Warcraft exclusively since 2005. My Dell XPS, purchased in late 2004, was performing to an acceptable level for WoW, web-surfing, email, and music.
However, the machine had recently begun to show its age by running hot and crashing to the desktop at the most inopportune moments. I probably would not continue to play WoW exclusively forever, and this computer would certainly not be able to run new game technology adequately. The announcement of Blizzard’s next two games, Starcraft II and Diablo 3, prompted me to plan for a replacement this year.
I had never been satisfied with factory-built computers, having tried everything over the years and settling on Dell for the past couple of units. I did not want to pay the outrageous prices for a boutique gaming machine, and I didn’t like the idea of buying from a local builder that could go out of business in six months leaving me with no service. The Dell units had been reliable but were not high-end performers and always contained some hardware compromises that left me saying, “It’s good but…” In addition, every pre-built machine comes loaded with demo programs and unwanted applications that only serve to bloat the registry and consume resources until you can track them down and kill them. A gamer’s worst nightmare…
The logical solution, for both price and performance, was to build my own unit. I would know how it works, and would be able to replace defective components if needed. The operating system would be a clean install with only the necessary applications. Future incremental upgrades would be possible, unlike Dell units with their proprietary motherboards and non-standard cases. And there was the gamer’s true dream – that bright light shining in the distance – drawing me in like a moth to a flame… overclocking! I could pay for $300 in CPU performance and get double that or even more just by changing a few settings in the bios. Who wouldn’t like that? The appeal of overclocking was second only to tube-rolling in terms of satisfying my urge to tweak.
There was only one problem… I had no idea how to build a computer. What if I spent $2000 or more and ended up with something that looked like Frankenstein’s monster and performed worse than my current Dell? Or didn’t work at all?
I began to gather my courage. I had put in a processor chip once, although it was a Pentium chip… no, not Pentium 4… I said Pentium – on an IBM Aptiva! I had changed memory modules and graphics cards on several occasions. I had replaced hard drives and even a CD drive once. I had formatted hard drives and installed Windows many times. So my experience was above novice level, or at least that’s what I managed to convince myself.
I consulted my team of experts. Well, my friend, s1rrah, to be exact – the only person I knew who had ever built a computer. He said, “Go for it! You can do it!” Then he proceeded to speak in tongues for several minutes, using some obscure language that included words like lapping and a bunch of acronyms like SATA and SLI. But I only heard the first part anyway, and the idea began to take hold. I googled “build your own pc” and there was a guide – with pictures! I read it and it didn’t seem that tough. My confidence was building.
I started an Excel spreadsheet to budget for the project and my generic idea of what each component might cost compared favorably to the Dell that I would have ordered if not stricken by this new compulsion. Of course, being a veteran of Head-Fi, I knew that I would exceed this budget but it made me feel better to have a plan.
I now had means, motive, and opportunity. The decision was made. I was going to do it.
Next step… plan the build and acquire the components.
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