I Built a Computer!

I took the plunge over the holidays and built myself a computer. This is something I feel all aspiring IT professionals should do at some point. As a programmer, I don’t think I should know all the ins and outs of my PC (the way a tech should). However, I think it behooves us, as professionals, to have a good understanding of the tools that we use for our “trade”.

Rather than inundate this post with photos, I refer readers to the album which I put together to capture the “build experience”. That can be viewed here. Figures 1, 2 and 3 show the relevant parts, itemised as:

Item Price ($AUD)
Antec Sonata Plus ATX Case (built-in power supply) $215.00
Seagate SATAII NCQ 1TB 7200RPM 32mb Cache $174.00
Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 P45+ICH10R 1394a 8Ch Audio ATX $189.00
Kingston DDR2 4G(2x2G)PC8500 1066Mhz $109.00
Gigabyte GF9600GT 512MB DDR3 PCIE2.0 $169.00
Antec TriCool 92mm Clear Case Fan with 3-Speed Switch $25.00
Intel ATX E8500 CORE 2 DUO/3.16GHz/6MB/1333FSB/LGA775 $289.00
Asus DVD Drive $32.00
Total $1,202.00

Note, I already had a mouse, keyboard and monitor. So the price is not inclusive of those items. As you can see from the photos, I sprung for a quality case. This made the build a bit easier. It also had a built in 550W power supply (PSU) , which was componentised. Now what does that mean?

A componentised PSU is one which allows you to only use what you need (in terms of hooking up cables). Figure 4 shows the cables which came with it. Back in the day, a non-componentised PSU would have all possible usable cables factory-connected. This meant for a headache in cable management. I only needed about half the cables in that picture. The rest I can stash away for when I want to add more stuff to the box.

For those of you who have never seen one, Figure 5 depicts the motherboard.  All of the silver bits at the top right-hand corner are the various ports which extrude from the rear of the box (USB, audio & monitor ports/connections etc). The big fan-looking thing is the CPU cooler which sits right above the CPU. I had added the CPU and its cooler to the motherboard just before I took that photo.

Just below that, a couple of lengthy orange/red slots can be seen. This is where the RAM is inserted. Figure 6 shows the same slots with the RAM inserted (apologies for the blurry photo).

The other important slots which I want to point out are the SATA slots, where you attach the cables that run from your hard drive and DVD drive. Those are the yellow ones in two parallel rows on the bottom left-hand corner of the motherboard (6, in all).

In Figure 7, you will notice some thin multicolored cords. These come with the case and are connected to the front USB ports, lights and power buttons. This is where you get the manual that came with your motherboard out and figure out where they connect on. Figure 8 shows where I have connected these onto the motherboard.

Finally, the clear, plastic component visible in Figure 10 is a fan which I purchased separately for the case to keep the hard drive cool. You can see from the front grill that there is capacity for 2 fans up front. These blow air over the drives, through the box and towards its rear.

The other great thing about doing your own build is that you don’t have to buy a copy of Windows. You are left to choose what operating system you want to go with. Free to choose, I like that. For now, I will satisfy myself with OpenSuse.

I think doing my own build probably ended up being a bit cheaper than buying a Dell. But that was never the main driver. I also noted that 3 separate cards in my previous PC (firewire, sound and ethernet) were on-board in this build. This means I walk out of the store with 3 less boxes and a few more bucks in my pocket. All in all, a fun project.

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