The main pieces of the components
* Idol Tower * build
(Which isn’t a tower.)
Friday 28th September 2018
To those parts I added a few items that I already had in stock as either extra necessary components, or parts that I’ll maybe include in the
* Idol Tower * build.
‘Come Grundle Your Parts…
The first pic shows my lovely new monitor. (Unfortunately this isn’t connected yet at this point in the proceedings, as there’s no computer to connect it to yet… Well not the right computer anyway. Also, despite it having VGA, DVI-I, and HDMI inputs; it only came endowed with a VGA cable. Because of that I had to order a set of 2 x HDMI cables and a DVI-I cable from a supplier on eBay. These didn’t arrive on time because they were held up at Salisbury Sorting Office by staff who require you to make an enquiry via Head Office before they actually deliver your mail.
The picture on the right is of the Ryzen in its retail packaging. – It’s a second-generation Ryzen 5 2600, which has 6 cores of AMD amazement. AMD have also included their Wraith Whateveritis Cooler, which is a nice touch. AMD do tend towards better and higher quality stock coolers than Intel supply with their processors.
I’ve heard so much negative and positive about this Thermaltake PSU. I won’t go into it all here. What this semi-modular PSU comes endowed with – or what I got anyway – is a box containing, as far as I could see from a quick glimpse inside, instructions, the PSU itself with some black wires connected to it, a Velcro bag containing plug-in connectors consisting of a load of black wires between a pair of red connectors on some, and between a pair of black connectors on others. The box also included a kettle lead ending in a US mains plug, plus a kettle lead ending in a UK square-pin mains plug. That’ll come in handy if I ever take it to America.
Before ordering anything I thought ahead: No online review of this unit seemed to be able to tell me the same about these wires as the previous review had, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was because of this that I ended up ordering some white sleeving and white electrical tape from eBay – so that I could make whatever I was faced with on receipt of the PSU into something that looked reasonably acceptable and that matched the case to a greater extent.
The pic on the left is the ASUS DVD/Blue-Ray combo optical drive. – Why should I miss out on movies recorded on Blue-Ray?
Graphics Card: –
This pic is the graphics card: Sticking with the ASUS branding, this 2GB fanless card will be an improvement on the default onboard-graphics (There aren’t any. – ‘Seriously; there are no onboard graphics. Either you fit an AMD processor with on-chip graphics capability, or you fit a graphics card. (Or both.) – All in all this costly motherboard doesn’t exactly give you a lot.); which will do for the time being – at least initially anyway. The card runs on PCIe x 8 – which means that on the motherboard I’m using – even though I’ve installed it currently in the PCIe x 16 port – I can eventually drop it down to the PCIe x 8 port as a second graphics card and install a better primary graphics card in the PCIe x 16 slot. In the meantime I’ll need good airflow for this fanless card, and I do have some 120 and 140mm fans which I haven’t photographed but will use at least one of in this build.
The system drive is going to be an ADATA 256GB NVMe drive: I want this thing to respond fast! ADATA is the second main brand which I’ve chosen to be involved in this build, ( Asus being the first.) and it’s at the core of the machine with not just the NVMe drive but also, as we’ll go on to see, the RAM: –
RAM : –
Yes ADATA are providing 2 x 8GB sticks of their XPG GAMMIX DDR4 Gaming RAM with a cas-latency of 17. (Actually I’m buying it; but I’m hoping to promote ADATA and maybe even make a little money doing so in the future perhaps?)
‘Not forgetting the ASUS Prime X470 PRO AM4 DDR4 motherboard, on which everything depends. (In hindsight I find this motherboard to be over-hyped and rather expensive for what it is.)
Next: I might require a wireless connection, and what better than an ASUS-branded PCIe x 1 wi-fi adapter on the motherboard to connect in that way if necessary? (In hindsight: This wireless card isn’t that good; so I suggest that other builders buy another model instead.)
SSD & HDD: –
Earlier in September I purchased a 240GB ADATA SSD because it was on offer from Amazon. I might yet use this in the build, but it’s maybe a little small in capacity for a secondary storage drive: I have a 500GB SATAI hard-drive already; so I’ll probably use that instead. (Next Pic.) It’s a WD Blue as you see, and it’s 8 years old – but it’ll do for now.
Let There Be Light: –
The motherboard is covered with RGB, and the white BitFenix Nova case I’m building in has a windowed panel… So I’ve decided to enhance the RGB with a pair of retro blue cold-cathode tubes. – And why ever not? (In hindsight I didn’t use the cold-cathode-tubes on this build: The added RGB was quite sufficient; although the RGB on the motherboard was disappointing.)
