In the first part of this article I wrote about how I got started on building my first PC. I reflected on the past, listed some of the resources I used and discussed why someone should try building one to begin with. In this second part I will write about the actual process and what it took to get it done. Let’s continue where I left off!
Once I gathered all the parts, it was time to put everything together. For the case, I chose the Fractal Design Define R4. It’s a very well thought out case and it looks awesome, so getting it was an easy decision to make. I would be very surprised to find any negative reviews about it. There are two driver cages inside, which provides plenty of room for the hard drives and if they are not need the extra one is easily removable. I started by installing the hard drives and the optical drive because they are easy enough to do and I wanted to get them out of the way.
For my internal hard drive I chose a 2TB Seagate Barracuda and a 120 GB Solid State Drive from Samsung.
Next, I turned my attention to the motherboard. The case came with a small box that included all the screws that I needed in order to fix the parts to the case. Most of the screws looked similar, and even though there was a graphic on the box depicting its contents, the individual bags were not marked, which I found very annoying. The most noticeable content of the package were these weird looking yellow studs, better known as motherboard standoffs. Basically, you can’t just fix the motherboard to the case and call it a day; it would damage the circuit board. What you do is screw the standoffs into the case, align the motherboard with the standoffs, and then secure the whole thing with more screws. This took more time then installing the hard drives but still it was fairly easy. After all this, I inserted the RAM sticks. All I had to do was align the sticks, making sure they are in the right position and push down on them until the latch on both side clicked. Again, nothing crazy so far. Then came the moment I dreaded the most: inserting the processor and the CPU cooler. Up until this point everything was pretty easy, then the difficulty level went up a notch. Or more like ten notches.
I carefully revealed the processor (Intel Core I7-4790K) and aligned the golden triangle with the mark on the motherboard. It gently fell into place, I secured it with the latch and that was that. Then, it was time to install the CPU cooler. Instead of using the one that originally came with the processor, I opted for the Cryorig H7. When it comes to CPU coolers, pretty much anything is better than what they include in the package. I chose this cooler because I really liked the way it was designed. It is a lot smaller than most coolers you see on the market, leaving ample room between the RAM and the fan, so I didn’t have to worry about fitting it into the case. Also, it looks amazing.
“So, how did the installation go?” you may ask.
Well, not so well. Before I even started, I watched a bunch of videos about how other people tackled this challenge and to them it wasn’t really a challenge, since they finished it in about five minutes. In comparison, it took me 45 minutes just to put the backplate on right. I found this somewhat disheartening (to put it mildly).
Anyway, the blackplate helps to secure the CPU cooler. It comes with these ginormous screws that go through it, and their job is to pull the cooler tightly onto the processor. However, before that there were these long, black, plastic tubes that had to go on the screws to hold them in place, and for the love of me, I couldn’t get them on right. Against my best efforts they stayed loose. I knew this wouldn’t do. Imagine, this is the foundation that the cooler sits on! It had to be firm and steady. So after much struggle I managed to get them on right by twisting and pushing, but I probably aged like five years in the process. I knew if I press on them too hard, or make one screw tighter than the other three, the motherboard could snap in half, so I really had to consider how much strength I use.
And this was just the base of the cooler! I still had to install the heatsink!
Luckily, this part went a lot better. I applied thermal paste to the processor –I used the thin line method—then mounted the heatsink on top. This heatsink features a design referred to as the X-Bar Quick Mount System (still took me like 15 minutes). It allows the heatsink more flexible positioning, making the product available for AMD and Intel users as well. The most annoying thing here was that I couldn’t really see what I was doing. I was holding the cooler in place with my right hand, while trying to secure the screws with my left hand on the other side of the case.
I finished working on the motherboard by inserting the video card, an MSI GeForce GTX 970 Twin Frozr V. I did this last because it was right under the CPU and it would have been in my way when I installed the CPU cooler. (Also, if I had dropped it on my video card by accident, then that’s that.)
Lastly, I put in the power supply and I was ready to connect all the cables. This took a little bit of time because I had to make sure I connected everything right, although most cables go in one way so there is no need to use excessive force. The case I chose is really good for cable management, although I have to admit I didn’t do a very great job at that, and I will have to fix that later. Good cable management is important; if the cables are organized and tied together they leave more room for the air to flow. This helps to keep the inside of the PC nice and cool.
Overall, I had fun building my PC. It was nice working on it and I will continue to improve it in the future. I already decided that I will upgrade the case fans. I do think the R4 is a really well designed case, but it only comes with two fans, so I will definitely changed the one in the front. That will be the time when I fix my messy cables as well. There is always room for improvement, but when I first turned it on, everything worked, so I’m happy about that.
If you are a first time builder like me and you are trying to decide if you should give this a try in the first place, I hope this article helped to make that decision. All you need is some dedication, patience and research. If I could do it, you can too!