Guide: Building A PC

by Damian on August 18, 2011 · 57 comments

in Guides

For a while now I have been wanting to upgrade my desktop PC. I had a Gateway Intel Q6600 Quad Core PC that had served me well, but was getting a bit long in the tooth for my needs (specifically more CPU intensive tasks such as encoding, commercial scanning, etc…). This combined with an itch I have had of late to build a PC led to me finally pulling the trigger a few weeks ago. I still remember nearly three years ago when I built my first PC (thanks to the forum members here at MediaSmartServer) how intimidating a process it was. After I was done with that PC build though I was amazed at how something that seemed so complicated could actually be so easy. Since then I have built two more PCs, a Windows Home Server, and haven’t looked back. I don’t consider myself to be any sort of master PC builder, but I thought it would be worth documenting walking through a build.

Purpose:

To build a powerful yet quiet desktop PC that will serve as my workhorse. Typical duties (aside from internet browsing) will be ripping movies, encoding to mobile formats, live TV recording, commercial scanning & removal, software testing, and video playback.

Specifications:

When building a PC it is important to take some time planning before ordering the components. For example, you want to make sure that the components you are getting are compatible with each other (i.e. is the RAM compatible with the motherboard). Another thing to think about is how much power (PSU) do you need (you can use an online calculator such as here to determine). For me I always like to err on the side of getting too much instead of getting not enough. By doing this if your needs change in the future it may be as simple as adding on/replacing a component versus having to do an entirely new build. Based on the purpose I listed above here is what I decided to go with:

Total Cost – $1,106.89 (backing out various rebates). Actual cost for my order was $924.92 since the last three items I already owned.

Building The PC:

Now keep in mind there is no correct order that you must go in when building a PC and you may find it to be trial and error. This is the process that worked best for me with this build.

IMPORTANT: whenever you are dealing with electronics you always want to be aware of electrical static discharge which could potentially damage your hardware. Always make sure you are grounded (either with an anti static wrist band or by simply touching something metal immediately prior to handling).

1) Unpack the case and get to know it. Take a look at the front and the rear (in this case I am talking strictly about the PC :-) )

Open up the case and take note of how everything is laid out. The layout may ultimately decide what steps you follow. For example, you may notice that the HDD cage comes very close to where the motherboard would sit, so you may want to install the motherboard first in case inserting the hard drive first blocks installing the motherboard. Since the case I am using is very roomy I didn’t notice any major obstacles.

2) Install the PSU. I decided to go with a modular PSU. This is really a great option for cable management.

Line up the PSU with the case opening (you should see the opening for the PSU at the back of the case). The cable should be pointed towards the inside of the case and the PSU fan should hopefully be pointed up away from the case wall (could vary depending on the case you use). Then simply use  the provided screws to secure the PSU to the case.

3) Install ROM Drive and Hard Drives. I chose to do this step next because in past builds I have installed the drives later on and encountered some issues that made it more difficult then it needed to be (for example RAM blocking access). Your standard ROM drive will require an external 5.25in Drive Bay which is pretty standard on cases until you start getting down to the smaller mini-ITX cases.


In order to install the ROM drive you will need to pop out the covering over the 5.25in bay. Usually this can be done by simply pushing against the cover from inside the case.

With the cover off simply slide the ROM drive into the bay from the outside. The ROM drive or the case itself should cone with screws that you will need to use to secure the drive to the bay.

Since the hard drive is an internal drive all that is needed is to position it inside on of the 3.5in bays. As with the ROM drive secure the hard drive to  the case with the included screws. In the picture below you can see the ROM drive in the top bay and the hard drive a few bays below.


4) Install the Motherboard, CPU, and RAM:

With the drives installed it is now time to turn our attention to the guts of  the PC. If you look at the rear of the case you will see a pre installed I/O shield. This is really just a place holder and odds are it will not match the I/O of your motherboard. However, the motherboard does come with its own I/O so all you need to do is simply pop out the case I/O shield and insert the new I/O shield.

Once the I/O shield is in place, lay the case on its side, position the motherboard so the screw holes on the case line up with the motherboard screw holes, and using the included screws secure the motherboard to the case (note: you don’t need to line up with all the case screw holes as there will be additional holes to accompany different size motherboards). Figuring out which direction to place the motherboard in is easy since the I/O ports must line up with the I/O shield.

