The new computer: Installation of everything

First, the bad news: I somehow missed the USB headers and so the two front-mounted USB ports aren’t working. I actually rarely use these, anyway, as I have six USB ports available between the Asus monitor and Seagate back-up drive. I may eventually open the case up to fix this, but in terms of priority, it’s low. Maybe low++.

The good news: On turning on the PC for the first time, it worked. Yay! I got prompted to go into the BIOS because a new CPU had been detected. Once there, I confirmed all hardware was recognized (storage, chassis fans, memory, etc.) and rebooted with the USB drive containing the Windows 10 Pro installation.

The Windows installation went by quickly (really, I think I’ve had games take longer to install) and after answering the five hundred prompts about settings from Microsoft, I logged into my Microsoft account and was good to go. It still feels weird to have my preferred wallpaper already set up.

I installed drivers for the mouse, video card and, well, that’s it. That’s all I needed. I then installed programs I knew I’d be using right away:

  • Firefox (the one time I use Edge is to download Firefox. Well, and view PDFs)
  • Irfanview. Free image viewer/editor I’ve used for a thousand years.
  • Greenshot. Handy screen capture utility. Maybe I’ll try the new snipping tool Windows has built-in at some point, but I’m comfy with Greenshot.
  • Affinity Photo. For when Irfanview is not enough. It’s like Photoshop, but without the rental fee.
  • mIRC. IRC chat client I’ve used for 10,000 years.
  • Because I know I’ll eventually play Diablo 3 again.
  • GOG Galaxy. For the games on I might play.
  • Steam. For the gamews on Steam I might play.
  • iTunes. As much as I dislike the mess of trying to restore my music library, it’s what I need to listen to my music on PC.
  • iCloud. More janky “We gotta have this on the PC I guess” software from Apple I need to access photos and other iCloud junk.
  • Microsoft Office. Mostly for Word and OneNote.

That’s about it so far. I am taking a “do not install until I need it” approach on everything else.

In terms of speed, the new system has some perhaps surprising results. Here’s a look at how the Geekbench 4 results compare between it, the old PC (2013), MacBook Pro (2016) and the Mac mini (2018):

As you can see, the single core score beats the MBP, as expected, but it only edges the 4th general Haswell CPU in my old PC, and actually comes in a bit behind the Mac mini.

On the other hand, the multi-core performance demolishes the old PC and is ahead of the Mac mini, as well. The thought of replacing the CPU with a more powerful one gives me the cold sweats.

So far everything feels snappy and fast and in some ways it’s nice to have a stripped-down set of applications. I’ll resist adding stuff just because, but–you know, as I type this, I remembered another one I need: Calibre. But apart from Calibre, I’m holding off until I actually have a need. No more impulsive installs, ever! I swear.

For now.

Also, the AMD Ryzen 7 CPU has a bright red LED that circles the HSF. It’s weird and somehow I missed that it features this (it is mentioned on the retail box). So my new PC is partially blinged out, despite my best efforts to prevent it.

Also also I’m resisting the urge to get a second SSD already, because only having a single drive for now irrationally makes me feel like I’m going to run out of space any minute.

My new PC is built

Built but not actually connected to anything. For the moment it is perfect. And perfectly quiet.

I assembled the parts this evening and went about the task of putting the guts into the mini-tower case I had picked. As with my current PC, I picked every component on this one, then assembled it myself.

The total time of assembly was bout three and a half hours, which was longer than anticipated. I expected this to be quicker and easier than the mini-ITX system I built five years ago. Wrong again!

The points where I had issues:

  • Installing the heatsink/fan combo. This should be easy, as it’s just screwing in four screws to a plate mounted under the motherboard. But first I had to remove brackets for an alternate design. That was easy. Getting the four spring-loaded screws to screw in was not. I had to carefully balance each screw, lest the other side of the HSF suddenly pop up. This happened a lot. I finally got all four screws in when I realized I had to exert a certain amount of force on the HSF to keep it level, so it wouldn’t pop up. This took maybe 20-25 minutes alone. I can say with full confidence this is something I never want to do again.
  • Installing the cables to the power supply. Easy in theory, but threading them from the motherboard and down to the PSU “shroud” proved difficult, as there is a drive cage mounted next to the PSU. I had to unscrew the PSU assembly and pull it partly out to get the cables connected.
  • Plugging in the headers for Power LED, etc. These are labeled on the motherboard, but are virtually impossible to read because they are tiny and/or partly hidden by other components. I had to take several pictures and examine them closely to get everything connected. I think I got it right. Maybe.

These three things were, at times, maddening. And I haven’t even mentioned the IO shield, that infernal piece of aluminum that goes into a spot on the back of the case, and is designed to pop out 20 times before you can actually get it to stay in place. Despite these issues—which have convinced me to never build my own PC again—some aspects of the build were easy:

  • RAM was a simple case of snapping in the modules, same as it’s ever been.
  • The SSD is an M.2 drive, about the size of a stick of gum. It plugs directly into the motherboard and uses one tiny screw and support to keep it fastened in place. No power cables, no SATA cables, that’s it!
  • The video card went in place quite easily. This is often the trickiest thing to get in, but the case had plenty of room for it.

As I write this it is 11:48 p.m. and I have powered off my current PC. I am not keen on hooking up the new PC yet. I’m not ready to go through the ritual of installing Windows. I’m even less ready to deal with inevitable BIOS errors, the video card not working and whatever else may go wrong.

I do not have a good feeling about this.

But for now, the PC is built and it is ready.

I am not.

But maybe tomorrow.