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#1 2006-03-18 16:34:54

dtw
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From: UK
Registered: 2004-08-03
Posts: 4,436
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Assembling my own box

A fellow Archer has kindly shared the hardware config of his box and I'm looking to base my own machine on that recommendation.  However, while I have happily installed RAM, PCI cards and new drives I've never been involved with building a system from scratch, especially regarding installing the PSU and Mobo.  Anyone care to share any advice or experience?

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#2 2006-03-18 17:35:56

elasticdog
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From: Washington, USA
Registered: 2005-05-02
Posts: 995
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Re: Assembling my own box

One main thing when putting together your own machine would be to make sure that you're always grounded.  All you really have to do is make sure you're in contact with the case's metal chassis when you're handling the motherboard or PCI cards etc.  It's not as easy as it used to be, but you can still fry a board through static electricity, so you should play it safe or risk having to replace brand new components.

The main thing to worry about with the CPU installation is going to be your thermal compound...learning how to spread it evenly and in the right amount can definitely be a learning process, but luckily it's not a big problem if it's not perfect.  If you don't like how it turns out, just use rubbing alcohol and some Q-tips to clean it off and start again.  I highly recommend using Arctic Silver, but even if you don't they have a great group of instructions on their website which can give you an idea of what you're trying to do.  When you clamp down your heatsink, just make sure that you have it sitting flat on the processor and that you apply pressure evenly, as depending on what kind of CPU chip you're using, it is possible to crack or crush it.

There are a lot of horror stories out there, but from my experience, as long as you are patient and take a little care with it, you'll be just fine.  Building your own machine can be much more rewarding than buying it off the shelf...and I'd still argue that you'll end up with much higher-quality components.  If you're interested in taking a look, I did a writeup about building my Arch machine, although it's mostly about customizing it for silence.  Let us know how it turns out!

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#3 2006-03-19 07:30:13

iBertus
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From: Greenville, NC
Registered: 2004-11-04
Posts: 2,228

Re: Assembling my own box

Having just recently blown up a motherboard by static electric shock, I'd say it's worth a few $$ to get a grounding strap. Also, if you are going with an Athlon XP or older socket-type AMD chip you really do have to worry about that crushing the processor core. The processor die is housed in a fragile ceramic and doesn't like big, bulky heatsinks. Otherwise, I'd say that there really isn't that much involved.

I just got a new rebuilt socket 754 board from newegg along with a Sempron 2800+ Palmero core (the 64-bit enabled one) and plan to put together a replacement system for the one a destroyed. I plan on overclocking the processor when I get it together and running.

Good luck.

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#4 2006-03-19 08:06:33

Cam
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From: Brisbane, Aus
Registered: 2004-12-21
Posts: 658
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Re: Assembling my own box

I had about the same experience as you before I built the system I'm currently on a couple of weeks ago. It was actually pretty easy, I didn't bother worrying about static and I didn't break anything, just followed the instruction books and it all worked okay smile

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#5 2006-03-19 09:09:28

Infinite
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From: .nl
Registered: 2006-03-04
Posts: 35

Re: Assembling my own box

A lot of things have already been said. I want to add a few things though. A logical run down follows:

- Motherboard
- processor + cooler
- case + PSU
- put Mobo in case.
- Install HD's and optical drives.
- Install memory units.
- Graphics card and PCI related cards.

I always work in that order, it's safer and you won't hit yourself when something doesn't fit because it's in the way.

Be careful not to cut yourself, especially with older cases (enclosures).
Be very careful with your HardDrive (HD). it's made of very sensitive material and doesn't like EMP's so ground yourself once and awhile.

I don't know if you're going to buy new (i.e. high-end) hardware components. If so than your Graphics card probably needs his own juice.

Meaning, make sure you buy a PSU that delivers around 18-30A on the 12v lines! It's very important. I'm talking about graphic cards starting at nVidia Geforce 6800 Ultra (and beyond). Also make sure that the dongles are long enough. I personally like Antec and Enermax PSU's.

Note: the 7800 GT's (and further) need 30A in SLI mode. So don't sweat it  wink 18A should be more than enough.

Cheers  8)

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#6 2006-03-19 09:44:59

syd
Member
From: Auckland, NZ
Registered: 2006-01-22
Posts: 155

Re: Assembling my own box

Also get your hardware from a shop that you know will replace your parts without to much fuss. (Ya never know when your parts are going to break heh.)

I'd steer clear of enthusist gear. The computer that i have now is basicly setup for overclocking. And now im thinking of getting a bit more basic one for me and setting my current one as another gaming system for my brothers.


Read lots of reviews on the hardware your buying.

Nice guide there elasticdog.  smile

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#7 2006-03-19 10:49:18

Cotton
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From: Cornwall, UK
Registered: 2004-09-17
Posts: 549

Re: Assembling my own box

Make sure you RTFM that comes with the motherboard, even if it is written in pigeon English  (I can't believe I just told Dibble to do that  8) ).

