PC Build Guide: Back in the Game

You can call me a fan of “lapsed” PCs. In high school, computer science and engineering were my favorite classes. I learned the basics of Turing, Visual Basic, and Java over three years of computer science and did everything I could to apply these concepts to recreate the old school Final Fantasy Games as final projects. Then the next semester, I took on computer engineering and tinkered with old technology donated to the school board and completed the ultimate goal for any high school student in the early 2000s: getting a LAN up and running second death.

Then I let everything fall by the wayside. I eventually took a different path, reducing technology to something that piqued my curiosity, itch enough by keeping up with emerging gaming consoles and smartphones. Instead, I worked as the family IT guy, problem solver, and humorist only briefly in the dream of chasing an A+ degree as a career focal point.

Most people have picked up an unlikely hobby to turn an epidemic, such as knitting or baking sourdough. For me, my mind started wandering back to those days of fiddling inside machines. Over time, curiosity and necessity began to overlap, and I set out to build my own computer from the ground up.

Objectives

Update and future

When the “work from home” era began, I had an old, rarely used desktop computer and a fairly standard HP laptop that could be reliable. However, both of them are starting to show their age under the increasing demands.

I could have done what I needed for my various ports and applications, but it just took longer and longer. Podcast editing was particularly stressful, especially as the recordings became remote and expanded to multiple tracks. My normal Twitch streams were affected by falling frames, and I couldn’t play a game And broadcast it. Playing any very demanding game remotely on either device was out of the question. Even browsing the web and rebooting is getting boring.

So first and foremost, this new machine has to be powerful enough to keep up with modern computing. I also wanted to stay aware of the potential to upgrade and expand over time, something I neglected on my last desktop. If I build this thing myself, I can maintain and upgrade it too.

Keep a low budget

With so many people also interested in upgrading their home computing power, and every industry desperate for chips, component prices have skyrocketed. It can be too easy to break the bank and ramp up the project budget in search of a hot new component.

Even if I was lucky enough to get access to some review items and used components, I wanted to make sure the total initial build budget wasn’t prohibitive — ideally under $2000, a modest price point for a gaming PC. Unfortunately, this has ruled out any of the newer video cards for now.

PC Building Guide: Back in the Game

Building close to needs

Similar to the previous point, I didn’t want to shoot over exaggeration. I mainly use computers for creative work – i.e. writing in various forms, editing podcasts, occasional Photoshop exercises – and light gaming. I’m also not a framer when it comes to gaming graphics; If the game doesn’t lag long enough to interfere with my input and your enjoyment, I’m satisfied.

To these ends, I wanted to be able to play Final Fantasy XIV At relatively high settings, surf the web smoothly, edit large podcast projects without too much slowdown, and stream PC games to Twitch without harming the output. I wasn’t looking to reach the ceiling of the PC gaming experience and reach the pinnacle of 4K graphics.

the components

With these purposes in mind, I spent some time discussing product listings and online tools such as pcpartpicker.com and even PC Building Simulator To find out what components I might need. In the end, I settled on the parts list below with guidance from CGM Editor-in-Chief Brendan Fry. Items marked with an asterisk were kindly provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of this feature, and the remaining items were either acquired locally or drawn from CGM reserves:

He writes bit price
Issue Cooler Master Mastercase H500 ARGB * $149.99
Motherboard MSI Z490 Gaming Edge Wifi $299.00
Prince sultan university Cooler Master V650 Gold v2 (White) * $154.99
CPU Intel Core i5 10600K @ 4.10 GHz, 6 cores $299.99
CPU cooler NZXT Kraken 120 * (Later installed) 109.99 USD
GPU AMD Radeon R9200 . Series Unavailable
RAM Kingston KF2666C16D4 DDR4 (2x8GB) $84.99
storage Western Digital Black SN750 1TB USD 164.99
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
Screen ViewSonic VX2718-PC-mhd* $377.99
the mouse Steel Series Rival 5 Unavailable
keyboard Steel Series Apex[RAW] Unavailable
~1650 USD

Having been on the fringes of the PC scene for so long, one of the biggest changes I noticed was the shift in aesthetics. When I made computers in high school, they were boxy, plain, grey, and even my 2013 desktop was pretty simple. Day bags are elegant and voluminous at the same time. I had a couple of different case options in mind but eventually settled on the Cooler Master Mastercase H500 ARGB. I loved his style, and it was big without going beyond my work area – in my family’s den where family members could reach.