SATA Extension: –
‘Talking about rear ports. – Well I did it on my last build, and I have the hardware to do it on this build too: Why waste SATA connectors by leaving them unconnected inside the case? – Bring them to the back of the case so that they can be used for connecting internal drives externally should the need arise. ( I found that the leads on these extensions were too short to be used in this case with a full ATX motherboard.)
RGB Strip: –
An extra white RGB strip awaits too: (Which turned out to be blue. The eBay seller said it was white; but my bad for trusting eBayers.) I might find a decorative use for that. – And I did: The case now glows electric blue inside… Well everything inside the case that’s white does.
Finally… Now this is a real unknown quantity. I have an old SoundBlaster card that I want to connect up and use… The thing is that it’s 18 years old and it’s PCI rather than PCIe.
Having said that; it does have Windows 10 drivers written for it… So I’m hoping that it’ll function normally if I connect it via a PCIe x 1 to PCI adapter. – I have no idea about this: Theoretically it should work. Realistically though; well that’s yet to be discovered. This is something that I’ll add after everything else is added and optimised. This is something that I’ll do when I have a reasonable amount of time on my hands.
On Monday 1st October 2018 I was still waiting for things to arrive in the post, and I phoned up Head Office of the UK Post Office to enquire as to why delivery was taking so long.
I thought I’d make a start on the case-prep anyway, as I want this machine to have an air-input fan at the front of the case, as well as an air-output fan on the back of the case. I’m using a white & windowed BitFenix Nova case for this build, and BitFenix have included a BitFenix-branded 120mm exhaust fan as a part of the purchase. That saves me some work – fitting fans is the bit of PC building I like least… But there is still a single 120mm fan to fit, and it’s going to be a bugger: I have to do some arm contortions and gymnastics to do this…
I’ve worked out that there is only enough room for the fan to sit lower down at the front of the front panel of the chassis – (‘Confused yet? 🙂 ) behind the visible white plastic front-panel – rather than behind the front part of the chassis as I’d rather it were fitted… Therefore, unless I use very long screws which I’ll have to order as I don’t have any in stock and none came with the case or the fan, (Riotoro do include screws and rubber fixings with their fan; but the screws are fairly short and the rubber fixings are to all intents and purposes impractical as far as I can make out.) I’ll have to use shorter screws and screw the fan to the chassis from inside the chassis. – So I’m fitting this bihatch from inside the case using Riotoro’s screws, as I don’t want to wait another infinity for another order not to turn up.
– So anyway; the long & the short of it is that I managed to fit the fan within an hour, (A single fan within an hour! – At that rate I’ll have built a computer by November lol, having started at the beginning of October. ) and now both the fans are in place and ready. I was now waiting for the main bulk of my items from eBay to arrive and then I can prep the PSU before fitting it.
The fan I used was a 120mm Riotoro Performance Edition FW120 Hi Airflow low Noise PC Fan with a white LED: 120 x 25mm, 1500RPM, 26.5dB.A .
Well I had to wait until 1:15PM, but on Tuesday 2nd October I took delivery of everything I had on order. I’m sure the Post Office screwed up and my phone call on Monday 1st October 2018 made them get their arse in gear.
What I particularly wanted was white cable sheathing and white PVC tape.
Unboxing & Modding the PSU
Let’s unbox the Thermaltake PSU, and I’ll show you what I wanted to do.
One of the pics below shows the PSU with its black fixed leads stretched out. I want those fixed leads to be white; but if I just cover them with white tape they’ll be all gammy & sticky if I ever need to remove that tape.
That’s where the sleeving comes into its own… But the sleeving can’t just be slipped onto the fixed cables because the fixed cables have moulded plugs at the ends… So what we do is to cut the sheathing into lengths and then slit the sheathing and wrap it around the wires, tacking it down with tape. Then wind on a final covering of white PVC tape and voila! – See the relevant pic.
Fitting the HDD & PSU
OK let’s get the case so far containing only 2 fitted fans – one pre-fitted by BitFenix, the other fitted yesterday by me at the front. ‘Side panels off; and let’s now fit the modded PSU.
An anomaly has cropped up in fitting a Thermaltake Smart SE 730W Semi-Modular 80+ Bronze PSU to a white BitFenix Nova Windowed case: That anomaly being that only 3 of the screw holes on the PSU line up fully with those on the case. 3 screws seem to hold it well though.
