Excitement and trepidation that’s how I approached this upgrade, because even though I’m aufait with building and upgrading PC’s this was a first for me, water-cooling even if it was an all in one package. Also building a PC is not something I do everyday and there is always that chance that something will go wrong and you will break something! I’ve never broken anything while building/upgrading but I don’t plan on breaking that streak! Of course I was excited, building a computer is fun!!!
What did I get!
Part of the fun of building a new PC is shopping, I normally hate shopping. There are only two types of shopping I really like tech/gadgets and outdoor stuff. Every other type of shopping is more like a commando raid in and out with a rock solid extraction plan. I scour the tech press, watch You tubers and keep abreast everything that is going on; yep that’s what I do for fun. So I had a fairly good idea of what kit I wanted it was just waiting for the right time to strike (…erm I mean purchase!) Yes this is a second part of an upgrade process the first past can be found here.
[I did have photo’s documenting this build process but most of them didn’t turn out sharp enough to be used on here.]
Intel Core i7 6700k is a very shiny bit of kit and I really wanted it (my precious!) Now if my sensible side had won, which it normally does I would have gone for the i5 saved some money but I might have regretted not having the shiniest bit of kit…
The motherboard I got is more on the budget side the Gigabyte GA-Z170-Gaming K3 which came in a bundle with 16 GB of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory. When building a machine there are always budget constraints and knowing where to cut back is important. This MOBO had the features I wanted without an overabundance of stuff that I feel would be wasted. I was not bothered about LED’s and lighting the place up, I don’t have a window on my case for a start. You do have to take future plans into account and 16 GB would help me with video editing. I only need one 16x PCie slot because I would not be building a crossfire setup, because crossfire does not offer the best bang for buck. The speed difference between a premium board and a more budget friendly board is not that great the money is better spent things that give a tangible difference like CPU, SSD and GPU.
The last item on the list was an impulse purchase maybe fuelled by a pre-paid reward card or sleep deprivation but I also got a 275 GB Crucial MX300 M.2 well I like shiny stuff.
The night before all the kit arrived the last thing I did was transfer files that I wanted to keep to the cloud. In the morning I resisted tracking the delivery driver online… No honestly I did not once check. Though I was lucky it was going to be a morning delivery, I might have been pacing around my flat if it had been in the afternoon.
Once everything arrived, I did a visual inspection to on packaging to see if anything was amiss. I then arranged everything for a photo on twitter. Then down to the real work, I stripped all the old stuff out of my case the stuff that was being replaced. Out came the motherboard and everything attached to it. This was all carefully stored; I’d still need the Graphics card.
The next thing to do was rearrange the case into a new configuration; I removed the 3.5” Drive cage as at present I’m not using disk storage only solid state drives. The radiator/reservoir for the H105 was moved from the roof of the case to the front. This allowed fresh and cool air to be drawn in through the dust filter, if I had left it on the roof I’d have had to use it in an exhaust configuration. While placing the two fans in the front of the case not only do you need to make sure that the fans are working in the correct direction, but also make sure the connectors are easily routable towards the motherboard. The Define R5 has very easily accessible dust filters both base and front so I was determined to set up the fans to take advantage of this. I tried to set up another fan drawing air in through the base dust filter but even though it is a recommended place to mount the fan none of the available screws would work in that location. Something I will go back and look at later. I left the other case fan exhausting air out of the back of the case. I believe with 2 fans been used for intakes and one exhaust, it will maintain enough pressure inside the case that the uncovered vents will just exhaust air and not allow dust to enter. I replaced the case ceiling plates as I was no longer mounting the radiator there.
After stripping the case the next part of the process was to build the motherboard. This needs to be done in a place that will not damage the board and is suitable to run the equipment before you add it all into the case. It’s better to test that it all works before completing installation. The box the motherboard came in is ideal! Starting easy by adding the memory, I used slots 2 and 4 I could have used slots 1 and 3 but it used to be the case to use memory in a dual channel setup you had to fill the even number slots first. I’m not sure if this is still accurate so I did it anyway! I than added the CPU to the motherboard. This did induce a little stress, it is a very expensive bit of kit and everything would be wasted if I messed this bit up. But with a little care and attention the CPU fits and is held down with the clamp. The last bit of kit to attach was the M.2 board. It was not difficult except for my fat fingers, though some of the screws are small and are in delicate areas on the MOBO I have a little 3 prong tool to place/extract these. The M.2 board has a tiny screw that I did have difficulty because it was to small for my fingers and 3 pronged tool to accurately place and screw onto the board. Eventually after a few attempts by the screw to make a break for freedom I managed to get the thing seated added in the M.2 board then screwed this down as well. Once I had the motherboard fully assembled I was able to directly see where all the board connectors where and went back to the case and rewired the power, SATA and fan headers.
I’ve never water-cooled a computer before I have taken an easy option by buying an all in one cooler. But I don’t have any of the equipment needed and would have added to the cost of the build. How things have changed from my first 486DX 33mhz and other chips that where passively cooled moving onto my i7 920 that had a kilo of cooling vanes and two fans strapped to it and now I have my first water-cooled system, pretty exciting! I ran into a slight problem, I realised that I would have to remove the radiator from my case to run the test on the box where I had it all setup. Or I could just install it and hope for the best… I choose option number two! Installing an all in one water cooler is no more difficult that adding a medium to large CPU cooler. You start by adding a back plate, add stand-offs and then place the cooler onto the CPU and use thumb screws to make sure the water-block and CPU have good contact. It was actually harder to get the I/O back plate to sit correctly into the case than to add the CPU cooler.Once the motherboard was ready with cooler attached it was screwed into the case and all the extra cables were attached to the board which is simple except for the pain in the bottom that is the front plate wires. Well you want all the buttons to work and light to glow., but fat fingers and fiddly little connections a good match are not! The last thing added is the GPU the only thing that is not new a rather poor showing in a Radeon 5850 passively cooled card.