For the rest of the internals, I had quite a few necessary items apart from a minimum 1TB SSD and at least 16GB of RAM. Not having a real preference on CPU brands kept the options flexible, and I quickly decided that the prices for the new GPUs were too ridiculous at the moment was also a burden on my shoulders.

For input devices, I reallocated the mouse and keyboard from the current desktop. the top [RAW] It is an older model from SteelSeries that still serves me long after I purchased it, while the Rival 5 has become a staple for me since I reviewed it earlier this year.

PC Building Guide: Back in the Game 2

to treat

Since the motherboard and CPU were taken from one of the computers in the office, Brendan actually installed the CPU for me, rather than risking damage in transit. Armed with a set of tools from Canada Computers and a bunch of components, I set out to put it all together.

On the whole, the actual pool took me two nights and went smoothly…most of the time. The Mastercase H500 ARGB is surprisingly cunning in its construction, with separate cable lanes. I was still discovering new nooks and crannies by the time I was done. Installing components virtually in their homes has proven to be the easiest part – but less so for power cables.

Once again, computer hardware designs have changed a lot in nearly twenty years. RGBs weren’t a concern in a high school engineering class. The hardest part, by far, was getting the small power connectors into their marked places with my big hand. As broad as the case was, this work still required a lot of detail. Fortunately, the Cooler Master V650 PSU came with every cable set I needed, and then some.

Regardless of physical limitations, I am completely I enjoyed Experiment, almost like solving a very big puzzle. It came to a head when I finished installing the parts, closed the case, and turned it on…and got nothing.

In short, I incorrectly connected the cables to the front panel of the case, and the power button signal was lost during transmission. I spent an hour troubleshooting over the phone with Brendan, stripping all connections to a minimum from the system until I got an onscreen video, and then adding the components back in.

By the end (late) of the second evening, I had a new computer working.

consequences

After some time with this new system, I can safely say that my goals have been achieved, if not exceeded. Excluding the price of an old, used GPU, and repurposed peripherals, the component list stayed under $2000 with some breathing room, for starters.

Making the jump to SSD justifies the project almost entirely; I’ve heard how great they are, and I’ve even tried them on a PS5 before, but the speed boost can’t be underestimated. My last desktop booting was taking 10 minutes from pressing the power button to using the system without delay. I can now be up and running in 30 seconds.

I haven’t yet found an obstacle that this build really can’t get past. To my surprise, it cures Final Fantasy XIV Comfortably at its highest spec – I feel it’s on par with the PS5 version – and I can even stream it. Heavy apps like Photoshop and four-track podcast editing work like magic. If I fail at any of the goals, it’s a modest energy conservation, as I can get more out of this machine than I currently have.

About a month later, I reopened the case to replace the CPU fan with a Kraken 120 liquid cooler from NZXT. The radiator is huge, but I was able to fit it to the top of the H500 ARGB. Since then, I’ve been using their CAM software to monitor the internal temperature, and I’m happy to report that it stays near a comfortable 30 degrees, and just barely hits the low 40s when under extreme stress.

PC Building Guide: Back in Game 1

Next steps

In keeping with my first goal, I have a loose roadmap of things I’d like to update. The first step was to upgrade the stock fan, which I did with the Kraken 120.

The most important thing on my wish list is to upgrade the graphics card, but it’s not practical at the current prices. If it can get 3060 or 3070 at MSRP, I will happily slap it in my new machine and enjoy the unexplained power. But for now, the old card serves all my purposes aptly.

Otherwise, one of the biggest changes has nothing to do with the tower itself, but rather the space around it. I’m thinking of ways to use my existing space more efficiently and I might end up upgrading my desk itself, expanding to a second monitor and finding a way to extend internet access so I can connect my computer via an ethernet cable.

I can’t deny that I’m interested in adding more RAM, too. 32 GB looks very attractive. However, I’ll probably stick with the practicality and install more physical storage, possibly a standard hard drive for bulk file storage. And while I’m at it, I intend to see what I can do to improve cable management; I think the results weren’t bad for the relative newcomer, but that’s always something that could be improved.

PC Building Guide: Back in the Game 4

wrapping

Was it all worth it? Well, it would be hard to argue that the power boost wasn’t worth the time spent planning and executing the build. But I’m definitely relieved that I was able to outfit this myself with a little guidance. I could have paid about the same amount and had someone make it for me, but there is a slight sense of satisfaction I get every time I turn on the computer, knowing I put it together.

I feel like I’ve regained an old skill set, somewhat, and that I’m more compelled to continue maintaining it. I was happy with the last PC I bought on Boxing Day Sale, but I feel like it proud From the new device you put together.

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