Next up is that mystical little square thingy called the CPU! I remember when I built my first PC I treated the CPU like it was worth more then gold and more fragile then glass! If you look at the motherboard you can see the socket where the CPU is to be installed (there is a big yellow sticky with a note stating that the socket cover must be placed back over the socket when returning the motherboard). To remove the cover unlatch the lever attached to the socket which should lift up the socket plate.

With the socket plate unlatched it is time to install the CPU. When you take the CPU out of the box and look on the underside you will see patterned grooves which should match with the grooves on the CPU socket. An easy way to tell which way to install, if you look at the CPU you will notice on the upper left and upper right side a half circle indentation which will need to match up with the CPU socket.

Once the CPU is in place re-secure the socket plate.

At this point you can install the CPU heatsink/cooler. However, the CPU cooler I purchased is on the larger size, and with the RAM slots so close to the CPU I feared I would have a difficult time installing the RAM once the cooler was installed. Instead I decided to install the RAM first. As you can see below the RAM I purchased have big blue heatsinks attached which is another reason I was concerned about squeezing in the RAM after the CPU cooler.

On the motherboard you should see the RAM sockets (for my motherboard I have 4 sockets). Since I only purchased 2 sticks of RAM I only need to use two sockets (and I believe best practice if not using all the sockets is to use the same socket pair so in this case use either the top 2 sockets or the bottom two sockets, not one socket from the top and one from the bottom)

To install the RAM just line up the RAM with the socket (the RAM should be fitted so that it will only install one way) and push in until the white clips on each end lock in, securing the RAM to the socket.

Now that the RAM is installed it is time to get the CPU cooler attached (pictured below).

Using the Artic Silver thermal compound place a small pea sized amount of thermal paste on top of the CPU. The purpose of the thermal paste is to help dissipate heat from the CPU to the attached heat sink.

Now place the heatsink flush on the CPU and secure to the motherboard. How the heatsink/cooler attaches to the motherboard will be dependent on both the motherboard and heatsink/cooler . For this build you have to actually attach a bracket on the underside of the motherboard to connect to the heatsink. Fortunately the side of the Antec case where the motherboard is secured actually comes off to reveal access to the motherboard. If the case did not have this I would have had to install the CPU and heatsink to the motherboard prior to securing to the case.

Picture of the heatsink/cooler attached.

5) Install Any Add-on Cards:

The last step before connecting all the wires is installing any optional add-on cards (such as a graphics card or TV tuner). For this build I decided to add a NVidia graphics card and a Hauppauge TV Tuner. The NVidia GPU will connect to the motherboard’s PCI Express 2.0 x16 socket. One thing to note is that due to the large cooling fans the GPU will actually end up taking up two sockets (the socket it is connected to and the sock next to it which the fans will cover).

The Hauppage TV Tuner card will connect to the motherboard via the PCI-Express x1 socket. Since there are no attached fans it will not end up taking up an additional socket.

Inserting the cards is easy to do. Once you locate the appropriate sockets on the motherboard you just need to remove the corresponding slot covers from the case, pop the cards in, and secure with the provided screws.

Here is a picture of the NVidia GPU secured to the motherboard and case as well as  picture of what the GPU will look like from the outside of the case.

6) Plug Everything In:

With everything now installed  the last step is to plug everything in. Off the top of my head this included the following:

  • Hard Drive / ROM Drive – SATA cable from drive to motherboard SATA connectors, SATA power cable from drive to PSU.
  • Motherboard – Main power connectors from PSU to motherboard 24-pin ATX main power connecter and 4-pin ATX 12V power connecter
  • Case Fans – Molex connectors from fans to PSU
  • CPU Cooler Fan – Motherboard CPU fan header
  • NVIdia CPU – 6-pin external power connector to PSU
  • Antec Front USB Port – Motherboard USB 2.0 header
  • Case Power Switch, Reset Switch, HDD Status – Motherboard Front Panel Header (this can get a little confusing as it is not always clear from the cables which cable is + or -, so you may need some trial and error)

With everything connected here is what the case looks like.

A picture of the front of the case once completed

A picture of the rear

Plug the case in to a monitor and the power cable, turn on, and hopefully everything will boot up without the smoke (seriously this did happen to me once, turned out the PSU was bad!)

