Building a PC, Part II

Yesterday, we completed a basic build of Scott Hanselman's computer. We built the system up enough to boot to the BIOS screen successfully. Today, we'll complete the build by installing an operating system and burning it in.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

You’ll know you’re in the danger zone when something is too hot to leave your finger on for more than a few seconds.

I’m not sure how valid that really is… Under load things have wildly different safe operating temperatures. For example, I’ve had some graphics chipsets over the years that have been safe upto 120C… Assuming it was only buzzing around 90C, I’d still not be able to touch that.

While I agree that it’s a good test when you know your hardware, you really should find out what the safe operating temps before you start “optimising” or even burning in.

Totally jealous!

Hmm, that memory score (5.0) seems low … I’m used to seeing at least 5.4 / 5.5 for Core 2 Duo systems with DDR2-667 chips at 1066 MHz FSB.

I’m a fan of the Sony/NEC/Optiarc DVD RW drives on newegg right now because (1) they’re cheap (but they ALL are! :), and (2) they’re SATA! No more IDE cables :smiley: They don’t have “LightScribe” though.

I agree with the “can’t install Windows = bad hardware or disc” assertion. When I set up my newest workstation in December, the Vista installer refused to operate. Turns out my disc had a subtle scratch on the outer track. Boo! A replacement worked like a charm.

Don’t know if you’ll cover this, but sometimes it is puzzling to know when mobo drivers on the CD are needed, or not. E.g., video drivers on the mobo CD vs. the video card drivers.

Great stuff!

Well, you CAN install an OS without an optical drive. It just wouldn’t be any of Microsoft’s systems…

sometimes it is puzzling to know when mobo drivers on the CD are needed

Good point, I forgot that part. Updated!

you CAN install an OS without an optical drive. It just wouldn’t be any of Microsoft’s systems

You can install Vista from a 4 GB USB key…!DA410C7F7E038D!1665.entry

Wow, that’s a ton of power. I’m idling on a 300 Mhz OpenBSD box with 32 MB RAM. Seems to run a lot cooler than what you’ve got and does its job as a dev box quite well.

If the maximum power draw under load was 220 watts isn’t a 520 watt PSU overkill, wouldn’t a 300 watt PSU given you enough headroom for later expansion, e.g. more drives, more power hungry graphics card etc.?

Jeff, thanks, I’m loving this stuff. I thought you guys were going for 4GB? Isn’t the low score just because 2GB is a bit on the low side?

Scandalous memory score Jeff - what’s up? :wink: You noticed it, obviously. Is it a BIOS setting, or bad RAM? Also, I thought we were x64 - only 2gigs?

The memory score is based on speed, not size, AFAIK.

…But yours is low: My 2GB Vista system gives a memory score of 5.7 with a Core 2 Duo 6600, and 2GB of OCZ DDR2 800MHz/PC2-6400. That’s on an ASUS P5B mobo without any tweaking.

  • Roddy

“You’d be surprised how often motherboards ship with out-of-date BIOSes”

I’d have to disagree here, I’m pretty sure that the motherboards ship with the most up-to-date bios. Unfortunately, no-one has yet invented the over-the-air bios update for components sat on vendors’ shelves for 6 months…

In seriousness though, I think these two articles are great - I wonder if I can get away with sending the links to my dad and then classing that as dealing with his ‘I need a new computer, Son’ request…

forgot to mention that I built a similar spec machine a few months ago, based loosely around Jeff’s suggestions. Generally, I’m really pleased, but I had a couple of niggles:-

The Antec P180 case is big. REALLY big. And heavy, when it’s fully loaded. Health and Safety probably wouldn’t let me lift it unassisted. I had a AMD X64-based Shuttle XPC before, and the P180 is probably 3x the height, and 2x the depth. And 5x the weight.

Graphic card cooling: I bought a Sapphire X1950Pro without doing enough research :frowning: Good chipset, LOUSY fan. I upgraded the fan to an Arctic Accelero X2 within 48 hours, and the difference is phenomenal.

You’ll definitely want to set the boot order to ensure the right drives are booting first-- in our case, it’s DVD-R, Raptor, then the second drive.

I’ve always preferred to disable CD drive booting. It slows down the boot process, and when I want to boot from a CD I will use the BIOS boot menu (F12 on mine).

Is there anything specific we should be monitoring for while burning in ? I see your looking at power usage and heat, but there’s no info on what to look for within the burn in tools themselves.

Are there red flags that we should be aware of while watching the Prime95, RTHDRIBL, and CoreTemp application windows?

Why not install an easy version of Linux ?

Go on

Be a Devil !

Was the foldable keyboard used just to get it up and running, or is that the final configuration? I think one of those would quickly drive me insane if I had to use it for development.

However, do I recommend flashing the motherboard BIOS to the latest
version before you go any further.

The one time I tried flashing my BIOS, I ended up with a dead motherboard. I’m not ever doing that again, unless it is absolutely required.

Remember those driver CDs that came with the motherboard? Throw them
right in the trash. They’re way out of date by the time the
motherboard gets from the factory, to the vendor, and then finally
to you.

Hehe. I’m tempted to agree entirely. However, a sad reality intrudes. Typically networking is non-functional until the motherboard drivers are installed. That leaves you with a bit of a chicken and egg problem here, no?

The smart solution is to download the latest drivers for your motherboard before you start, so that you have them on hand for this step. Not being that smart, what I typically end up doing is installing the shipped drivers from the CD to get my networking going, then downloading the latest drivers for all my hardware and installing them from the hard drive.

The rough sequence is:
Install OS
Install MB drivers from CD (probably reboot multiple times)
Get Networking operable.
Download MB drivers from manufacturer and install (probably reboot multiple times)
Download patches/updates from Microsoft Update site (reboot oodles of times)
Download Firefox (IE is only used for MS Update from here on in)
Download Video drivers from NVidia (or chipset manufacturer)

On occasion, some of the MS update has to be done earlier, due to dependencies on service packs or Direct X or whatnot.

The “burn in” phase, I never thought of doing. Frankly at this point I’m usually nearly a man-day into the project, and too anxious to use the rig to wait. Its a darn good idea though.

Otherwise, I agree with the post entirely. It was quite well-written and informative too.

Yeah, I agree on that memory score seeming low. Mine’s at 5.7, and I only have a lowly C2D 4300 (at stock 1.8GHz) and 2GB of DDR2-800 with an 800MHz FSB. Are all four sticks working properly?

By the way, I agree with going with a tower instead of a XPC. For one, two 8600GTS video cards would never fit in an XPC; even if they fit, the heat would set it on fire. Second, I just upgraded from a Shuttle XPC (Athlon 2100) to a tower (Thermaltake Aguila). The tower is significantly cooler and quieter, making overclocking much easier.