Build It And Ye Will Come

These are the thoughts and recollections of a man on a journey to build himself a gaming PC. Now if that sounds a bit boring to you I suggest you navigate away from this site now, but if you’ve ever thought about putting together your very own rig then this article may convince you to do the sensible thing and get somebody else to build it for you, or it may even inspire you to build your own. Or if your MarkuzR, it may give you a stiffy….

Crysis - Damn, you're sexy.

Be warned: some of the details are likely to be sketchy; I wrote this article on the fly after various stages of the build. Additionally, any prices I quote for components  were correct at the time I bought them. I also won’t go into too much detail about what each individual component does, as I expect people reading this to have a basic understanding of a PC. Finally, if you decide to follow in my footsteps and build your own machine then you do so at your own risk! I suggest carrying out a fair bit of research before you commit yourself to buying anything, and if you’re buying parts online, please check out the credentials of your chosen website before banging in your card details. A quick Google search is usually enough. You have been warned!

Now that I’ve got the disclaimer business is out of the way I can begin. It all started during the 2010 Steam summer sale. I’m a big fan of Steam and I was looking forward to this sale for a while, especially as there were one or two games that I’d had my eye on in the hope that they’d be reduced by 80% or something stupid. One of those games was Crysis. I shouldn’t need to tell you what Crysis is; you’re reading a gaming site for Christ’s sake, but  for those of you that have been living under the proverbial gaming rock for the last couple of years, Crysis is the Big Daddy of high end PC gaming. Its bleeding edge graphics that, in my opinion have, not been matched yet since its release in late 2007.

When the game finally went on sale I snapped it up without hesitation and began the download. Once the game was installed I eagerly loaded it up. Upon getting to the title screen I’m greeted with a lock up.


No worries; I’ll restart the machine and try again. This time it doesn’t lock up and I manage to get in to the video options screen where I start playing with the settings. Now, my current PC is no slouch; It was built in mid 2007 out of scraps from my brother’s old PC and a few components which were bought new at the time. The processor is a dual core 3.2Ghz AMD Athlon II, there is 4gb of DDR2 memory on board and to top it off a Geforce 9600GT is installed to take care of the graphics. I knew this rig couldn’t run Crysis at max settings, but surely the mid range settings would be fine right?

Another Crysis image... because I can

Obviously, due to the fact I’m writing this article, I was wrong; walking around the tropical island Crysis takes place was fine but whenever anything remotely interesting happened, the frame rate would drop and more often than not the game would lock up and I’d be forced to Ctrl-Alt-Del back into windows.

Double Balls.

I needed to play this game. I was originally just going to upgrade the odd component, perhaps a new graphics card and some more memory but, after much deliberation, I decided that a new system was in order. Of course I had the option to buy a readymade system; I could have gotten a similar spec machine from anywhere, but this wasn’t an option for me – building PCs is something I enjoy immensely. I’ve been doing it for years and I’ll be doing it for years to come, plus there’s nothing more satisfying than choosing a bunch of components and making it all come to life.

First things first, I needed to decide which processor to use. There was never a moment’s doubt in my mind that I would be buying an AMD processor; I’m sure there are many of you who dislike AMD (Ben), but you can’t argue with the fact that AMD provide a lot more bang for your buck. After poking around a few review sites and comparing prices for different processors, I finally went for the quad core Phenom II 965 Black Edition. The best price I could find at the time was £129.20 from I had never used this company before so I did a few checks, was satisfied with the results and put in the order. I was on my way.

Next thing to be bought was the motherboard. I don’t have much experience with motherboards; I usually just buy a cheap one that will work with my chosen processor. Not this time though, so I decided to ask for a bit of advice on our own GamingLives forums, and you can read the thread here. In the thread I generally ask for peoples advice on what I should buy.

