Final Build Log


The images that make up 90% of the build log that follows are large, so before you skip off to the conclusion or another page, just give it a few minutes to download all the images. It's well worth the wait.

A Word About Comfort

If you're like me then you sweat a lot when you're couped up in a hot room that could pass for a light sauna. Before you even attempt to start building your next rig, make sure you do it in a quiet, comfortable, and cool environment. Don't be like me and sweat your butt off putting parts together in a hot room with no air movement only to take a wrong step because you weren't thinking straight in the "heat of the moment".

The Build Log - Narrated by Yours Truly...

I gathered all the wonderful parts in the bedroom for a nice group shot. Unfortunately, I now realize I left out the PSU box and the RAM.

First off, since this is a micro ATX case (and a small one at that), how you order which parts go in first determine the ease you'll have later on figuring out workarounds and whatnot. With this case and build, the PSU had to go in first, otherwise, it would have been next to impossible to fit it in when the motherboard and CPU cooler were already strapped down to the case.

You'll notice the tangle of wires: I could not for the life of me untangle them after 20 minutes of trying. The only way would be to completely dismantle the PSU and desolder the wires from the board, sort them out, and then resolder everything. I'm not even going to attempt that on a $25 PSU. The second thing you'll notice are the two curved springs on the back panel support beams of the case. They are there, I believe, to support and separate the PSU from the motherboard. Unfortunately, they should have shaved off another 2-3 mm from the top of that spring as it became a wrestling match for me to install the PSU.

Now I have prepared some basic tools so I can go ahead and mount the HDD cooler onto the HDD and get ready to install it into the case. There are actually quite a few other tools I left out of the picture in my hurry: 1) flashlight, 2) tissue/paper towels, and 3) pliers

Note: In the end, I ended up removing the mounted HDD fan for two reasons: 1) I had to mount it by two screws sandwhiching the lower support bar of the HDD cage and 2) it more than doubled the fan noise in the case.

Here I'm installing the two silent Vantec case fans into the case and hooking them up to my old Vantec fan controller. I first had to pry off the front bezel cover so I could access the screwholes on the front fan port. After they were all installed, I ran the wires to the fan controller, hooked them up, and put the controller back into the bay.

Next, I installed the CPU into the motherboard. I took some pictures of the stock cooler just so I can mention here, this is by far the smallest and lowest profile Intel cooler I've seen and used. It's literally half the height of the previous incarnation which came packaged with the old Pentium Ds and Celeron 3xx line (as probably also with the last of the Pentium 5xx series rebrands). Note the warning and LGA protection cover. Also note the notch on the "left" side of the CPU PCB that also matches up with the socket. This ensures the correct orientation is used when installing the CPU. I had to use some force to lock the CPU lever bar into place.

The RAM install is pretty straight forward. Just make you align the notch to the groove on the module slot. Then push firmly and evenly on both sides downward, until the retention clips on either end snap into place.

Now I chose the CM Vortex 752 over the stock cooler because I believed it provides a better cooling solution to my E8400 without the buzzing fan noise on load. It seems to do the job, though I have yet to game with the rig to see what load temps are like in a hot room.

It has a nice copper base, though it's not polished like more expensive coolers. It also has a nice mounting system. Fairly easy to install and mount onto the board, you just have to be careful with the CW and CCW screws that go into the mounting bracket initially. From there, it's not too bad. Before I slap on the cooler, I put just a small dab of Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound onto the center of the CPU and then mount it.

Note: The included white thermal paste exploded out of the small plastic pouch and ended up killing the sticky side on one of the rubber O-rings. I'd much rather they didn't include that TIM or if they are going to in the future, put it in a much better sealed pouch so it doesn't explode over everything inside.

Nothing much to say here, align the notches on the graphics card to the grooves on the PCI-E slot. Push it in evenly and make sure the slot lock swings back into place.

The "slot lock" refers to the AGP slot lock that came with earlier AGP boards that are sometimes included with PCI-E boards. Some have it and some don't. Most implementations use a simple spring mechanism that snaps it into the lock position as a graphics card is inserted. Other times, it'a headache as if you're not careful, you'll snap it right off the slot.

At this point, most of you probably have realized I ended up covering the 4-pin ATX power connector with the CPU cooler. Well, I didn't realize that until this point in the build. I had to go back and remove the board, the cooler, reorient it, and put everything back to together again. Comfort + thinking cap = win. Heat + exhaustion = fail.

And voila! There's the whole thing built. I ended up installing Windows 7 yesterday.

Update: I finally got the audio working. Had to install the drivers using Vista compatibility under Windows 7 or else it fails to interface the hardware with Windows 7.

The total estimated cost of this build comes out to around $350. Otherwise, it would have been closer to $550 if I hadn't already had a CPU, graphics card, fan controller, DVD burner, and Windows left over.

(Ack...couldn't use any smilies since I was over the "10 image" limit. !!!!)

Final Words

Everything is pretty silent except for the graphics card fan and the DVD burner when it's in use. My next step is to upgrade graphics card to a HD5670 or so, add another 2 GBs of RAM, and then replace the monitor with a cheapy 22-inch widescreen. Probably a ways off, but that's the plan.