Alright, so I'm not much of a writer so this will likely be very disjointed with random thoughts all over the place.
My background...I bought a grossly overpriced Dell when I turned 22 (scary that is over 10 years ago now). That lasted until I moved up in my job a few years later and I upgraded to another Dell. I know I am completely impressing everyone here that I got suckered in not once but twice. That lasted until I got a good promotion in early 2010. I moved to a spot that had a Memory Express locally and my mind was blown with the possibilities of building my own PC. I had a neighbor who had been building his own for years and he was constantly in my ear trying to get me to give it a try. Late 2010 I spent a good month online reading countless reviews and planning out my build and finally took the plunge.
I opted for an Intel i7 950 on a Rampage Formula III MB, 12GB RAM, GTX 580 and a lot of the basic components that have been moved to my new current build. Along the way I tried out the GTX 580 in SLI where the noise and temperatures drove me up the wall. I sold my 2nd GTX 580 for pretty much what I paid for it luckily and was fine with the GTX 580. I picked up a solid UPS that I'm still using to this day that has an LED display on the front to see what I'm pulling for wattage. I was forced to do it because my old boxing day bargain UPS couldn't handle the two loaded up video cards. It now is dedicated to just my monitor and printer but its time is limited.
With this build I re-used my Dell stock mouse and keyboard and still had my old 24" Dell Monitor. Needless to say that didn't last long as I now had the taste of custom items in my mouth and a local store that stocked a large amount of these items that I could blow my money on. First was the Razer Mamba that ended up getting swapped out for a new one almost 2 years later free of charge due to some defects. Then was a Razer Lycosa, cool at first but I learned to really dislike it. Then came the Logitech G35 Headset and the Logitech Z623 that replaced my awful 5.1 set that managed to have cords and cables all over the place that was a regular focus of frustration. I kept my eye out all this time for the Dell U3011 Ultrasharp monitor to go on sale. It would go as high as $1500 and sometimes come as low as $900 which is what I picked it up for. Sure it seems like an expensive way to go but it has been a champ since picking it up.
I started out with a Corsair 120GB SSD for the operating system and main programs that I would be running and a single 1TB drive for storage. The SSD worked perfectly fine but I filled that up fairly quickly and moved to the Samsung 840 256GB which was a seamless clone thanks to the software that they provided with the drive. Over time I added additional 1TB drives to accommodate for the increase in family videos, family pictures, an ever expanding iTunes music and video collection and any other thing I could find to fill the drives up.
Fast forward to about a month ago. My dad who had foolishly inherited my 2nd Dell had become fed up with it, much like I had 3 years ago and he decided that we should plan a budget business type machine for him. That got me back into the mindset of tinkering with my own setup which had basically been only slightly improved over the 3 year period I had it. First to go were the fans. I swapped out all the case fans for higher CFM and the blue LEDs to replace the red LEDs that I had in this case and my last Dell. I had always been nervous to try out Liquid Cooling but that ended up being my next purchase and it was a breeze to install. At that point I actually dealt with my really awful cable management from the original install (not that it is much better now).
I also picked up a USB 3.0 PCIe card to add a couple of USB 3.0 options on the back. By accident, or at least without knowing it there was an added bonus of being able to hook up a 19 pin USB 3.0 connector to that card as well. That let me finally properly connect my USB 3.0 case connectors to the right connection as my old motherboard didn't give me that option.
Now for the last week or so. I decided to pull the trigger on a new motherboard that I "needed" and a video card that I've had my eye on for a while. First was the motherboard and processor which are likely overkill for me but that's what I chose nonetheless. I like the option of being able to give overclocking my first real attempt and I really liked all of the options that the motherboard have available. One thing of note, this motherboard does not line up properly with my case (HAF-X)for changing out the cooler. I initially made the mistake of installing the MB, then trying to put the backplate on the back of the motherboard and install the H90. As you can see from one of the pictures it doesn't quite work, that really was a minor setback. The re-install process was seamless aside from having to re-install every single program and the 300+ windows only updates.
Today I picked up my new video card and a new card reader that transfers over the USB 3.0 Superspeed connection. The old card reader was very unreliable and transfer rates were borderline unbearable. I haven't done any benchmarks or overclocking on anything yet but I did turn up the video card to 80% just to compare the noise to the GTX 580 and it is noticeably quieter...or at least that is what I am telling myself.
Anyways this has turned into a novel for my standards. I already have a few things I have in mind for the next step but this was pretty much the 3-year evolution of my first build.
Feel free to throw comments out there, anything you're doing that has worked better for you or whatever, I am really open minded for changes or optimizations.