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First homebuilt rig: Contruction Blog

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October 4, 2011 8:31:34 AM

Hi everybody, I'm not sure if this is common practice, but I'm building my very first gaming and work rig, and I was supposed to be handling the actual construction with a friend who's a PC technician, however our schedules did not meet and that means I'll be handling the entire process completely on my own.

So in order to both share the eye-candy and experience, as well as benefit from your (the users) vast experience and base of knowledge, I thought i'd photo-document the process and share it on a single thread in bloglike fashion, allowing pretty much anybody to chip in with valuable knowledge and advice.

I promise to provide high quality photographs of pretty much every stage from now on, and please take into consideration that short of installing RAM, i've never done any of this before, but I know how to deal with motorcycle engines and parts, so this shouldn't be that more difficult.

So where to begin..

Chapter 1: Shipment Manifest - What's going under the hood

* The Chasis: Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced Full Tower Case with SuperSpeed USB 3.0 - http://www.amazon.com/Cooler-Master-Advanced-Tower-Supe...

* The PSU: Corsair Enthusiast Series 850-Watt 80 Plus Bronze Certified Power Supply Compatible with Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and AMD platforms - http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-Enthusiast-Certified-Comp...

* The Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K Processor 3.3GHz 6 MB Cache Socket LGA1155 - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004EBUXHQ

* The GPU: 1x MSI Radeon HD 6950 2 GB GDDR5 2DVI/HDMI/2xMini DisplayPort PCI-Express Video Card R6950 TWIN FROZR III PE O, and 1x MSI Radeon HD 6950 2GB GDDR5 Twin Frozr II at Crossfire - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004UE1Q7S
http://www.amazon.com/MSI-R6950-Twin-Frozr-II/dp/B005HR...

* The Motherboard: Gigabyte Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2133 LGA 1155 Motherboards GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00518M74I

* The Memory: G.SKILL 8GB (2 x 4GB) Ripjaws X Series DDR3 1600MHz 240-Pin PC3-12800 Desktop Memory F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004HZG4ZO

* The CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooler, RR-B10-212P-G1 - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002G1YPH0

* The HDD: Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB SATA III 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache Internal Desktop Hard Drive Bulk/OEM - WD1002FAEX - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0036Q7MV0

* The Optical Drive: LG Electronics GH22NS50 22X SATA Super Multi DVD+/-RW Internal Drive - Bulk with Software (Black) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002C9K3UO

* Operating System: Win7 64

/End Manifest.

It appears my future rig has finally arrived where I live and looks like it has more stamps in its passport than I do all year long.
So I'm figuring it'll get to my place tomorrow, at which time I'll document the unboxing and start putting stuff together :) .

Any feedback would be much appreciated anytime. Thanks.

EDIT: Updated specs to include the new PSU and the crossfire setup.

More about : homebuilt rig contruction blog

a b B Homebuilt system
October 4, 2011 9:47:33 AM

Nice specs. Good luck!
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October 4, 2011 5:24:16 PM

Okay, so I've got all the parts lined up, and due to a series of unique events, I have 2 GPUs. Trying to figure out now if a TX650 PSU will be able to powerup an entire system along with 2 HD 6950s, and if not, Will I be able to use 2 separate PSUs simultaneously to power it all up, being as I really really don't want to buy another PSU.

Time to scratch head.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 4, 2011 5:28:15 PM

650W is pushing it IMO. I think they recommend 750W for 6950 CF.
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October 4, 2011 5:30:17 PM

Yeah, and I really wish I had gotten a 750, but saddly I have a TX650 and a CX600 both sitting on my table, both looking grimly at me. I haven't even unboxed them yet. I'm actually thinking of hooking both up together inside the HAF 932 - god knows it should be big enough.

Question is, can this be done?
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October 4, 2011 5:46:21 PM

If they're not unboxed send them back and buy the 750. not worth the risk. It is POSSIBLE to use 2 power supplies in a pc, but it's a nuisance since modern power supplies are powered up by a command from the motherboard, and your second psu would not be connected to the motherboard. Here is a link showing how someone (not me) used 2 power supplies in a pc. It does not strike me as a good idea, nor does it sound convenient:

http://www.overclock.net/faqs/15751-info-can-i-use-two-...
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October 4, 2011 6:24:39 PM

Or should I abandon McGuiverish ideas, sell both PSUs and buy an 850?
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 4, 2011 6:51:13 PM

its do-able, but as both a biker and lifelong tinkerer myself its one thing I wouldn't put the anglegrinder or leatherman to, its simply not worth the risk to your hardware, and to you
I was going to say (as you realised in your last post) best thing is sell them a few dollars under the rrp and get an 850w unit :) 
just a wonder, what make are your 69's? **Edit, Msi's, hehe I'm going blind lol

Moto
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October 4, 2011 7:12:46 PM

That's a pitty. I was hoping I'd manage to fabricate a solution but I'd be stupid not to listen to more experienced people, so I hope I manage to sell these quickly to finance a new one. Bleh - I guess I have nothing to fuss about considering my system turned into a crossfire powerhouse overnight and unexpectedly.

