Description

This is some Old Iron, with lots of newer components built around it and many essentials, such as the PSU, case, RAM, monitor, mouse, keyboard, OS, DVD/CDR Drive, and storage scavenged from an older build. Many other parts were actually found discarded in a local recycling center, including the CPU, keyboard, one hard drive, the North Bridge Fan, one DVD Writer, USB PCI Card, and one monitor (the NEC). All told, the parts I did buy cost just a little over $300 - the water cooler, motherboard, and primary video card.

It is used for gaming, writing, some server hosting (though it is not my primary server), remote access (more on that later), and posting to PCPartpicker. The parts list below is not exact; in particular, there are the following inaccuracies:

  • CPU is actually the Xeon listed under Custom; it wasn't on the PCP list so I chose the processor that most closely resembled it for the CPU slot, otherwise I wasn't allowed to post my current speed and temps.

  • The optical drives are not correctly listed.

  • the north bridge case fan is not the right brand, but it very closely resembles whatever I got in there; it was pulled from an old AM2+ motherboard.

Now for the parts details and mini-reviews:

CPU: This CPU is easily the most powerful I have ever owned. Pulled it out of a z400 HP workstation computer. You can see in the pic attached that I was able to OC it to 4.1Ghz stably; I ran the Civ 5 benchmark and streamed music for a while at that level without incident, though it did crash out on me at 4.5 and 4.4. At first I thought I had managed this without increasing the voltage, but I see here that voltage reads 1.27 - higher than the 1.01-1.11 that I get at my current clock. Since I didn't touch any voltage settings in the BIOS, this must have been done automatically after I increased the blclk.

CPU Cooler: Fantastic AIO cooler. Very functional, and I liked its looks almost as much as the Corsair model (Not that this machine is for looks, lol). The temps are probably actually a little high for this since I think I used too much thermal paste but am too lazy to go back and fix it for now. When gaming with the game Hard Reset on 4.1Ghz, temps reached the mid 50s. This CPU is rated to something like 80/90+, so I wasn't worried.

Motherboard: This was a spectacular bit of luck for me on eBay. Bought it with CPU socket pins bent; spent a night rearranging them under magnifiying glass with a pin and jewelry tweezers. I think my repair job was imperfect, however, because of the 6 RAM slots on this board, only 4 work; the outermost 2 cannot be booted from and memory in them is detected as dedicated to hardware in windows. A very small disappointment, considering the price and its other capabilities: I get USB 3.0 AND an IDE connector, because yeah, I still use one of those. One other note, about the north and south bridges: the South Bridge heatsink is extremely flexible because it's not very securely attached to the board, and appears to be seated on the bridge with thermal tape - ugh. The North Bridge heatsink is better, but gets extremely hot in the absence of air cooling from the CPU.

Thermal Paste: This is great stuff. Got it at radioshack a while ago for some other hobby machines I was putting together from garbage parts, and it's very functional in all its applications. I like that it's white, because then it's easier for me to know when I've cleaned it completely off.

RAM: This was actually RAM I got while putting together a build for a graphic artist I know a few years ago, but it didn't like the system for whatever reason and we ended up using some Corsair. Works perfectly in this system, though you have to set the motherboard to recognize it as 1600Mhz. The board does that with all the RAM I've put into it though, so it might be more the board's fault than this RAM's. I used to have 12Gb in this build, but took out the other sticks to use in my minecraft server downstairs, which is connected to this one by Ethernet over Powerline.

SSD: Great SSD that has kept on trucking just fine since I got it. Has more than enough space for my Windows, a few programs, and eventually a linux distro (when I finally decide which one I want for this machine).

Video Cards: The 760 is a joy to work with after using my old 6850 for so long. I will say this about nVidia - I find they are much simpler to use, and perform more reliably across the board in my experience. Keeps up playable frames when I have Assassin's Creed 4 - the game it came with - cranked to maximum everything, and does 59-60 FPS on Hard Reset at maximum settings (game is locked to 60 max FPS though). I haven't tried it with many other demanding programs yet, however. The 8600 was just a fun experiment taken from a really old build of mine, to see if the second PCI-E slot worked. It does, and this card is set to run as a dedicated PhysX card if any program ever detects that it would be advantageous to do so; thus far however everything seems to think my 760 would be better off just handling everything on its lonesome. I'll take this card out after I'm satisfied that it's seeing no use - but rest assured; this configuration DOES work if you force it to!