7) After The Build

Now assuming the PC build boots up without issue, what next? Well, hopefully it will be uneventful but install your O/S of choice. Once that is done and you are in the O/S load any necessary drivers (such as for your motherboard, graphics card, etc…), any additional software you plan on using, and enjoy!

I have been using this build for over a month now and love it. The case is simple and efficient yet dead silent. The case also has plenty of space for storage and expansion, and although I don’t need additional storage it may come in handy down the road. The Intel core i7 gives me a nice boost over my previous Intel Quad Core CPU, cutting encoding time in half.

The only downside of building your own PC is that you are now customer support, so if something goes wrong it is your responsibility to troubleshoot what the problem is. I actually encountered two issues. The first issue was the NVidia GPU was bad. After about a week I kept getting screen freezes, but after RMA’ing for a replacement I have had no issues. The second issue which I am dealing with now, my PC no longer recognizes the Blu-ray ROM drive. I tried switching out cables/connections but no luck. Next step is to try connecting the ROM drive to another PC, and if I still get the same issue then it would indicate that the ROM drive went bad.

Stay tuned as in the next day or two I hope to put together a quick post on some very useful resources when it comes to building a PC.





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 55 comments }

Tinus August 18, 2011 at 7:05 am

Eh, Damian, you placed one of the ram modules in the wrong socket – notice the color coding and follow it :)

If you don’t you won’t get the benefit of dual channel ram.

Tinus August 18, 2011 at 7:09 am

See the manual on page 16 : http://download.gigabyte.eu/FileList/Manual/mb_manual_ga-z68a-d3h-b3_e.pdf
“When enabling Dual Channel mode with two or four memory modules, it is recommended that
memory of the same capacity, brand, speed, and chips be used and installed in the same colored
DDR3 sockets for optimum performance. For optimum performance, when enabling Dual Channel
mode with two memory modules, we recommend that you install them in the DDR3_1 and DDR3_2
sockets.”

Where DDR3_1 and 2 are the white sockets as far as I can see.

Damian August 18, 2011 at 7:11 am

Crapper, good point. Initially I had them split based on the color correctly but ran into issues with the heat sink blocking (or moreso I was concerned that the heat sink from the RAM was too close to the CPU heatsink) so I started moving things around. Can’t remember if I eventually put them back in the correct spot, but I have a feeling I never did. The first pic showing the RAM installed was just for picture purposes, but if you scroll down a few pics I had to move the RAM but looks like I didn’t split correctly :-( Thanks for pointing out, when I get home I will have to see what I eventually did (need to pull out the ROM drive anyhow) and fix it. Once again many thanks, probably would have never thought to go back and check this.

Tinus August 18, 2011 at 7:14 am

Cheers – its properly also just one of those really minor optimizations you can do so I won’t hold it against you. I never really tested the difference myself.

Good build though, your going to love working on that pc :)

Damian August 18, 2011 at 7:17 am

I was actually originally planning on going with 4x4GB RAM but the space issues due to the CPU heatsink concerned me. I may still add another 2 x 4GB but the heatsink on the RAM would need to be shorter then the current RAM.

Yeah, really liking this machine. Fast and quiet, does a great job with encodes and commercial scanning.

JR August 18, 2011 at 11:36 am

you could change the heatsink to the coolermaster hyper 212. it should cool better and relieve your clearance issues.

Damian August 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

If I decide to go with 4 sticks RAM I may look at that. I actually bought that Heatsink a while back for use with my Windows Home Server but didn’t realize that to attach it you needed to have access to the underside of the motherboard. I had no desire to unhook everything from my server to do this so the heatsink has just been sitting in the box since t hen. Thanks for the suggestion.

Cheers
Damian

DaveN August 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I recently built two PCs – one with very similar specs to this one, which I absolutely love. And a slower one for my dad using an Antec 300 case, which I was pleased to find was the absolutely easiest case I’ve ever worked with. I would buy that again in a second.

Have you looked into the Smart Response caching that’s enabled in the Z68? It would be interesting to see what you think if you add that after having used the PC without it for a while. I enabled it in my initial build – it seems faster, but I don’t really have any basis for comparison.

Damian August 19, 2011 at 2:40 am

Hi Dave,

I haven’t looked at the Smart Response caching. I will take a lot at and if I can get set up I will let you know if I notice any performance difference.

