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Thursday, January 28, 2016

In Lieu of Gaming I Present This! - Part 2

In the course of my life I have had opportunity to build PCs of almost every technological generation. I started with kit built computers and just kept at it. There is a certain satisfaction in being able to say, "I made this," like at the end of every original X Files episode. And to be certain I've had some PC building experiences that were X File quality mysteries as to how they ever succeeded. Fortunately last night was not one of those experiences, though there were a few hiccups along the way.
This post is the history of my most current experience. This time, I was undertaking a straightforward system board, CPU and RAM replacement. I procured an Intel i7-6700k processor and the ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Hero Skylake board. As Skylake uses DDR4, I also had to order RAM. I settled on 32 GB of G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 288-Pin SDRAM DDR4 3200. It all arrived yesterday afternoon, and as my picture from yesterday's post showed I was ready to install by 6 PM. The SanDisk Extreme Pro I'd ordered last week and was waiting until the new gear arrived. I did not install it yet as I want to do a little burn in testing before I commit it to the new board.
It took me less than 15 minutes to detach all cables and remove the old system board from my case. I have an AZZA 2000 Hurricane which has lots and lots of room and is easy to work with. I didn't unmount anything I didn't need to of course. Why make more work of it? Therefore you can see the water cooler fans and radiator in the top of the case. There is one thing that really made me take a deep breath when I discovered it. The amount of dust caking the radiator was alarming. After five years it was terrible, and I am amazed the cooling efficiency of the system remained so high. It took another 15 minutes just to clear all the dust out with a can of dust eliminator and a small vacuum. I need to do a better job of keeping that under control let me tell you.

So after removing the old board and cleaning the interior as well as I thought prudent, I placed the new board into the case (after swapping the port faceplate of course.) That is when I an into my first difficulty. There is a shroud on the Maximus VIII Hero at the top of the board. I covers the ports, the heat sinks and the sound chips. It's supposed to prevent interference or some such. It was too tall. I couldn't get the new board to match up with the mounting posts in the case because the shroud hit the radiator fans at the top of the case. So much for having plenty of room with which to work.

So I had to make a choice. Modify the CPU cooling system or modify the shroud. I'm no dummy when it comes to hardware. I decided in about an android's eternity I'd modify the shroud. It's hard plastic, and normally I'd use an exacto knife to cut away what I needed to remove. Unfortunately I've misplaced my exacto knife and had to settle for a slim, sharp utility knife. To say I was a little concerned about slipping and cutting the meat off the palm of my hand is an understatement. I went very slowly, and an 80 minutes later I had a still nice looking but appropriately modified shroud. Here's what the modification looked like mounted on the board along with the silly utility knife I had to use.
Finally, I was finally able to mount the new board. I'd spent 15 minutes on disassembly; 15 minutes on cleaning and over an hour on cutting away a corner of the shroud. But that's how these things go. I knew what I was getting into when I started. It's almost never a straight forward job to swap out a system board. But I was finally ready to proceed. It took me less than five minutes to get the new board installed.
There she is all tightened down and ready for the CPU and memory. And though it's slightly blurred because frankly my hands were aching from the careful carving I'd just undertaken, I think you can see the modification looks quite good when the board is installed. But do you see the next problem? I'll give you a hint. Where is the CPU power connector? That's right, it's under the bloody cooler fan next to the shroud modification. And no, there wasn't enough room to get it plugged in, though there was enough room if I plugged it in before I mounted the board. Well, some good news is better than no good news.

So I removed the new board. That's when I made my first mistake. In an effort to save a minute or two, I loosened the mounting screws but left them in place. My intent was to move the board down the quarter of an inch I needed to connect the power cable. So of course I was very careful in lifting the board off the mounting posts and sliding it down. But I forgot about all the SATA cables at the bottom of the board. One caught on the lower right corner of the board and made it "stick." Then it release suddenly and the board "jumped" the quarter inch I needed. The mounting screws went EVERYWHERE. Just take this advice as gospel. Always completely remove screws from the case when you are working inside it. I knew better too, but I just wanted to get it done and fire up the new processor. It set me back 40 minutes as I hunted for screws. As it was, I only found eight of the nine. But I spent 30 of those 40 minutes doing the complete disassembly of the case and other components that I said above would not be necessary. Well, it is necessary when you fear there is a loose piece of metal rattling around in your case. It took 30 minutes to be 99% certain the screw was not in the case. It probably got flung out of the case and onto the floor somewhere. I didn't locate it so perhaps it went behind the desk. I don't know. I just don't want it free floating in the case.

So after three hours I finally had the board back in the case (minus one mounting screw which I will need to install later,) and could mount the new CPU and attach the cooling head to it, as well as mount the memory. I took many deep breaths as I did so in order to not rush. Rushing leads to mistakes and that can lead to broken gear. So I chilled. And in another 15 minutes it was done.
Now all that remained was to reconnect all the cables and reinstall my GTX 980 TI Hybrid. The cables were all labeled so that was a breeze. You know, back in the early days they never labeled the cable heads. If you didn't label them as you removed them, you were up shit creek without a paddle when it came to reconnecting everything. And yes, I've made that mistake - once. Trust me, you only make it once. It's so painful you will never do it again. But as I said, these cable were all labeled and it was only another 10 minutes before I had everything plugged back into the new board.
After the issues I had with the shroud encroaching on space needed by the CPU cooler, I was a little concerned the graphics card radiator was going to experience a similar block, but my worries were completely unfounded. The shroud did not encroach on the rear vent grill at all and I was able to easily mount the other radiator. Now there was nothing left to do but sit it upright, put the side panel back on and fire it up.
Ah, the sweet sounds of success are purring fans, water gushing at speed through intact tubes to the nearest radiator, and the conspicuous lack of post test beeping! I'm happy to report the operation was a success.

That was not the end of the night though. Upon restart I had my last derp moment. With a completely new board and processor installed, Windows 10 now thought I was a pirate. I spent the last 30 minutes of my night in chat with Aron S. (a cool dude BTW) getting my Windows 10 upgraded system reactivated. But at least it waits me fully activated and ready for testing tonight. Tomorrow I'll post the results and my thoughts on Skylake. Thank you for taking the time to read this far. I do appreciate you patronage. Let me know if you have any questions using the comments. Cheers!

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