Less than 24 hours after starting my August 2020 PC Build, the new machine is up and running at a nice fresh pace.
Definitely feels faster!
It has been around six or seven years since my last full blown PC Build. Back then, I built a new machine running an AMD FX-6350 (3.9GHz) CPU using Socket AM3+. That was installed on an ASUS – M5A99FX PRO R2.0 ATX Motherboard. It was all in a very, very heavy mid-tower PC case and over the years had multiple SSDs make their way through the system as main operating system drives and storage options. In that same time frame, it eventually ended up with 32GB of DDR3 RAM and an NVIDA GeForce GTX 1050Ti with 4GB of VRAM.
It has been a solid and reliable performer but recently it had begun exhibiting some symptoms indicating a failure was not far down the road.
Thus the PC Build of August 2020 was born!
The Future Machine
When I build new systems, I tend to look at a mid-level starting point and purchase a motherboard that provides some overhead to do some incremental upgrades in the subsequent years after the build.
With that in mind, I opted for the following core elements for my new PC Build:
First up was a new case because case technology over the last six or seven years has progressed tremendously. I decided on another mid-tower because it is more than enough room for my plans and to fit under my desk.
I went with the Phanteks Eclipse (PH-EC300PTG_BK) Steel ATX Mid Tower Tempered Glass Case (Black) because I was intrigued about the idea of installing the power supply in the basement of the case rather than hanging from the top. It was also advertised to have space for cable runs behind the main plane of the case to help manage the spaghetti of wires that usually run throughout my cases. You can see examples of these areas for cable runs in the gallery images. I was also very impressed with how clean this case is once everything was installed. In comparison to the one it replaced, it is very roomy!
Update: Someone asked on social media about the back of the case and the card slots – specifically about the guards that are in place. They were curious if the P300 guards had to be twisted off or lifted out and these lift out. It was part of the reason I went with this case – much cleaner look and flexibility.
Next up in the decision loop was the CPU and motherboard. These two run right alongside of each other obviously because one must support the other however, I picked my CPU first.
Keeping in mind future upgrade options, I went with the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core, 12-Thread CPU which included a Wraith Stealth Cooler.
The reviews on this desktop gaming CPU were very positive and it was also Amazon’s #1 best seller in its category. Comparing the performance of this CPU against the FX-6350 revealed more than a four-fold performance increase was possible with the Ryzen 5 3600 when paired with fast DDR4 memory.
Nearly simultaneously, I decided on Gigabyte’s X570 AORUS Elite Gaming Motherboard. It has full support for AMD Ryzen 3000 series CPU’s, included the AMD X570 chipset, PCIe4.0, DDR4, USB3.1, Realtek ALC1200 sound, Front USB Type-C, RGB Fusion 2.0, and two slots for NVMe Ultrafast SSDs. Between the option to use NVMe SSDs as a future upgrade alongside support for all the third gen Ryzen processors plus its ATX form factor – this was a great choice for future proofing some upgrades.
After obtaining these three elements, it was my plan to recycle into the new system the video card (GTX 1050 Ti), two Solid State Drives (Crucial 1TB and 256GB), and a mini Bluetooth 5.0 card. After that, I had no plans to move any of the front case panel items over as the new case had that covered with two USB 3.0 ports, plus a spot to plugin a set of headphones and a microphone. Plus, the front of the Phanteks case is clean with no opening options anyway.
If you follow the below gallery, those images were taken in sequence and posted to my massive PC Build Twitter Thread, you will get a good sense of how the build went and the issues I hit over the course of the process.
So rather than repeat all of that, I want to mention some specific challenges that occurred during the build to help those of you reading this when you head off on your own build.
CPU Cooler Installation
In my past PC builds, I have always used the included coolers that were the type that snapped on to the motherboard over the CPU itself. Those brackets for clipping the cooler in place are preinstalled on most motherboards. In my case, they were indeed already on the board.
However, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 included a Wraith Stealth Cooler and it was the style that had four screws to mount it on the CPU. So, as the instructions stated, I unscrewed the pre-installed brackets and when that final screw came out there was a thunk as the cooler mount backplate fell away from the motherboard.