At this point you double if not triple check your connections, then with bated breath you throw the power switch. She LIVES, lights come on fans whir and pumps are go for about 10 secs, then they all die. My heart plummets through the floor heading towards the core of the planet then everything comes back on and my heart reverses direction and soars up into the stratosphere. Before I have chance to move my hand the 10 cm to the DEL button the POST process has finished and the BIOS screen has vanished and I’m been told off for not having a bootable drive. So a quick reset and into the BIOS and check up on everything. The first place was to check the temperature of the CPU, I watched this for about 5 mins on and off as I dived through the BIOS changing settings. Even though you can use a mouse in the BIOS I’m used to just using a keyboard to navigate. Setup consists of setting the memory profile from XMP, setting the time/date. It did take me awhile to figure out that I needed a USB plugged into get an option to boot from USB. But once that was sorted i got to install Windows 10.
If you have got this far you will notice that I don’t have a DVD drive mounted in the case. I have one in my old case but it’s not been added to this one because every thing I could possibly want I get via the internet. I can watch DVD’s/Blu-ray on the XBone if I want. I was just not seeing the need for an optical drive in this build. Windows installs nice and quickly and I now have a working computer or so i think. The on board ethernet is not recognised by windows and you need to install the drivers for it that are supplied on a CD. Ah, rubbish! Using a laptop and a USB stick, I get the ethernet to work and start the update process. So still no optical drive in my build. I let windows update as I transfer the files needed for my USB Wi-Fi adapter. Once the updating has finished and windows has restarted. i plug-in my WiFi USB and add the drivers, follow the onscreen instructions.Which includes updating the USB 3.0 drivers, after a restart and checking that Wi-Fi works and power off and re-connect the Samsung SSD and format it to remove the windows installed on there. So i can have the M.2 for OS and all the other programs I use like blender, gimp etc and have the SSD for games and media etc. At this point i install chrome and my Anti-virus software which forces a restart as windows restarts it starts installing and updating and then crashes. When the computer restarts there is some problems the USB Wi-Fi keeps changing drivers 3 or 4 times when the computer starts. Also M.2 access is slow due to the drive been accessed and throwing up an errors. But it was late at night by this time and I was too tired to continue.
In the morning I tried to resolve the problem but windows was having none of it. So I formatted the drive and reinstalled but didn’t upgrade the USB drivers this time and everything is working fine.
- Intel Pentium E5400 Dual Core 2.7 Ghz
- P5KPL-AM-EPU motherboard
- Ram 4Gb DDR2
- Asus HD5450 1GB – passively cooled.
- 500Gb Seagate HD
- G7 Power Extreme 680W
- Slightly worn In-Win case
- Intel Pentium E5400 Dual Core 2.7 Ghz
- P5KPL-AM-EPU motherboard
- Ram 4Gb DDR2
- Asus HD5450 1GB – passively cooled.
- 500Gb Seagate HD
- Fractal Design Define R5
- Corsair H105 water cooling loop
- Corsair RM750i modular power supply
- Samsung 850 EVO 250Gb
- Windows 10 retail USB
The present build
- Intel Core i7 6700k 4ghz
- GA-Z170-Gaming K3
- 16gb Corsair Vengence DDR4
- Corair H105 Water Cooling Loop
- Corsiar RM750i Modular power supply
- Samsung 850 EVO 250GB
- Crucial MX300 275GB M.2
- Fractal Design R5
- Asus HD5450 1GB- passively cooled
I am extremely happy with everything in this build except the graphics card which holds this computer back. It is the next thing to upgrade in the system. My money situation would not spring for a level of GPU I wanted. But I will be saving for one over the next few months, then i will have my dream build completed!!! Other than the GPU upgrade, there are a few tweaks I need to do, because of the SATA power cables having a 90 degree angle im having to use a molex to SATA adapter that does not have the angle. I have ordered a SATA power extension which also doesn’t have the angle so I will hopefully be able to remove the molex cable and just have the one SATA cable in my machine.
I knew that under standard use everything was working fine within my PC, but I needed to stress the system to make sure everything was seated correctly. For this I use Prime95, a windows program to find prime numbers, but also really useful for pushing the CPU really hard getting a 100% load on all cores.
Here is CoreTemp after 30 mins of running Prime95. From this you can see that not all cores are created equally, due to positioning in the chip and just the slight vagaries of the silicon wafer. For example without researching the chip schematic I can’t say for certain why Core #3 is my coolest running core. There could be a number of factors, it could be at the chip edge so heat from other cores isn’t bleeding over keeping the temperature up. It could be in a position next to an unused portion of the chip for example next to the on board graphics which wont be producing heat. The 50 degree celcius temperature is well within normal operating temperatures with ‘warm’ been considered above 70 degrees celcius. Another reason to stress test is to check my case fan and water cooling fans, to see how they respond. They did not ramp up even after 30 mins at full load. So should give me an option of reducing the fan speed hopefully reducing noise a little further. The temperatures once the system was more or less ideal dropped really quickly in the time it took to edit the screen capture of CoreTemp down from 1080p to what you see and save it as a jpeg the temperatures dropped to the 11 to 15 degree spread of idle temperatures. Which does seem lower than the ambient temperature?? Untill next time.
See you on the other side…