It’s been 10 years since I built my last computer

And I’m about to do it again.

I bought my last one about four and a half years ago for less than I could’ve built one. Quad core, lots of memory, dual head PCIx video card…$400-ish.

Well, that one just died in less than spectacular fashion. Again. The drive I got two months ago is having the same symptoms the original drive did, meaning that while the BIOS can detect it, the controller can’t seem to see it. It’s weird, and I don’t really have time to troubleshoot it. This is the fourth hardware failure on this box this year (very glad I moved the blog from home-hosted to HostGator), so time to just get a new one.

After off-loading my sites to HostGator, the only thing this box did was act as a media server. I have been using XBMC since it was on the original XBOX. The PC is connected to a Pioneer VSX-1020-K using a DVI cable for video and an optical cable for sound. The receiver is hooked up to a Samsung HDTV which basically acts like a big hairy monitor*. I freaking love that receiver.

So we have this nice TV, nice receiver, and a nice entertainment center, and next to all that is a mini tower that looks out of place. Well, now I’m going to fix that. But I need your help.

See, it’s been so long since I’ve built a computer that I may be missing something. I need gamers and other performance-minded folks to look at this and say, “Hey, wiz? That’s not gonna work and here’s why…” I’ve already had a guy at work tell me I didn’t need to buy a CPU cooler since the retail box I was getting comes with one.

So here goes…

What I have already:

From the old machine I’ll be pulling a pair of Western Digital 2 TB WD Green SATA III Intellipower 64 MB Cache Hard Drives. I bought those about 2 weeks before the flood that caused hard drive prices to double overnight and triple in a week. They are my mirrored media volume. All my videos, music, and pictures are on that setup.

I also have an LG Blu Ray player/DVD Burner similar to this one that I bought at the same time.

I plan on at least testing the two other hard drives that may or may not be bad. I’m thinking not, for the reasons described in the top of the post. One is a 750GB, the other is a 500GB. I’m hoping they’re both still good, but if not…well the 500 is less than two months old so it’s still under warranty. UPDATE: I was able to load both drives (individually) in an external drive enclosure and get them visible in Windows on another machine. So the drives aren’t bad. This confirms my suspicion that a controller on my old board was being wonky.

The power supply in the old server is less than 6 months old, and I think its a 600w, so I’m going to try to reuse it, too. That may not last long because I might opt for a silent PSU in a couple of months.

The Case:

I want to build something that will fit in with the rest of my equipment, so I’m going with an nMediaPC 6000b.

I bought those two 2TB drives with the intent of buying a 3rd later and setting up some software raid. Add in the two drives that might still be good, and that’s a whole lot of drive bays I’m going to need. This puppy has 6 of them, and will still fit in my entertainment center. It’s going to be a tight fit, but it’ll work.

I totally swiped most of the rest of this list from PC Perspective’s Leaderboard from 9-2-2012. I’m using their mid-range specs as a base.

The Motherboard:

Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3 Intel Z68 LGA 1155 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s DDR3 2133 ATX Motherboard

I gotta tell ya, I was amazed at what you can get in a motherboard for $100 these days. The on-board video card has an HDMI out that will do 1080p and 7.1 audio. That’s fantastic. I’m not going to be playing Modern Combat Warfare Elite Operator Black Operations 2014 on this thing, so I don’t need or particularly want a fancy video card. I just need it to play handle MKVs and Blu Ray playback.

The CPU:

Intel Core i5-3570K Quad-Core Processor 3.4 GHz

I think I paid $350 for my 3.0Ghz Pentium 4. This seems like a fair price to me. I did just find out, though, that the “k” at the end of the model number means that this one can be overclocked. I guess Intel figured out a way to extract more money from the performance computing folks by locking down a chip’s multiplier.


Corsair Vengeance 16 GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600MHz

The very thought of 16gb of memory makes me giddy. I want to go with 2×8 instead of 4×4 so I can go up to 32gb later if I want. I probably won’t, but there’s no price difference. Yes, there is a very, very small performance difference, but I’m not building a gaming rig. The only reason I want this much memory in the first place is for editing. And I want this one to last 5 years, too.