As I dropped my head in agony, I began unhooking everything from the motherboard, and then removed the nine mounting screws holding the motherboard in place. I lifted it out of the case, fished out the metal backplane for the cooler mount and proceeded to install the cooler to the motherboard with it out of the case.
It was only after I did all this, when I realized I could have just removed the right side panel to get access to the metal backplane and then attach the cooler while the motherboard was still installed in the case.
Lesson learned for my next PC build – whenever that happens!
As previously mentioned, I fully intended to recycle the memory from my old system into this new one as a cost savings step. I could then always upgrade to DDR4 down the road.
Well, I learned a small thing I did not know about memory – DDR4 and DDR3 do not have the same notch location on the chips. This is to prevent plugging the wrong memory into the wrong motherboard.
At this point everything was installed in the system including my GTX 1050 Ti, small Bluetooth 5.0 card, SSDs, etc.
I went online and found 32GB of DDR4 (3.2GHz) memory at Best Buy and made arrangements to pick it up the next morning when my local store opened. Like clock work, it was ready and waiting right as the store opened.
I brought the unexpected memory upgrade home and got it promptly installed in the new system. Of note, this is probably the first time I have ever had four matching memory modules in any PC I have built. There are benefits to that so it turns out my flub with memory ended up as a plus!
Just to document it for this build, I ended up with the Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 DRAM 3200MHz C16 Desktop Memory Kits. I grabbed two of them for a total of 32GB of RAM.
Once I had the memory installed, there was just a couple more tasks left to be ready to apply first power to the new build.
First was to get down below my desk with the new case and re-connect all of my existing peripherals to the backplane. As you can see in the gallery, there is a lot of connectivity on this motherboard. So in short order I had everything including a Logitech BRIO, Razer Cynosa Chroma keyboard, Microsoft Classic Intellimouse, Logitech Extreme 3D flightstick, and a USB 3.0 switchbox I used to switch between two systems that sit on my desk.
I then inserted the power cord into the power supply which is now residing in the basement of the case.
Time for power!
If you have ever built your own PC – you know the sensation of this moment. Trepidation, nervousness, wondering if you hooked everything up properly, etc.
So with the case turned sideways to allow me a view into the case, I sat on the floor and grabbed my flashlight and pushed the power button.
First thing I noticed – no power light turned was illuminated. I aimed the flashlight into the case and could see all three case fans and the CPU fan spinning. That meant I had power into the case – would need to troubleshoot the whole no power light later.
I will mention at this point that I simply put back in the SSD which was had my previous Windows 10 (Beta Channel) operating system installed when installing my two SSDs into this case. Windows 10 was smart and did what it needed to do so that all the proper chipset and hardware drivers were installed without an issue.
The system booted up and Windows hello lit up to scan my face and log me into the system.
No Power Light
This fix was simpler than you might think.
I read through the case and motherboard documents, searched the web and forums with no luck. I then reached out to the case manufacturers and asked them about the issue with no power light illumination.
Less than an hour later they had replied and reminded me that I likely left the 12 volt power line unplugged from the power supply. In fact, it was a SATA power connector but it was labelled as something to do with RGB LED lightings, etc. and since I was not hooking any of that stuff up then I did not need it plugged in to the system.
Well, I opened up the right side of the case, easily got it plugged in and the moment I hit the power switch the light ring around it lit up as did a small LED light along the left side of the case.
Thanks to a little button on the top front of the case, I can cycle through 10 colors with quick presses as well as either a pulsating light or cycling through all the colors. I am using the latter for now but I might play with some RGB LED lighting down the road in this new case.
There you have it – my rambling about this PC build. I have been enjoying the boost in performance for the last 24 plus hours and could not be happier with the results.
If you have never taking on a PC build before, I highly recommend it because you will learn a lot and it is a fun experience even if it is stressful right before you push the power button for the first time.
Enjoy the gallery below and if you have any questions just ask away in the comments and I will reply right back.
PC Build Project 2020 – Image Gallery