Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Built this, done that

I had never built my own computer. I never felt comfortable assembling all those parts without putting a wrong wire somewhere and watching my effort go up in a ball of smoke (literally). Or risk bringing down the entire power grid in my area. However, I decided to take the plunge as I wanted to build something tangible.

I have to say, the internet has made it virtually impossible for someone as inexperienced as myself to make a mess of things. There is a wealth of information out there with regards to building one's own PC.

For those who are interested, here is a log of how I bult my computer (more or less on an Australian basis):

- Research and more research
I used the internet and hopped onto some of the forums available. The one I really liked was Whirlpool. The way I saw it was - if it isn't too complicated, there is a high likelihood that someone is or has done something similar. There seemed to be some very knowledgeable individuals on the forums (hard to verify as I don't have a clue), so very handy for asking a question or picking up tips. I worked out my budget and needs, and searched for similar criteria. Furthermore, Whirlpool have suggested boxes across a good range of prices (for those who are looking for a rather quick upgrade). The main thing for me was ensuring that I was getting good value and that the system parts were compatible. If unsure, ask!

- The price is right
Once I had worked out the build/box I was happy with (and was within my budget), I started to run some searches on where I could source the parts I wanted. The main search I used here was Staticice. I just typed in the computer part (e.g. HD4850) and viola!. Up comes the goods. Sneaky thing was that shipping costs for some parts started to add up which blew out my budget/feasibilities.

- Low cost parts
I then visited the shops I had determined had the lowest cost. One of the good low cost options I had found was in MSY. I have to say, these guys really take low overheads to a new level. Fortunately, I had done research as sales staff don't give advice. Unfortunately, there was a long queue out the door and it was raining. Not great, until I headed inside and watched all the people carrying their newly bought parts out the door. Like kids in a candy store - but with adults. (ok, mainly guys who are nerdy like me!). One thing I didn't prepare well was a parts list (premarked with what I wanted), as the store I went to didn't have every part I wanted and I ended up forgetting to buy one part! Doh! I realised after leaving the place and by then I didn't want to line up again for another rivetting 45mins. Tip for next time - take a handheld console. I went to a store in the city, but they were selling it up to 40% dearer - ouch! Another quite reliable place was Megaware. They were great in terms of advice and they answer their phone so I could confirm my order in advance. The main reason I chose these two places was because I could pick up (and save on costs) and also, they were open over the weekend.

- Putting it all together
This is where I had the most apprehension, and there was a point where I thought to myself, 'What am I doing? Why didn't I just pay someone to do all this?'. Anyway, one of the more sound pieces of advice is to read the manuals for everything. The last thing I needed was to misread something. The main steps I followed were on Whirlpool (again) and just to be sure I looked a simple video (pictures telll a thousand words!). I only got stuck on three things: power cables, front case switches and LED statuses and the powering of the case fans.

After checking that everything was correctly positioned and all the wires were correct, I crossed my fingers and powered my new build up. When the boot up screen appeared, I think I whooped for joy as I managed not to botch it up! I then powered down and made sure that the wires were all neatly positioned (as one wire was precariously positioned next tothe blade of one of the case fans!). It isn't every day that I get to build something quite so tangible, so before attaching the case covers, I couldn't resist taking a photo:

I have to admit, it was definitely satisfying to finally complete the build (I liken it to completing a video game). It was a bit easier than I expected, and I would definitely do it again. Sadly, my research into parts revealed the extent that it is better in the US in terms of pricing and shipping costs. *sigh* The volume game wins again. (Depressing looking at newegg.com compared with prices in Australia)

So for those interested my final build was:
CPU: AMD AM3 Phenom II x2 550BE
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA720-US3
RAM: Kingston 4GB DDR2
GPU: Sapphire 512M HD770
CAse: CoolerMaster CAC T-05 w/ 460W PSU
Optical Drive: LG DVD-Drive
KB/Mouse: ASUS Vento

Not the most powerful of machines, but it should serve its purpose over the next few years. For now, I will keep it at stock settings, but hopefully my build is flexible enough to overclock later on down the track (at which point more research will be required).

So with the countdown of the financial year, I can say that I have built something and done something new. Next challenge.....