Build your own PC.

That didn’t take long.

Following my first post on this last week, all the bits duly arrived on Saturday morning. I was expecting the delivery to be on Friday, but for some reason SCAN had a problem “picking” the case which meant shipping slipped by a day. I phoned to see what was up and they apologised and said they’d ship using a Saturday am delivery without me even having to ask.

Fortunately, the weather was so dire over the weekend that I had plenty of time to get on with the assembly. Just to give you an idea, I guess the whole build (hardware only) from start to finish took about 3 or maybe 4 hours at most and I wasn’t rushing.

If you want to do a build, first of all, don’t scrabble about on the floor (especially if it is carpet) or somewhere where you will have to move or be frequently disturbed. I commandeered the dining room for the weekend, it’s a decent size table and there’s plenty of space and the light is OK.

So, here’s the pile of bits I purchased (you can click on any of the images to see a bigger picture) sitting on the table:

Pile of Bits

Not a huge pile – you can see the case at the back, the motherboard to the left at the back, the PSU is in the box with the big yellow 520 written on it and in front of that is the box with the processor in it.

The first thing I did was to get the case out the box, take off the side and front panels and then just sort of look at it for a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the layout. I even read the manual too!

The Antec Three HundredThe Antec Three Hundred

Compared to my previous case this one was really nice. Well made, two big fans with speed controllers and lots of room. You can see at the front there are two intake ports where you could install additional 120mm fans if needed although, for my requirements, I very much doubt they will be.

The next stage is to work on the motherboard – taking care about sensitive electronics, keep your handling of the board to a minimum and hold it by the edges when necessary. Here’s the ASrock board I ordered and a close-up of the LGA775 socket for the processor:

ASrock MotherboardASrock Motherboard showing the processor socket

The LGA775 has been around for a few years now, but it is the first time I’ve built one with it. The unusual aspect of it is that the pins are on the mobo rather than on the processor itself. This makes the format of the actual processor quite “dinky”. I was surprised at just how small it was…

Intel 8400 Core2 Duo Especially as this was the single most expensive item of the whole order.

Installing the processor into the socket on the mobo is actually quite straightforward:

There’s a small lever that you un-clip to lift up the cover, then you remove the plastic cap that protects the pins, then gently place the processor in the socket – it has a couple of alignment notches and a marked corner to ensure it will only fit one way round. Finally you just close the cover back down and clamp it shut using the lever and latch. Processor Installed in LGA775 SocketHere you
can see the processor nicely retained in it’s socket.

Generally, the processor packages called “Retail” come with their own standard HSF (Heat Sink and Fan) cooler but these tend to be very cheap, quite noisy and not the most efficient available. There are other processor packages that are called “OEM” and these are usually just the processor on it’s own. I couldn’t find an 8400 in an OEM package so I now have a spare stock Intel HSF (I’ll stick it on eBay probably) but the cost difference is negligeable so I don’t feel agrieved about this.

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 ProBecause of the generally poor performance of the stock HSFs I had ordered a specialised device anyway – the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro – which has been at the top of the reviews for a couple of years and is still there now.

Not the most exciting picture in the world I know but this is what the box looks like.

Freezer 7 installed - incorrectly

The supplied instructions are easy to follow (if you read them properly) and it quite simply clips over the top of the processor. The biggest challenge is making sure you orientate it correctly. Unlike what I did ;-)

You should position it so the exhaust from the HSF (On the right side in this photo) is directed to the exhaust case fan. Now I thought I’d done it right but I didn’t actually “offer up” the mobo to the case to check it, but instead relied on the male’s ability to visualise in three dimensions and their oft-mentioned superior “spacial awareness”. It turned out that I was actually 90′ wrong.

This actually brought up an interesting point worth mentioning: TIM (Thermal Interface Material). A thin layer of manufacturer supplied TIM was present on the contact plate of the Freezer 7 Pro and protected by a plastic cap before use. Needing to remove the cooler and re-orientate it however, meant I really should clean the contact area of both the processor and the cooler and use some fresh material. Luckily I had a tube left over from previous builds.

Arctic Cooler 7 installed correctly

Here is the cooler now attached to the processor the right way round and at the front of the picture you can see my little tube of TIM. You only need a small pea-sized amount and it should be spread very thinly and evenly across the whole surface of the contact plate (less than 1mm thick). I used an old business card to spread the paste as you really don’t want to use anything that is sharp or “scratchy”.

Memory installed in appropriate slots

After fitting the processor and cooler, the next thing to do is install the RAM. The manual for your mobo will explain which slots to use and, as with almost all new mobos, DDR(X) RAM should be installed in matched pairs to get the best performance. I used a pair of 1GB DDR2 8500 (1066Mhz) modules from Corsair. They only go in one way round so it is fairly easy to do and quite hard to get wrong.

I’ll continue this write-up in another post shortly, but please feel free to comment if you wish.

Laterz

Update: Part II is here.