Box Project #1

When did computers turn into a machine with so few individual components? Feels like I’m buying chunks of the machine already partway put together.

Here’s my parts list. Only seven items.

Plenty of room for upgrades in this, I know. That’s why the case isn’t one of those ridiculously tiny things the size of a sweater box. Those things… kind of weird me out, tbh. To me a computer is a big fifty-pound thing encased in sheet metal. But I digress.

Reasoning behind the parts list:

  • Integrated graphics is fine to start with. I’m not a rabid gamer. I could go out and buy someone’s 18-month-old external graphics card if I decided it wasn’t good enough, though. The case has room.
  • There’s no Windows license included. This should be obvious. It’s going to run Debian, of course. (I’ve had Elementary OS on a partition on my laptop for months… I’m kinda neutral on it. Shrug.) Windows might get a VM or a corner of the hard drive if my school has it for free, but otherwise…
  • Processor is quad-core, decent speed but not the fastest available. I like my VMs. The fans it comes with should be fine since I don’t feel the need to overclock it.
  • Antec case because I’m not a masochist–I want something nice to work in. It’s a sleek, sort of minimalist black, no weird lights or anything–and it’s $48 from Amazon.
  • A solid Antec power supply with the 80+ eco-whatever certification that means it’s efficient. I’ve had enough issues with laptop power supplies that I’m just super done with cheapness in this component.
  • 8GB RAM is solid enough for a Linux box, although there’s obviously room for upgrades. If I were building this to run mainly Windows I’d want 16GB.
  • Terabyte hard drive. I considered buying an SSD instead, or even a tiny one for just the operating system, but for now I’m putting that under the header of potential upgrades. They’re getting cheaper all the time, so it may be smart to wait, and this is good enough for me for now.
  • Nothing special about the CD/DVD drive. It reads, it writes, it’s $20.
  • Motherboards are kind of confusing to me. I don’t know what I’m looking for and they’re all labelled “gaming.” This one looks good though. ASUS is a good brand, it has enough RAM bays and outputs, and I’m pretty sure I looked up what the integrated graphics card was like when I picked it out months ago. My older brother (who built loads and loads of computers in the late nineties/early naughties and still takes stuff apart sometimes) thinks it looks good too so I’m running with it.

That’s my build–I’m ordering it now. It comes to about $600, which is a reasonable price for a computer where ALL the components are good quality, rather than just the ones that get showcased on the label (you ever hear a big-box computer store boast that their case and power supply are good quality? or that their computers are this upgradeable?). In other words, a “business” computer. That’s code for “it isn’t totally crap.”

Also, I don’t have to pay the Windows tax. ò_ó

I’ll let you all know when I get this done and can report on the experience and the performance of the result, so you can use or tweak my build example for your own purposes. I’ve never built a computer before but I’ve watched them being built and fixed, and lots of people are saying it’s gotten easier over the years. Anyway, I’m pretty jazzed about my new tech and this should be really neat!

Happy hacking!

 

Edit: Lucky I wasn’t being too literal when I said I was off to order it now. Martin in the comments is pointing out that I’m paying for way too much motherboard power and way too much power supply wattage. (I probably thought I was being careful when I picked these out and overestimated it.) I was not aware that there were calculators available for power supply needs–I didn’t see it in the PC building manual I bought or the online articles I read, and this seems a little on the bizarre side. If this were more my thing, I’d probably write my own, but I doubt I’ll have call to build more computers any time soon so I probably won’t be developing this skill much. Unless I go work for a repair shop or something, cleaning viruses and bad virus software out of PCs, and end up in that department. (Something I considered doing earlier this year.)

Anyway. I punched in the specs into the Cooler Master calculator and…

That is decidedly not a 650W kind of need. I’m going to try a couple of these calculators just to be sure but… uh. I think a cheaper power supply might be in order.

Edit #2: Newegg’s calculator says 400W for this build. I think a 500W with good efficiency will do it then…? Again, lots of potential upgrades. I don’t want to repurchase this component.