Cheers
Damian

Tinus August 19, 2011 at 3:43 am

That requires an SSD to be beneficirary, so I guess you won’t have to look at it :)

Bert-Jan August 19, 2011 at 1:49 am

Hi Damian,
I noticed you didn’t include an SSD into the build. Seems like the system would benefit from one. I’m one or two weeks away of building a new PC myself and I was wondering what made you decide against an SSD?

Damian August 19, 2011 at 2:39 am

Hi Bert,

The reason was cost. I just don’t see any benefits to using an SSD drive at the current cost per GB. I understand that I may get quicker boot times and programs may open quicker, etc… The Caviar Black drive is plenty fast for my needs and at 1TB I have plenty of space to work with.

Cheers
Damian

Tinus August 19, 2011 at 3:44 am

It is not cheap no, but let me tell you, once you go SSD, you won’t go back, ever!

It is not just a bit faster, the difference is monumental!

Damian August 19, 2011 at 3:48 am

Yeah, I have heard about the speed difference. Honestly not in a race though on my PC, and much of the time I am usually RDP ing into my PC which in itself has its own inherent slowdowns. One day I would love to try an SSD, but I have no problems sitting tight until the price becomes more reasonable.

Ross August 20, 2011 at 11:55 am

I use a Intel X25-V 40 GB SSD as my boot drive (win7 and programs) and then store all the data on a caviar black. The speed difference is substantial, but the cost isn’t prohibitive thanks to buying a smaller SSD. Of all the upgrades I have ever made to a computer, adding an SSD offered the greatest tangible speed increase.

Damian August 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Hi Ross,

Thanks for the feedback. I would definitely like to try an SSD one of these days. I had a specific budget in mind for this build, so getting an SSD drive (and thus potentially needing a second storage drive) would have hit over my limit for the time being. I may go with an SSD in my mini-ITX HTPC when I redo the components

Cheers
Damian

Funksultan August 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Heheh, it’s your choice Damian, but please, PLEASE, get an SSD. Any SSD. Right now buy.com has a 64 gig for $63.

I know you say you’re not in a race with your PC, but cmon… you bought a i7 2600, great vid card, and even spent the extra dollars on a caviar black.

Just use it for your OS drive, office, and maybe your top 5 applications. Once you do, you’ll never go back to running off of a magno-drive. For storage, or maybe for HUGE games/data, sure, but having a beautiful beast like this without a SSD is like spending $200k on a Lamborghini, and then never taking it above 20 mph. *grin*

Damian August 24, 2011 at 6:18 am

Haha, I have a few other tech acquisitions, but once done I will look at an SSD again. Only downside is I would have to reinstall W7 since I don’t believe WHS will allow you to restore a backup to a smaller O/S drive

Damian August 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

So turns out what I thought was a bad ROM Drive was actually an issue with W7. I pulled the ROM drive out and into my other PC and it worked fine. I pulled a ROM drive out of my C-200 and my PC could not recognize. I even attached a USB Rom drive and my PC would not recognize. Or what I should say, the drive would be recognized in the bIOS, and when booted up the drive would show in the hardware manager except there would be an exclamation point though it and saying the drive(s0 were disabled. It wouldn’t even allow me to override the drivers. Using WHS I reverted back to an old backup and now all is well. Crazy, no clue what happened here!

JohnBick August 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I have been taking the “wait & see” attitude with respect to SSD units as well. Then I helped a friend do an upgrade, replacing a “regular” C-Drive with an SSD over the weekend…

WOW!!!

His configuration had a 320 GB C-Drive and he replaced it with an 60GB SSD. After doing a restore (from WHS) he still has 20GB free on the drive. (He uses it exclusively for boot, pagefile and programs. NOTHING else.) The performance difference was VERY noticeable.

AND IT WAS VERY EVIDENT WHEN USING HIS PC REMOTELY! Yes, the connection slows down the response times in comparison with local use, but if the software being used needs much disk access you really do see a difference. If you are opening/closing programs the performance difference is surprisingly radical. (He and I both tend to close programs when they are not active to avoid having any open files in the event of a system or power failure. We’re both a tad paranoid, maybe, but once burned…)

His system is an older one with the 3MB/s limitation. For my next build I plan to go to an SSD for my C-Drive and with a 6MB/s motherboard and drives but (for cost reasons) probably not with the largest capacity available. I am now a believer!