I too am going blind. Used to have great eyes but photography among other habbits completely nuked my eye sight. I blame riding and claim that if it isn't coming at me fast, I pay little attention to it :) .
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 4, 2011 7:30:29 PM

Hehe,
you could always keep em as known good units for testing or for another build,
I'll mess about with most things but as the saying goes,
one too many amps finally put paid to gramps hehe,
electricity's bloody dangerous stuff hehe :) 
I'll keep an eye on this though, first builds are often the scariest :) 
Moto
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October 4, 2011 7:39:34 PM

Would appreciate your presence here in this thread, could use a friendly hand to smack me when I'm being a newbie.

Besides, I think the crossfire option makes this build all that more interesting :) .
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October 4, 2011 8:03:50 PM

Currently I have only 1 monitor that runs at 1920X1080.
Currently not yet considering upgrading the monitor though I would like to have 3 someday, though I haven't yet decided if I prefer 3 or just 1 120hz capable.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 5, 2011 1:41:27 AM

Cool, at least you know your gfx is up to the job of feeding the screen hehe :-)
Moto
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October 5, 2011 10:55:00 AM

Okay, construction is underway and I'm in the process of installing the PSU (got myself a new Corsair TX850). Newbie question: I'm trying to install it on the bottom of the case and am not sure if I can set it up with the PSU fan pointing downward, meaning the PSU fan would be up against the case mesh floor. Should I flip it around and install it with the PSU fan pointing upwards?
It would seem that connection-wise the screws fit more naturally (location wise) when the PSU fan is pointing downward, meaning the PSU is sitting on its fan. Thoughts?
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October 5, 2011 12:22:44 PM

Figured it out. Set the PSU on the bottom, fan facing down as it is intake, while rear PSU fan (near cable socket) is the exhaust. Uploading photos now, so will post pics and process in a minute.
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October 5, 2011 1:47:30 PM

Okay so I unpacked the Motherboard, RAM, CPU and CPU Cooler. Installing the processor was a piece of cake, hope that cake won't burn the second I switch on the oven though.

This is the CPU Cooler still boxed:



And here you can see Motherboard + RAM + CPU cooler installed. Installing the CPU Cooler was a little tricky and required 4 hands, and being as I am not yet a mutant, I had to bring in the big guns. My wife. She did a spectacular job of holding the CPU cooler while I tried to set it onto its bracket and tighten it down.





You can see that the fan just barely clears the RAM, but it does so well enough. GSKILL have decreased the size of their RAM cooling units in order to avoid such conflicts and it certainly paid off.

The back motherboard panel slid in with a click.



Next step was sliding in the LG DVD, which was very simple.




Then I installed the Caviar Black HDD, this required a little work because the HDD fits onto a tray with 4 pins that are covered with rubber in order to damper vibrations. While this is a very welcome addition, I still had to play around with it abit to keep the rubber from dislocating while installing the HDD into the tray, once it's in though, sliding it into the case was a matter of seconds.





PSU took me a few minutes to figure out. Had to decide where I wanted it to sit and how, a few google searches guided me.



Then came the part I was really looking forward to. HD 6950 number 1, then HD 6950 number 2, then Crossfire bridge. One of my cards is a Twin Frozr III OC, while the other is a Twin Frozr II, being as the card itself is the same I expect no trouble of running them in Crossfire, I just hope I won't have to mess around with each card's clock too much to get them to work, this is my first Crossfire setup, so not sure what kind of configuration is required (considering one card comes overlocked from the factory while the other does not).


















I don't know if it can be seen from the images, but the tool-less card lock doesn't work with the GPUs, it can't close shut to hold onto them and that might be a good thing considering their aggregated weight. I used the normal screws to hold them in.

This is where I'm at just now. Hooked up the crossfire bridge and now I have to start making sense of all of these cables everywhere. The part I dreaded the most. My motorcycle has less wiring running through it than this thing. Time to seriously RTFM so I don't hook up a molex to my electric razor.