MarkuzR  pipes up and suggests that I buy a new ASUS Crossfire IV. I seem to be all for the idea at first but get a bit stumped by its price so I ignore him! I did a bit of research and eventually settle on another ASUS card which more or less does exactly what the Crossfire does but for nearly half the cost. I put the order in but then get told the bloody thing is actually out of stock so I cancel the order and go back to the drawing board. I do finally manage to get a different ASUS board, the M4A87TD EVO 870, not as flashy as the Crossfire but like the one I cancelled it does the job. This I got for £73.60 from

I don’t want to bore you with an account of every single component so I’ll skip on a bit. Unfortunately I’m not super rich and I had to buy my components one at a time over a period of months. Time passes and after asking for people’s opinion, ignoring them and then doing my own thing anyway, I eventually amass the following to go with my processor and motherboard:

  • Cool Master CM690 II Lite case, aka The Dominator – £58.99 from
  • 3 x 2GB (6GB) OCZ Gold DDR3 2000Mhz memory – £110.63 from
  • Western Digital 1TB SATA Hard Drive – £61.26 from
  • Cool Master GX 750w power supply – £53.60 –
  • LiteOn IHAS124-19 24x DVD±RW Re-Writer SATA £14.99 –
  • Samsung SH-D163C/BEBE SATA 16x DVD-ROM – £10.99 –
  • HIS ATI Radeon HD 6870 1024MB 199.98 –
  • Corsair H70 CPU Water cooler – £78.40 –

The more PC savvy of you might notice that I’m missing a few things like a sound card etc, well I’m partially deaf and wear an aide in my left ear. I could sleep through the apocalypse if I was lying on top of my good ear and, as such, a decent sound card would just be a waste of money for me so the onboard sound will do me well enough.

I didn't know Trump had branched out to memory!

I didn’t really have a game plan for which components I was going to buy. The water cooler, for example, was a spur of the moment impulse buy as I have never water-cooled a system before and, to be honest, I’m shitting myself in case I bugger it up. I also think I cocked up a bit with the memory. When it arrived it said on the back that it was optimised for use in an Intel system. I initially thought this was just a load of rubbish and just a marketing ploy between OCZ and Intel but after some more research OCZ supply AMD optimised memory too. Nevermind! You can’t win them all, so I’ll just see how I get on with it.

As a final note on buying components, if you’re going to do this yourself then I’d recommend buying the graphics card last as this will most likely be the most expensive and, dare I say, the most important component that you get for your build, plus it’s also the fastest changing market. When I began this build my graphics card hadn’t been released yet.

The Build…
The final components were finally delivered to my flat on Monday the 8th of November. Instead of jumping straight in I decided to start the build the next day after work. I didn’t want to rush it and make a hash of it so I planned to complete it over the course of two days. This way I could take my time and make sure it was done properly. This is, after all, going to be my rig for the next two or three years.

Before starting, however, there was one final thing that needed to be done; I needed a name for my little man project. Something that would represent strength and power, but at the same time it had to be subtle. I racked my brain for, oh, a good five minutes while names like “Death Smegger”, “Starscream” and “I Kill You N00B” flashed through my mind but, in the end, Alan was born.

Damn, that's a tight hole!

I began with unpacking the case, along with the motherboard and the water cooler. Lining up the motherboard with the correct holes in the case was a breeze, as was inserting the retaining screws for the motherboard into the case. Before fixing the board into the case I decided to check out the mounting instructions for the CPU water cooler and, according to these instructions, I needed to attach the cooler’s bracket on to the back of the motherboard before fixing the motherboard itself into the case. Conflictingly, however, the instructions for the case said that I could fit cooling brackets whilst the motherboard was in situ as the case has a large hole on the motherboard mounting plate which gives access to the back of the motherboard.

So, motherboard goes in, power supply goes in but when I tried to attach the cooler’s bracket the bloody thing wouldn’t go on and it turns out that the access hole is ever so slightly out of line with where the screws need to be. Bastard. Everything needs to come back out.

I eventually got the bracket on to the motherboard and back into the case but it had been a rather fiddly affair especially as the bracket kind of got in the way of the case’s mounting plate.  It was at this point that I noticed that I hadn’t put on that little metal clip that surrounds the motherboards ports etc on the back of the case.

Alan, you bastard.

Everything had to come out again and, after installing the motherboard for the third time, I decided to call it a night and packed Alan away. Plus the girlfriend was about to arrive home and I had made a right mess, so it was best to quit while I was ahead!