JohnBick August 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Brain freeze? Finger check? Computer error? Whatever….

Please interpret the 3MB/s and 6MB/s above as 3Gb/s and 6Gb/s!

JohnBick August 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Hard to believe it was 30 years ago that I ordered my first IBMPC! (Man, that really dates me, doesn’t it?!!!) I was designing expansion cards, testing them and writing software within 6 months of ordering it — within two months of receiving it!

And I was designing systems around the Intel 4004 for about eight years before that! Doing Pattern Recognition stuff with it, no less! Dang….

Damian August 24, 2011 at 6:23 am

Haha, nothing like a little stroll down memory lane!

Pluckyhd August 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Come on bud you can do better cable management then that :)

Nice build though :)

Damian August 24, 2011 at 6:22 am

Hey, no comments from the peanut gallery :-p

swmaibob September 13, 2011 at 11:49 am

If you didn’t get your ram moved yet you won’t be running in dual channel and this is a big memory performance hit. Do that right away if you haven’t.
Also, it is well worth getting an SSD for your OS drive. You will be amazed how much snappier windows is from an SSD, from boot to loading all your programs. They can get an OCZ vertex 3 60GB SATA III for on sale for less than $100 after rebates at newegg. I have the vertex 2 and it is very fast, and I know the newer vertex 3 which wasn’t out at the time is even faster. Make sure you set the drive to AHCI on your SATA 3 ports on your motherboard for the SSD drive. You should have it set to AHCI for all your drives (so i have been told recently that it improves all drives performance), but if you are already in IDE for the rotational drives don’t worry about it. It is a must for the SSD. Also do a little research on how to setup the SSD, like moving your swap file to another normal hard drive, turning off defrag on the SSD since it never needs to be defraged, and and a few other optimizations to make it run faster/last longer. Remember, just install the OS and your apps to it and 60GB will be pleanty, I have been running mine for over a year now and I still have 20GB free with A LOT of apps installed. I also use mine for encoding and converting videos. Also that sandybridge has a lot of headroom for overclocking just as the regular i7′s do (I have an i7 920 which normally runs at 2.6Ghz running at 4.0Ghz, makes a big difference when encoding video, about 40% faster. I have seen your processor regularly hit 5Ghz on just good air cooling like what you have.
Check out the pics from my build and the performance graphs in the last one. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.148043201877164.36240.100000144541629&l=688ec0c64e&type=1
Swami

Damian September 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

Hey Swami,

I haven’t switched around the RAM. To do so I will have to remove and replace the CPU cooler since the cooler doesn’t leave enough room for the RAM heatsink to fit under. Performance has been fine so far, so I haven’t decided yet what the lesser of the two evils is yet.

I probably won’t go the SSD route, mainly because it would require a clean reinstall of W7 (i.e. WHS PC restore will not allow you to restore to a smaller O/S drive). I just finally got everything set up working as I want (in particular the HDHR Prime cable card), so gonna go with the “if it aint broke don’t fix it” approach :-)

Awesome pics, thanks for sharing, especially like that bottle of scotch whiskey ;-)

The core i7 really is a great CPU. I am in the process of ripping/encoding a bunch of TV Show DVDs and it is taking me 60-70% less time then with my previous PC!!!

Cheers
Damian

JohnBick September 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Have you thought of resizing the drive beforehand, with, say, Acronis, doing a backup and THEN restoring to a properly sized SSD? I believe you can do this on a live system with Acronis (and other similar utilities, possibly even a freeware one). I have not personally tried it but have heard that it works well. And it’s a small investment in effort for potentially large gains.

Heck, if it fails you have a great backup!