Although Its pretty straightforward, the trickiest part will probably be the heatsink, particularly if using an AMD processor, as their packages are more fragile. 
(Its assumed that the heatsink has some thermal compound on its mating surface - if not, you'll need to apply a very thin smear, not too much.)

After installing the processor, the heatsink should be placed on top.  It is ESSENTIAL that its absolutely horizontal on the chip (otherwise the package can crack when the heatsink is secured).  Adjustments can be made prior to attaching to the motherboard.

The heatsink attachment process is the most stressful (physically and mentally!)  You have to apply a significant amount of pressure on the securing lugs, typically with the aid of a screwdriver - one slip and local motherboard components can easily be damaged.  Recommend that heatsink attachment occurs prior to mounting the motherboard in the case, to avoid bending the board and potentially breaking tracks, ie on a flat, non-static surface (eg wood or anti-static bag).

Note: This was based on experience of installing the AMD XPxxxx generation of processors, and may be easier these days . wink

One other thing to ensure is that the motherboard standoff supports don't inadvertently short out tracks on the underside of the motherboard.

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#8 2006-03-19 13:56:33

Cam
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From: Brisbane, Aus
Registered: 2004-12-21
Posts: 658
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Re: Assembling my own box

The heatsink attachment process is the most stressful

Ha YES! When I was doing that I'm  pushing down on the clips thinking to myself "this feels like too much pressure, i'm sure this is going to break..." hmm

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#9 2006-03-19 15:58:20

iphitus
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From: Melbourne, Australia
Registered: 2004-10-09
Posts: 4,927

Re: Assembling my own box

Cam wrote:

The heatsink attachment process is the most stressful

Ha YES! When I was doing that I'm  pushing down on the clips thinking to myself "this feels like too much pressure, i'm sure this is going to break..." hmm

One of my friends broke a capacitator off his mobo when puttin his heatsink on.... that mobo still works today, 4 years later wink

iphitus

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#10 2006-03-19 23:02:41

copernikus
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From: Philadelphia, PA
Registered: 2005-12-09
Posts: 16

Re: Assembling my own box

Cotton wrote:

The heatsink attachment process is the most stressful

I find it best to buy a cpu/mobo combo and have it tested for me...

Saves a lot of time and frustration to just have it done for you then to try and mess around with it, at least in my experiences.

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#11 2006-03-20 06:20:26

phrakture
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From: behind you
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Posts: 7,879
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Re: Assembling my own box

It's also alot less stressful to buy as much onboard (the motherboard) if you're not going for top-o-the-line.  i.e. nforce 3 boards are particualrly nice as they come with onboard ethernet and 5.1 sound.  These setups also work nice even if you *are* going top of the line, as you can always wait a month or so to get a newer sound card/ethernet card.
Actually, I tend not to trust onboard graphics cards too much, too many crappy experiences.

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#12 2006-03-20 11:15:18

arooaroo
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From: London, UK
Registered: 2005-01-13
Posts: 1,268
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Re: Assembling my own box

copernikus wrote:
Cotton wrote:

The heatsink attachment process is the most stressful

I find it best to buy a cpu/mobo combo and have it tested for me...

Saves a lot of time and frustration to just have it done for you then to try and mess around with it, at least in my experiences.

That's a good tip. You can often get Mobo combos at a discount too.

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#13 2006-03-29 08:42:34

dtw
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From: UK
Registered: 2004-08-03
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Re: Assembling my own box

elasticdog wrote:

If you're interested in taking a look, I did a writeup about building my Arch machine, although it's mostly about customizing it for silence.  Let us know how it turns out!

Well, I was hoping for a pretty quite machine but that seems far beyond what I had planned!  Can that process be simplified by tower case choice, etc?

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#14 2006-03-29 12:49:39

iphitus
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From: Melbourne, Australia
Registered: 2004-10-09
Posts: 4,927

Re: Assembling my own box

dtw wrote:
elasticdog wrote:

If you're interested in taking a look, I did a writeup about building my Arch machine, although it's mostly about customizing it for silence.  Let us know how it turns out!

Well, I was hoping for a pretty quite machine but that seems far beyond what I had planned!  Can that process be simplified by tower case choice, etc?

I looked quit a bit at SPCR when building mine.

My case is an antec slk3000b, and has good airflow, and rubber mounts for the hdds, both of which help with keeping a quiet computer. I've got the chunky scythe ninja heatsink, and two nexus 120mm's controlled by zalman fanmates to run at the lowest temp. the antec fan that came with the case is mounted on the heatsink to improve it's cooling.