Case: This Rosewill case was a disappointment. The front USB and headphone jacks will randomly cause computers in this case to lock up if static shock touches them; for this reason I have them completely disconnected. The case also features an annoying backplate, little in the way of cable management options (though I do have an enormous amount of cabling stuffed behind the mobo mounting plate, and a non-standard 120mm back fan mount that was unable to accommodate my Cooler Master 120V (right now it is hanging there by literally one screw, threaded through a hole that is not even a screw hole, and resting its side against the top of the South Bridge heatsink). However, the case does look nice (I think), and is sturdy enough. It also came with a 120mm fan that is quiet and reliable. It's currently pulling air from the front panel vent to push over an HDD and over the GPUs.

PSU: I have only recently realized that this relic from the past is a Topower unit. It boggles my mind, but this unit supplies very stable 12v rail power to the CPU even when overclocking substantially, if EVGA E-leet is to be believed. However, it also is part of the reason that I have decided to back off to 3.6Ghz; I don't want to test this thing's worth any more than I have to. One interesting thing about this PSU is that it has a "turbo" button in the back that increases the PSU's fan speed and turns on a bright blue LED that you see on in the pics. It's supposed to help with venting hot air from the case, which I suppose kinda works if it's top mounted, like this one is. Makes no appreciable difference in this setup, though, so for everyday use I leave that off.

North Bridge Fan: Not much to say; is the loudest component in the case by far because it's old and rattly. Will probably die soon, but I will ride it happily to that end, since it keeps my NB heatsink about 15-20 degrees cooler than it would otherwise be! I'm frankly suprised, given how small it is in comparison to the heatsink. One other note - it only cooled the heatsink about 5-10 degrees until I flipped it so that it pulls air up through the heatsink and throws the heated result into the path of the back-mounted rad fan; once I decided on that configuration it really started to shine. I think I was just working against the physics of hot rising gases before that.

Keyboard/Mouse: I love Microsoft-designed input devices. The mouse I bought long ago, but I love it for gaming. Served me well while I was a veteran sniper in Tribes: Ascend and a master Indian general in Empire: Total War.

Monitors: Over the years I have come to realize that the AG Neovo is kind of a ****** monitor, but it gets the job done and has a low response time. I am loathe to replace it because I like square monitors much more than widescreens, but I suppose soon I will have to switch. The NEC that I found feeds my need for a dual-monitor setup; it's actually a much better monitor than the AG Neovo in every way, except that it doesn't have a monitor stand and its speakers don't work. Has two USB ports on its side that I'm not sure what to do with.

USB Card: I use a lot of flash drives. What's nifty about this one is that it has a fifth USB connection that is located on the inside. I'm sure I'll find a use for it, unlike the guy who threw it out.

Microphone: Stole this from my Wii rockband setup. Works extremely well for coordinating with my friends in Borderlands 2, Payday 2, or CS:GO and sounds hella better than my webcam does. Also worth noting that Windows 7 detected and installed its drivers automatically within seconds of it being connected via USB. Simply amazing.

Speaker System: These Altec Lansing 2.1 speakers are great for gaming. I firmly believe that a subwoofer is the foundation of a great FPS gaming experience, and ever since my dad got me these back when I was in high school, they've been serving me well. This motherboard also has a nice Realtek soundcard built in, and it sounds noticeably better on these speakers than my old Biostar did.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Comments

  • 70 months ago
  • 2 points

Whoops, forgot to mention the Raspberry Pi! It's the little helper to this big guy; it runs a VPN server and allows me to WOL this computer from outside my own network, or from my phone. I outfitted its ARM processor with a piece of cut-up heatsink because it's adorable.

The upshot of this is that I save a lot of electricity; the Pi pulls 5v or less from the wall, but I have remote access to the big machine any time I want, via Chrome's Remote Desktop, once WOL wakes it over my LAN.

It's running the latest stable release of Raspbian, and uses NeoRouter + wakeonlan and arp-scan packages for its duties.

  • 65 months ago
  • 1 point

Can you say more about the Chrome Remote Desktop?

I've got a pi that I made into a photo booth but now it's served its purpose and it's looking for its next task.

  • 70 months ago
  • 1 point

Also, just noticed that this machine's CPU is an "engineering sample," whatever that means. I looked it up online; apparently that makes it somewhat rare, but it might not be optimized?

  • 70 months ago
  • 1 point

Very cool. I like your implementation of the Pi, but why would you need it for WoL? AFAIK you just need an open port and a static IP.

  • 70 months ago
  • 2 points

I need the Pi to run a VPN so that I can be part of my network virtually, even over WAN.

Normally, a router will not pass a WoL command originating from outside its LAN. To circumvent that, I used a NeoRouter VPN to make any computer or phone I connect to my network part of the LAN, virtually-speaking. It also has a lot of nifty side-benefits, like being able to WoL from an HTML5-based webpage at the click of a button, and a built-in GUI for automated SSH, VNC, RDP, and FTP connections to any computer on my network set up for those connections.

