Tag Archives: Fractal Design

The Other New Rig in the House

After a practice run by building up my daughter’s new computer it was time to work on my own.

I wish I could say that I spent a lot of time digging into the details of things, but I sort of did that with the first computer, so the second one was a bit more arbitrary.  I went and browsed configs in PC Partpicker to see what looked good then threw everything together and ordered it.

I ended up with this:

Putting it all together went about as expected.  The cats needed to be involved again, and aside from when Rigby decided he needed to stand on the motherboard, they mostly contented themselves by stealing zip ties and other little items from the table.  The worst moment was when I put the video card on top of the new case, then forgot it was there and knocked it off by accident.  It fell all the way to the floor and bounced a few times, which is exactly the sort of thing you want to happen with expensive new electronics.  Fortunately my bare foot broke the initial impact, though I did have to stop to bandage up the bleeding gouge it left.

I went for the “a few dollars more” approach that often grips me when I am purchasing the CPU.  That is the core bit of the build, the part I am never going to change, so I tend to buy beyond my needs.  Six cores, twelve threads, maybe somebody will make a game that will use all of that some day.  Right now it barely wakes up to get WoW or EVE Online moving.

I do want to give a shout out to Cooler Master for their CPU cooler kits.  I’ve built up four machines this decade, two with their kits and two without, and I have to say they are good.  The i7 doesn’t come with a stock cooler, and after fumbling with the Zalman I bought but ended up not using for my daughter’s rig, I was feeling tentative on the whole subject.  But I remembered that Cooler Master install from 2010 and decided to go with them again.

And I am glad I did.  Their install kit isn’t revolutionary or anything, but it has an extra step in it that makes all the difference.  I’m always a bit nervous when working on the CPU and the cooler and the motherboard at the start, getting that back plate mounting lined up and set.  But the Cooler Master kit makes it easy.

Then there is the motherboard.  For no good reason I went with the MSI full ATX model.  Having WiFi and Bluetooth on board seemed like a good idea.  It actually let me stand up the computer out in the family room where I was doing the build before moving it back in my office for the direct hookup to the router.  Did I really need the LED lighting on the motherboard though?

Mystic Light!

Well, you know I have it on and running.  There is even an app that comes with it to control it… which is hardly a surprise because MSI included at least a dozen different applications to control various aspects of the motherboard, all of which use the Windows 10 alert system to tell me when there are updates.  Anyway, I had the app.

Mystic Light Control

Apparently if I had multiple MSI devices that supported the Mystic Light option, I could get them all to pulse various colors like the floor in Saturday Night Fever.  All I would need is a strobe and a fog machine, and we’ll get to the former.

Having gone with a full ATX, I needed a bigger case than the tight little model I bought my daughter.  While I like the Cooler Master cases, I was attracted to some of the Fractal Design models as well, and ended up going with the model linked above.

On the bright side, it looks good, had a spot for my optical drive, space for the new hard drive and a couple of old ones, and good ventilation features, with two very quiet 120mm fans included with the case.

On the downside, the space under the motherboard is tighter than I would have liked.  My daughter’s case was a dream in that regard, while this one was a much tougher fit.  The two fans have white LED lighting that has an unfortunate resemblance to a swastika.

Not exact, but you can see it

And then there is the HDD read/write light on the top of the front panel which is so bright it ought to come with a seizure warning.  Seriously, this thing was in the same league as those survival beacons a friend’s dad, who was a Navy flier, used to have around.  I put a piece of masking tape over it and my office still probably looked like a gun battle was going on from outside.  So I put a piece of duct tape over the masking tape and I can STILL see the light.

It shines through this no problem

But at least I don’t feel like I am in a disco anymore when in my office with the lights out.

I did, however, cop out when it came to the video card.  CPUs are forever, video cards I’ll replace every year or two.  And, while video card prices are coming down, I couldn’t get on board spending $450 or more to get a serious boost over my old card.  So the GeForce 1060 was a compromise.  It is a bit better than my old one, draws less power, and produces less heat, but it isn’t a dramatic change at all.  The dropping value of crypto currency means I might be good to upgrade in a year or so. (The story behind that.)

And then there was the move from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

At this point most of the issues have been worked out of Windows 10.  And while I could have gone with Windows 7 again, it is falling out of support in 2020, which I am reliably informed arrives in less than two years.  Given how long I stayed with Win7, it was probably time to move on.

Still, there was some things to get used to.  While it wasn’t the Window-menu free abomination that was Win8, I do miss the compact, list everything as one-line aspect of Win7.  And the update notifications are a little more in my face than I would like.  Also, why the hell did they take the mixer out of the sound option on the task bar.  I used that ALL THE TIME.  Now it is hidden in the control panel somewhere, so I have to go find it to make Minecraft quieter so I can hear my audio book.

I did also opt to go with Zinstall’s transfer utility to move things to the new machine.  It didn’t matter with my daughter’s machine.  Going from MacOS to Windows meant full reinstalls anyway.  But for all the crap I have, I decided to go for it.  I used it for my wife’s last computer upgrade and that went well.  It isn’t cheap, and it isn’t perfect, but I don’t think there is a better option for getting everything over and in a running and configured state.  I had to go find the product key for my copy of Office 2013, but when I opened up Notepad++ all my documents opened up just like they had before.

Anyway, I am setup and running and on the new machine in under a week, which frankly beyond expectations.  I have a couple more fans on order for the case, just to complete the cooling vision.  I miss the big 210mm case door fan on my old Cooler Master HAF case, but I’ll make do.