C is for Computer [Assembly Pics]

I have really good news – not only do all of the components that shipped with my computer work but this beast really rocks the house! I was actually concerned some of the components (no matter how reputable the manufacturer) might be defective (when newly shipped). Fortunately for me, everything that shipped was functional.

The computer arrived sometime Wednesday, December 12 at around 3:30-ish. Here’s an account of the following 12 hours after when all of the components arrived.

I wanted to take pictures of all of the boxes and then of all of the components out of their respective boxes:

(click this link for high res version)

Furthermore, I wanted to take before and after pictures of my room (with only the older computer and then the new setup with both computers):

Before Shot of Room
(click this link for high res version)

So I probably spent an hour and a half or so unpacking, taking pictures, and then organizing my unpacked goodies.

Now onto the fun stuff. The first component I opened was the case [1]. I have to praise cooler master on the case as it is incredible. Not only did it make the assembly process easier and more enjoyable, but I absolutely love how the new PC looks with that case. Plus, because it is a full tower ATX case, the inside, with all of the components installed, is vary spacious. I installed the fans [2], the SATA DVD Drive [3] and the hard drive [4] without picking up a screw driver. The motherboard [5], the power supply [6] and the floppy I did need a screw driver for.

Installing the DVD Drive and the Hard Drive into the case was easy so I did them first. Then after unpacking the motherboard, I knew the processor would be next. I did manage to get a picture of the processor (probably the last time I will ever see it) before mounting the Tuniq 120 heat sink fan on it. Unfortunately, I had the camera set so it focused on the background instead of the foreground and the picture of the processor’s bottom side [7] came out blurry.

Now the processor did come with a stock heat sink fan, but that thing is mediocre at best and was of course replaced with after market goodness. Below is a side by side comparison with the Intel stock heat sink fan on the left and the Tuniq 120 after market heat sink fan on the right:

HSF Comparison
(click this link for high res version)

On the Intel HSF on the left, the gray strips are thermal strips. I used the Tuniq 120 HSF on the right with arctic silver thermal compound. I had forgotten how to apply the arctic silver and found this very helpful guide for doing so. Here is a shot of the thermal compound applied to the top of the processor [8]. Note – before applying the compound, I did clean both the top of the processor and the bottom of the heat sink fan with isotropyl alcohol applied to a static free (eye-glass cleaning) cloth. Any residue (such as a finger print) between the air tight connection of the processor and HSF can reduce the cooling performance of the HSF for the processor.

The Abit IN9 32X Max provides braces for placing a 40mm fan on top of the passively cooled north bridge 680i chipset. After installing the HSF, I then placed the ram [9] and the 40mm fan [10] on the motherboard as well [11]. Then the graphics card [12] was installed onto the motherboard next. Then finally the motherboard was mounted onto the case culminating in the following:

(click this link for high res version)

I did my homework with this motherboard, as it was by far the most difficult component to choose. My advice to you to limit motherboard selection (as there is what seems like millions of motherboards out there) is to consider computer parameters:
1. What ram (specifically ram bandwidth) do you want your computer to be able to support?
2. Do you want SLI?
3. What processor will you be going with? Is it AMD or Intel? If it’s Intel, what is the FSB speed?
4. Do you want PCIe 2.0?
5. What bios features do you want with your motherboard?
I read for the ABIT motherboards that if your ABIT is shipped with a version 1.0 bios, that bios will NOT support 1333 MHz FSB chips (i.e. the E6850 processor I bought).

Now keep in mind, my heart was racing a little bit as I first powered on the computer. This is the point where we find if any components are defective or if I hooked up stuff incorrectly. I searched all over the motherboard manual, triple checking the components and the case to mobo connections, to ensure nothing was going to explode. Surprisingly enough and conveniently there were no jumper settings I had to mess with for the ABIT mobo. And when booting, I did was very happy to see no smoke and the screen light up. However, sure enough I got an error from the motherboard’s LED screen – 7F. Remembering what I had previously read on the net, I proceeded to power down the computer, install a floppy drive and make a bootable, flash bios disk and upgraded the bios to version 1.3 (latest version). You can find all of the available bioses for the ABIT IN9 32X Max here [13].

Then after flashing the BIOS, I did see a windows Vista loading screen followed by the dreaded blue screen of death. I then remembered reading previously that windows Vista will not install with 4 gigs of ram plugged into the mobo. After taking out one of the 2 gig sticks, it installed flawlessly. After installation, I placed the 2 gig stick back in.

