Sunday, January 8, 2012

Diary of a first time PC builder #4: Trial and Error

One of the things that I have discovered as I began attempting to assemble my PC, is that while things are suppose to be compatible that doesn't always mean they will fit.

In addition to this trial of error in assembly there was that moment of anxiety as I installed the CPU into the socket hoping that I didn't and worrying that I did accidentally bend any of the pins.  The zero force instillation model is really cool, but for the first time builder the anxiety over this crucial stage in the building process was extremely high.

One of the first issues I ran into in my build had to do with the motherboard and the case.  My case was a Thermaltake V3 Black Edition, both side panels of this mid-tower case are removable.  The side panel below the motherboard when removed exposes and open window in the cases construction that allows for the insertion of a CPU fan bracket.  The bracket is necessary to hold CPU coolers in place.  The problem that ran into was that the cut out in the case and the CPU Cooler bracket holes on the motherboard did not line up properly, they were about half an inch off and the bracket would not fit to the bottom of the motherboard within the case.  Unfortunately this meant that I had to return the sweet CPU cooler I ordered and I ended up simply using Intel's CPU fan (which is reportedly rather poor in performance) that came with my I3 processor.

Another issue that I ran into was in terms of attempting to install the PC case fans that I received as Christmas presents.  On the case there are a number of places that you can install optional intake and exhaust fans.  The case comes with one pre-installed rear exhaust fan.  I received a few Thermaltake Thunderblade 120x120x25 mm LED fans to install in the case as Christmas gifts.  Well a funny thing happened on the way to installing these fans.  On the top of the PC case there are spots for two exhaust fans.  Well the Thunderblade fans will not fit in these spots because the Digi Power design takes up too much space above the motherboard.  The other spot will not fit the fan because the clips that hold the memory in place block the fan from being able to slide into place just enough to prevent it from being screwed in without worrying about damaging the memory channels and clips.

Well I struck out on that side of the case.  No problem right?  I still can install one of the fans in the front of the case and one on the bottom to act as intake fans right?  Well sort of.  After fiddling around with the front cover of the case off, I did manage to find the attachment spots for the front intake fan and got that hooked up and it is working nicely and looks good.  The bottom intake fan is another story.  My power supply takes up too much room and covers up some of the screw holes where the bottom intake fan would attach.  So I am left with one extra case fan I haven't been able to install.  The bright side is I guess I have a spare if one of the currently installed ones breaks down.

But I still wanted to try to find a fan to fit in the top of the case.  Logic being that it would help prevent dust getting in the top of the PC and would help cool down the computer seeing as how I am using the under performing Intel CPU cooler.  So after some Internet researching I found the Scythe Slip Stream 120 mm Slim Case Fan which is only 12 mm think as opposed to the standard 25mm thickness.  I was able to install this fan in the front most of the top case fans slots and it is working like a charm.

One of the more disappointing things that I discovered was that the new TP-Link 300 Mbps High Gain Wireless N USB Adapter was giving very sub-par performance.  Paired with my Belkin 300N router, I was only getting between 46-54 Mbps transfer rate between the two.  So I pulled the old Airlink AWLH6090 wireless adapter out of our old PC.  At first I was able to get a solid 130 Mbps but then the next day I was back down to the 54Mbps speed.  After talking to TWC to make sure my Internet was performing normally and calling Belkin's massively unhelpful overseas tech support (who wanted to charge me $100 to let someone remotely update software and drivers on my PC, like I'm going to do that), I discovered that the problem was in the wireless card driver software.  The as soon as I roll back the driver I get to the 130 Mbps rate, but guess what because Windows 7 automatically updates drivers, I had to keep rolling back the driver until I figured out how to go in and turn of the automatic updates.  Now I just need to make sure that when I update the software I uncheck the recommended driver update for the wireless card.  The bad news is that Airlink has discontinued this model so I am not likely to get any new functional drivers for it.



The take away from this experience is that you cannot be sure if your components will actually work together until you get your hands on them.  My advice to any other PC builders would be to make sure that whatever the source of your components select a supplier that has a good return policy in case of incompatible or defective components.

It was a ton of fun working on this project and I still have some tweeking that I plan on doing down the road.  I would like to add a Blu-ray disc burner/reader in addition to the DVD writer that I have installed, I plan on upgrading the video card in a few months, I would like to add a PCI card with more USB3 ports down the road, and of course I will keep my eye on the SSD market once the cost/size ratio gets to a spot I like I will probably grab one of those.

I have already posted the CPU-Z data, but what did I end up under the Window's Experience score?



Overall I am very happy with the PC's performance so far.  That is it for now back to your regularly scheduled Star Wars programming.

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