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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|