Here is a mid night shot of me rejoicing in the fact that I have made it as far as a windows installation screen:

(click this link for high res version)

Once Vista loaded, then I installed some basic drivers and then powered down the PC again. I sloppily rigged up everything with the case open like that in case something did not work, then it would be relatively easy to get to it. Once I had a working Windows installation, I then (after turning the PC off) completed assembly. I twisty tied everything I could and installed the rest of the case components [14].

Here is an after shot of my room with the new computer:

(click this link for high res version)

I partitioned the 150 gig Raptor into 110 gigs (for Vista and other stuff) and 30 gigs (for XP). From what I read, both OS’s have to be installed on independent partitions. I have not installed XP yet. I have a really big research related deadline coming up this Wednesday, so an XP installation and then 3DMark06 score will have to wait till after Wednesday. I can say WoW, with all the settings cranked (including 8x Multi Sampling), and 1920×1200 resolution plays at 40 fps in major cities. Also, I ran Call of Duty 4, Unreal Tournament 3, and Civilization 4 with all the settings maxed out on all of the aforementioned games and did not notice any hitches, slow downs, errors, etc. – the games played very smoothly. I don’t know the /FPS command for the games I just listed, so I will have to report back later with exact frame rates.

The 40mm fan on the north bridge seems like a waste. It only wound up cooling the system temperatures by as much as a single degree Celsius. Maybe it might play a bigger role when I get into over clocking later. The computer does run COOLER with the case ON (as opposed to off). I was really pleased with this as I bought the case with air flow in mind. The processor idles at about 27C and under load tops out at about 32C. So much OCing will have to be done. The mosfet PWM temperatures run at about 42 to 46C (nvidia SLI chipset temps are apparently supposed to be this ‘hot’).

Windows Vista does boot quickly, but I am not sure how much the improvement is strictly because of the 150 gig Raptor Hard-drive (10,000 RPM spindle speed).
I said 12 hour account for everything after 3:30, as it took me a while to move the old computer into its new location and wire up everything in a rather neat fashion for where that old computer will now rest. Furthermore, when taking the floppy drive out of the old computer and putting it into the newer computer (I didn’t buy another floppy drive), I noticed the older computer had tons of dust in it. So I proceeded to take out some of the components and air spray down the inside. I think I also took some food breaks in between this entire venture which thus all then amounted to a 12 hour ordeal.

Overall, it has been a very merry Christmas and I am definitely really happy with my new toy. I am having a lot of fun with Call of Duty 4 and am really enjoying playing Civ 4 without occasional hitches/slow downs in game play. I will report back in the future with benchmarks and then later on with Overclocking results.

Have a very merry Christmas!!!

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8 Responses to “C is for Computer [Assembly Pics]”

  1. Andy Says:

    Wow at all those monitors and that huge desktop! Merry Christmas indeed! =)

  2. Nick Says:

    Thank you, Thank you! =)

  3. Derek Says:

    My favorite part of this was not the awe inspiring technology that you have (albeit I was extremely impressed), no, it was the N64 I noticed in your after picture. I would think that with all that new tech. you would disgard products that were made in the 90’s. :P

  4. Nick Says:

    Derek, you’re fired. First, it’s not an N64, it’s a SNES. Second, the SNES, albeit made in the 90’s, is not something you throw away – ever.

  5. Derek Says:

    You know you can get all the games for it on the comp and just purchase the consul plug-in(s) for your computer? You don’t fire me! I quit. :)

  6. » Blog Archive » Can’t Sleep = More Blog Posts Says:

    […] tried playing Oblivion before, but my older PC couldn’t handle it. The new PC should manage just fine. I want to play Bioshock,unfortunately I absolutely loathe killing zombies. […]

  7. flashboss Says:

    hi….how are you? I’ve seen your blog and I have a abit in9 too …. I hope you can to help me…..the problem is on the boot: I haven’t video signal but video card (nvidia gtx xfx 260) is acive and the fun runs. I use a vga/dvi connector for my vga monitor….have you some idea?

  8. » Blog Archive » Frank’s New Computer Says:

    […] The break was indeed a much needed one and although I only had 3 hours of sleep by time I got to Frank’s apartment, I was really happy to have the priviledge to help him build his new machine.  For me, the actual building of the computer is one of the funnest parts.  Never again will I buy a pre-built machine from IBM (like I once used to when I was in high school).  When you do buy pre-built machines from Bestbuy, Dell, etc. you actually pay that company to assemble the computer for you (the construction cost is what makes machines bought from these companies more expensive than building the machines yourself).  If you are a gamer or building a computer for intensive simulations and graphic rendering, it will most certainly behoove you to build your own should you so choose to do the research behind building your own.  You can find pictures of the last machine I built <here>. […]

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