Damian September 20, 2011 at 9:20 am

OK, been away from the PC for a bit but getting caught back up. I could try to resize, but I guess I still don’t see a reason to go to the lengths. My PC is working better then I had hoped, so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? If/when W8 is officially released I will do a clean install and at that point I will consider going the SSD route (or if I need to go with a clean install of W7 at any point)

swmaibob September 13, 2011 at 7:31 pm

If you can get windows to fit on a 60GB hard drive and use the tools to re-size (i think the regular computer management re-size tool will work as long as you have the space to do it if not acronis can do it) and then get it on an 60GB SSD that would be the way to go. If not, reinstalling windows always sounds like a pain in the ass, but it really does not take that long if you know exactly what all programs you need and have them on your hard drives already. There is no better performance upgrade for $100 that can match switching to SSD and that is no BS. 60GB SSD boot/app drives are a very good bargain. You will think windows is as much faster as it was switching from the Q6600. BTW that was my last processor as well.
Also if you need a different heat sink check out this one
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835233082
For $30 this cannot be beat. I have used this on 3 builds now, it is whisper quiet and almost as good as the massive one I have on mine. Then you can get your memory into dual channel where it belongs. Also, if they still have the same ram you bought, this would be a good time to upgrade it again to max out your slots. More ram never hurts when working with video.
As far as overclocking goes, I can’t believe a power user like yourself is willing to leave 40-50% faster encoding on the table. There are many good places to read about what settings and tools you need to safely overclock your processor. I can almost guarantee a 4.5GHz overclock with a good heat sink and most likely 5.0GHz with the right settings. I know the i7 is an awesome processor, but it can go much faster than what intel has it set at, and as a matter of fact, that is why the processor that you bought has a K on the end of it’s model number. It is the one that Intel releasded to be overclocked. The regular Sandy Bridge 2600 is not, but you bought the 2600K so let it rip already. Here is an awesome sight to learn what settings you need to get the most out of it. I’m sure if you search for your specific motherboard, you will find many people who will give the settings they are using to get it up to speed. You will need to get some programs like I showed in my pic on facebook like cpuz, prime95, Linx, and realtemp to see how the processor is doing when under a full load, but they are all free and can be easily found via google. This is only needed when you are first overclocking to see how it is running and for seeing how hot it is getting. The Sandy Bridge processor like you have does not get as hot as mine does so you have even more overclocking headroom than me. Mine usually runs in the low 40C and under a full load it hits 70C (100C is called TJ Max and that is where it forces a shutdown to protect the CPU on the intel i7 so this is a safe level at 70 and it only runs there when I am doing an encoding job that puts all cores at 100% useage). But what is funny is, even though I strees mine out for sometimes 6 hrs straight encoding a blu ray to x264, my computer has only crashed 2 times since I overclocked it in more than a year, and when it did crash, it was when I wasn’t doing anthing stressful, just some random program decided to crash.
http://www.overclockers.com/forums/
I really like how you write these blogs to help other people learn how to do video encoding and such. I am willing to give you a hand in any way that I can to get the most out of your computer since that is what I do. Let me know if you have any questions or need any help. If you can’t get my real email address from here, just send me a private message on AVSforums, i am the same guy who was telling you about the MED500X2 if you haven’t figured that out ;-)
Swami

Damian September 20, 2011 at 9:24 am

Thanks for the info. I think I am going to leave the current O/S drive in instead of messing around with. I will tackle an SSD drive down the road if I ever need to do a clean W7 install or eventually when it is W8 time.

Never done any sort of OCing before. I believe the utilities that come with the mobo make OCing easy to do, so I may look into that.

I am going to pick up 2 more 4GB RAM modules and get everything squared away with the heatsink/fan. Any thoughts on the best way to clean off the thermal compound before I reapply?

Thanks

Cheers
Damian

swamibob September 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm

The heatsink up above that I have been using on computer builds it taller with a large fan so it shouldn’t be an issue blocking the ram like your current one is. It will also be whisper quiet and should cool better than your current setup. Make sure when you attach the fan it is blowing toward the back of your case, look for arrorws on the fan for air flow direction.
As far as cleaning off the old thermal paste, rubbing alcohol works good.

swamibob September 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm

60GB OCZ SATA III SSD $89.99 after $20 rebate, ends today 9/15/11 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227725
No better bang for your buck. After POSTing, windows 7 will boot in about 10 secs.

Damian October 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

Thanks to the suggestion of Swamibob I upgraded to 16GB RAM and replaced the CPU Heatsink. Regarding the CPU Heatsink, it is tall so definitely make sure your case is big enough. However, it is dead silent and I definitely prefer that it doesn’t hang over the RAM slots. My PC feels sluggish though, takes a long time to boot up, any suggestions (just kidding, still no SDD drive yet!)

