The first time I ascended

Disclaimer – Those that are not aware of the PC Master Race subculture might find some of the terms confusing. I must remind you that the following post has a lot of context that I haven’t talked about. I am in no way suggesting that I am a superior person because of my preference towards certain forms of electronics over certain other forms. The terms “glorious”, “ascended”, “peasant” etc., if and when used, are used in jest…for the most part. Please don’t waste your energy getting offended.

In this post, I am going to talk about the first time I built a gaming machine from the ground up. It was a great and scary experience leading up to it. I tinkered with my existing machine several times, but I never built a machine with all new parts. I had the luxury of having someone else build it for me at the local computer store. Those are a thing of the past, and I realized, if I wanted a new computer, I had to learn to build one myself.

Some might say I had ascended already because I was gaming on the PC, but to me, real ascension happens when you build your own PC. The following is my story.

Time to move out

The year was 2008. My gaming computer at the time had an Intel Pentium 4 1.6Ghz processor, paired with an XFX GeForce 7600GS AGP card. This machine was struggling to play anything beyond Doom 3 at acceptable frame rates. My definition of acceptable was very different back then. I firmly believed that the human eye couldn’t detect anything beyond 24FPS, therefore a game running at 30FPS was beyond acceptable. I couldn’t get games to run beyond 30FPS at 1280×1024 resolution anyway, so my ignorance kept me very happy. I was still a peasant.

I firmly believed that the human eye couldn’t detect anything beyond 24FPS, therefore a game running at 30FPS was beyond acceptable.

The first time I realized that my machine was severely under powered was when I tried to run a demo of Enemy Territory Quake Wars, and it ran very poorly. I wanted something better, but I had to focus on more important things.

I got accepted by the graduate school in April ’08, and I knew I would be moving out of home. What this meant was that I wouldn’t be able to take my gaming machine with me, which was sad because this machine served me well, even though it was severely under powered. The last game I played before I left home was Prince of Persia Warrior Within. I was eager to play Two Thrones right after, but decided to wait until I could build a new machine.

I moved out of home in July ’08, and I left my computer at my parents’ place. For the rest of the year, school and survival consumed my life. I neither had the time nor the money to invest in gaming. I did manage to play some Need For Speed Underground 2 on my ageing laptop, but those gaming sessions were few and far between.

I got a job working in a pizza place on campus that paid $7.25 an hour. Given the state of the economy, I was happy to have a job and no debt. In September ’08, I got a better job on campus. I contemplated building a machine at this point, but my future was still uncertain, so I waited.

Time to take a risk…

In January ’09, I made some important changes in my life. I switched graduate programs, and I landed a better job and things were looking good. I was in a situation where I had some money saved. Looking back, I realize now how risky it was for me to spend money on a computer that I had no need for. Had the department run out of funding, I would have lost my job, and with it my tuition waiver. I certainly did not have the money to cover my living and my tuition if this were to happen. Life would have been miserable if things went wrong.

I went ahead with my plan anyway.

I began researching building a machine in February ’09. This was when I discovered that YouTube and Hard Forum had some great resources for building computers. I asked around on the forum for recommendations given my budget, and I received some very helpful advice.

There were things I hadn’t thought about, such as the kind of monitor I wanted. Until this point, I only used monitors with 4:3 aspect ratio. Widescreen was new to me. I had the choice between 1920×1080 & 1920×1200. I chose the latter, even though it was more expensive – another decision I wouldn’t have made now if I was in that situation.

I slowly narrowed down all the components I wanted. This was a tedious process, but it was well worth the effort. I didn’t want to make any mistakes.

Time to buy

It was March ’09, I just got my monthly paycheck of $690. I earned more money in the first three months of 2009, than I did in my entire life. I felt rich. I felt like I deserved this computer. I owe it to myself because I was working hard. This was what I told myself. I was far from being a minimalist or financially smart.

I went online on NewEgg, and I started building my machine. I created a wishlist of the parts, and the total was an insane $1167.76. I was willing to spend almost two months of salary on a computer I didn’t need. I cringe when I think about this now.

After I built a wishlist, I had the members of Hard Forum review it. I got the green light from them, and on March 10, 2009, I ordered all the parts. The parts were split into 3 shipments, and I received them over the course of the week.

List of components I ordered from NewEgg
List of components I ordered from NewEgg

Time to build

Prior to building the machine, I realized I did not have an anti static wrist band. I forgot to order it online, so I took a bus to the nearest electronics store I could find – RadioShack. This was the only time I shopped there. It has been 7 years since, and I never set foot in that store again, or another RadioShack for that matter. I am surprised they are still in business.

I made my way back home, armed with my anti static wrist band, and began the build process. It was nerve wrecking. I purchased 12 components from NewEgg, and 11 of those needed to be in perfect working condition, the mouse pad being the exception. I did not want to deal with the RMA process, because I couldn’t afford to spend money on return shipping.

I completed the build with some hiccups, and I powered on the machine. The fans sprung to life and then died again. My heart sank. I tried it over and over again, and no luck. It was the most disappointing feeling. I just spent over $1000 on a machine that didn’t work, and I didn’t know where to begin troubleshooting.

For about 5 minutes, I sat there not knowing what to do. I needed to collect my thoughts, and find a way to make the computer work. I couldn’t afford the time or money to RMA components.

I began by checking to see if there were any cables loose. I went through each connection to make sure they were secure. This was when I found a connector next to the CPU socket that had nothing connected to it. I didn’t know what the connector was, so I looked through the manual. Unfortunately, the manual did not have a picture overview. I then noticed that the power supply had a connection wire that seemed to match connection type.

Could it be this simple? I went ahead and plugged in the wire into the connection and turned on the PC. It worked!! I was overjoyed. Something so simple could either make or break my day…but this was no time to be philosophical. I needed to make the necessary BIOS changes to install the OS. I had games to play!

I later learned that motherboards have two power connectors, a 24 pin connector and an 8 pin connector, and neither of them are optional! It was such a simple solution, yet I felt completely helpless. I’ve learned a valuable lesson in life when it comes to computers – they are a mystery wrapped in an enigma until you figure the answer!

My first setup
My first setup

 

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