OK the PSU is now modded and fitted: Let’s fit the ODD (Optical Disk Drive.) I’ve already covered the fact that this drive is an Asus DVD/Blu-Ray combo. Unboxing we discover huge packaging full of cut anti-static foam holding a normal-sized ODD. Also included is a set of instructions in several languages, a voucher for 6 months of free unlimited ASUS web-storage, and a voucher for free Nero BackItUp 5PRO for 6 months.
There is also a DVD which contains Power2Go 8, Power Backup 2.5, E-Green, and an ASUS Firmware Update URL contained on the disk.
So let’s fit this baby: We knock out the 5 1/4 drive-cover on the case and fit the drive from the front as is usual with fitting ODDs.
This case comes with some weird method of fitting ODDs consisting of 2 oojamiflaps either side of the chassis that you turn to secure in place. – However they didn’t secure the drive, so I used the screws supplied with the drive instead. – target neutralised.
That’s the case almost totally prepped: I’m not sure that the standoff configuration is correct; but I’ll worry about that immediately before I’m fitting the motherboard.
For now – ‘time for coffee. [_]?
CPU SOS – The Big Build
I finally finished the main build of the * Idol Tower * project early in the morning of Thursday 4th October 2018. – As you may know I’ve been meticulously planning the * Idol Tower * project since April 2018.
It does seem somewhat of overkill to be writing part of this post on a computer with a 6-core processor, each with hyperthreading, therefore showing 12 logical cores. – But this is just a virginity-breaker – ‘intended, of course, to entertain the geeks & geekettes among us.
So lets break out the pics. I nearly didn’t bother with it shortly after lunchtime. I had it in mind to complete the main part of the build over the weekend… But I eventually decided that I’d at least prep the motherboard, and one thing led to another.
We’ve already seen the motherboard box, still unopened so let’s move to the picture that displays its contents. ‘Complete with various vouchers to get things like six months free unlimited ASUS online-storage… And when you’ve used up several terabytes of online storage and your six months expires you discover that ASUS have charged you an arm and a leg for another six months unlimited storage in advance. – It’s useful to think ahead.
There isn’t really much included in the box. There are enough screws, but there aren’t any cable-ties, nor much else other than the i/o shield and a load of paperwork, + a semi-outraced driver-disk & a pair of black SATAIII leads. Asus are rather stingy; bearing in mind the cost of the product.
There is, as a bonus, that connector which was devised by ASUS and now used by ASUS, Gigabyte, Asrock, and some other motherboard manufacturers on their more-costly motherboards. The exact name of the part escapes me as I write this, but by using it you can connect all your fiddly front-panel umbilical connectors to it as a block, and then plug it as a unit directly onto the motherboard. It saves a lot of hassle.
We get onto the same electrical level as the surroundings by touching something metal in the immediate vicinity, and then we carefully take the virgin motherboard out of the box. It’s a nice and fairly expensive board, but it needs prepping before it’ll be any more use to anybody than a piece of cardboard. – Let’s prep it: –
As a start we’ll connect the NVMe drive.
Now the NVMe drive is a small component which is not much bigger than a stick of gum, but costs around £100UKP or more, depending upon the capacity as well as the brand-name of the unit that you choose. It comes packaged in a box about the size of a pack of headache tablets, but the only headache is the cost. Picture 4 shows an NVMe drive just fitted to the motherboard, which is rather easy to do: Insert a stand-off supplied with the NVMe drive onto a purposefully-placed screw-hole and screw a screw into the stand-off. Insert the NVMe drive into the socket, press it down, and screw the screw down to capture its other end to stop it becoming disconnected from the socket.
On this board there is a single NVMe heatsink – despite there being provision for two NVMe drives – which has to be unscrewed and removed to access the upper NVMe port. When the NVMe drive has been fitted the heatsink is screwed down on top of it. The heatsink, as its name suggests, aids in cooling the device, which can get rather hot in operation.
I used a 256GB ADATA NVMe device, which gives relatively good performance for a reasonable price… Meaning that there are NVMe drives that perform better, and there are NVMe drives that cost more. – Usually both in combination: You always get what you pay for currently with NVMe drives. – Higher quality and performance with higher price – but you don’t always get low quality with low price. I got better than average performance for average cost with ADATA.
What is the benefit of an NVMe drive? They’re in theory 4 times faster than a SATAIII solid-state drive, which are in theory 5 times faster than a standard hard-drive. Yes they really are 20-times faster than a hard-drive. Earlier on when I was prepping the case I fitted a WD Blue 500GB hard-drive as a storage-drive, and reserved the NVMe drive for the system drive containing the operating system and apps.
Fitting The CPU
The picture on the left shows the processor inserted in its socket: Again this is no big deal: I’m using an AMD Ryzen 5 processor in this build, and fitting it is just a case of lining the chip up so that its many pins all fall into the AM4 socket. pushing a lever to tensionise and connect the pins, and then drop a cooler on top of it and screw it down.
