About My Computer

In 2012 I decided to take a shot at building my own computer.  Since getting my first tower-computer in 1994 (it had a CD-ROM in it!!!), I’d been somewhat obsessed about having the best machine possible.  However, what “the best” meant was always a little elusive for me.

Skip to the specs of the final build.

Over the next several years, I bought and used fairly high-end machines, but there was always something not quite perfect about them.  There were a few specifications that could have been better.  And, of course, desktop computers are obsoleted in the time it takes to open the box.  When I first began pricing out components individually, I developed a pattern of looking for the second-newest version of things.  For video cards and CPU’s especially, there seemed to be a big difference in price just below the very top tier component.  By the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I was picking all my own components for the most part but having someone else actually purchase and assemble them.  Also, I was only selecting the main components.  I’m not even sure I evaluated motherboards during this time, just telling my builder to go with whatever worked.

Partly because I wanted a monster machine (to see what I could do with it and, you know, bragging rights) and partly because I was curious how hard it would be to do it, I decided to take the plunge and do everything from start to finish on my own.  Also, it was at this time that I was expecting to be purchasing a Nikon D800 camera and figured I needed a super-computer to process the image files.

An almost empty case

The main thing I had going for me was patience.  I wasn’t in a hurry to have the new machine up and running, so there was plenty of time to research current specifications and look for price deals.  I didn’t have unlimited funds for this project, but that’s one of the promises of a DIY computer build – It’s supposed to be a lot less expensive than buying a complete system retail.

The CPU and I/O fan have been added to the motherboard

Something I learned right away is that you can’t simply get the best of everything and put it all together.  Even if there were a “best” of everything (which there isn’t; there are compromises), every type of component doesn’t work with every other type of component.

64 GB of RAM and a liquid CPU cooling unit are added

Everything has to work with the motherboard, of course, but there are considerations beyond that.  The memory, the hard drives, the GPU’s – every component has to be compatible with everything else.  Once you commit to one major component, there is a domino effect, and you get locked into several other pieces of hardware.  The last thing I wanted to do was spend money on a major component only to find it doesn’t play nice with the rest of the system.

The motherboard meets the case. It was at this point I lost a screw inside the case that I have yet to find to this day.

It’s a good thing there are a plethora of Internet fora just waiting for me to ask questions.  That last sentence was a little sarcastic because there are not too many more unpleasant activities in life than interacting with people in a computer hardware forum.  Where do these people come from and why are they so angry?  For every 1 bit of solid information I got, I had to endure at least 15 you’re-an-idiot responses.

First iteration of the final build (the single graphics card looks lonely)

As I was doing my research, I was also keeping an eye out for sales.  I had a running list with Newegg, TigerDirect and Amazon to keep track of prices almost daily.  As my list of potential components got more focused, I watched the prices more closely.  Once I pulled the trigger on the first item, I still proceeded with patience, looking for the best deal.  In the end, I paid far less than retail for any single component and got a bunch of free stuff along the way.  Corsair even ended up sending me a gift card to use on whatever.

Cable management

Once I had all the pieces together, it was time to start building.  Even with this, I was not in a rush.  I found videos and tutorials for every little thing and even wrote a script for myself.  Believe it or not, I actually diagrammed the airflow through the machine.  In fact, I went through multiple iterations of the airflow diagram before settling on it.  I watched start-to-finish videos so many times, I practically had the whole process memorized.  When came time to just do it, everything went smoothly for the most part.

Final-final build with 2 GPU’s. This is basically a glamour shot with sunset light.

You can follow this link for more images of the build process and a few technical details.

Here is the final build:

(Remember, this was early 2012)

Case Corsair Obsidian 650D
Motherboard ASUS Sabertooth X79 LGA 2011 Intel X79
CPU Intel Core i7-3930K Sandy Bridge-E 3.2GHz
Memory Corsair Vengeance 64GB (8 x 8GB) DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800)
GPU (1) EVGA GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 3072MB PCI-e 2.0
GPU (2) EVGA GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 3072MB PCI-e 2.0
Boot/App Drive Crucial 256 GB m4 Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s
HDD Cache Crucial 128 GB m4 Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s
Adobe Apps Cache Crucial 256 GB m4 Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s
Storage Drive Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s
Backup Drive Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s
Power Corsair 1200-Watt 80 Plus Gold – 1200AX
CPU Cooler Corsair H100 Liquid CPU Cooler
Optical Drive Samsung Blu-Ray Combo Internal
Card Reader Atech Flash Pro-57U USB 3.0 Internal Memory Card Reader
OS MS Windows 7 Ultimate, SP 1 64-bit
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