Building My New Computer

Saturday, 18 December 2010 02:02 by RanjanBanerji

I always like building my own computer.  In the good old days (2 to 3 years ago) it was a huge money saver.  I have built machines for under $2000 that Dell or Gateway would sell for about $3500.  But those days are gone and that’s a good thing.  Now you can get a pretty good computer from Dell or any other vendor for a very competitive price.  But there are still a few advantages to building your own computer.

  • It is still cheaper.
  • You get to design (and screw up) the computer
  • You get to make decisions that will help you customize but also extend the computer’s capabilities down the road
  • Above all its a lot of fun

Of course all this only works if you make the right decision.  One thing to keep in mind is that you should not get bogged down by others telling you that you made the wrong choices.  There are way too many folks out there claiming to be experts.  This is a learn as you go process.  Heck, I still don’t know if I made the right decision.  But I have built several machines, they all run well, they were all cheaper than if I bought equivalent machines, and most of all they were all fun to build.

So here are some specs and details.

Source:

Everything was bought at newegg.

The Machine:

Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R
Video Card EVGA 768-P3-1360-TR GeForce GTX 460
CPU Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield
Case Thermaltake Element V Black Edition
DVD Drive ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner
Power Supply CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W
RAM G.SKILL Ripjaws Series (12 GB = 3 4GB Modules)
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s (2)

The Build:

Building the machine was actually quite easy.  The Thermaltake case is a full tower which is such a pleasure to use.  There is ample space to move, your fingers don’t get scratched and cut  lol (seriously!!  I hate that).  Plus I have plenty of drive bays for expansion.  The current build has 2 1TB drives configured as RAID 1.  I plan to setup another RAID 1 as backup.  Earlier I thought of buying a NAS drive but now that I have so many drive bays I might as well use them.  This is not a disaster recovery setup, merely a backup and recovery setup, i.e., this setup does not help me if terrorists put a nuke in my house.

 

Problems Encountered:

  • Case:  The Thermaltake case though very good did end up offering some surprises.  All drive bays come with a tool free latch.  Basically implying that you can snap them open, slide a drive in, and snap them shut.  For drives the case has two drive cages in addition to standard drive bays.  Initially I could not get the drive cages out.  Upon careful observation, the so called tool free snaps for the drive cage actually disguise a few small black screws that are tough to see on a black cage.  That was a good 15 minutes wasted.
  • Motherboard: When I was installing the motherboard I noticed a little black dot on the CPU socket.  I did not pay much attention to it.  Once I built the machine and powered it up the BIOS would should all 12GB of RAM but 8 of them (2 modules) as being disabled.  I removed the RAM additional 8GB of RAM and the machine worked just fine.  Hmmmm.  A little searching on the web revealed that others have had a similar problem and it was related to a damaged socket.  That’s when I remembered the little black dot, which on a closer look was not all that little.  So I sent in the board to newegg for an RMA and got a new board.   Once I had the new board everything worked like a charm.

IMG_0677

  • Hard Drive:  Well I had built the machine with just 4GB of RAM not knowing why the additional 8GB were showing as being disabled.  When I received the new motherboard, I installed all components but I thought I may have to reinstall the OS.  But I did not need to.  Everything worked fine.  So I carried on installing new software etc.  That evening I shutdown the machine.  The next morning the machine did not start.  Great!!!!!!!!!!  Now what?  Windows 7 kept trying to repair the machine and I kept rebooting till I got a message saying that Windows 7 can no longer fix the machine.  I figured I have lost a drive.  Oh! by the way I had configured my two 1TB drives as RAID 1.  I ran a Western Digital diagnostic tool and the drives were fine but there was no data on them.  At this point I just decided to reinstall the OS and try the RAID array and the drives again.  Everything worked and has been working for almost 10 days.  I am not sure what happened to the drives the first time.
    • So I started to search the web and ask people around.  One popular opinion is that drives without TLER (Time Limited Error Recovery) or its equivalent (TLER is a Western Digital term) are not suitable for RAID.  My Western Digital Caviar do not have TLER.  I also found some forum where someone claiming to represent Western Digital stated that these drives are not meant for RAID.  But then I also found this:  http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/library/SpecSheet/ENG/2879-701276.pdf at Western Digital’s website which states:

Desktop / Consumer RAID Environments - WD Caviar Black Hard Drives are tested and recommended for use in consumer-type RAID applications (RAID-0 / RAID-1).
Business Critical RAID Environments – WD Caviar Black Hard Drives are not recommended for and are not warranted for use in RAID environments utilizing Enterprise HBAs and/or expanders and in multi-bay chassis, as they are not designed for, nor tested in, these specific types of RAID applications. For all Business Critical RAID applications, please consider WD’s Enterprise Hard Drives that are specifically designed with RAID-specific, time-limited error recovery (TLER), are tested extensively in 24x7 RAID applications, and include features like enhanced RAFF technology and thermal extended burn-in testing.

So apparently not all drives are equal and not all RAIDs are equal.  I will test out these drives in their RAID 1 configuration and see how they work.

The machine works amazingly well.  I am a little concerned about the drives in the RAID configuration, but time will tell if its ok or not.

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