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Nathan has a new computer. Nathan is happy!
I have had the itch for a faster computer for some time now and when I got my severance check from the old job it seemed like the time. When I priced machines I found that Dell and the other retailers have started pricing computers like used cars. It used to be pretty easy to figure out what various options cost. Now they are making it intentionally difficult to compare apples to apples. So I blew them off and started looking at building my own from components. This is what I ended up with:
All the parts started showing up and the boxes started stacking up. This is going to be fun!.
Step One: Install the motherboard in the case. The power supply is nice and small giving easy access to the board. I put in standoffs for every hole on this sucker.
Step Two: The CPU and Memory. The retail Pentium 4 comes with a tiny little chip and a 2-pound heat sink with a fan. I think this guy gets a little hot. The memory modules are installed just to the right of the CPU. I also have the hard drive and CD drive installed at this point.
Step Three: Cooling. The case has a built-in fan plus one in the power supply but I figure more is better. I had a couple of fans laying around so tested them to see which was better. The black thing in the top right is a 12V cordless drill battery for a bench power supply. The fan on the right was better and had the right connector. Turns out the polarity was wrong but I popped the pins on the connector and swapped them.
Step Four: The Light. The case I purchased has a window in the side and comes with a blue cold-cathode light to make the computer look really cool. However when the case arrived the light was just bouncing around inside and had two bare wires coming out the side. So I took apart one of the drive power leads and soldered a Molex connector to the 12V pins. The other side of the connector got soldered to the light leads. I also put wire wraps around the light to keep it from flopping again.
Step Five: Video Card and Cables. After snapping the video card into the AGP slot I ran the cables and installed the floppy drive. You can see my extra fan installed on the back of the case (to the left). The little blue fan is a fan ABIT put on the northbridge (high-frequency) part of the 865PE chipset.
Most of the wires are power leads. The mother board has two dedicated power leads, each disk drive gets one, the video card needs one, and the lighting system gets another. The grey wires towards the bottom are two extra USB ports on the back of the case. This sucker has 6 ports on the back and two on the front!
At this point I smoke-tested the system before installing the light and routing the cables. It started right up (whew!).
Here is what it looked like after I installed the light and got the wires neat (sort of!). Time to close it up and get the software installed!
It took the rest of the day to get the BIOS updated, OS installed (XP Pro), and the systems set up.
The finished box! This is not for everyone. As it stands I have a killer machine for around $1600.00 and a day of my time. But I have no support and only spotty warranty coverage. It is worth it to me for a unique computer that should keep me happy for years to come. Even my kids think it is pretty cool.
Update (October 2003): Flash is still cooking right along. No problems so far. I did spring for a Sound Blaster Audigy sound card.