Building a New Workstation

When it gets cold outside, I park the bikes and start looking for other activities to keep me busy.  This winter, I decided it was time to build a new computer.

It’s been a while since I’ve built a computer.  In the 1980’s and 90’s I built quite a few machines but for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been buying laptops instead of desktops.  I really haven’t had much need for a fast computer so an inexpensive laptop or most recently, a Chromebook, is all I really needed.   I have an older HP Desktop that I’ve used as a home server to store pictures and videos on but it’s probably about 6-7 years old and not exactly a speedy machine.

Last fall I bought a GoPro camera and started using it to record some of my motorcycling adventures.  When I tried to do some basic video editing, it became clear that I didn’t have a machine that was going to make editing videos an enjoyable experience so I decided that it was time for a new computer.

The Parts List

I spent a bit of time doing research on the internet and decided that one of the newer Intel 5820K chips would probably be a good platform to build a video editing rig around.  The 5820K has 6 cores and 12 threads and, from what I read, it overclocks relatively well.  The processor and supporting components such as the motherboard and memory are a bit more expensive than the latest and greatest Intel quad-core processors but I felt that the extra cores would be beneficial for CPU intensive tasks such as video rendering.

I ended up purchasing the following components for this build:

  • Corsair Obsidian 750D Black ATX Full Tower Case
  • ASUS X99-DELUXE LGA 2011-v3 ATX Motherboard
  • CORSAIR HX850 Power Supply
  • Intel Core i7-5820K  6-Core 3.3GHz Processor
  • Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (4 x 4GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400
  • CORSAIR Hydro Series H100i CPU Cooler
  • ASUS GTX770 2GB Video card
  • Intel 530 Series 2.5″ 480GB SATA III Solid State Drive
  • Acer G27HL 27-inch Widescreen Monitor

In addition to the new parts, I would be re-using some parts from my old computer:

  • 2x – 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black drives (7,200 rpm)
  • 4x – 2GB Seagate Barracuda drives (7,200 rpm)
  • DVD RW Drive
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Speakers

The Build

Building this rig was actually quite easy because the Corsair 750D case is so large and well laid out.  I started with the power supply and then after dropping in the CPU and memory, installed the motherboard.  Standoffs for the motherboard were pre-installed so it was simply a matter of lining up the holes and putting the screws in.

I decided to go with a water cooler for the CPU because I really didn’t want a huge heat sink and fans visible through the clear side of the case.  I prefer the nice uncluttered  look of a simple water-cooled setup.

The H100i radiator and fans were bolted to the top of the case and I was surprised at how easy it was to mount the radiator.  The generous size of the case ensured that there was plenty of room to work and clearance around the radiator and fans is quite good.

Next up was the NVidia GTX770 video card.  Installing it was easy enough but after hooking up the power cables, I noticed that it sags a little bit.  I don’t see an easy way to fix this minor issue and a quick search on the internet seems to indicate that this is a common problem with no simple fix.  It’s really not too bad so I’ll just live with it.

For storage, I installed a 480 GB Intel 530 Series SSD that will be used as the boot drive.  The SSD drive slipped right into one of the 4 mounting slots in the back side of the case.  My old computer had a decent set of disk drives so I reused them in this machine.  I installed 2 Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB drives and 4 Seagate Barracuda 2 TB drives in the supplied drive cages.  This fills up all of the 3.5” drive bays in the included drive cages so if I need to install more drives, I’ll need to get some more drive cages.   I installed an old DVD writer from my old computer into the top 5.25” drive bay.  It doesn’t look too bad and actually seems to match the case pretty well.

The total build time so far was around 3 hours.  A lot of this time was spent routing and re-routing cables and trying to figure out which SATA ports to plug each drive into.  This motherboard has two SATA controllers and not all of the SATA ports support RAID so it’s important that you plug the cables into the right ports if you want RAID functionality.

At this point, it didn’t look too bad from the front but the back of the case was a tangled up rats nest of wires.  Thankfully, I was able to hide the worst of the wiring mess and decided that I’d go back and revisit cable management at a later time.

Finally, it was time to turn the new machine on.  Thankfully, it started right up and prompted me to press F1 to go into the BIOS for the initial setup.  After taking a quick look at the settings in the BIOS, I exited and proceeded to boot from the Windows 8.1 CD and install the OS.

Setting up Storage

The new 480Gb SSD was used to install the OS and all of my programs leaving the hard drives dedicated to data storage.  Even after installing all of my programs, I still have over 350Gb of free space on the SSD.

Since I have two 1Tb drives and 4x2Tb drives, I created two arrays.  The first was a RAID 1 array using the pair of Western Digital 1TB drives.  The 4 Seagate Barracuda 2TB drives were setup in a RAID 10 array.  The two arrays provide just under 5 TB of safe and reliable storage.

Once all my drives were set up, I went ahead and pointed the Documents. Pictures, Music, and Videos folders to their appropriate locations on the RAID 10 array so that all of the data is on fast and reliable disks.

Cable Management

After spending a couple of days playing around with the new machine, I decided it was time to clean up the mess of wires that were inside the case.  With one side of this case being a big window, some attention to cable management was called for.  None of my previous computers ever had a window in the side so I would just put the cover on and forget about the mess inside.

Tidying up the cables actually wasn’t too bad and only required a handful of zip ties and an hour or two of time.  Since this is the first time I’ve tried to make the inside of a computer case look nice and organized, it required some trial and error and I did have to reroute some cables a couple of times.  Once finished, the inside of the case ended up looking quite neat and tidy.

The Corsair 750D case has a good amount of room in back of the motherboard for cables so it was fairly easy to hide the wires. There were a few spots where it seemed like all cables wanted to go across the case in the same place but with a bit of thought, I got it sorted out fairly well.  The back side isn’t exactly a work of art, but all of the cables are secure and hidden from sight.

In the end, the time spent organizing the cables was worth it.  Looking through the clear side of the case shows a nice clean layout with very little clutter.

Wrapping Up

So, there it is.  A nice clean build that should meet all of my needs for quite some time.  This machine is fast and looks pretty good too.  I’m pleased with the speed and performance of this new machine.  I rendered some videos using Adobe Premier to see how well it would handle high loads.   Videos that took 10-15 minutes to render on the old computer now take 1-2 minutes.  Quite a nice improvement in performance.

Initially, I had purchased a single 27” monitor for this build.  A week or two later, I decided that a triple monitor setup would be awesome so I ordered two more monitors and hooked them all up.  Having three 27” monitors is highly recommended.

All-in-all, I’m pleased with this computer.  It looks good, is plenty fast, has adequate storage, and should last a while before needing to be upgraded again.

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