Building The Base: Surviving Your First Custom PC Build (Part 2)
In part 1 of the ‘Building The Base’ series, I talked about WHY I decided to build my custom PC. I also elaborate on the planning process, the parts list and what it all has to do with screenwriting. This series also includes 10 amazing PC’s that inspired my custom build and the incredible YouTube channels I watched to learn how to put my PC together.
The parts list took nearly 5 months to gather and everything was ready to go in early January 2017. Here’s the parts list again:
CASE: NZXT S340 Elite Matte White http://amzn.to/2ihDNw1
MOTHERBOARD: ASUS Sabertooth Z170 http://amzn.to/2iby5Ol
CPU: Intel i7 6700K http://amzn.to/2ilsFAO
CPU Cooler: Deepcool Captain 240 EX http://amzn.to/2ibG6D7
GPU: ASUS Dual GTX 1070 8GB http://amzn.to/2ibwZCa
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 2400 (4x8GB) http://amzn.to/2hQQz3L
PSU: EVGA 750W 80+ Gold http://amzn.to/2hwslOl
MEMORY 1: Samsung 850 EVO 500GB M.2 http://amzn.to/2ilAWoB
MEMORY 2: Samsung 850 EVO 500GB http://amzn.to/2hwiU1E
MEMORY 3: WD Blue 3TB http://amzn.to/2iINFhv
MONITOR: LG 34” Ultrawide http://amzn.to/2ihHhyx
I’m not going to lie, sitting in front of an empty case with a stack of parts next to me was terrifying. It’s intimidating! Parts are expensive and you don’t want to break anything and waste months of meticulous planning. Still, the word terrifying may be misused in this case. Yes. It’s scary. But it’s the same feeling you get at the peak of a roller coaster before the big drop. You may be scared but, in the end, you’re happy you took the plunge.
Getting over the intimidation is the first hurdle you have to overcome to build your first PC. The more confident you are, the more likely you are to raise your hands in the air when the coaster picks up speed! You are GOING to make mistakes. Things WILL go wrong. It’s part of the fun. (Assuming you can handle severe frustration that leads to inconceivable amounts of sweat.)
RELAX! It's Just A Processor!
My confidence skyrocketed the second I placed my Intel i7 6700K processor in it’s home. You can actually see my fingers trembling in the video embedded above. For me, that was the hardest part which is oddconsidering it’s probably the easiest. Just line up the triangles on the processor and motherboard and place it gently. Boom. Processor.
Selecting my processor was probably more stressful than handling it. Intel announced and released their Kaby Lake processors weeks after I put my build together. Rumors broke that they were improvements but I couldn’t pass up Boxing Day deals. It’s possible to upgrade to a 7700K down the road but I’m extremely happy with the 6700K’s performance so far.
The next step was the RAM. This is one part I wish I had spent more time researching. I compromised on affordability and settled on 2400 MHz. I wish I purchased something over 3000MHz or perhaps 64GBs of cheaper RAM just to make rendering that much quicker. Again, this is an area I can upgrade later on.
LIQUID COOLER CURVE BALL
I had a TON of trouble with my liquid cooler. It has nothing to do with the part itself, I just spent way too much time staring at the instructions with a vacant expression. At one point, I was lining up the unit over the processor and my finger touched the thermal paste. I felt like George Costanza when he swallowed a fly:
To make matters worse I tightened one of the screws too tight and the metal bracket may (or may not) have cracked. It was a noise I ignored. Let’s just pretend it never happened okay?
After the cooler ‘ordeal’ I decided to reward myself with case fans. 4 screws. Easy to place. The only real challenge is learning how to design your PC’s air flow. There are tons of amazing videos (like this one) that will help you decide what’s best for your case.
DAMN YOU I/O SHIELD!
Towards the end of day 1, I noticed something absolutely terrible! When I installed my motherboard’s I/O shield, I forgot to take off a protective cover on my Ethernet port! Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared to poke a hole through it and be ‘content’. This TINY little oversight meant removing the motherboard and everything connected to it.
Since I had run out of time, that single stupid mistake haunted me overnight. The worst.
First thing the next morning, I managed to fix the problem with minimal effort. It was just a matter of unscrewing the motherboard and moving it just far enough to take the shield off and fix the issue. Stupid mistake.
The graphics card and hard drives were fun to install. Most of the hard work was over and my NZXT s340 Elite case is designed with specific hard drive locations in mind.