I'll update again once the cables seem a little less frightening.
Once that's done, do I turn on the PC for the first time with the Windows CD already inside? or do I have to go through several stages prior to loading the OS CD?
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 5, 2011 4:30:16 PM

Nice choice on the Psu there man, I would've replied earlier but I sleep daytime
yes psu fan down, helps keep its airflow out of the case
for the graphics cards, back up a touch, and take the second one out
install the first card, update drivers etc and get it running fine, then power off install second card, drivers update again and remember to enable crossfire in Catalyst control
once you reboot, just check that Cf is still enabled and your good to go :) 
you can boot up into bios if you wish first to have a looksie about,
or get straight on with installing windows its no issue either way :) 
run through sections three and four here if you struggle too much http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/288241-13-read-post...
Moto
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October 5, 2011 7:32:55 PM

Okay, I've disconnected one Video card for the first boot.
Still have several cables that I'm not quite sure where they should go:
1) Case cable with 2 ends: 1 is AC 97, 2 is HD Audio: Where should I plug these into the Motherboard? I have one slot on the motherboard called "F_Audio", not sure if either of these and which one of them must connect.

2) Have a Case cable with SATA end - not sure where this should attach.

3) Case cable that says 1394, I spotted the slot but it has a plastic cover inserted into it. Should I take it out and attach the cable? what is this for?

4) I have no clue how to attach my case fans. They are all connected with adaptors to Molex ends. Should I attach the molex ends to the PSU? or should I remove the adaptors and attach to the motherboard sys_fan slots?

The front panel slots, with HDD led, Power Led, Reset. Not quite sure how to attach these as I'm having a difficult time making out + and - on them.

Would appreciate any help as this is what's keeping me from booting.
Thanks.
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October 5, 2011 7:37:36 PM

Also, each 6950 card has room for 2x 6pin PCIe cables from the PSU. I also have 4 PCI cables with 6+2pins on each, should I attach all four 6pin cables (2 6pins per each card?)
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Best solution

a b B Homebuilt system
October 5, 2011 7:52:30 PM

Ac97 and Hd audio, only one of those should be plugged into the Mobo, pref the Hd (Ac97 is an older standard that is still accomodated for)

1394 is your firewire ports cable, by and large ignore it, its not necessary these days with usb doing its job

fans, molex's can be attached straight to psu, daisy-chained if the have passthrough connectors (one male one female per fan they will always be at 100%)
or if you wish, you can power from mobo and control through software
or buy fancontroller, plug into that and and have twiddly knobs to adjust fanspeeds :) 

your Mobo manual will have a layout picture detailing the front panel header, this will identify where the power,reset and light cables go,
your graphics cards need 2x6 pin plugs so gently break away the +2 part of the pcie cable and plug the solid 6 block in, both are needed on each card and the Tx 850 has enough so thats fine :)  (I have the same psu myself)
relax, go slow and take your time, its not as scary as it seems man :) 
Moto
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October 5, 2011 8:05:31 PM

Any idea what TPM is?
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October 5, 2011 8:15:43 PM

sick build! good idea getting a single powerful PSU to power your 6950s and now you have plenty of room for ocing I want to see some benchmark results! Good Job!
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October 5, 2011 8:17:44 PM

look at your mobo manual to see where all the headers go and make sure that the power ones are properly secured and that the motherboard is getting a 4 or 8 pin and a second larger connector from the psu (maybe 28 pin)
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 5, 2011 9:32:20 PM

What says tpm? A cable? It doesn't ring any bells but I'm at work so brain in forklift mode hehe
Moto
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 5, 2011 10:10:37 PM

Missed out the case sata cable as well, just plug that into an available sata port, its probably your front panel usb/esata
Moto
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October 5, 2011 11:13:36 PM

Okay, just a brief update. with 1 Vid card in, booted and installed windows and motherboard drivers.
will now shut down and install 2nd vid card.
Was fun to see it boot successfully on first attempt :) 
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 5, 2011 11:15:30 PM

Gratx man, glad to hear it :-)
Did you mean will NOW shut down? :-p
Moto
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October 5, 2011 11:25:23 PM

Yep. just editted my post :)  sorry bout the typos. its 1:30 AM here and I'm running on fumes and beer. And i'm about to run out of beer :( 
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October 5, 2011 11:26:07 PM

damn good stuff man, that was scary for a bit there huh?
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October 5, 2011 11:32:54 PM

jjb8675309 said:
damn good stuff man, that was scary for a bit there huh?


Totally. The abundance of cables and having to guess which was + and -, blue or white. Kept me on my toes :) 

Okay. Installing second 6950 now. Crossing fingers.
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October 5, 2011 11:51:54 PM

Touchdown. We have crossfire!! :) 
Funny that they would call it crossfire, as in the military we considered this to be a very bad thing.

So 2 questions remain:
1) In Catalyst control center crossfire is checked, but when i run the "GPU Diagnostic" all I get is a huge "Number 1" pop up on my screen (much like when you wish to identify your displays when running more than 1 monitor). I'd expect it to show me 2x 6950 but it doesn't. Though that does appear in the device manager. Is this normal?

