Since I recently changed jobs, I gave my work computer back to my old company. I was left with a 7-year old Dell XPS 8700 desktop, bought for maybe $1000 at time of purchase. At first I simply wanted to try upgrading some parts to power up the XPS to the approximate level of the VR-capable work computer I had (yes, VR was part of the job), but the XPS had a tendency to randomly restart, so I wondered if a replacement was the way to go.
I had never built a computer from scratch before, but it had been in my mind as something I wanted to do for a long time.
That time… is now!
Case: NZXT H510 (Black)
Motherboard: ASUS TUF Gaming B550-Plus
CPU: AMD Ryzen 3600
PSU: Corsair CX650M (80 PLUS Bronze certified)
RAM: 16 GB (8GBx2) DDR4-3200
GPU: Gigabyte NVIDIA GTX 1650 SUPER OC
SSD: Crucial MX500 500GB 2.5″
HDD: Western Digital Red 2 GB*
OS: Windows 10 Home
The first five components listed were new, bought at the time of assembly. The GPU and SSD were bought as upgrades to the XPS two months or so ago.
My primary goal was really just to maintain the system specs I was used to on my old work computer, while refreshing my old PC. The parts (including the ones bought earlier) came out to about $1000. Any technical upgrades among the five new components were welcome extras, but not explicitly sought out. For example, I got the same amount of RAM that the old computer had, but the speed was improved over the RAM in the old computer, which is something I only found out afterwards.
I actually started out with an Intel CPU build as someone who has used Intel chips for all their computers in the past, but I read that AMD was starting to become better than Intel (at least in my use case), so I decided to give the Ryzen a try. That, in turn, required me to pick a new motherboard.
For building/planning, I used both the PCPartPicker and Micro Center build tools. Both offer filters that help you avoid getting conflicting parts. PCPartPicker has more features, while Micro Center was the store that I was buying the new parts from, so I was able to additionally filter by what I could go out and physically obtain from the store that day.
Putting the computer together is not too much unlike a puzzle, the hard part is knowing what goes where. Constructing the computer comes down to knowing where to put everything relative to either the motherboard, the case, or both. The motherboard goes into the case, the RAM and CPU are attached to the motherboard, the power supply unit and disk drives have their own spots in the case… and bam!
It sounds easier than it is for a first-timer though. I found myself cross-referencing the instructions of the case and the motherboard, especially when I was nearly finished and figuring out which remaining wires needed to be connected where to produce a working computer. But between everything, I figured it out.
The most trouble I had was actually not on the hardware end but on the software end. I was thinking I could transfer my SSD from my older computer to the new one without issue. Upon hooking it up, Windows was stuck in a bootloop, and something there (or something I did to try and recover) rendered it unstartable in BOTH computers, so I had to wipe it using the BIOS features in the new computer and install Windows 10 by way of a USB recovery key.
Then, Windows 10 booted up painfully slowly. I was thinking that I should let all the updates and stuff install before concluding I needed to take the whole thing back to the shop. That, and a few more reboots, was all it needed, and I could breathe a sigh of relief. I had a buttery-smooth new computer at my fingertips!
After all was said and done, I was able to play Final Fantasy XIII (with a fan-made performance fix) at flawless 60 FPS at max settings, something which I couldn’t do with the XPS. That game just happens to be the one I fire up when I want to judge performance, since previously I couldn’t run it at full settings flawlessly. But now I guess I need to find a new test game!
And then… I found out I could do more with the RAM and needed to unlock it for its full potential. While using UserBenchmark to compare my current PC to my old ones, one of the things it brought up was that I had to enable DOCP on my BIOS as detailed in UserBenchmark’s instructional video here.
The CPU and the GPU both support overclocking, but that will require some time to figure out… and that extra juice doesn’t seem to be needed now unless I get a graphically advanced game in the future. And again, it wasn’t something I was really aiming for with the new PC.
The only thing I miss in this computer is that it doesn’t have Bluetooth. Missing out on Wi-Fi was an intentional choice because the house router is right next to the PC, but not being able to use Bluetooth headphones or controllers will probably merit buying a Bluetooth adaptor soon.
Overall, I’m very happy with my computer and with the experience of finally building one. Next time, hopefully there will be no hangups and it would only take a couple of hours max.
* I don’t remember the exact model. Just know two things: I’ve had this for several years already, so it’s not a modern selection, and it’s not for booting Windows anyway (the SSD does that), so the specific HDD doesn’t matter as much. This just stores my music, files from my old computer, misc. games, etc.