Honestly, the only issue with this process was my camera work. In the video above, you’ll notice a suspicious lack of video for the graphics card installation. I didn’t film it! Not only that, because of the I/O shield, I actually installed the ASUS Dual GTX 1070 twice. No footage.
Same thing for the hard drives. I got on a roll and forgot to… roll…
Cable Management & Problem Solving Skills
Honestly, I loved the cable management portion of my custom build. It’s actually pretty fun. Proper cable management requires a lot of planning and it will definitely test your problem solving skills. You want the cleanest looking case possible. Especially with a tempered glass side panel designed to show off the final result. It’s also a good chance to get to know your motherboard and where everything gets plugged in.
I opted to buy custom black and white cables and I’m happy I did it.
The First Boot...
Oh boy… Talk about a bitter sweet moment!
First, I experienced pure joy when I pushed the button and everything lit up. The monitor displayed the BIOS screen and everything was perfect…
Except it wasn’t.
There was a terrible ‘rattle’ coming from my power supply. Switching the unit to ECO mode turned the fan off and ended my nightmare temporarily but it was disappointing. You never want a part to malfunction but it happens. In the weeks that followed, I dealt with EVGA’s RMA department and they were fantastic. I had a replacement fast.
HOWEVER… I couldn’t wait weeks! So I drove to my local computer store to purchase the same power supply. They didn’t have it so I bought I slightly cheaper version (650w instead of 750w) Unfortunately, I got the unit home and realized… It didn’t match the custom cables I ordered! Back in the car, back to the store… You get the idea.
My big mistake here was panic. I sprinted out of my house the second something went wrong. When I finally got everything up and running again, I realized the power supply wasn’t the only bad part I purchased. My M.2 hard drive wasn’t available when it was time to install Windows 10.
I called ASUS to diagnose motherboard issues. Nope. I tried a PCI-E adapter to see if it was the M.2 port. That didn’t help. Again, I drove out to the store and bought a new one. Thankfully, Samsung was also incredibly helpful getting a replacement M.2 card sent out. I’ll sell my replacement to recoup the extra expense down the road.
Thankfully, I eventually got everything up and running. Windows was installed without issues and the customization began. There’s nothing more exciting than moving in to a brand new computer. Especially when it isn’t a pre-built machine from Best Buy or Dell. I have nothing against the computers I’ve purchased from them in the past. There’s just nothing like a completely clean PC build working at maximum efficiency.
And that was that. My first custom PC build was complete. The only thing left was to finish setting up my ‘ultimate’ desk setup:
The BASE is the center piece of my baseball themed office area. Not pictured here is my autographed Roberto Alomar hall of fame photo and an old school clock from 1992.
The Base is a dual monitor setup meant for editing. I’m hoping to replace my second monitor with a proper preview screen down the road. The other machine is a fairly old iMac I keep around in case the need for Final Cut arises. The big issue I always had with my old PC/Mac setup was not having all my software in one place. It’s nice to have all my creative apps on one machine. Moving back and forth was a pain in the ass. I’ll miss working with Final Cut but it’s been fun reacquainting myself with Premiere Pro.
Setting up an office like this takes a lot of patience. Moving files around, installing plugins and presets, organizing your projects and more takes time. It actually took a few weeks before I finally sat back and stared at The Base with pride.
In September of 2016, I set out to teach myself how to build a custom PC and use it be creative at home. (I’m a professional editor by day) But what did I do the second everything was finally up and running? I installed some old games that could never run on max settings on my old machine and smiled.
I love my new PC. Even though my Z170 motherboard has been replaced by the new Z270s. My 6700K is second to the 7700K now. Not to mention the new line of RYZEN chips from AMD. NVIDIA just unveiled their flagship 1080Ti which makes my 1070 look 5 years old… You get the idea. Technology moves fast. I tried to plan ahead as much as possible so I can upgrade down the road.
My motherboard can run two graphics cards in SLI. If I really want a 7700K I just need to update my motherboard’s BIOS. If RAM starts to feel sluggish I can double my 32GBs to 64. All that is possible and I haven’t overclocked a thing yet!
My PC may not be top of the line but it’s mine. I built it and I’ve annoyed my friends for months showing off parts and the final pics. It’s been an incredible journey. Plus to compensate for my “outdated” parts I just used epic movie trailer music in the build video! Problem solved!
Until the next build…