My Second Blog Post - PC Building Edition

I was going to call this "My First Blog Post" but apparently I did one already, back in the day when Giant Bomb had achievements. I still remember those somewhat fondly...

Anyhoo, this second post is about my first time... building a PC. I had thought about it for some time, and decided it would a good decision for both the savings and experience. From what I understand, the savings aspect has diminished significantly - my friend used to build and sell PCs up until a few years ago, and I recently saw an article about how CyberPower is offering builds that are ~50 bucks above component prices. Still, building sounded like fun.

First things first: components. One reason I hadn't built before was the anxiousness associated with fears regarding compatibility - what it the parts don't fit? Obviously, I could exchange and/or return parts, but had that happened (spoilers: it didn't) it would have put a great damper on the whole affair. Thankfully, there's a great website, PCPartPicker. I fooled around, picked some parts, asked for comments, fooled around some more, and finally settled on a build based on performance and good Newegg deals (got the 7870 for like 180 bucks, and the i5-3470 for like 180 as well - not crazy, but definitely good for someone on a budget). All in all, I spent <700 bucks on the build, plus 150 bucks on a 24" monitor from a discount store. The only thing that still concerned me was the PSU - people were saying that Raidmax was shit, and it was Corsair or bust, but it had a 4-star rating on Newegg from 1000+ people - surely that's good enough?

Alright, enough foreplay.

First things first, the boxes. I can't wait for the future in which we have instantaneous delivery, preferably through a series of tubes, because waiting sucks. I got 2-day shipping, but that doesn't take into account that second day, when you're counting the minutes until the truck arrives. Anyway, here we are. Two big-ass boxes. GET HYPE.

Fucking packing peanuts...

After unpacking all that shit, this is what I'm left with (NOTE: the DVD drive and Wi-Fi adapter are salvaged from some shitty Compaq).

...wait, that's it? That... that doesn't seem like a lot. CPU, GPU, PSU, mobo, memory and hard drive... looks like it's all here... so far, looks good. Time to break open this motherfucker.

Alright, I skipped a few pictures, because I wasn't interested in documenting every minute detail. At this point, I was somewhat concerned about handling the mobo. They don't really have handles or "SAFE TO TOUCH" signs, so I was careful to only touch it on the sides, on the plastic as opposed to putting my hands on any circuitry. I "installed" the metal punched-out sheet that outlines where each input fits in the back of the case, and lined up the mobo (I keep wanting to say MOBA...).

Hm... it's... it's not really lining up. Is it supposed to be off-kilter like that? Let's read the manual.

Oh, I didn't screw in the "adapter" screws onto which to place the mobo. Fuck. (*insert Benny Hill montage of unscrewing mobo, screwing on screws, screwing in mobo*).

(NOTE: At this point, things started going kinda wrong, so I said, "Screw taking pictures", so the next pic will be the completed computer installing Windows. Fuck, I spoiled the whole thing.)

Alright, that's over with - no more mobo insanity. Installing the CPU was fine as well. Like I said, CPUs are generally regarded as fairly delicate, and videos place emphasis on "DONT TOUCH THE FUCKING PINS". I take it by the sides, put it in, and shut the gate. I nearly have a heart attack when I hear scraping/metal groaning noises, but it turns out to be the gate scraping the mobo plastic. Phew.

Alright, install the memory sticks, install the video card, screw in the PSU. Getting the hard drive in took a second (I hadn't deal with tools-free cases before), but that was easy. Now, to install the DVD drive and the WiFi adapter.

Oh, the DVD drive is an ancient piece of shit that has a pATA interface and the mobo doesn't have one. Fuck.

Oh, the adapter is PCI, not PCI-E. Double fuck.

In retrospect, that was kind of funny because of how unprepared I was for the fact that fundamental aspects of hardware interfaces had changed. I quickly got my ass down to Best Buy, got a SATA drive and a USB Wifi adapter (probably will change out for a PCI-E, but it's alright so far, even at 36mbps...).

Alright, now to connect everything to everything else.

Aaand... queue the panic.

The case has three fans, with three-pin mobo connectors. The mobo has approximately zero three-pin connectors. holyshitholyshitholyshit oh wait, three-pin connectors fit perfectly on the four-pin connectors. Phew.

