TLDR: I knew nothing before I started picking parts and I take the reader on my entire build voyage to completion. Will hopefully be helpful for other new builders as I keep the technical jargon to a minimum and provide examples of things that can go wrong (and will!).
This was my first build, and because it was so helpful to read through countless other builds, comments, articles, etc. in preparing myself for this experience I’m going to offer some granular detail on what it took to make it to the finish line. As the title suggests, blood was indeed spilled.
Here’s what you can expect: straight talk, not a lot of technical references because I can’t say I really understand it all, and hopefully a few tips along the way for others heading into their first builds. I’ve been gaming for 30+ years starting with Coleco Vision but everything I did in this build was my first time at it, and everything I learned was from the internet in the last few weeks.
First I’d like to credit the build and guidance provided by Philip on this website with his very own i5-6600K/GTX 980 Ti build video located here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA_4wDPvP0g This build represented the framework I started with, and then I tweaked based on a few personal preferences and also based on some of the comments that users provided within Philip’s thread. You guys/gals are really helpful! I also knew how convenient it would be to have a video right in front of me as I went through each step. I also soon learned how much easier it looks when Philip is performing the tasks vs. clumsy me!
My primary goal was to build a machine that can eventually take on 4k gaming as well as Virtual Reality devices like the Oculus. In the meantime I plan to game on Ultra settings at 2k. My current games lineup is Fallout 4, Witcher 3, League of Legends, and Rise of the Tomb Raider when it hits in January. I’ll also probably dabble in some FPS. 4k gaming will of course need another 980 Ti in SLI.
The very first thing I did was install the motherboard IO shield because I had read comments that this could be a difficult step and I just wanted to tackle it head-on. I was up for it! It wasn’t too bad, I figured out how to snap it in by placing weight around the edges without completely pushing it out of balance. Less than a minute. Time to get this motherboard out on the table and slide the processor home, which is another step everyone said they worry about. What the hell, did one of my kids leave red jelly on my workspace…no that’s not jelly, let me put this motherboard down…WAIT THAT’S BLOOD.
The first thing you do when you notice blood is try to figure out where the hell it’s coming from. I won’t say it was spurting everywhere but it was on six fingers and my motherboard so some investigation was necessary. It was not coming from the motherboard, crossed that one off. Not one but TWO fingers ended up being the culprits, with a nice **** at the tip of my left middle finger and a smaller pin-sized poker on my right thumb. That damn IO shield! Thankfully I had kept my fingers at the sides of the motherboard so the exposure there was minimal. I wiped down the counter, put a few Monsters, Inc. bandaids on and I was good to begin again.
Minor speedbump on step 1. That’s ok, I thought. I’ve got Philip as my guide for the next several steps! The i5-6600 came with a little black plastic device that is intended to allow you to place the chip into its setting without getting your hands too involved. I would have rather just placed it there with my fingers, because in order to get it into the black device you need to pick the damn thing up so what the hell was the point of that? Anyways it lined up perfectly, I brought the latch thingy down and locked it in place.
I was installing the same Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO as Philip so I imagined it would be a breeze. It comes with its own thermal paste that apparently is for heathens compared to Artic Silver but whatever, I am so far away from overclocking successfully that it really won’t matter for me, trust me. One small tip on installing the bracket for the cooler is to ensure you have the screws going into the proper slot, which for me was the middle slot. You can barely discern the difference but you’ll know it when you see it.
I put a pea size amount on the processor and placed the proper end of the cooler down. I started screwing the attachment device into the motherboard and back plate but then realized I once again needed to align the screws into the middle slot of THIS piece as well. Instead of simply sliding the attachment device out and fixing this, I of course lifted the entire cooler off of the processor and placed it on my counter. Paste side down, of course! Whoops.
Paste also managed to get on my fingers, which means I touched the cooler. Take note of this, because this is very very bad. I didn’t know this yet. Without applying anymore thermal paste I put everything back onto the processor and locked it down. Yes! Except I did it so that the cooler was aligned horizontally instead of vertically. Philip was even there to show me and I still did it wrong! Unscrewed everything, lifted the cooler up off the processor (AGAIN!) and placed it back in the proper alignment and screwed everything back into place. Let me take a quick timeout to promise that I didn’t royally screw up every step of this process throughout the whole build, like it probably appears I may have done. It was just a rough start!
Next I installed the RAM. This was easy. 2x8GB into both grey slots, snapped right in. I then slid the motherboard into the IO shield and set it into place within the case. Finding no screws anywhere from ASUS, I managed to find some that came with the Phanteks case “accessory” bin that worked alright. I chose ASUS because it seemed that on multiple sites people kept referencing how great their motherboards are. I relied a lot on Tom’s Hardware for my research as well, or just plain Google searches and Amazon reviews. Something was nagging me about my cooler install at this point. There had been quite a bit of paste on my counter, and I wondered if I still had a sufficient amount between the cooler and processor. After some reading, the amount remaining was not the largest problem I had. What I learned was that it is crucial to have as little space or foreign materials between the cooler and the processor in order to best assist the cooling process. Foreign materials like kitchen crumbs or fingerprint grease are frowned upon, and lifting the cooler up and down multiple times can create air bubbles and an uneven surface. This can raise the temperature of the machine by 5-10 degrees Celsius and prevent a user from getting the most out of overclocking the processor. See how much I learned?!
