When I planned this series, Part 2 was always going to chronicle the actual building process, and my thoughts and feelings on undertaking it. So, what are my thoughts?
I’m thinking this build has been a little taste of hell.
After climbing out of the other side of one of my semi-usual 32-hour, 2-day work weekends (Millennials. We sure know how to work ourselves to death), I planned to use the upcoming three day break to begin assembly of MS-1. What I didn’t count on was having so many unforeseen wrenches thrown into the mix. No less than three problems occurred which have tested my patience and set back this build to the point that I’m not typing it on MS-1. In short, I’m definitely feeling the influence of Murphy’s Law here.
Let’s start with the first, and arguably, smallest issue: the I/O shield.
Motherboards are usually packaged with a thin metal backplate that serves to cover the rectangular gap built into the back of any computer case to plug any open space and label the back connections. But, because I bought mine used, I don’t have one. Now, there were many enthusiasts I had read–and in a few cases, talked to–who assured me that an I/O shield is not needed to run a perfectly fine desktop. It does tend to keep dust out and shield some sensitive parts from electric shock, but the impact these factors have on the board are comparably minimal compared to other stressers. But, I am me, and I just had to have something there blocking the unsightly hole in the hardest part of the case to see. So, I got innovative.
I found a plastic “For Sale” sign at the store, and knowing how easy it would be to cut it up, I decided to use it as the basis for a new backplate. First trimming it down to a size that would fit the port, I then soft-mounted the mobo in order to make my stenciling marks. Some tracing, some cutting, and a quick blast of black spray paint later, and I ended up with this:
Not perfect, but more than enough to keep a majority of the dust out.
Once that was done, I pulled the mobo back out, intending to begin with the main build. Once the CPU was seated, I went to double-check on the process of the heatsink installation…and I realized I forgot a piece.
Remember the fact that the mobo was used? Yeah, it didn’t come with a mounting bracket for a heatsink either.
After a solid minute of swearing, I hopped onto Amazon, quickly finding the part I needed and realizing I’d have to wait for it. Grumbling, I hit the ‘buy it now’ button, put the CPU back in the package and packed everything back up. Guess it wasn’t the day.
It is now Friday. The bracket is here. It fits. I now have this one day to build it before I shove off for another 32-hour work weekend. It progresses well: I have no issues with any parts as a seat the CPU, slot in the RAM cards, the GPU, the wireless card, and plug everything into the power supply. After an hour and a half, MS-1 is assembled and ready to be powered on for the first time. I grab a keyboard and mouse, plug an HDMI cable into the living room television, and press the power button.
Nothing. Just a slight twitch from the case fans and nothing.
After repeated tries, I decided to take everything apart again and remove the motherboard from the case, opting for a breadboard test. For those unfamiliar, this is where the builder simply sets the board down on an insulated, non-conductive service with only the CPU, heatsink, and RAM installed, and tests the build by hooking the board and CPU power cables in, and shorting the power pins with a screwdriver. Sure enough, even trying both RAM cards in varying configurations, the board doesn’t seem to power up. The CPU fan spun for a second, but after that, the only part with life was the PSU; not even any beeps from the diagnostic speaker I hooked on.
At this point, it could only have been one of two culprits: the PSU, or the board itself. In lieu of a using a power supply testing kit, I would have to make a trip to Best Buy for another power supply, and hope that the board finally powered up. On to the store, I went.
It is now Wednesday, and my breadboarded system finally sparks back to life, but with the old PSU. Could it have finally worked? What was wrong with it before? Who cares! MS-1 is ready to launch! I reassembled everything in the case, hooked everything back up, and hit that power button.
And then smelled melting plastic.
Quickly cutting the power, I could see a puff of smoke eject from the main storage hard drive. A bad rail on the PSU had caused the SATA power cable to burn and melt the connection to that drive. Goodbye, 56 dollars and my main method of storage.
So, accepting a lesson from the tech gods to never trust a component that suddenly turns a new leaf, I pulled out the Seasonic PSU and chucked it to the curb in favor of the Corsair, and sure enough, MS-1 sputtered back to life with nary an ozone smell to be found. She was finally ready for a clean Windows install, and as I inserted the installation USB, I thought to myself,
This has been the build from Hell.