We’re getting there; but there are 2 more things to install; those being 2 sticks of RAM (Random Access Memory.)
I’m using ADATA-branded RAM as well as the ADATA-branded NVMe drive, for the same reason; that being reasonable just-above-average performance at reasonable cost. I’ll be fitting 2 sticks of 8 gigabytes capacity each.
Let me tell you briefly a little bit about how a processor works: – The processor constantly needs to reference data to be able to do its job, so it needs to be able to access data at any time. The first place it looks for data is in its level 1 cache, which is small and contained in the chip with the processor-core. If it doesn’t find what it’s looking for there it accesses the level 2 cache – which is larger, takes a little longer to access, and is also contained inside the chip with the processor-core. If it doesn’t find it there it looks in the level 3 cache; which is again larger and takes longer to access and reference. It’s also contained inside the chip with the processor-core…
But these caches are still rather small in comparison to the RAM sticks – which can currently be up to 16 gigabytes in storage capacity. – Sixteen billion bytes (A byte = 8 ones or zeros.). – So if the processor can’t find the data it’s looking for in the level 1, 2, or 3 cache; it looks in RAM – which again takes longer because it’s slower and takes more time to reference (address) because it’s bigger. (If the processor can’t find what it needs in RAM it then looks for it in the NVMe drive – which again takes longer because it’s slower and takes more time to reference (address) because it’s bigger…)
‘Back to the build: I’ve fitted the 2 RAM sticks. – There is room for 4 RAM sticks up to 16 gigabytes each; but I can only afford 2 x 8GB, and I don’t need any more RAM than that anyway.
Casing The Joint
The board is no use to anyone, despite having hundreds of pounds worth of components added to it, unless it’s mounted in a case and starts to look like a computer.
Let’s connect up the modded white leads from the power supply unit to the motherboard. – In fact we can smoke-test it here. ( If it smokes we did something wrong. )
We have everything we need for it to be called a computer – even though it’s an unfinished computer. If we give it some power and connect a screen to the video output we should get something on the screen to show it’s working.
So I connect an HDMI monitor lead to the board’s graphical output, power it up, and – nothing. Wait; it’s new and everything is discovering everything else…
90 seconds and still nothing… Beeeep – beep, beep, beep – goes the transducer.
That beep code just told me what’s wrong. I look in the motherboard manual and it tells me that a long beep followed by 3 short beeps indicates that the system is unable to find a VGA device. That means that it doesn’t see any way to display video graphics.
The processor that I’m using doesn’t have a built-in graphics module. A lot of AMD’s processors don’t have built-in video graphics – whereas most of Intel’s processors do have built-in graphics…
This AMD processor that I’m using doesn’t have a built-in graphics module, and the motherboard doesn’t have an onboard graphics module either. – So there is no way that the system can display video graphics unless we fit an additional graphics card. – And the system is telling me that it is currently unable to display video graphics.
‘No problem: I have an Asus graphics card – the card that was mentioned above – and I’ll fit it: There we go. – Now let’s try again. – And I have a screen telling me that it can’t find a boot-device. – Which is what should happen at this stage: –
The * Idol Tower * computer that we’ve built to this point is now looking to boot up an operating system: Because that is what the hardware is configured to do. It gets power and it looks around to see and identify the rest of the system components, then it looks for an operating system so that it can fulfil its purpose that its components are configured to accomplish; namely to work as a computing device. – But it can’t find a boot device by which to boot into an operating system because I haven’t yet configured the boot device(s) nor installed an operating system.
Installing Windows 10
– So let’s give it an operating system why not?: ‘Switch it off, and plug a flash-drive containing a bootable copy of the installation files for Windows 10 into a USB drive.
When I switch it on it’ll boot from the USB drive – because it’s the only connected drive that’s bootable – and it’ll boot into windows which will configure the NVMe drive as a boot-device if I tell it to. Having done that the Windows 10 operating system installs itself on the NVMe boot device and the system is now a computer in the full sense of the word – even though it’s still not finished.
So now I’ve installed the Windows 10 operating system and my creation ‘lives’.
It looks a bit of a mess inside though. – It needs some cable-management after I’ve installed some more hardware and even more software devices on it…
At the end of the day I tidy it up inside the chassis, fit the side-panels back onto it, and it’s a nice-looking and fairly powerful computer.
Further edification: –
* For extra incentive + to learn more about the reality of designing & building your own computer; check out Carey Holzman‘s You Tube channel.
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