Time to connect the front panel USB/audio/LED light/power button cables.

FUUUUCK.

In the course doing all this, I had bent a single pin on the USB 3.0 interface on the mobo. The cold sweats started. Long story short, I was able to fix it by bending it back and pushing in the cable. Having heard how important it is to NOT touch the pins, I was understandably concerned, but apparently, computers are more resilient than I thought (spoilers: the USB ports work).

The audio cables fit without a hitch.

Now the power/LED cable. They interface via two-pin connectors.

WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE TWO-PIN CONNECTORS.

This is the part where Benny Hill could have helped pass the time, as I spent the next half hour experimenting with various pins. There were a few two-pin connectors that worked (I tested this with the LED light) and looking back, I assume they were connected to the mobo battery. The LED works, but plugging in the power connectors did nothing. As a last, final resort, I looked into the mobo manual again. Ooooh, they already provide an adapter into which you can slot the three two-pins and use the 9-pin connector in the corner. Apparently reading is an important skill - you should try it sometime, kids.

Alright... at this point, everything is looking good - PSU is plugged into everything, everything is plugged into the mobo. The messy cables are annoying, but I don't plan on cracking the case every day - let them hang in the air like they just don't care. Time for the ultimate test... WILL IT BLEND WILL IT TURN ON?

It works... it's a miracle. Take note of the DVD drive on the table on the right - still kind of baffles me. Granted, that Compaq was about 7 years old, but it still seems weird that such a basic, fundamental, core function would change, and that the mobo wouldn't even have the option to interface with it. At the very least, I got a chuckle at the master-slave ribbon cable in the Compaq.

And... that's basically it, folks. I hope this goes to boost the confidence of some people too nervous to pull the trigger on their own build. To be perfectly transparent, it definitely is a stressful operation (for a first-timer), but unless you're building at your local saw-mill or greenhouse, there's very little that can go wrong. Think of it as a 700-dollar LEGO set... with 8 expensive pieces. At this point, I'm much more confident in my decision to buy and play around with some Arduino/Pi boards (obviously these things aren't the same process, but I've been looking into Arduino for some time).

PS Like I said, this is my second blog so, aside from comments on the build, I'd appreciate comments of structure and format. Looking over the post, it's kinda huge and unwieldy, but I can't think of a better alternative.

8 Comments
8 Comments
Edited by Levio

If your computer weighs a ton like mine, you'll be glad you never managed to get that optical drive in there whenever you have to move it.

Posted by JJWeatherman

Cool, you should continue to update us on how things are going. What kinds of awesome games have you been cranking the settings on? Played any PC exclusives that you'd been wanting to play forever?

As far as your formatting, I think it's mostly fine. The photos are a bit of a mess, for example the spot where you cram three photos of boxes and packing peanuts into one spot and crunch the text between them. I'm also not the biggest fan of using so many line breaks, but it's a style. Oh, and if you can, use headers, bullet points, tables, etc. It's all there to make things more organized and readable, so take advantage.

Posted by SpoogeMcduck

You had me just about ordering a new 4th gen intel and a bunch of parts in order to build my first real gaming rig. But then I saw a pre-made option that only cost $50 more than what the parts were going to come out to be, so I bought that instead. Just waiting on it to show up, though it was shipped by Ontrac, a company that likes to leave things in front of apartment doors...

Edited by ch3burashka

Quickie update - my 7870 is fucking up. I tried messing with drivers, re-installing, installing old ones - no go. It started crashing more often, and hanging on the "Starting Windows" screen, kicking me to System Restore, "restoring", then freezing again. I finally decided to RMA it just to be safe. Will report in a few days (or week - depends on shipping).

Here's a tiny lesson for you, kids - just because you plan on using a dedicated graphics card doesn't mean integrated is useless. Had I gotten the 3350P (I think that's what it was) as I had originally plan, I would have been up shit creek sans paddle, as that particular model does NOT have integrated graphics. Glad to not have to deal with that.