2) How do i benchmark these twins?
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October 6, 2011 12:03:31 AM

Best answer selected by JackHarrer.
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October 6, 2011 12:43:59 AM

I'm pretty beat, but I promise another set of pictures tomorrow of the finished rig from port, starboard, aft and fore.
Overall it looks pretty tidy inside, what goes on behind the motherboard, that's a different story :) .
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 6, 2011 12:52:39 AM

Can't say on the Gpu diag thing in CCC sorry, no crossfire experience there to draw on, but if dev shows as two cards I reckon its all good :-)
Furmark 3D is an accepted test/benchmark tool you can dowmload the latest version from CNet or similar sites
And get some pics in the members gallery now you're a bonafide builder :-)
Moto
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October 6, 2011 12:57:27 AM

Well, builder is a tad pushing it :)  I'd settle for "assembler". When I start fabricating cases that provide superior cooling solutions - then i'll call myself a builder.

Guys, thanks for all the help, it's really much appreciated, especiall you Moto - If you hadn't come along I'd probably be using my GPU to blend margaritas.
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October 6, 2011 1:04:08 AM

I was pleasantly surprised to find in the BIOS that it recognized my RAM no problem and automatically ran it at 1600mhz. There was alot of talk about having to configure it on my own and that others encountered problems with it switching back to 1333 automatically.

Had a little mishap with the 212plus CPU cooler - One screw fastening it to the bracket pretty much snapped in it (thank you chinese quality assurance) so I ended up riding around town looking for a similar screw, eventually found one the same size and it seems to be working. Still have to bench and check out the temperature under heavy load.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 6, 2011 1:21:03 AM

Glad its going well barring minor mishaps hehe,
Glad to help man, thank you for best answer
Moto
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 6, 2011 8:36:11 AM

Congratulations on your first build! Awesome.

Yeah, now you need to download HWMonitor to check your temps while doing 3DMark runs for our amusement.
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October 6, 2011 11:08:42 PM

Ran FurMark and HWMonitor for around 30 minutes, which I know isn't much but I had other things to tend to.

All cores were working at around 98-100% capacity, temperatures started at idle around 32C and then rose to 58-62C.

Seems steady and sturdy, but I have yet to compare that to other benchmarks of similar systems so I'm not sure if I'm dead on the money or have to look into improvements.
After having the 212 hyper's screw snap in two, I have been pondering the idea of getting a higher quality CPU cooler, though I'm not sure if I'm going overboard and adding bullet powder to a barrel of TNT. I mean the 212 might be good enough for now and I do wish to stay with aircooling and don't really want water cooling just yet.

Played an hour of BF3 and averaged 60fps with spikes to 70 and pits to 40. Given i'm still running my CPU on stock 3.3ghz. I've considered clocking my cores up to 3.8-4ghz, however honestly I just don't see the point of it just yet. My game resolution is 1920x1200 wide, all setting on Ultra (yes I know this is beta and that Ultra is disabled and that it basically means high settings) with maxed out anti-aliasing and AF, and getting absolutely no stuttering during gameplay, it actually runs silky smooth. Furthermore with my 60hz monitor, i'm not quite sure I'd notice the difference between steady 60FPS and 100FPS.

I'll be sure to test out the difference by dropping my AA and AF abit lower as this pumps up FPS significantly. I'm also pretty sure that BF3 requires further optimization but that's awhole different subject.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 6, 2011 11:11:08 PM

Shiny :-)
Temps seem fine but watch it if they start creeping up
Moto
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May 24, 2012 10:08:34 PM

Jackharrer said:
Okay, so I've got all the parts lined up, and due to a series of unique events, I have 2 GPUs. Trying to figure out now if a TX650 PSU will be able to powerup an entire system along with 2 HD 6950s, and if not, Will I be able to use 2 separate PSUs simultaneously to power it all up, being as I really really don't want to buy another PSU.

Time to scratch head.

hi there it a pitty I didn't see your thread when you need help with the psu issue as I read some of the replys and ti be honnest its not that hard to rig two psu's to run together if you got the space. in fact its pretty easy so if you ever want to do that in the future or just to know how I would be glade to help
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May 24, 2012 10:20:58 PM

i guess its too little to late by a year or so!! but all the sam nice rig and so glad you got it all sorted in the end just thought I would say so and once again sorry I couldn't give the help when it was needed :pt1cable: 
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May 25, 2012 12:18:00 PM

Oh sorry a little off topic but Jack Harer is probably the best strain ever!
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May 25, 2012 2:43:22 PM

jjb8675309 said:
Oh sorry a little off topic but Jack Harer is probably the best strain ever!

Agreed.
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May 25, 2012 3:19:15 PM

I was wondering if any of you could recommend from your personal experience a CPU cooler (air cooling) that's superior to the CM 212?
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May 25, 2012 8:23:42 PM

there are def options out there but personally have never had a reason to stop using my cm h212+, seriously for about 6 years going strong and many chips
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