Computer build

Now for something totally different. A computer build for the gamer-kid and I. He’d like better game-play, I’ve found that attempting to do video-editing on an older machine is, er, rather painful. Getting OpenShot to smoothly play even a small sample vid was choppy, and a 3-minute clip might take 5 to save as a final version to look at, and then another 5 in Handbrake to compress it to a reasonable size. A 15-min piece? Time enough to go make dinner. So, with that two-part goal in mind, I started shopping at NewEgg.com and Amazon, while reading various articles and watching many videos and comparing features and possibilities at PCPartpicker.com and Passmark. It took a little while.

In the end I went with an AMD Ryzen 3600 CPU, 32 GB fairly fast Flare X memory, Phanteks case (much larger than I’d originally planned), Asrock x570 motherboard, GeForce GTX 1660 Super video card, BlueRay player, Hyper 212 EVO CPU cooler, NVMe m.2 SSD for the main boot drive, and EVGA SuperNova G3 80+ Gold power supply, and 1080P gaming monitor on sale at Costco.

Once all the parts showed up (except one, more on that in a moment), the kid and I started assembling it; mostly him, with me asking all the leading questions and providing a second set of hands so things went reasonably smoothly. It’s an early Christmas present for him, with endless boxes to open. I hadn’t bought the monitor yet, so we just hooked it up to an existing monitor, and hit the power switch…. nothing. Not even a motherboard/bios message. Mucho de’nadda. Huh…  Monitor did say “no signal detected” when first plugged in, but… After a little testing, I decided there was something incompatible about the (old) HDMI cable.

Went to Costco and bought the new monitor (now conveniently on sale), brought it back, plugged it in, and the start up worked. We went into the bios and made a few small adjustments so it correctly read the memory settings, and made sure it detected the available hardware properly. Yep, all was well.

Restart and installed Win10 off a USB drive, went fine (no activation key yet, just getting things going). Fiddled around, downloaded a few tools, all looked good. Downloaded the latest Asrock BIOS for the specific motherboard (ver 2.10), and tried to install it using the BIOS “Instant Flash.” Nope, nothing on the drive it claims. Dug around some more, eventually tried downloading an older version, finally got one that would work so I could update from V1.6 to V1.9. Close, but not the latest. Guess I’ll wait for the 2.3 in a couple of months. I then realized that the BIOS flash has nuked my updated memory settings. Went into BIOS, put them in again, booted up and….. well, I tried to boot. No POST.

Damn. Bricked it? Hope not permanently.

POST status lights blink, indicate a problem. Reboot enough that it auto-resets to default. Go into BIOS again, set it for totally automatic factory default (slow) memory settings, and it starts up. [Later edit: I mis-remembered this part. I had to jumper the CMOS rest with a handy piece of metal to force the reset to defaults so I could go into the BIOS and make it auto-reset after a couple of bad POST (Power On Self Test) fails.]

Another dozen reboots with gradual, incremental memory setting changes later, it is still running, and with something vaguely resembling what the memory kit I has is capable of, but nothing at all like limit-pushing overclocking tweaks. But it is much faster than my old box, and so far today rock-sold stable. Some of the driver updates look more like huge-normeous bloat-fests (nearly a gigabyte of download for a video driver update? NO, not doing that.) Running a few benchmanrks indicate it’s a pretty solid build, so far, even without much in the way of overclocking tweaks and all the best drivers found and installed yet. Good.

Now I just need to install Linux (once I figure out for certain which distro I want – any recommendations?) on the second SSD and properly arrange the dual boot. Then, sometime later, I’ll add some media storage HDD in a RAID configuration of some sort.

Sort of fun, but also sort of frustrating, and a time-suck. But not as much as using a totally under-powered system that makes working on it painfully slow.

Adendum: Went with Mint/Cinnamon for Linux, eventually got it installed on the second HD, got drivers and such installed, got some programs installed to test out, appears to work except for the wifi connection (have to use CAT5).

4 thoughts on “Computer build

  1. I always find it interesting to read about people’s computer builds, but I don’t think I’m willing to try it on my own!

    Maybe some day…

    1. It’s really not that hard, even for a noob, if you have a little guidance. Start with
      https://pcpartpicker.com/
      https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_value_available.html#xy_scatter_graph
      and an outline of a budget and a clear idea of what you really need it for, so you can prioritize features and costs and trade-offs. Play around with various configurations. Watch a bunch of videos like

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHY6ygHj80c

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhX0fOUYd8Q

      Find a computer geek friend (no shortage of them around here, drop me a line if you don’t have anyone else local), ask a lot of questions, then you buy the parts and they can help you through it. Unless you are well below average in every category of skill needed (read a manual, turn a screwdriver, ask a question, insert tab A into slot B, etc), it’s really not that hard, through there usually are a few “uhhhh… WTF?” moments in most cases, even if most of them are not really much of anything beyond ignorance manifesting itself. But that is a part of learning. Oh, and ask a lot of questions. watch more videos, get confused, then ask more questions 🙂

    2. Oh, one other thing. The kid’s current favorite title can only run about 40 FPS on the current system at high quality graphics settings, and is just barely limited to 60 by the monitor on the lowest settings. We did a quick game test. The new system can run the same game at max quality settings at 144 FPS. His comment was “REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” (I may be missing an E or two there, but you get the idea)

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