PS In case it's not the 7870's fault, does anyone know what the fuck to do with "0x490" errors? System Restore said, "It's probably due to driver issues..." but that's it. Internet forums have been fairly confusing and suggesting a bunch of stuff...

Edited by JJWeatherman

@ch3burashka said:

Quickie update - my 7870 is fucking up. I tried messing with drivers, re-installing, installing old ones - no go. It started crashing more often, and hanging on the "Starting Windows" screen, kicking me to System Restore, "restoring", then freezing again. I finally decided to RMA it just to be safe. Will report in a few days (or week - depends on shipping).

Here's a tiny lesson for you, kids - just because you plan on using a dedicated graphics card doesn't mean integrated is useless. Had I gotten the 3350P (I think that's what it was) as I had originally plan, I would have been up shit creek sans paddle, as that particular model does NOT have integrated graphics. Glad to not have to deal with that.

PS In case it's not the 7870's fault, does anyone know what the fuck to do with "0x490" errors? System Restore said, "It's probably due to driver issues..." but that's it. Internet forums have been fairly confusing and suggesting a bunch of stuff...

Doing a bit of Googling, it seems like your issue may be with some corrupted Windows files. Formatting your hard drive and reinstaling Windows cleanly would probably fix it. You can also try repairing your install via the install disc. I think you can download and burn your own repair disc as well.

And it's just crashing during startup, not whenever you play games or anything, right? If so I doubt it has anything to do with your video card.

Edited by ch3burashka

@jjweatherman: It's not technically a "crash" per se - it sometimes locks up / times out during normal use, and that's to do with Win7 timing windows for graphics rendering (it reboots the card rather than doing a hard reboot).

The more pressing issue is after a shut down, or even a quick restart, the computer stops at "Starting Windows" and hangs there (I tried leaving it, but three hours later it's still hanging). I can recreate this fairly well, but the results are all over place: I have to restart the rig (via the computer face button), which kicks me to the System Restore/Repair screen. Here, 1) it restores / repairs, kicks me to the Starting Windows screen 2) fails to repair / restore, gives me a x490 (and sometimes x01f) error, kicks me to Starting Windows) and after either scenario, the die is rolled again whether or not it will boot up or not - sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, regardless of the results of the System Restore procedure. Right now I'm running off the integrated, and I'm having no problems.

I realize RMAing is a fairly drastic measure in terms of troubleshooting, but I saw at least one forum post attributing their issues to the card, getting a new one and having their problems disappear. This way, I'll at least guarantee (with a ~99% certainty) that the graphics card is fine and it's the software that's at fault. The 4-5 days are worth the "peace of mind", that is, the inevitable process of software troubleshooting...

Posted by JJWeatherman

@jjweatherman: It's not technically a "crash" per se - it sometimes locks up / times out during normal use, and that's to do with Win7 timing windows for graphics rendering (it reboots the card rather than doing a hard reboot).

The more pressing issue is after a shut down, or even a quick restart, the computer stops at "Starting Windows" and hangs there (I tried leaving it, but three hours later it's still hanging). I can recreate this fairly well, but the results are all over place: I have to restart the rig (via the computer face button), which kicks me to the System Restore/Repair screen. Here, 1) it restores / repairs, kicks me to the Starting Windows screen 2) fails to repair / restore, gives me a x490 (and sometimes x01f) error, kicks me to Starting Windows) and after either scenario, the die is rolled again whether or not it will boot up or not - sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, regardless of the results of the System Restore procedure. Right now I'm running off the integrated, and I'm having no problems.

I realize RMAing is a fairly drastic measure in terms of troubleshooting, but I saw at least one forum post attributing their issues to the card, getting a new one and having their problems disappear. This way, I'll at least guarantee (with a ~99% certainty) that the graphics card is fine and it's the software that's at fault. The 4-5 days are worth the "peace of mind", that is, the inevitable process of software troubleshooting...

Well that's interesting. If it works, it works. I hope the new card does as well as the integrated graphics.

You weren't trying to overclock the graphics card, right? Because I think I've had system hangs and things like that in the past when messing with core clock and memory speeds on my GPU.

Edited by ch3burashka

@jjweatherman: Hell nah! I want my shit to last, and my needs aren't that great.