It's near inaudible when sitting right next to it, and silent at more than 1m. Except when my IDE drive spins up, which isnt all too often as it's set to spin down after 5 minutes with hdparm.

James

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#15 2006-03-29 14:14:33

elasticdog
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From: Washington, USA
Registered: 2005-05-02
Posts: 995
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Re: Assembling my own box

dtw wrote:
elasticdog wrote:

If you're interested in taking a look, I did a writeup about building my Arch machine, although it's mostly about customizing it for silence.  Let us know how it turns out!

Well, I was hoping for a pretty quite machine but that seems far beyond what I had planned!  Can that process be simplified by tower case choice, etc?

Well, one of the main ideas behind making a quiet system is to lower the levels of heat in the machine, thus allowing for lower fan speeds, thus having lower noise.  Choosing a case that breathes well can be a big help in getting fresh air to your components and keeping them cool.  SPCR is an awesome resource for all sorts of information, but if you're just looking to choose a nice case, I'd look at their Cases: Basics & Recommendations page.  Personally, if I were to build another machine right now, I'd probably opt for the Antec P150 case...it's expensive, but gets a lot of things right and has a great power supply included with it.  Just depends what your priorities are I guess...

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#16 2006-03-29 14:26:27

dtw
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From: UK
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Re: Assembling my own box

Hmm, I see problems report with P150 on SPCR - I'm opting for the Iphitus route - SLK3000b.  Entry level but damn good at that.

Where do you got your two nexus fans mounted then, iph?

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#17 2006-03-29 14:59:12

elasticdog
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From: Washington, USA
Registered: 2005-05-02
Posts: 995
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Re: Assembling my own box

Yeah...I thought they had those P150 power supply issues figured out (they were supposed to be fixed back in December), but I guess they're still going on from the look on the forums.  I'm more excited about the case design...it basically takes all the things I like about my Evercase 4252 and improves upon it in a stock configuration.  That said, it probably is a smart move to steer clear of the P150 for the time being...it would be darn expensive to buy a new power supply along with it!

A lot of people at SPCR have built machines using the Antec SLK3000B, which inspired me to buy one for a server I built at my job just last week.  I must say that I'm kind of so-so over it.  I guess I expected the build-quality to be a bit higher, as I've seen with other Antec cases (like the Sonata my window's machine sits in), but the overall design is pretty strong.  Plus the price is right and they are available without a power supply, so you can choose your own.

As Iphitus mentioned, the tri-cool fan that is included with that case does push a decent amount of air and is very quiet on its lowest setting.  As far as additional fans, if you got a Nexus for the heatsink and left the Antec tri-cool in the back of the case, that should be all you need.  A fan up front usually isn't necessary, and can sometimes even be detrimental to airflow.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll figure it all out...

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#18 2006-03-29 23:11:21

iphitus
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From: Melbourne, Australia
Registered: 2004-10-09
Posts: 4,927

Re: Assembling my own box

I use the tri cool on the heatsink, nexus on back of case,

I use a second nexus running real slow for intake at the front to keep my hdd's cooler. and to push a bit more air past my passively cooled graphics card.

A lot of my computer's configuration is based on a similar computer that con kolivas built for a friend, so it's a tried and true combo, though he didnt have the intake fan,

James

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#19 2006-03-30 08:11:58

dtw
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From: UK
Registered: 2004-08-03
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Re: Assembling my own box

Did you have to mod your case at all, Iph?

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#20 2006-03-30 10:52:23

AndyRTR
Developer
From: Magdeburg/Germany
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 1,640

Re: Assembling my own box

what cpu are you going to buy? will we see you joining our x86_64 porting team?

@iphitus: your cpu already has emt64 in it. what about you? aren't you interested in pushing arch64 becoming an official port?

AndyRTR

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#21 2006-03-30 11:06:17

iphitus
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From: Melbourne, Australia
Registered: 2004-10-09
Posts: 4,927

Re: Assembling my own box

dtw wrote:

Did you have to mod your case at all, Iph?

My case came with the standard air scoop over where the processor would be. I just removed the screws on it and it came away no problems. Now it serves as a pencil holder.

iphitus

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#22 2006-10-29 10:41:37

dtw
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From: UK
Registered: 2004-08-03
Posts: 4,436
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Re: Assembling my own box

Hmmmm - six months later a no new box has been built.  Clearly there have now been some changes to the spec though!

My current plan is to have the store build the basic system (mobo+CPU+HS,Case+PSU) as I'm worried about breaking the other bits; I can't afford to replace broken parts! From there I'll do my fan configuration, memory, hard drives, PCI etc.    Does that sound do-able?  Is it going to be easy to alter the fan config etc with the mobo and psu installed or is that something better done first?

My biggest concern at the moment is if the thermalright ultra-120 will fit in an SLK3000b - but I think it should ok.

