(2021-12-23) I Built A New Computer!

On December 11th, 2021, at around 5 in the afternoon, the very first computer I ever built successfully POSTed. The fact that I did it only this recently kind of funny, because I've known how the PC building process works since 2008 (I literally remember the launch of the first gen Asus Rampage Extreme motherboard haha). I have upgraded the previous PC that I used multiple times, but I finally got around to doing this now that I finally have some disposable income and a strong desire to build a (mostly) brand new computer by myself. Here are the specs of my new PC:

And here's a shot of the insides:

You can read about my previous computer in this other blog post, but to give a quick overview, it was running fine with some parts upgrades, but wanted to get a new PC because I was worried that it could die on me soon since it was already a decade old, my speakers made a hissing sound when the computer was running some specific programs, and the internet connectivity was breaking down (both the ethernet and wifi). Since it was that old, and the speaker and internet problem didn't seem like they could be fixed without replacing the motherboard (I tried everything else I could think of to fix these issues), I decided it was time to finally build a new PC. Now I knew that I would not use that computer for a long time, so some of the new parts I got for it I intended to eventually be put into a new PC build. For the longest time I have wanted to make a small form factor mini-ITX PC build, so when I got a new PSU for my old PC I decided to get an SFX PSU. It definitely came in handy. I didn't intend for the then-used GPU I bought for my old PC to be going into this new PC, but was sort of forced to because GPU prices new and used are crazy right now, and I don't know when they will be normal again.

The building process was mostly fine. It's kind of scary because you can damage the expensive computer parts you bought either by physically breaking something or by zapping them with static electricity. The most scariest part for me was putting the CPU into the motherboard CPU socket. I watched a video on how to do it, you just make sure the arrows in the corner are aligned and the notches on the side let the CPU fall into place evenly and just push the CPU in with the retention bracket. I did all that and there was a little bit of resistance and a slight crunching sound when I was pushing the CPU down with the bracket (this is normal), and I assumed it was good.

Everything else about the building process was relatively simple and painless, but I did have two parts that gave me some trouble. First thing was the stupid motherboard I/O shield, which I couldn't figure out how to put in properly. I assumed you just let it rest in the case cutout for it and everything should fit in nicely when I put in the motherboard into the case, but it didn't. This was partially the fault of the design, for some reason the cutouts for the ports had a bunch of things sticking out that got in the way of putting the motherboard in cleanly. But apparently the other fault was the fact that I didn't know that you need to push in the I/O shield into the case with a click on all four corners. After struggling for about 15 minutes, I figured it out and got the motherboard screwed into the case. The other thing that gave me trouble was figuring out where and how to plug in the case's power button, reset button, and power LED into the motherboard. None of the ports in the case seemed to match the connector(s) for those, and I had to download the manual for the motherboard to finally figure out how to get them connected, which I did not expect to need to do. Also, I installed the CPU cooler upside-down. This doesn't affect its function, but the logo isn't oriented correctly. I'm too lazy to go fix it.

After all the parts were in and connected, it was the moment of truth: would the computer I put together work when I pressed the power button? Yes it did! My new PC was ready to go! So I installed a copy of Windows 10 that I had ready on a USB stick, and then came the part where I had to get the drivers ready. The motherboard did have a CD included with all of the drivers needed and I could also go online to download the drivers for the motherboard, but Windows automatically detected a lot of the things that needed drivers and got drivers installed for them. The only driver I needed to install myself was the chipset driver. For some reason the ethernet port behaved weirdly after I woke up my computer from sleep, so I uninstalled the automatically installed driver for it, and installed the one off of the motherboard site, and the problem seemed to go away.

I didn't have a Windows 10 license on the day I built the PC so I was running Windows unactivated. This doesn't prevent Windows from running like normal, but some non-critical features (that are annoying to not have) are disabled and you get an "Activate Windows you cheap ass" watermark in the bottom right corner. I went to Memory Express the day after I built my PC and bought a Windows 10 key and a Noctua fan (more on fans later). After this point I had to fix two software-side problems I did not expect to have to fix by going into the motherboard BIOS and changing some settings. With my old computer I was used to having the computer wake up from sleep when I pressed a button on the keyboard or clicked my mouse, but my new computer didn't do that. To go fix this I had to go into the advanced settings in the motherboard BIOS and had to change a "wake up on USB" setting from disabled to enabled.

The other problem was that the power LED flashed when the PC went to sleep. On my old computer, the power LED just changed from white to orange when I put it to sleep. The flashing is not too bad when it is daytime, but when it's night time and my lights are off, it is quite annoying having my whole room be illuminated by the flashing power light on my case. To fix this, I had to again go into the advanced settings in the motherboard BIOS and change a setting. This time I changed some power light sleep setting from "flashing" to "dual color". Now when I put my new PC to sleep, the power LED just turns off as if the computer is off.

Since noise was a huge concern for me with my old computer, I wanted my new computer to be inaudible when idle or doing some non-demanding tasks. The case came with two fans included, one was a 92mm fan preinstalled on the back, the other was a 120mm fan that was in the box but not installed in the case. The 92mm fan was very not pleasant to hear even when my new computer was idle, so I immediately disconnected it, and put in the 120mm fan into the case. That 120mm fan wasn't awful, but it was still a bit noisy, even on the lowest RPM I could run it at. So when I went to get my Windows 10 key, I also got a 120mm Noctua fan to put into my case. (For the uninitiated, Noctua is a computer fan and cooler brand from Austria that makes super quiet and high-performance computer fans.)

My computer was a lot less noisy after I put in the Noctua fan, but it wasn't perfect. I bought a Cooler Master Hyper 212 black edition CPU cooler for my new PC for two reasons. The first was that I knew it would fit perfectly into the case I had. The second was that it came with a "silencio" fan, which is Cooler Master's lineup of quiet fans. It was certainly more quiet than the also Cooler Master fans that came with my Cooler Master case, but it was still audible when my computer was idle. Since my computer was at a tolerable noise level despite not being perfect, I didn't rush to get a replacement fan for the Hyper 212 cooler, and bought a 120mm Noctua redux fan off of Amazon. That arrived a few days ago, and after installing it onto the CPU cooler, I've finally achieved quiet PC nirvana. My computer no longer makes any noise when idle or doing simple tasks! Now all the fans in my computer are from Noctua, even the PSU and GPU fans. I guess you could say... I'm a fan of Noctua (YEEEAAAAHHH!). But now I have 3 noisy Cooler Master fans lying around that I don't know what to do with.

So now I have basically zero complaints about my new computer. I finally have an excellent new PC that I can do activities with. One thing that I love is that thanks to the NVMe SSD, my new computer boots up even faster than my old computer, which had a SATA SSD. The only thing that I'd like to change right now is the GPU, there seem to be weird graphical glitches sometimes when the computer wakes up from sleep or starts up. But these aren't ruining the experience, and I don't need a powerful GPU or anything, so I'll wait for GPU prices to become relatively normal again before I buy a replacement/upgrade. As for what I'll do with my old computer, I'll probably keep it around for a bit in case I need it if there's an emergency, but when I get rid of it I'll probably take out the SATA SSD out with the CD drive to keep for myself and give the remaining carcass to an electronics recycler. There's no point in selling or giving that aging hardware to someone.

So yeah, that's my little story of building my new PC. Have you ever built your own PC? If not, do you want to?

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