Edit #3: New build here. I added some trimmings and necessities so I don’t forget them. Also added a Mac keyboard, which I like because they’re aluminum, you can get keyboard condoms for them, they feel good to type on, and I don’t have to fight different muscle memory impulses for my laptop and desktop re: command vs. control. Worth $50 as long as it works correctly. My keyboard cover on my MacBook has saved my keys from all kinds of junk gumming them up.

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8 thoughts on “Box Project #1

  1. That motherboard is an overkill for this build, I have that one in my 1400$ gaming PC. B-150 or H-170 motherboards from ASUS would be enough and they’re half the price of Z170-A. Also, a 650W power supply is way more than what’s required. But hey, if you’ve already ordered the parts it’s probably a bit too late. Good luck building, it’s a lot of fun!

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  2. A beefy motherboard and substantial power supply is a recipe for longevity in my book.
    I am a big fan of ASUS MoBos and something with unused ports, expansion slots and integrated devices is going to fill up the case but I cannot imagine ever regretting too much computer. If this is your first build – get ready it likely won’t be your last. These components might be just the ticket when you design the Rebek Mark II – I say follow your gut… if you make any mistakes, pwn them. If you are building a workstation for a particular purpose then taking the minimalist approach makes good aesthetic/fiscal sense but if you are building for the future I say build the hell out of it 😉 – and enjoy!

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    • I won’t step it down too much, but I’m reading that an excessively strong power supply will be more inefficient and that if that power isn’t used it just turns into heat. Not great for the other components, or the utility bill!

      As for the motherboard, I actually had one listed that was a serious gaming overclocker thing, and that’s not actually what I’m after. I’m going with what seems to be the better of the two Martin suggested, the H170. Its top review on Newegg is from someone with a pretty similar system to what I’m building so I feel a little more solid about this choice. I was having trouble finding info on mobos during my research a few months ago.

      This morning though it was WLAN adapters I was having trouble finding docs on. I had juuuust managed to figure out what kind of slots the H170 had (not an easy task if you’re trying to figure out what you’re seeing in grainy photos and all the docks and slots look the same to you). It has PCIe slots that shouldn’t be taken up by anything else. Then I got lost in some article about stuff like antenna length, and THEN I remembered that this might be a component Linux could have trouble with, and I went looking for info on that that wasn’t hopelessly outdated.

      Eventually I settled on a cheap $15 USB thingy that listed a bunch of Linux distros in the name on Amazon. Probably not the fastest, but will almost certainly plug and play until I can figure out anything better.

      Also, I researched thermal compound. I thought that was stuff you just squeeze a little on and smush it down and that’s it. But there are thermal compound enthusiasts who run tests on which is better and stuff. And they have names like SILVER DIAMOND GRIZZLY COOLABORATION SUBZERO EVER-ICE THERMO COMPOUND!!! And some compounds have to be melted with a stovetop because there’s silver in them which might make them cool your CPU by an extra 2 degrees or whatever.

      I just picked one the Internet said was cheapish, worked decently, and was easy to put on. Subzero ICEE grizzlies optional.

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      • Sorry for the late answer, I guess I forgot to check the e-mail notifications and completely forgot about this…
        I made some change to the new build you went with.

        https://pcpartpicker.com/list/DQvCQV

        i5-7400 instead of i5-6400
        It’s newer but won’t make that much of a difference. I asume you won’t have a problem updating your BIOS if that’s necessary as it says in the build warnings. If you’re worried about this, go with 6400, it doesn’t matter that much.

        Cooler Master Hyper 212X Cooler
        The stock Intel cooler sounds like a jet, so getting something better is basically required. This one is the most used one and has the potential to be basically dead quiet. It comes with thermal compound, so there’s no need to buy one separately.

        Everything else looks good enough and the power supply you went with looks reasonable. EVGA is known for making good ones, I have a 850W Gold+ from EVGA myself.

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      • Noted. Noise isn’t uber important to me, so I’ll buy the cooler later if it seems truly loud or lacking. Not that I don’t believe you but a college student’s gotta pinch cash where she can.

        I’ll look at the processor too.

        Thanks! You saved me a chunk of cash earlier. What’s your Steam handle, if you don’t mind telling?

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      • You’re welcome. I assume you want to gift me some game or something, but if you want to reward me in any way, just keep writing on this blog, that’s going to be enough 🙂

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