Had a couple near death experiences though. First, I have been having issues with the NVidia GPU (second one). Driver keeps crashing. I uninstalled the driver completely, reinstalled, and so far for the last two days so good… i will have to keep a closer eye on.

Other weird thing. I got a USB card reader (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820176021). Installed it, and when I turned on my PC my monitor would not turn on. Tried a few more times, PC would boot up but no monitor. Opened up the case, unplugged the reader, and then the PC wouldn’t even turn on at all. I thought the PSU might have gone bad, so I connected the PSU to another PC and it worked fine. Plugged the PSU back in, tried one more time, and the PC started up as if nothing happened. Don’t know if when I was messing around with the reader I somehow loosened the power connector from the PSU to the mobo. All is working now, but didn’t leave me with a good feeling!

DaveN October 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I agree with swamibob that the driver crash could easily be power related – but it could also be heat. I can’t remember if the nvidia cards have sensors for this or not, but I ran into frequent driver crashing once when the card in the next slot warped slightly and stopped the fan on the video card.

Damian October 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I did bump up the fan speed in my case to med from low but even before from monitoring I haven’t noticed heat issues. Just another thing to keep a close eye on though. The PC is in a cabinet (although the back is cut out and I usually leave the front door open as well)

swamibob October 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm

If you didn’t already double check your plug going to your video card, make sure it it plugged in good. It may have been your motherboard plug was not making good contact as well. Also, your rig probably needs much more power than whatever you tested it on so it may just be the PS is getting weak. If it won’t power up at all again here is a link that tells you how to test it. http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?34941-Guide-to-testing-problematic-power-supplies.

If you keep having problems with the video card driver and have to reinstall, this would be a perfect time to do the SSD ;-)

Damian October 3, 2011 at 6:15 am

Thanks, I did recheck all the connections in the case and made sure they were secure, so hopefully that issue is fixed.

I would hope that my PSU should be fine. It is a 600w which I thought should give me plenty of headroom (only 1 hard drive, 1 graphics card), but I will definitely keep a closer eye on.

FYI – my mede8er arrived on Friday, hope to start testing this weekend

swamibob October 3, 2011 at 9:16 am

You more I think about it, the more it sounds like video card issue. I have had one go bad before and I had to keep re-installing drivers every day or two. Finally I replaced it and the problem went away. Have you tried unplugging the card and re-seating it to make sure there is no dust and that all the pins are making good contact. Maybe blast some canned air in there to make sure once you unplug the card. That would be worth a try as well. Remember some motherboards have a little plastic clip on the card slot the video card slides into that locks the front of the card in so make sure you push that in before you try to force it out if your board.

Glad to hear you got the MED500X2 in. I am enjoying it. If you have an iphone or android get the imediashare app. It supports DLNA so once you have the MED500X2 plugged into you network (need to have upnp enabled in your router) you can play shows from the internet straight from your phone as well as the built in podcast support can do other ones as well. I will post this on the avsforum as well.

Damian October 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Yeah, gonna run some canned air though, although from looking at the case as of now there were no issues with dust accumulation. I just don’t trust this GPU since I already sent a faulty one back. Hopefully replugged/re-securing everything does the trick.

I was a little hesitant with the MED500X2 because supposedly the next gen Realtek players are starting to hit the market in the next week or so (HDMI 1.4, Blu-ray 3D, etc…) but I wanted to test a Mede8er based on all the positive feedback and I am “assuming” the next gen Mede8er is still a while away based on the 1185 players being released now.

Damian November 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Doh, the wife called me at work this morning, the PC won’t even turn on :( I have a feeling the PSU went bad already, otherwise I should be able to get some sort of signs of life. This may explain the issues I have had with my NVIdia GPU if the PSU was flaking out. When I get home from work I will have to put on my tech support hat. The PSU is still under warranty but stinks because that means I will probably have to wait a week before I get a replacement.

swamibob November 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm

My wifes OCZ powersupply died 2 months after it was out of warranty. I thought about doctoring up the reciept and trying to get it swapped out, but I just bought a new one from newegg. I thought her motherboard went out on her old computer so I built her a new hexacore amd and it worked fine to begin with, but about 2 weeks later it was taking over a minute for the led lite to come on bright and then boot up. I didn’t know it was setting there real dim for a long time without booting until she finally decided she should mention it. It was taking a long time for the power supply to build up enoght power to start the computer. Surprised it didn’t mess up the new one. I’ll bet there is nothing wrong with her quad Q6600 that I replaced, just the powersupply messing up. All is working great now with the new psu. I have had 2 OCZ power supplies break on me now both just barely out of warranty and I was buying the higher end $100+ models too rated for SLI and crossfire. I am not buying anymore from them.

