Update2: Installed Windows 10. I've gotten my first bluescreen in years and I'm not a fan of how it likes to do its own thing, but it makes the platters feel almost as sprightly as Windows 8 on my 850pro which I think is quite commendable.
Update: Redid the cabling and removed the need for the $4.96 adapter. I also tried to unlock the 4th core but sadly no luck.
$5 Dell, I'm coming for you!
This is my third build; I tried to do as much of a bootstrapped build as possible. Everything except the GPU was collected through Craigslist and Freecycle. I had never tried salvaging before and I was surprised to discover how easy it was. I refrained from posting my first or second build on here, since there isn't a whole lot of substance in a review when one only has a narrow frame of reference. That latter point also happens to be one of the reasons why I set out to build this computer. It goes without saying that PCPartPicker had a hand in all of this. I really enjoyed looking at improvised, salvaged and ghetto builds -- it's an expression of resourcefulness and I find it just as refreshing as an absurd six-grand quad loop whatever.
TL;DR: I picked up 4 computers and one of them was a good one.
The story starts back in February; I had just finished ordering out the parts for my new work rig. There's always a certain sense of relief one feels once the parts get picked out and the orders put in as there's nothing more to worry about and no more parts to be weighing in on, so to celebrate and relax I did the sensible thing -- I opened a beer and started browsing for more computer parts. This time though I was looking at all the sketchy imported stuff on eBay, like anonymous $4 sound cards and some rainbow LED PSU with fluorescent green cables. It all seemed pretty silly to me at the time, but for me there seems to be a certain magnetism that emanates from horrible things and ideas. Or it might be that I'm just touched in the head. Either way, I was seized by the notion to build myself an abomination of a computer some day -- so long as there weren't any invoices involved of course!
I really wasn't expecting to get anywhere at all, since I 1) Didn't have parts lying around like system builders would; 2) Didn't have any friends willing to see if their office was getting rid of old computers; 3) Wasn't about to spend the time and gas to try to compete with veteran yard sale hawks and dumpster divers. I figured I'd check in on Craigslist and Freecycle every so often with but the lowest expectations. I wound up with four computers after one month:
The first rig was something like beginner's luck. Tired of passively waiting for listings, I put out a wanted listing and got a response the next day. The owner said the HDD died and dumped the entire kit on me. I made out with not just a custom rig, but also a flatpanel and a nice 10 button mouse among other things. The box was dusty as expected, and in my inexperience I immediately set to cleaning everything without figuring out what was really broken. After all, the owner told me it was the HDD that died and I knew I had HDDs! Well, it turned out the HDD was perfectly fine. The fans were getting power but I wasn't getting any video signal. Something else was kaput and I wasn't about to go plugging parts into my workstation to find out. I suspected the video card at the time.
Parts acquired: Case, Mouse, Monitor, SATA cable, HDD, Card reader
I figured that If my hunch was correct, then all my woes would be solved if I simply slotted the GTX460 I had lying around into the computer. The Antec PSU that came with the computer, on the other hand, only had one 6pin. I figured I'd wait for a 750w PSU to come back from warrantee (it was an EVGA 750-G2 that failed after 5 hours of use) and see where it went from there. In the meantime, I had the fanciful idea to stuff all the IDE drives I had inside, which meant even if I used a 2x4pin-6pin adapter, I'd be one 4pin short. So I did what I thought at the time the only reasonable thing to do, which was order a SATA-4pin adapter. So much for a recycled build.
Turns out my hunch was wrong. I plugged in the 750w and I discovered to my chagrin it was neither a faulty PSU nor the GPU. The search went on for a working mobo... or a CPU. Hopefully, both.
This second rig I picked up was a real (as my friend referred to it) compuker. I really have no idea how it's possible to get this dirty -- in fact, dirty is much too tame and mild a term; it was a genuine biohazard. I picked it up in a big plastic bag, and lying there in the back of my trunk it really did have a morbid aspect to it. There was this murky yellowed side window which seemed only barely capable of containing a mass of spaghetti lurking underneath, quite like some putrid corpse. On close inspection later, it also seemed to have blood drips on it, although it was probably more likely to have been tobacco juice or barbecue sauce... The more perplexing question is how I managed to talk myself into picking it up, nevermind cleaning it. I half expect it to be some sort of practical joke at my expense, but I got just the sort of cheap looking blue LED fans I was looking for out of it. I also got to pick up a 120mm fan from a friend en route. I wouldn't ever do it again though.
Parts acquired: Fans, FDD, Round PATA cable, Round FDD cable
Thankfully the third computer was the polar opposite. This was an old 2002 HP Pavilion lovingly cared for; little surprise since the owner was formerly in IT. It can't do much more than browsing the web, but the things it can do it does with a surprising sprightliness. It was too old for parts, but it made itself useful for testing PSUs later.
