Description

This system was built in late December/ early January. Please excuse the lack of in-progress pics. They are hiding on a corrupted and uncooperative SD card.

My system at the office was old, like "it still had a 3.5" floppy drive" old. My funding requests weren't deemed priority, so when it started dying, I took matters into my own hand. This system is not for gaming.

In the office, I use Adobe Illustrator 85% of the time with Photoshop and a File Maker database application coming next in line. All three of them can get a little RAM hungry, so a stable but decently capable system was my aim. Worrying about reimbursement later, I had to get what I needed performance-wise without spending a mint. To that end the parts used are modest, and a couple of them are leftovers, but they work well together.

OS

  • Windows 7 Pro 64. Not even a question. I needed a familiar and stable OS without the new GUI and navigation quirks of Win 8.

BOARD

  • ASRock Z77 Pro3. I needed front and rear USB 3.0, the capability to overclock (when I wanted) and just a couple of SATA III headers, all at a decent price.

PSU

  • Corsair CX600. I didn't need a lot of power, but I did need something I could trust, and my experience with another Corsair PSU in my current home rig is proving a positive one, so I stuck with something familiar.

CPU

  • Intel Core i7 3770. When I got this, I had no plan to overclock as some very computer illiterate people could have access to the system and I needed to not complicate things under the hood. My board allows for what they call a "non-K" overclock though, so I figured this would be a nice processor to play with. It can ramp up to 4.2GHz if it needs to, which works well for me. I use a 3770K at home, so again, it's a piece of hardware with which I was somewhat familiar.

CPU COOLING

  • Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus. It's cheap, reliable and moves air. I use the 212 Evo at home, so this was something I was familiar with and already had experience installing. For the record, the Compatibility Checker does throw up a warning about clearance, but the cooler fits in the case with just a hair of free space. It's very tight.

MEMORY

  • Team Vulcan 2 x 8GB. In case I had clearance issues with the Hyper 212 Plus, I know I needed RAM that didn't have ridiculous heat spreaders. This set was also pretty cheap considering RAM prices had been going up when I bought them. They work well.

GPU

  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660. I originally bought this for my "Nova" home rig last year. After I upgraded to the GTX 780 SC ACX in that system, I had the 660 sitting around unused. It's perfectly at home here. I can run 3 monitors off it when I need to and Adobe likes the Cuda, so it's a good self hand-me-down.

STORAGE

  • Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB SSD. I like having the OS and applications on an SSD. It's not the fastest drive, but it works nicely.
  • Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB SSD. Having TEMP and cache and scratch files on a separate SSD saves writes to my OS drive and and is faster than a hard disc.
  • Hitachi Deskstar 1TB HDD. I actually bought this a while ago for an OEM replacement on another system but never used it. It had enough space for my data needs and runs at 72.000rpm, so I brought it into this build.

CASE

  • Zalman Z9 U3. Out front I needed USB 3.0 and just a few external drive bays for an optical drive and potentially a media card reader. Inside I needed a decent amount of space for drives and cooling. In the pics, you'll see that I ended up hacking a mount for the SSDs and securing it to the bottom fan grill with some metal clips. I didn't want them blocking the front fan anymore than they need to, so I played with placement an ended up with them there. The blue lightning is from the included case fans. In an office it's barely noticeable, but it gives the rig a little character, so they'll stay. I am not currently using the temperature readout or fan controller on the case, but those options are there when I want them.

OPTICAL DRIVE

  • HP AD-7251H DVD-RW w/ Lightscribe. Yeah, I totally scrapped this drive from an old system. It works when I use it, so... And no, I don't use Lightscribe. Does anyone?

All things considered, this has turned out to be a nice system. It's speedy and powerful enough to easily handle everything I do with headroom to spare. I might consider adding more RAM, but even with big files I have to do some serious multi-tasking to push close to my limit now. I'm happy with this, and the non-K overclock hasn't given me any issues to speak of. Cosmetically, I think I'll change the color of all my SATA cables to black eventually so they aren't as obvious through the window. I may also do a blue LED strip to fill out the lighting in the bottom of the case, but otherwise I'm satisfied with how things turned out. The case itself is definitely not a high-end deal (PCI slot knockouts, moderately easy to strip screw holes, thin metal..) but for the price it and everything else I've used work great together and I'm very happy... and productive.

I received advice and feedback my buddy and some labor assistance from my department partner (literally, her dainty hands go where my bear paws can't) at my 9-5 as well as invaluable information from forums and articles from sites like PCPartpicker, NCIX, Tom's Hardware, Overclock and Youtube. Thanks everyone!

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