So while I might use WoL to turn my computer on from work so that I can RDP into it and get the latest update for a game I just saw while I'm away (so that it's ready when I get home), a lot of other users with restricted access to my VPN are able to turn on my minecraft server on-demand using a separate WoL command, which shoots from the Pi to my router, and then to an ethernet over powerline connection down to my basement, where I have a separate computer that turns on and automatically starts the server, which they can then join.

What this all translates into is a significant savings on energy and parts wear.

  • 70 months ago
  • 2 points

Ah, I see. I know my two motherboards support WoL by listening for the magic packet on port 8 or 9, so I'm able to WoL from outside the network.

As for everything else, I can see how the Pi would be useful. I'm guessing you have some sysadmin background?

  • 70 months ago
  • 2 points

Oh. my. god. Do you know, I may have been attempting to forward the wrong ports? LOL; can't believe I overlooked that...

So how does the command line go? Normally within my own LAN, I go "wakeonlan [computer's MAC address]" and that's it; it goes right to it.

Not even going to think about how long I wracked my brain for a secure way to enable WoL over WAN, without double-checking to see what ports WoL actually needed. It's either that, or there's something else getting in the way of me doing it that very normal, straightforward way that I don't remember. But no, this is probably user error. Good god. At least the VPN solution is more robust? hahah. hahahahaaaa....

I have no sysadmin background. Nothing has ever been more evident to me than that fact right now.

  • 70 months ago
  • 1 point

Haha, I spend a good night of googling to get it to work. I saw the wikipedia article that said most network cards listen on port 7* or 9, and I just tried both until I got it to work.

I use a WoL app on my android phone. Punched in my public IP, MAC, port, and hit go.

  • 70 months ago
  • 1 point

Well, that's essentially what my VPN is, so I guess I'm not that far behind. Oh well. At least I didn't get chastised for my cable management _^

  • 69 months ago
  • 1 point

I like it. I'm into saving power and re-using old parts these days, and this build shows what you can do with an approach like that.

  • 69 months ago
  • 1 point

Yep. To be fair, I feel like I got extremely lucky on the CPU - I don't expect to ever find one like that again - but I've found some other pretty awesome components just by keeping my eyes keen. These days you just can't get by unless you're willing to find innovative cost-savings solutions in my neck of the woods.

If you live in the rust belt, learn to use the rust.

  • 67 months ago
  • 1 point

yikes! that cable management is no good!

  • 67 months ago
  • 1 point

Haha, yes I totally agree. It's partly my fault, because I'm always farting around with my build and pulling/installing components, so it just didn't seem to make sense to zip tie the cables out of the way, when I'd have to do it all over again anyhow. The rest of the issue is that the case is terrible for cable management; I've got even more stuffed behind the motherboard's backplate, but there's literally no more room back there for the rest, which is quite a lot. This case was great for my initial midrange build, but now that I've upgraded my components into the mid-high range, it's really looking crowded in there.

About the only defense I can give of this is that despite what it looks like, none of the cables significantly interfere with my airflow; they just make the build look ugly as sin.

Thanks for looking! Now I gotta go take a look at your build...

  • 65 months ago
  • 1 point

****-ing Awesome Rig! Lucky Finds! Man, this build/find is very inspirational!

  • 65 months ago
  • 2 points

Thank you so much! That's a huge compliment to me. Yes, this build has taught me to love Xeons.

  • 63 months ago
  • 1 point

dat PSU is very dangerious..

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

cable management scares me

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

dang that is long was not lying. this is a really nice build +1 m8

  • 61 months ago
  • 2 points

thx man

  • 59 months ago
  • 1 point

All I see is a nest of snakes. You pictures are so distracting, I didn't pay any attention to what was inside. I do gather you like to drink a few beers when on your system :) You just need a recycle bin to get them off your desk..lol

  • 59 months ago
  • 1 point

I agree about the cable management, but I will say that at least it did not affect cooling. This system is also now EXTREMELY different from when I made this post:

  • added the Antec GX500 case (better management options; can hide many cables behind mobo)
  • added a second EVGA GTX 760
  • added an EVGA 750W Bronze 80+ fully modular PSU (greatly helps with the cable management issue)
  • added another cooler master sickleflow to the other side of the AIO rad and moved it to a front grille pull configuration
  • Added a Silverstone 120mm fan to the back
  • Added an Asus 23" 1080p "bezel-less" display.

I definitely do need to get a recycling bin in this room, but I also believe in being honest about what my battlestation usually looks like :)

All of that being said, do you have any questions about the system itself, or were you just here to be snarky :P

[comment deleted]
  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Speak of the devil; I'm getting a modular PSU and a better case in the mail in a few days for this thing!

[comment deleted]
  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Got an EVGA 750W superNOVA and an Antec GX500