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#23 2006-10-29 12:34:07

rayjgu3
Member
From: Chicago IL usa
Registered: 2004-07-04
Posts: 692

Re: Assembling my own box

dibble wrote
I'm worried about breaking the other bits; I can't afford to replace broken parts! ....
My biggest concern at the moment is if the thermalright ultra-120 will fit in an SLK3000b

are you a bull in a china shop kinda person ,a bit clumsy?
i myself can be ive kinda grown out of it 
have you spilled your beer or any other beverage on the keyboard ?
when changing the channels of your tv with the remote do you occasionally drop the remote?
you dont have to answer these questions ill say that i have done these things well except for the beer ( if i still drank i wouldnt have an interest in this techno stuff)
my point is this
dont be afraid of building your own box if your not sure look around at thrift stores salvation army stores check out the computer stores, they got old used boxes real cheap the pc store by me has a amd350 128mb ram 8 gb drive for a whopping $35  im pretty sure you can find a deal like that by you
break it down & reassemble it several times then
tear the thing down drill some holes in the case for extra fans check out the mother board for any simple mods for improvement of overclocking get in there and squeeze every little thing out of it
if you blow it up oh well if not turn around sell it on ebay give it to a friend/family member whatever just use it to learn/feel comfortable "inside the box" 
hey wait a minute i got i think 2 old at style case mobo with sim/dim ram in it i havent tossed/gave away yet if you want one of them its are yours for the price of shipping pm me if you want 1 ill make sure it works before sending
yeah they are a diffrent class of a machine but its the same principle/principal whatever they have a cpu, ram, drives 
ill say this when building a pc install cpu & heatsink + ram onto the mobo before dropping it into the case have the mobo on a firm steady suface
install drives into the case before mobo so if they do slip out of your hand (cause you forgot to put your beer down) they wont fall onto the mobo
before plugging in the drives power on the system to make sure all is well
you probably will hear a couple of beeps dont be alarmed enter the bios change time/date check your cpu/ram timings RTFM  dont overclock yet
reboot you should here a single beep all is well turn off plugin your cdrom/s
power on again boot up a live distro play around a bit turn off plugin harddrive power on single beep still your good to go turn off close it all up put in place where it will reside plugin all your stuff  your good to go

well im in the process of putting together an arch/myth/media  box myself
ill do several nono's i will use a magnetic screwdriver (always have) i will not have an electric wrist strap but i will rub my hands on the case, i will drink my beverage(not beer i gave it up) putting it down when assembling/modifying all pieces/parts    once setup it will probably not see the net cause it would involve running more cat5 & another router cause the router i have is filled

ps i had my wife assemble a pc once & she had no idea. i did watch her though & she did good glancing at the manual just a few times had the thing up in about 45 min

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#24 2006-10-29 12:35:51

iphitus
Forum Fellow
From: Melbourne, Australia
Registered: 2004-10-09
Posts: 4,927

Re: Assembling my own box

dtw wrote:

Hmmmm - six months later a no new box has been built.  Clearly there have now been some changes to the spec though!

My current plan is to have the store build the basic system (mobo+CPU+HS,Case+PSU) as I'm worried about breaking the other bits; I can't afford to replace broken parts! From there I'll do my fan configuration, memory, hard drives, PCI etc.    Does that sound do-able?  Is it going to be easy to alter the fan config etc with the mobo and psu installed or is that something better done first?

My biggest concern at the moment is if the thermalright ultra-120 will fit in an SLK3000b - but I think it should ok.

looks like it should fit. it's 161mm tall, and my scythe ninja is 150 tall, with enough room to spare.

though I do suggest the scythe ninja, partially because i know it'll work great (it's what I use), and because it's a tad more versatile, you can hang a fan off it if you want.

it also works fanless as well (Pentium D 2.8ghz), we had some hot weather a few weeks back, so I re-arranged my fans -- and my fan on it was blocked and not moving for two days. temps were fine and all smile only fan running was the silent case fan.

James

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#25 2006-10-29 14:48:04

T-Dawg
Forum Fellow
From: Wilmington, NC
Registered: 2005-01-29
Posts: 2,734

Re: Assembling my own box

dtw wrote:

..  Does that sound do-able?  Is it going to be easy to alter the fan config etc with the mobo and psu installed or is that something better done first?

My biggest concern at the moment is if the thermalright ultra-120 will fit in an SLK3000b - but I think it should ok.

Working around that stuff should be no trouble. The biggest thing to be concerned with is that your cpu fan is rated for your cpu. If its undersized, ie you upgrade your cpu, then it stands the chance of over heating which in the worst case scenario will shutdown your computer (thermal protection). As far as case fans are concerned on in the front and one in the back to draw air in from the front to the back should suffice for any arrangement. Just check that your MB has the plugins for them if not ask for some splice adapters that will fit onto to your powersupply connections.

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