After a decade of having exclusively Apple hardware and operating systems, I decided to make the switch back to the PC world. This was motivated by price, performance, the fact that I use Windows at work, and the direction that Microsoft has started to go in as of late. One of the clear advantages to going back to a PC was the fact that I can build it myself, hand picking each component from CPU to GPU. By taking the custom approach I really believe you get more for your money and can really focus your spend on what your priorities are. I got 6 years of heavy home use out of my last iMac so the goal with this build was to think ahead and try to get roughly the same lifespan.
I had my buddy + fellow geek Mitch over and we hit up the PC Part Picker website to get started. Let me digress for a moment and say a couple words about how incredible that site is. You can check out a ton of user-submitted/editor approved builds, browse individual parts (with filters you wouldn’t believe), and save configurations for later reference/editing. Once you have built a list of parts it will even do a cursory check for compatibility issues between parts which any PC builder knows can be a real pain to research. In short, this site is incredible and should be used whenever you are considering a new PC build or a modification to an existing one. Here is the build that we came up with on the site which is precisely what I did aside from the manufacturer of the RAM but even that had exactly the same specs.
As I already mentioned, it has been quite some time since I last built a PC but I felt up to the challenge. I started out by surveying the parts, paying extra attention to the case and trying to map out a wiring strategy before I got started and things got cluttered. Once I came up with a plan I started unboxing and getting to work. Things started off smoothly, the CPU popped right into its slot, and seating the motherboard was a piece of cake. Next up was to apply thermal paste to the CPU and install the Cooler Master heat sink/fan. Before applying the thermal paste I decided to look more closely at how the heat sink was going to mount and came to the realization that I must have missed a step because there was nothing to secure the heat sink mount into on the motherboard. After watching a couple of videos on YouTube I quickly realized that I was going to have to pull the motherboard out of the case and install the mounting bracket for the heat sink to the backside of the board, whoops! If you ever find yourself installing a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO heat sink/fan, do yourself a favor and watch this video.
From this point on it was smooth sailing and the end result was as good or better than I hoped for. Since the initial build the only thing I have added are two Corsair SP120 LED case fans but mostly for show to be honest. My CPU runs around 35 degrees Celsius during general use and “spikes” up around 50-60 degrees while gaming. I am on a hunt to find an MMO or MMO-type game that pushes it with settings maxed out but I have yet to do so. If bleeding edge gaming if your thing I would really considering going with an SLI configuration for the video cards and possibly a little higher up the i7 food chain for a CPU but that’s it. Everything else in this configuration would work more than well now and for some time.
It hasn’t been a great deal of time since the build but so far Windows 10 has been good. Little-to-no problems (other than some font issues with my 144hz monitor) and great performance with the Professional edition that I have installed. I really wouldn’t call Windows 10 game changing in any way but it feels like a more polished version of Windows 7 which isn’t a bad thing.
Here’s a list of the parts used in this build: (also available in more detail here)
- Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler
- MSI Z97-GAMING 5 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
- EVGA 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
- Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500GB 2.5″ SSD (For O/S + important apps/games)
- Western Digital BLACK SERIES 2TB 3.5″ 7200RPM HD (For everything else)
- MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Video Card
- NZXT S340 (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case
- EVGA 750W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply
- Asus VG248QE 144Hz 24.0″ Monitor