The next day after work I began with my next task, which was to fit the massive radiator for the water cooler. Now I’m not exaggerating, I could probably have replaced the radiator in my car with this thing, it’s that big, and once I attached the two 120mm fans that came with it, the thing became enormous and I’m really not used to having a large piece of kit in my hands…. so I was a little worried at first but the radiator attached to the case effortlessly. With the radiator in, the next logical thing to do was insert the processor and connect it to the water cooler.

Try to remain calm... think of a peaceful place with gently flowing water... Actually, perhaps that's not such a good idea!

It was during this part of the build that I nearly smashed the thing to bits. The instructions for the H70 clearly state that the cold plate should be placed onto the processor and then with a twist to the right it should lock into place. Did it fuck. It took over an hour to get the cold plate secure. In the end I had to unfasten the top section of the bracket, slide the cold plate into place, put the bracket back on, line it up, and then screw it down. Easy installation my arse.

The rest of the build went swimmingly. Hard drive, graphics card and the DVD drives simply slotted into their respective areas with a satisfying click. Cool Master really have done a wonderful job with this case and I couldn’t recommend it more. Despite my initial cock ups, the tool-less design and excellent cable management holes made the whole job go a lot faster and it looks amazing. My only gripe with it was the little issue with the access hole to the back of the motherboard being in the slightly wrong place.

For Alan’s operating system I decided to go with Windows 7 64bit. I had already purchased a code for my last machine but, as a cost saving exercise at the time, it was only the upgrade version. Because of this I had to install XP first then upgrade from that. Absolutely ridiculous solution but that rant is for another day. Naturally, I didn’t have a copy of XP to hand so I had to wait a few days before my Dad could send me his and in the meantime I installed my Windows 7 but opted not to enter a CD key which, as some of you may know, gives you 28 days to get one sorted. This of course meant I’d have to install Windows 7 twice but I thought stuff it, I NEED to play with my new toy!

First thing after the Windows install was the driver installations etc, then Steam and then the download for Crysis!

Five or six hours later, curse my shitty internet, and I’m finally ready to try this bad boy out in all its glory. Naturally the first thing I do is whack all the settings up to high and away I go. I was immediately blown away. Crysis really is a beautiful game (graphically,as the story is garbage!), so beautiful in fact that my tiny brain is struggling for words to describe it. Gone were the lock ups and the stuttering frame rate as Alan smashed through the rich visuals with ease. Even on the areas that ran well on the old machine I could see a massive difference;anti-aliasing is a work of the Gods.

Not content with being able to run Crysis as smoothly as a really smooth thing in a really smooth place, I wanted to test Alan further. It’s been a while since I last benchmarked anything but I remembered that 3DMark used to be pretty good so a quick Google search later and 3DMark06 was being downloaded on to Alan’s hard drive. After a number of graphical and CPU based stress tests, I clicked on the link to 3DMark’s website and was pleasantly surprised to see a score of 18,492 points.

I’ve got no idea what that score means but big numbers = good in my book. After a bit of digging around I found out that 18k is quite high, especially for a machine that hasn’t been overclocked yet. Speaking of overclocking, I will eventually overclock Alan and make improvements over the course of the next year or so but for now I really don’t see the need to mess about in the bios as the machine is powerful enough already.

So there you have it. The story of Alan; from sweet, sweet conception to problematic messy birth. Despite the few problems with the build I am incredibly impressed with the results. The case looks amazing and the performance makes me moist, but the thing I am most impressed with besides all that is the Corsair H70 water-cooler.

Next year... Skynet!

Out of interest I downloaded a CPU temperature logger to monitor its temperature (obviously) and I am very happy to report that even under load my CPU temperature didn’t go any higher than 35 degrees. I must stress that this was only after around 25 – 30 minutes of playing Crysis and I will have to experiment a little bit more. However, I think you’ll agree that 35 degrees is very impressive. My only small gripe with the cooler is that the fans it comes with are quite loud; even with the packaged restrictors installed you can hear the system quite clearly. To try and combat this I will replace the fans with some higher performance silent ones and, as usual, if anyone has any suggestions for which fans to use, please let me know on the forums as your advice is appreciated but will probably be ignored… :D

Last five articles by Ste



  1. Ben Ben says:

    The illusion has been destroyed now I know your name is Steve, Ste forever!

