Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Perhaps I'll Build Another Computer

Oops - the power went out and my old computer, the nine-year-old one that started this blog, didn't come back up again.  Power supply voltages looked good, but a new mobo didn't fix it, so I'll build a new computer and maybe fix the old one later.  It could serve as a server.

  • The old computer seemed fast enough, but the new one should be very modern and thus much faster.
  • Quiet.  I was very fussy about this when building the old one, and this one too.
  • Cool running - no worrying about CPU or anything else overheating.
  • Mobo capacity for at least two BD/DVD/CD drives and four hard drives.
  • Must fit under my desk drawer.
    Left side view
In other words, a sprightly, silent, cool computer.  I don't play games on it - no overclocking or overvoltage required, just reliability.

Nine years ago I chose the box, motherboard, memory, and everything else, assembling it all myself.   This time I took advantage of a company that builds "bare bones" computers from their stock, then ships the mostly-assembled box.  I visited three of these on the web: 
The OutletPC systems did not meet my needs.  Hoping for the quickest delivery, I configured a system from PortaTech, as follows:
  • Thermaltake Showcase mid-tower case.
  • Intel Core i7 6700 Processor 3.4 GHz, four cores, eight threads, 3400 GHz.
  • 16 GB memory, DDR4, 2133 MHz.
  • Asus H170 Pro motherboard, 6 SATA ports, one additional M.2 PCI Express (PCIe) disk port, lots more. I'm not yet sure if this means it will support 6 disks or 7.
  • Quiet Cooling Package.
  • 700W power supply.
  • 14x Blu-Ray writer (BD/DVD/CD).  The 16x was not available on the web site.
  • No disks.  I have plenty, from the old system.
  • No Graphics card (yet) - the CPU includes graphics.
The new bare bones box arrived promptly. At a modest extra cost, they built and shipped it by second-day express the day after they received the order.  Since my main machine was down, that was very cool.

My first surprise was the Thermaltake X31 Showcase case itself.  It is two inches larger in all of the three dimensions than the old Antec box holding my first computer.  Happily, I do have space for it.  It was slightly over-advertised on the PortaTech website, though (now fixed), and it came with only three of the six disk trays. The left-side rack has capacity for three disks, and oddly, there is space on the right side of the bulkhead for three more, but it is nevertheless supplied with only three trays.  

As the case arrived, more or less
Since the right side has no air circulation, and I had no more trays anyway, I asked the PortaTech people for a solution, and they responded by supplying another 3-disk rack, with trays, for the left side.  These racks are stackable (nice!) and there are now six hard disks mounted there, all of which can be connected to the mobo at the same time if the BD drives are not connected.

Both side panels of the X31 are removable, and in fact it is quite necessary to remove the right-side panel to do anything at all with hard disks.  It does come with mounting brackets for two 2.5-inch (laptop) disks, but I don't have plans for those just yet.  In my experience with many computers I have never had a 3.5-inch drive fail (though they ALL will eventually), but most of my laptop drives have failed, and we do not abuse our laptops. Maybe I could use these brackets for SSD drives someday? I suppose that's what they are for, but I have another idea for an SSD drive.

I should have done a little more research on the case before specifying it in the order, but it's very sturdy, well designed otherwise, and I'm warming up to it.  In particular, the buttons, lights, and USB ports are on the top in the very front, front, rather than the front panel, and if the case sticks out from user the disk by an inch I can see them easily.  Especially nice to see the disk activity light sometimes.

Next - Other additions to the hardware.