Damian November 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I have used Antec or Corsair PSUs in the past and have yet to have one die on me. I went with Cooler Master for this build because the modular version was on sale. I will confirm when I get home if it is for sure the PSU, but all the previous symptoms I was having seems to fall in line with a bad PSU. A few other interesting things. when I was first having issues with my GPU I reseated up, checked the cables, etc… and everything was working well. A few days ago the problems started again. Last night I forgot to turn off my PC and when I woke up this morning it had rebooted itself. A few nights before it shut itself off completely. All signs that there were probably power issues that was making the PC unstable. I will probably just order a Corsair modular PSU so I don’t have to wait, and when I get the replacement Cooler Master just throw it on eBay. I will definitely avoid OCZ as well.

hellerbrewing November 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I have been through a few dead PSUs and they both gave pretty similar symptoms to what you are experiencing. They were both antec as well. Since I have switched to Corsair I have not had any problems. Just recently had my second issue with Crucial Ram. I am going to swith to Corsair for that too.

Damian November 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Yeah, I have been using Corsair RAM for a while in my builds with no issues. Once I confirm the PSU is the culprit I will probably end up going with the Corsair 750W Fully Modular and just pay up for shipping so hopefully I will have by the weekend

swamibob November 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Also, since you are down, may not be a bad time for that SSD upgrade :-)

Damian November 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Hmmm….tempting, but not sure I feel like reinstalling everything lol

Damian November 10, 2011 at 6:41 am

So funny enough, I got home from work and as expected the PC would not turn on. I went to the power switch on the PSU, shut it off and then turned it back on. Once I did that my PC started to boot up but shut down a few seconds later. Gave it a few seconds, turned it on, and it booted up without any issues! Gonna order a new PSU but at least I have some time

swamibob November 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

Yeah that is how my wifes was doing too. If i turned the switch off and back on it would boot up right away. If I left plugged in and tried the next day one of the capicatiors lost it’s charge and didn’t have the oomph to start it up, it would just set there with the power and hdd led very dim, then finally 30 secs to a min it would build up enough to start the fans and boot. I could even hear the fan speed fluxuating on the cpu and the fan in the psu when if first started booting. I assume this is probably real bad on the motherboard and components, so once I saw this happening I bit the bullet and just ordered a new one. Didn’t want anything to get damaged from the low voltage. Since i replaced the PSU it has not had any more issues.

Damian November 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I will definitely get an order in for a new PSU. I don’t really feel like dealing with the warranty process for my current one (I will see if they will replace and if so just sell on eBay)

Damian November 21, 2011 at 6:13 pm

So my PC died a few days ago. Finally got a new PSU, hooked everything up, and unfortunately nothing… At this point the only other issue would be the mobo dying? I probably won’t have time to troubleshoot until Wednesday, but I guess I will pull everything out and see if I can even boot up with the bare minimum. I don’t even get any sort of response when I power on which makes me believe the mobo itself is dead (unless there is a way to do a reset?). Thoughts?

hellerbrewing November 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Just a thought, did you remember to connect power to the port next to the CPU? When I built my HTPC I couldn’t get it to power up at all until I realized I needed to connect this one. Since this is a replacement for you I’m sure you probably did this. Is the switch off on the power supply?

Damian November 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I think I got it, I had unplugged my cable extension after the PSU died a few days ago, forgot to plug it back in duh!

JohnBick November 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Alright, I have to admit that got me actually laughing out loud! Not just “LOL”, but a REAL laugh!

Probably because it sounds like something that I would do. (OK, I admit it, HAVE DONE!!!)

You made my day!

Damian November 22, 2011 at 6:29 am

That is what happens when you get home from work after 7pm and try to rush through so you can get the kids settled in. Fortunately I was too tired to do anything else, otherwise I would have probably pulled everything out of the case!!!

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