What else?

That’s all I think I need. Am I missing anything? Is there some nuance I may have missed after being out of the game for so long?

*I was really, really concerned with getting a “Smart” TV. I shopped around for the best features and software, and even “hacked” my TV to get extra features within a day or two of bringing it home. Now I don’t use any of that stuff.

15 comments to It’s been 10 years since I built my last computer

  • Not an answer to your question, but another question for you.

    Our computer is on it’s last legs and we desperately need a new one. I’ve never built a computer, but was thinking this might be a time to start as I’ve been unhappy with the last couple store bought boxes we’ve had. (A Dell, and I can’t remember the one before that..)

    Can you point me to some resources on essentially “building a computer for dummies.” I’m not talking what components to pick so much as the very, very basics of how you put the stuff together. So far all I’ve ever done is add a couple memory cards to my box once, so consider me a total noob.

    Rob (Trebor)

    • That’s more than most people have done 😀

      Building a computer is like building an AR lower…it’s really easy, but seems daunting.

      I don’t have a resource for you other than the first hit in google is a video from NewEgg and those guys know their stuff:

      The basics are motherboard, processor (with heatsink/fan), memory, hard drive, video, sound, power supply, optical drive, and case.

      The trickiest part is getting the heatsink on the processor, though that might be less tricky than it was a decade ago.

  • Of curiosity, where does one acquire these parts? I am contemplating such a creature myself, although somewhat less in specification. I just need something that can swing a windows vm without losing its mind… Sigh. I hate Windows.

  • I can see building a new desktop PC, but not a new media center. I just removed my media server PC and put in a $35.00 Raspberry Pie running xbmc. My general backup computer/file server runs FreeNAS, which feeds the Pie.

    Other than a lack of optical drives, my setup is running great. And my dvd/BlueRay player handles everything else.

  • a leap at the wheel

    What are you using for input? I’ve had a few wireless keyboard/touchpad thingies, but they seem to die off at an alarming rate.

    • I use this one. It’s worked well for me for the last year, and I don’t think I’ve had to replace the batteries yet. I have left it on for a couple of days, but it has some feature on it where it goes to sleep after a while so it’s not a problem.

  • […] Ten years since he built his last computer. I used to build my own then, they became cheaper to just buy. Sure, you have to decrapify them some but they were just as good. Of course, now that I use laptops (of our 6 PCs, one is an old desktop we use basically as a backup and print server), I buy them instead of build. […]

  • BenC

    You didnt list specifics on the Power Supply but not all Power supplys are created equal. Don’t cheap out on the power supply get a good brand name. A bad power supply can cause all sorts of problems and even ruin components. This is what I plan to put in my system

  • S Lee

    I like to check out the builds and get feedback from here:

    It’s a great resource if you are just getting back into the DIY PC scene and want to get caught up with the latest tech and builds.

  • Fodder4Thought

    I’ve got a first gen Apple TV running XBMC on Crystalbuntu (adds support for the broadcom mini pci graphics card that replaced the wireless card inside)that’s fed by an old (ten years or more) tower running freenas with 2gb of ram with mirrored 2tb western digital green drives. Full HD output, plays everything, and the transfer speeds are great. Commercial versions? Who needs ’em?

  • Eseell

    SSDs are getting really cheap now (compared to where they were) and putting your OS and most-used apps on one will make a big difference in how responsive your PC feels.

  • […] last year, I built up a home theater PC to replace one that had died. It’s got a very pretty case designed to fit in with audio […]

  • […] The new house has a living room on the main floor and a theater room upstairs, whereas the old house just had one huge room on the main floor. We put all the entertainment center stuff from the old house in the theater room and decided after a couple of months of searching that I was just going to have to build one. The problem we were running into was that we couldn’t find one that fit in the space available and could hold the Home Theater PC I built last year*. […]

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