I Built a PC 20 Years After it Was Cool

Posted by admin on January 3rd, 2016 filed in Computers, Hacks

I finally did it: I built a gaming PC. I know, the eighties are calling, they want their IBM compatibility back — but they can’t get through, they’re on pulse dial, and we’re on tone! :-P

Honestly? I’m a lifelong Mac user who learned about Linux at uni. Windows PC? That’s the thing for Excel sheets and 3D games, right? The sum of my PC hardware knowledge fits comfortably into /dev/null. I saved up 1000 Euros, and asked several people for advice, and then decided what to buy.

I prefer energy-saving and quiet over noisy overclocked high-performance. Obviously I want to play Windows games on “ultra shiny” settings, but the only Windows games I have are Skyrim (4 years old), Space Engineers, Kerbal Space Program, Star Trek Online, and Minecraft. Let’s just say I haven’t succeeded installing the Minecraft Shader Pack. Seriously, none of these need overclocking.

Here’s the hardware I chose:

  • GIGABYTE GA-H170-D3HP H170, main board
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, GPU
  • Intel Core i5-6600T, CPU
  • Arctic Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2, CPU cooling fan
  • Crucial CT250 MX200 250 GB, solid-state drive
  • Kingston HyperX DIMM 16GB DDR4-2400 kit, memory
  • Be Quiet STRAIGHT POWER 10, 400W power supply
  • Cooltek X3, tower case
  • Pioneer DVR-221LBK, DVD burner
  • Windows 10 and Ubuntu

Okay, folks. Let’s buy shiny stuff, unpack, and perform the ritual of touching the heater pipe to placate the gods of electrostatic discharge. All set? Go.

gaming PC parts delivered

Step 1: Stay cool after cutting finger on cooler’s plastic wrapper. Check!

DIY PC unpacking. Cutting finger is a required step!

One important piece of advice I got was that the order of plugging components together is determined by reachability. Sockets will be hard to identify and/or reach after you screw fast the mainboard, so orient yourself before doing that. The tiny cables that connect USB and audio sockets to the main board are well labled nowadays. Mine even came with a “needle threader” thingy that keeps the tiny plugs in place! Try to get one of these.

PC cable threading thingy

Step 2: Leave cool fingerprint on thermal cooling paste. Check.

fingerprint on thermal cooling paste

I expected the CPU to have centiped legs, but apparently, that’s so last millennium? Today’s CPU sockets come with a sandwich-maker lever construction (silver frame) that holds the CPU (white) firmly in place. Suddenly, even a total newb can install a CPU.

CPU and main board

Four square centimeters of CPU need a cooler the size of a pint of beer. Impressive. … Now I suddenly want a beer.

large CPU cooler

I slotted the RAM and screwed the mainboard into the casing.
Next up: graphic card. Looks easy, the backside fit perfectly.

GPU backside in case

Step 3: Encounter stupid problem. Check.

What? The GeForce doesn’t fit into the Cooltek case?! There is an unused hard drive cage in the bottom right. And it doesn’t leave enough room for the thick fans of a pcie x16-size graphic card!

GPU too long for case 2

The cage edge pushes the card up a few milimeters, and the card cannot reach its slot. Grrrr. :-C

GPU too long for case

Our motto has always been, if it doesn’t fit, make it fit. Just drill out the headless screws with a hand drill, and the whole hard drive cage comes right off. Who needs hard drives anyway. Hard drives are for wimps. When we were young, we chiseled our data into clay tablets! In cuneiform! Uphill, both ways! Where was I? Ah.

removing harddrive cage from PC case

Thanks to Uli :-) for finding this efficient drill solution while I was downtown begrudgingly shelling out 100 Euros for a USB stick with Windows 10 on it, ugh.

You: “Oh, why didn’t you upgrade for free?”
Me: “Because I don’t have Windows.”
You: “But didn’t you know, you can upgrade Windows 7 or 8 to 10 for free!”
Me: “Yes, I know. I simply don’t have Windows. Not 7, not 8, none. I never had one. I’m a Mac user.”
You: “What. But. Free… Upgrade? … Mac?” *head explodes*

Windows 10. The most expensive USB stick ever.

A related issue: The SSD cable and the graphic card cables just so barely fit next to each other into the case. *eye twitches* It’s painful to look at. How do experienced builders prevent issues like that, how do you tell whether a specific combo of mainboard and cards fit into a case? From the size values we saw when we ordered, we thought it would fit.

not enough space for cables

First booting. Installing Windows, ethernet driver, graphic card driver, Steam. And finally, games. How do you say Ultra High Quality in German? Sehr hohe Qualität, baby! … That sounded less impressive than expected.

ultra graphic quality gaming

While I do enjoy looking at other people’s translucent DIY PC cases (you know, watch the night-glow cooling liquid pipes spell out the current time and date nixie-tube-style, and what not!) I don’t really need one myself. The case I chose is minimalistic brushed alu black.

pc case

I may or may not have put happy robot stickers on it.

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