    There’s nothing like building your own machine, knowing what’s inside it and what it is capable of. Even more enjoyable when you’re playing games on it and sticking every setting up full while your baby purrs along happily rendering polygon after polygon and light shaft after dynamic shadow.

    My PC is called Louis :D

  2. FC360 says:

    This article reminds me I need to get a graphics card for my computer so I can play games on it. Nicely written :)

  3. Samuel Samuel says:

    I always used to build my own rig, it’s the only way to go if you’re serious about PC gaming. Unfortunately, my financial situation has left me without a desktop computer, so I’m making do with (an admittedly quite powerful) laptop. It’s not the same, but I make do for now.

    Nice trip down memory lane reading about your adventures in sourcing parts and sticking it together.

  4. Ste says:

    @Ben – I dunno why MarkuzR turned me into a Steve, maybe he is threatened by me and needs to make me seem less cool? Maybe? Probably not! Either way, you can call me Susan for all I care! This is my first article and I’m going to make the most of it. :D

    @FC360 – Do it! Do it now! Also, thanks!

    @Sam – I agree, it is definately the only way to go if you want a serious PC building. The end results more than make up for the ballache.

    Thanks for the comments guys

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    This is a tough one for me… I both envy you and DON’T envy you in equal measure. I don’t buy PCs off the shelf, I always have them custom built but I get someone to build them for me because I really don’t want to spend what little time I have cursing at a screw that won’t fit or a board that won’t push home. Having said that, I would also love to be in the position where the first time I power up my beast of a machine it’s one where I’ve put everything together myself… every breath of the fan, every heartbeat of an LED would be because I had given this thing life myself. That’s the attraction for me; knowing that it was all my own doing. Sure, I chose every component for my gaming rig anyway but I never got my hands dirty.

    Next time. For sure. Really enjoyed the article, was good to read someone else telling their story :)

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Ste… sorted :D

  7. Ste says:

    Yeah thats exactly how I felt when I first got it working. Theres such a huge sense of achievement and pride knowing that you’ve built something and it works! On the same vein though its massively frustrating if you come across a problem and you don’t know what to do. Luckily this time I only had the issue with the water cooler bracket and that was just an inconvienience rather than a complete disaster! I can fully sympathise with your times constraints though, in the future I fear that I’ll have to get someone else to do it for me, especially as I’m getting more and more responsibility at work.

    P.S Thanks for the name change. Dont try to destroy my air of mystery again! ;)

  8. Lorna Lorna says:

    Really enjoyed this as it is something that I have always secretly wanted to do but never quite stepped up to the plate for. It is always easier to get someone else to custom build to my specs. Also, it doesn’t help that I am perhaps the clumsiest person I know, so I can well see myself having to rip stuff out and re-start, or spilling tea into the gubbins…even getting my hair caught in a whirring fan (have actually nearly had that happen after examining the internals of my rig while it was on. I know, I know.)

    I recently had to replace my DVD drive in my PC, and managed that easily…the faffiest part was deliberating over which one to choose, but it made me more and more tempted to completely build my next PC myself. I’d love that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from knowing that ‘I made this’.

  9. Ste says:

    @lorna it is really scary when your putting it together. I was constantly worried during the build that it wasnt going to fire up after I had finished. I can be abit clumsy too at times and my dad once refered to me as a “Heavy handed bastard” because I once nearly fucked a motherboard trying to fit a graphics card a few years back.

  10. Edward Edward says:

    A great read, and I really enjoyed this despite knowing shit all about this sort of stuff.
    The important question though…
    Does Crysis play as good as it looks? :P

  11. Reinman says:

    You spend nearly 80 quid on a cooler, yet you buy a really crappy power supply. You skimped on one of the most important parts of your computer. If it fails, you might kiss everything goodbye and start buying again.(

    About the memory. You are right and wrong. Yes you bought the wrong set, but not of the intel optimizations. Its wrong because you bought a tripple channel kit, while AMD only offers dual channel, forcing it to run in single channel. Losing memory performance, that you would have gotten. What you can do is buy another stick to make it 4 sticks in total to run dual channel again (they will shift to a 2 dimms per channel).