Parts Acquired: None
The fourth rig was a grand stroke of luck. A couple was moving out and decided to toss out their dead PC. I was told the PSU died, which got my hopes up that I'd get a working mobo. I got home, promptly plugged in my 750w and pushed the power button. Nothing. I checked the PSU switch since I know I'm absentminded like that, but it was on. My heart sank as my mind immediately suspected the mobo. It had to be, because I knew the 750w unit worked. I wasn't about to give up so soon and convinced myself that it had to be something else. I tried plugging in the power switch I salvaged from #2, though I had no idea whether or not it was was working. That didn't work either, so I put back the original front panel and reconnected the jumper, thinking I'd just call it a day. Either out of folly or hope, I tried pressing the power button one last time. By George, the computer turned on and posted. I put the original Thermaltake PSU it came with back and and tried again: it was a perfectly working computer the whole time. Hilarious.
Parts Acquired: CPU, Mobo, RAM, PSU, Optical
In the end, I didn't get to hodgepodge as much as I envisioned, since there's no guarantee hardware is going to be from compatible generations. What I ended up doing was cleaning up the mobo and repasting the CPU from #4 and mounting that into the case from #1, because that was the case with more trashy LEDs. Perhaps more importantly though, it actually had holes and some space behind the mobo tray so I could pretend to exercise my cable-fu.
I didn't have a compatible aftermarket heatsink to rice it up with, so I slapped on the stock heatsink from a FX6350. As for the PSU, I was really tempted to be socially acceptable and hook up my 750w. After some deliberation I decided it would be a lot more in-theme to go with the Thermaltake. Besides, the EVGA cables would have also been too thick to hide behind the mobo mount. Even so, cabling took some effort. The PSU had two 4pin cables but only one 6pin, and here again the 2x4pin-6pin adapter came in handy. This required all the 4pin headers to get concentrated near the bottom of the case, which made the high mounted (and very incongruously colored) DVD drive difficult to power. Good thing I bought that SATA-4pin adapter earlier!
It seemed that there would be little left wanting, but at this point one small issue started eating away at me. The mobo had a 4pin begging for the 120mm PWM fan I picked up earlier, but the R103A didn't have any suitable mounts. That was immaterial, as I was determined to have a 120mm in any case, damn the torpedoes, and so with a few wire ties I strung up the 120mm fan I picked up earlier inside the voluminous optical bay. Perfect!
With that, I finished my new-but-dated experimental workbench. I intend to use it to test crashy software or run even more game clients (sometimes they are both), as well as an extra screen to put on movies and anime to distract me while I work. All in all, I would estimate it to be about 15$ or so out of pocket if including the gas used to pick up all the rigs.
Thoughts on Select Parts:
Rosewill R103A: My version was an early model without any 3.5mm jacks. What do I think of it? It's crap. I love it for this build but I'd never pay a cent for one. I'm surprised it's still in production at all, as it's not only uncompetitive in the least against offerings from NZXT or Corsair but also against its own siblings. Sure, it has cabling holes, but for what its worth there's almost no room between the tray and the side panel, and this is coming from an H440 owner. It's also made from really flimsy stuff. I really do wish I had a window so I could show off any tackiness I put inside. The one upshot here is the red and blue lights might scare off burglars..?
Thermaltake TR2-430: It's accepted wisdom that pretty much any PSU that's not a Seasonic is nothing less than a time bomb waiting to annihilate the local neighborhood, but I think that's a bit of a hyperbolic statement. Maybe because all the other PSUs I've dealt with were all low wattage grannycomputers, or maybe I just don't know how to recognize danger if it bit me in the rear. What I do know is the only PSU that died on me was a EVGA 750-G2. I don't expect this PSU to be too troublesome but if it goes, well, I'll repent then. Gotta say it's appropriately ricey with the gold screws doe.
Acer S200HQL: Does the job. The fact the low end Acers have that silly stubborn tilt is indeed pretty bad, but the silver lining here is it's very portable. As in, if I lift it up and move it about, the base won't swing about in protest.
Galaxy 80mm fan: It's like a fan you use to pretend you have a Delta installed. It's shopvac loud and absolutely retarded. I have it mounted on the side panel but unplugged. I wish I could have it plugged in, but even without it this rig is making a fool out of me for buying Noctuas on my workstation. As in, my workstation sits right besides this computer, and it doesn't mean much that it's quiet if I can still hear this thing's fans going!
EVGA GTX460: This was the lowest specced 460 of the lot, but it still feels competent for the vast majority of games. This was the top prize in an art contest back in 2010. Truth be told, it was a pretty terrible prize to shoot for, as I would be exclusively using laptops until this spring. On the other hand, it shouldn't be any surprise that a terrible idea has combined with a whole string of other terrible ideas to manifest as this computer. I ought to apply the big bumper sticker it came with onto the case for extra rice factor, but I'm hoping for an even more perfectly terrible case to come along and deliver me to terrible transcendence.
FX6350 Stock Heatsink: Just wanted to say I'm surprised at how quiet it is compared to the stock heatsinks from all these computers I picked up.
CM Blade Master 120mm fan: Wobbles a fair bit, but that doesn't stop it from doing its job.
-It would be great if I could manage to find an even tackier case.
-Daisychaining the 80mm fans might remove the need for the SATA-4pin adapter, making the computer completely bootstrapped!
-A sketchy offbrand SSD would be hilarious but I cant imagine myself ever coming across one without paying for it.
-Finding more memory would be nice.
-Maybe swap the Thermaltake PSU for the Antec?
edit: I can't seem to figure out how to prevent the formatting from confusing list with italics.
Pretty poor value. Flimsy metal, sharp edges.