Making

Building my new Computer, Part 2: Assembly and a stupid Fuck-up

Assembly and Apology

Hey there. Now that we’d get to the actually interesting part of this whole endeavour, I messed everything up. And I had everything planned out so well: Assembling a computer while pausing for photo documentation would have me get ahead of myself and just forget taking photos. But thankfully, I have a friend who has never looked at the insides of a computer and wanted to stop by to watch me assemble. He’s the perfect candidate for a makeshift photographer, right? With an eye unaccustomed to the process, he’d be great at spotting things interesting and informative for fellow newbies, and I’d have my hands free to assemble everything. Except that we just assembled everything over the course of a little over an hour, merrily chitchatting over what goes where, what things used to be like a few generations of hardware back, and so on, and completely forgot that photos were to be taken until we were nearly finished.

I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to show you how I put together my new computer. :( I can at least show you an image of the freshly spraypainted computer case, though:

geki’s fab camouflaged computer case

it’s camouflage painted because it’s faster that way

On the other hand, not that much is lost, since putting together a limited number of items is only so complex and/or varied a task. If you have never witnessed the process, this video by tested.com (yes, that I linked to in an earlier part of the series, I know) is time well spent. It doesn’t go into every detail, but illustrates it well enough, while conveying a certain relaxedness about it all:

If you crave more detail to each step, this video-enriched article by wes fenlon at pcgamer.com should have you covered – be it thermal paste for that whopping monster of a custom cpu cooler or making sure you didn’t forget to put power wires to every component that needs it, wondering why it just won’t work.

Assembly was, as mentioned, very painless. The only stumbling stone on that front was when I managed to drop a small screw into my cpu cooler and had to fetch tweezers to get it back out from underneath a fan blade again. (While I was giggled at by my friend, too!)

The Fractal Design Define R5 is a dream of a case. It is well-built, looks great, has a lot of well-thought-out details, and makes it super duper easy to keep the case free of cable clutter. From what I’ve seen, you don’t even need to put up with its ~100 EUR price tag for these perks, as the less expensive Fractal Design cases seem similarly well designed and living-room presentable. Big thumbs up to them!

A Small Power Cable Puzzle

The neat ways the case allows you to route your cables means you’ll need more cable length than just a straight line between points A and B, though. (Because cable clutter is nothing but lots of cables going in straight lines from their points A to B.) Especially with some of the power cables my PSU came with, that was a bit on the tight side. While most cables were just right, there also were the two obnoxiously short drive power cables. They have several plugs each along their length, but their overall lengths and spacings just weren’t that good.

Here’s the situation: The two SATA power cables that came with the Seasonic G-550 have plugs at intervals of 40 cm – 12 cm – 12cm – 12 cm and 30 cm – 12cm respectively. This means you can wire up one reasonably spaced bunch of 4 drives at 40 cm distance from the power supply, and a further such bunch of 2 drives at 30 cm distance. My case is roughly 50 cm tall and 50 cm deep. The power supply sits in the bottom back, two hard drives sit in the bottom front, the optical drive sits at the front top, and the SSD sits at about mid-height, 2/3s back, sequestered away behind the mainboard.

With just a little extra length on the long cable, I could have used its first two plugs for the hard drives, and have the last one reach all the way up to the optical drive. But no, it’s too short for that. It’s also too short to reach from the hard drives back to the SSD! I was already preparing to leave out some drives for the time being and wire them up with extension cables later, but remembered at the last minute that a drive tray I bought for the SSD in my old computer also came with a power cable adapter to make one general-purpose power plug into a SATA drive one. Puzzle solved: The short cable goes to the optical drive, the long cable to the hard drives, and the converted general-purpose cable to the SSD.

There’s probably no problem when you don’t want to hook up a ton of drives, but it turned out to be a bit of a head-scratcher for me, with two not overly long cables having to reach three spots in a spacious full-ATX case. In fact, the cables are pretty well geared towards a very likely build configuration nowadays: Most mainboards have 6 SATA sockets for drives, so supplying more than 6 SATA power plugs is overkill for a PSU. Having them divided into two cables with 4 and 2 plugs respectively fits the Define R5’s internal setup with a column of hard drive trays in the front and up to two SSDs behind the mainboard. Leave out the optical drive and there you are. If you go for a µATX case on top of that, the cables should be more than fine.

The Computer Situation Now and What’s in the Future

Anyway, these minor grievances aside, I’m not currently running the computer in the configuration I planned – as we’re speaking, it’s sporting my old computer’s graphics card instead of the newly bought and much faster GTX 1070. The reason isn’t defective hardware, but a software problem I’ll dutifully document in a later post because it’s part of close to two days of struggling to get shit to work.

Also, I’ll be getting a notebook for work in September, so I’ll probably postpone further fiddling on the computer until then and keep it ‘just running’ with not too much wasted work. I’ll try to remember shooting a photo of the case interior with everything assembled when I put in the new graphics card. :)

Future plans? Future plans. Besides bringing this computer to its final form some time in September, I’m already hatching plans for small improvements. One of them I alluded to earlier: I really need a new screen. My googling on the topic has just started, but I pencilled in the Dell U2715H for now. It’s 27″, 2560×1440 pixels, and sells for ~430 EUR right now. That’s at least 100 EUR cheaper than I expected.

Also, I’m thinking of a few smaller additions for an unspecified later date: My external 4 TB hard drive is working much better now, so I won’t need to replace it with an internal drive for reliability reasons. But I do like the idea of having a backup for my library drive, and Western Digital’s 4 TB hard drive only costs ~130 EUR. Furthermore, I’m pondering whether to replace my processor’s stock cooler with a larger one – the stock cooler should be adequate, but a larger cooler would run more silent most of the time.

Those are all stories for future blog posts, though.