So I disconnected the cooler, took 91% rubbing alcohol dabbed onto a paper towel and gently removed the remaining thermal paste from both the cooler and the processor. I waited until they were both dry, and then re-installed the cooler with a new dot of paste. Everything was cool. Bad joke sorry. I then placed the 2TB Seagate Hard Drive and 500GB Samsung SSD into their designated spaces on the other side of the case. I had no idea that cases could have even have storage and wires running through this back side! It’s a very nice design. The brand of drives wasn’t that important to me, but these drives seemed to have decent reviews and I wanted 2TB of space for photos/videos and I will have Windows 10 and commonly played games installed on the SSD. I went with the 500GB just to provide a little extra room for growth/options. I also installed the ASUS Blu-ray player without any issues, really the only scary thing was popping the black plastic out to create space for the drive because it didn’t seem like it wanted to be removed.
Next was the 860W Corsair Power Supply. This was an item that was important for me to upgrade from the 550W one that Philip uses in his build because it seems 550W might be pushing it already, and then would be completely surpassed if you eventually run dual 980 TI’s. I almost went with 1000W but it seemed that might be overkill. This thing came with a bag full of an assortment of cords. I’m not one for reading an instruction manual, so my method was to look at each device I needed to power and then I matched a cord with it. Between the SSD, HDD, Blu-Ray, and the fan control on the back of the case I determined I needed 4 SATA power cables but only had 3. Crap – another part to order! I even dug into my existing desktop to see if I could borrow one from there but the SATA power connection actually was going INTO the sealed power supply so it was impossible (to me, at least) to pull that out safely.
And then I remembered the strangeness of the multiple connection points on the SATA power cables, which I had previously attributed to being a nice way to plug in at the desired length. Nope – as all of you surely know already, you can plug these bad boys into multiple devices, powering them all. After this, the only cable that gave me any real trouble was the CPU Power, which seemed like it could have used an extra inch in length (story of my life). This is the cable that you can see in the picture of the back side of the computer that is at a straight 45 degree angle from bottom left to top right. I’m sure my cable management is somewhat lacking but I tried to at least get some kind of order back there.
Lastly it was time to install the MSI 980 TI. This was a breeze. I handled it as gently as my newborn daughter (seriously, she’s 4 weeks old).
One last note – I currently have a 4 year old Samsung 24” 1080p LED monitor that I’ll be replacing with the BenQ XL2730Z 144 hz 1 ms 27” monitor that supports 2k resolution, arriving tomorrow. This will be a huge upgrade for me. The one downside is that it features Freesync rather than G-sync, the latter of which you would typically seek out for an NVidia card. However, after reading many reviews on Amazon and pricing everything out (I even briefly considered a 4k monitor, but they only feature 60 hz at the moment), this seemed like a great deal at $500 and all somewhat equivalent (and usually slower) monitors with G-sync were several hundred dollars more. The BenQ seemed like a great middle step before I head to 4k.
EDIT: as I have noted in the comments, and as a result of your comments, I will be returning the BenQ and have ordered the Acer XB270HU bprz 27-inch WQHD NVIDIA G-SYNC (2560 x 1440) Widescreen Monitor as a replacement. It's $200 more but it seems like this will best use what I have in the build. Unfortunately, I have to wait 2 weeks while the BenQ is literally sitting next to me, waiting to be tried! I want a full Amazon refund, so I will not be opening the box, even through I really really want to!
I plugged everything in, and with great trepidation I hit the power button.
I hit it again, maybe I hadn’t pressed it hard enough?
Hey! No big deal. I’ll check all the connections, maybe that pesky CPU power cord was not quite in all the way. Hooked it all up again, pressed the button…
Now I was starting to panic. Did I shock a component? Did I press too hard on the processor when I was installing the cooler for the second time? Motherboard bad? I made sure the power switches on the power supply were indeed “on”. Research time.
I started by reading the ASUS motherboard manual. I actually recommend for a beginner builders to read through the motherboard manual, as it’s not too cumbersome and can really illustrate what everything is on the board. To me, it had all really been a mystery except for the connections that I was currently using. I also read some online guides for a non-POST error like this. I wasn’t hearing any beeps or boops, but after I had looked at all connections I did notice the LED light on the motherboard was on, showing me that the motherboard did indeed have power. The most common thing I kept seeing was to reset the CMOS for the motherboard, which is done by removing the motherboard battery (small circular battery looking thing, can’t miss it) and then shorting out two pins on the board with some kind of jumper cap or a metal object. Great, I could just imagine shocks shooting all over the place and frying everything. Thankfully I was resourceful and found a cap on the upper left of the board right next to the CPU power cord and was able to use it. It booted! I celebrated like I had scored a goal in the World Cup!
The one error I had to resolve was that it didn’t like how fast my CPU fan was spinning and advised me to check the connection. I had to swap the Cooler Master to the CPU_fan heading, and a connection from the back of the motherboard to Fan 4 (swapping the two), and that solved that.
Alright it’s about time to bring this tale to a close. I’d say the one thing I’d point out to people who boot windows with the SSD and also have an HDD that you may need to manually partition the HDD before Windows will recognize that it exists. There are easy instructions online to follow for this.
All in all, I loved the experience. I’d be happy to hear people’s comments and suggestions and become a larger part of this community. I’m including a picture of a few blood stains on the IO shield that I left there for remembrance – it’s the system I truly bled for.
I’ve run Fallout 4 and Witcher 3 on Ultra settings and it’s awesome. Like I promised at the beginning, I can’t tell you any performance statistics and I haven’t benchmarked it. Maybe at some point once I learn how all of that works (including overclocking), I’ll check back in.
And with that…”I’m finished!”