    Also I am a bit disappointed in the motherboard. Yes it has crossfire, but its 16x4x and not 8x8x (you can get some 870 chipsets using such a setup). And those 4 lanes will be from the southbridge, meaning more lag.

    Don’t get me wrong, but i think you should have done better research on the parts. Buying and making a pc is nice bacause you can build it to the exact specs you want, meaning you can select the best price/performance/features.

  12. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    The PSU is something that a lot of people overlook, bizarrely. I had a system built for me a few years ago (Athlon 6000+ / 2 x GTS 8800 / 4GB RAM / 2 x 750GB SATA) and within a few months I was getting some serious problems with it blue screening on me, which is something I’d lived without for a LONG time leading up to that. Sent the system back to them and they replaced a RAM stick and one of the drives, and it happened again within just a few days. Turns out that they fitted a 600w PSU to run a system like that, so it was pretty much running at full power the entire time but still not enough to cover the components. The two GTS 8800s themselves would have taken around 50% of that alone. Since then, I’ve insisted on at least a 1000w or 1200w as the minimum PSU.

  13. Reinman says:


    Not quite, bigger isn’t better. I would take a 750 watt AAA brand psu like seasonic over a 1000watt B brand PSU any day (One of the brands I really despise is OCZ because you don’t know which brand is underneath the logo). What you probably experienced is noise generated and not properly cancelled out by the PSU. A bad power supply can be made in a 1000 watts (I know, most 1000 watt psu’s are the more expensive and thus better ones) and yes a big psu also minimizes the stress on the PSU thus lowering the noise. The disadvantage is that getting a high powered psu or more one that is oversized for the system is that efficiency of the PSU gets really bad at low power draws (read idle state of the pc). The system in the post could run on a proper 500 watt power supply without a hitch (No crossfire tho). The single biggest problem I encounter with picking a PSU is that most company’s are sticker only. So they buy a PSU and put there own sticker on it. Then you have to find out if its a proper brand underneath. Yet most reviews don’t even open the PSU up to see what brand of caps etc are used. (Yes, i have a Cooler Master PSU, but i bought it a long time ago, when it was a good (not the best) modular PSU for a very nice price)

  14. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I loathe rebranding entirely, it’s a pet hate of mine. I also find it shocking that so many “custom build” gaming laptops are rebadged Clevo machines with little or no customisation and a huge price tag shoved on so it looks like you’re getting a fantastic piece of kit, when really it’s just something that won’t run more than ten minutes on battery power and burns hotter than an infected crotch. I agree that bigger isn’t always better, and I’ve been trying to explain this to my insurance company after my three year old gaming laptop went kaput and they tried to replace it with an HP business laptop citing “the video memory in the HP is 768mb and you only had 128mb before” and they couldn’t understand that 768mb of shared Intel memory isn’t better than 128mb of standalone video memory from a dedicated video card with on-board processor. To them, the higher number meant everything.

    Also, the noise on the PC was fine, it was just that it was dying on me constantly. By the time they replaced the PSU (it was an Antec) it was causing so many problems that all the RAM had to be replaced, one of the 8800 cards had to be replaced and two drives were replaced. After the PSU was increased to a higher performance unit, it ran fine and I still use the system today… albeit as my work machine rather than gaming rig.

  15. Reinman says:

    Yeah, I know that feeling! (I always get a bit pissed when i see system advertised with a basic GPU having 1024MB of memory. Like that the GPU can effectively fill that lol). With the laptops there are only what like 5 manufacturers of shells? Well when you think about it: Nearly everything comes from one company: Foxconn. They make nearly everything.

    Woops, I mean electrical noise, ripple (also very bad in cheap led lights that should save you money). Electrical noise can kill components slowly. Antec had a bad series (bad caps etc), but are generally good (they picked up the game). New TP series good. Seasonic X-Gold series is probably the best you can buy. Corsair buys alot of Seasonic internals. Corsair HX series is also very good.

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