The time had come to upgrade my system. Conveniently, LOMAC was about to go gold, so while unexpected and abrupt, the concept of an upgrade was not totally unwelcome or unexpected (except to my wallet). I turned to my fellow hobbyists and friends on the SimHQ staff for advice and counsel on new PC hardware. Since my rig held an antiquated Slot 1 CPU and mobo, any upgrade that I did would have to involve a new mobo, CPU, and RAM. Since I didn’t have the cash to build a new PC from scratch, some of the gear from the old system would have to be carried over (at least initially) until I could afford a replacement. So, I elected to keep the Hard Drives, the CD-ROM and the GeForce 4 Ti 4400.
Talking to my SimHQ friends, I polled them for parts recommendations that were high-end but not bank-busters, and here’s what they recommended:
- Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz CPU
(Retail, with heat sink and fan)
- Asus P4C800 Deluxe motherboard
- 1 GB of Corsair 3200/400 DDR Ram
(2 x 512MB DIMMS)
- Antec TruePower 480 Watt power supply
- Creative Audigy 2 ZS sound card
(added later on, when I could afford it)
My buddy Jeff purchased the mobo and retail CPU for me in November at the LA Computer Fair, a computer vendor’s show where good prices are easily had. Later in the month he would box them up and FedEx them to me. I bought the Antec power supply at Fry’s. The RAM and Audigy 2 would come later, as described below.
Since I had only obtained the GeForce 4 Ti4400 in the Summer of 2002 (with MasterFung’s welcome assistance) and had been very pleased with it’s performance, I elected keep it for the time being. I also kept the two 40GB IBM 7200 rpm, ATA 100 Hard Drives for carry over to the new rig. As I wasn’t going to be needing my Intel Ethernet card (the ASUS P4C800 Deluxe has a built-in 10/100 Ethernet NIC), the modem or my SB Live! Value (I had heard of problems with this card and WinXP attributable to latency) I put them in the “spares” box for future uses (okay… so I’m a pack rat). Finally, I got rid of the old power supply because I couldn’t be sure that it didn’t have something to do with the failure of my mobo / CPU, and I wanted extra power and reliability afforded by the Antec 480W power supply. All these legacy items went into my spares box, perhaps to build a basic rig for my kids someday. Maybe.
The new hardware all arrived in the late November/early December timeframe, but having just returned home from an 8-plus month overseas deployment I was quite busy with other family activities, holidays, visiting relatives, social functions, “honey-do” lists, etc. It wasn’t until nearly 3 months later that I was able to spread the new components out on the workbench and get serious about putting the gaming PC back together.
Mid December, 2003
The hardware swap was surprisingly easy.
I’m convinced just about anyone can bring the parts of a PC together. The key is to look carefully at what you need to do for each step, think through the action, and then proceed with care and patience. While computer assembly is not too hard, with delicate components costing upwards of $300 that are sensitive to static discharge, shock, and stress, its better to be safe than sorry and proceed at a slow and measured pace.
I started by taking out all the AGP and PCI cards from the old mobo, as well as the RAM DIMMS. Then I took out the Disk drives (CD, Floppy and HDDs) and their associated ribbon cables and power plugs. After that, the old mobo/CPU came out as a single unit. Finally I removed the old ATX PS. For all this work all I needed was a Craftsman Phillips head screwdriver.
Rebuilding the rig was just as easy.
Concerned that I might screw up the CPU install and break a pin or CPU Fan clip, I took the time to read and re-read the CPU install instructions listed in both the CPU and mobo users guides. I did all this with the parts on the workbench in front of me so I could look at and handle them before I put metal to circuit board. I was also concerned about applying the heat sink “goop” to the CPU and CPU heat sink fan, because I noticed a patch of gray material on the retail CPU heat sink. A quick check and I learned that this was an Intel provided “goop” that obviated the need for the squeeze bottle goop (for those who didn’t intend to overclock their CPU). With this knowledge in hand, I set about mounting CPU to mobo and CPU Fan to CPU, following the written instructions to the letter, and test fitting each part before latching any handles, etc.
All of it went in without a hitch, and the only tool needed was a flathead screwdriver to help the CPU fan latches over the mobo mounting bracket hooks. The Antec PS had many, many cables and required purchase of two sizes of zip ties to help bundle and contain the wiring in order to keep the airflow smooth inside the case and to reduce clutter. My only issue with the install of the mobo was some confusion as to which way the CPU power button and LED wires should plug into the mobo (ie, which wire was ground).
At this point in our story, we were about to receive visiting relatives, and so the half-assembled computer chassis got a towel thrown over it and had to await final assembly after our guests had departed.