Revisiting my first computer build...
It still gives my great joy to build computers from scratch and on looking back it seems that I have been involved in computer hardware for almost 9 years now. Where did all that time get to? Looking back from early 2019 I can see that my first complete build was in 2011 where I built a very modest AMD system that still ran well until early 2019. It was computer that ran Windows 7 for my partner and subsequently ran various incarnations of Linux for the remaining years. Never gave any problems over many years.
However in the middle of a process of reevaluation of many things, including my available computer hardware, this build will now be sold off piece by piece on EBay or contributed to the local computer recycling effort as I save for the money to build a Threadripper system. This current page documents the 2011 Athlon build and looks at some of the accidental good decisions I made as well as many, many choices I made which were reasonably ill advised!
The AMD Athlon system...
Below are the major components I assembled to build the system and from memory they were all purchased online as both then and now there are no reasonable computer hardware shops in the immediate local area. A few good choices and some pretty ordinary ones as well, but remember this is my first build where I had little idea what I was doing!
- Case: I really had no idea about which case to purchase for this computer system. I picked up a Thermaltake V2 case which came with a reasonable power supply : a Thermaltake 420 Watt non-modular PSU. Over the years the PSU gave me no trouble but The Thermaltake V2 is very much a cheap case with no room for decent cable management and reasonably poor air flow which was managed poorly by a single blue LED rear fan. Man that thing was an absolute beacon in the dark hours! It could be clearly seen through the small, cheap perspex window of the case... Not a case I would ever consider buying again but it was cheap at the time which I suspect is exactly why I bought it! Resale value in 2019 is approximately zero and so this will be going to the computer recyclers.
- Motherboard: The motherboard was an Asus M4A77TD which I believe I selected for no particularly good reason as my knowledge of such matters was pretty much negligable at the time! Accidentally it had enough USB 2.0 ports for my usage over the years and when I flashed the board to the most recent BIOS it catered well for the great Phenom II chips which were the current blazing fast chips between 2008 and 2012. In a sign of the times this board had a parallel printing port and even an IDE port on the board. All technology that has gone now. This board is currently for sale on EBay and it would be nice to get $30 - $40 but I might be dreaming...
- CPU: The CPU I bought for this system all of those years ago was an AMD Athlon II X4 630 2.8GHz Quad-Core. A mistake I suspect when I look back and see that the Phenom chips were hitting the market at the time. However it is still a quad core chip and it ran Windows 7 initially and then various flavours of Linux with no issue. Its greatest test was perhaps running Slackware -current and it coped reasonably well with compiling smaller and larger applications. I eventually upgraded to an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz Black Edition CPU which certainly breathed new life into an older system. Both CPUs are currently on sale on EBay with much more interest in the Phenom! An error I made at the time was using the stock AMD air cooler and on looking closely at both CPUs early in 2019 I can see they were running a little hotter than I am now comfortable with...
- RAM and HDD: The need for RAM seemed to be a little less frenetic than it is these days and my purchase of a 4GB Kit of 2 X Kingston 2GB PC3-10600U DDR3 RAM is perhaps a little less underwhelming than it might appear. It was certainly enough RAM at the time and served the build well for 8 years. As for the HDD: this was well before the times of Solid State Drives and the Samsung 1TB 7200RPM sata drive was also a good purchase. In terms of resale I have posted the RAM on EBay but the 1TB mechanical drive is now worthless in used condition and unfortunately will need to be disposed of after it is conclusively wiped.
- Graphics Card: I can still laugh a little at the time when I completed the build and realised that I had nowhere to plug the monitor in! The motherboard of course does not support onboard video and so I went online and bought the cheapest graphics card that I could find, my wallet was by then quite empty. I discovered and purchased a very underwhelming Galaxy NVidia GTX220 PCI-E 1GB DDR2 128bit card and this remained part of the system until I broke it up in 2019. Still one of the most noob mistakes I have ever made. The GPU is currently for sale on EBay where if I am lucky I might get $10 - $20. Very lucky...
- Optical Drive: Back in 2011 you had to have a CDROM drive and if you were one of the cool guys you would actually have a DVD burner. Needless to say I had a DVD burner! This drive had an IDE connection and this slower connection never had any issues and I ripped Audio CDs and burnt DVDs successfully for many years on this. Strange that now most new builds do not have an optical drive, certainly my new Threadripper build will not have one. The Optical Drive is 7 years old and completely worthless in 2019, I suspect not even useful to the computer recycle people...
Perhaps I have been a little too hard on myself with this build? It was a first build and I remember picking up instruction for the build process on YouTube, the tutorials on such builds were definitely not as brilliant as current tutorials with substantially less personality involved? Mind you I am still learning new skills in computer building from YouTube in 2019.
Tabular form and disposal details...
And below is the same basic data presented in tabular with a little more detail for any who would like to know much more about the individual parts. Also I have added in details of the dispersal: how much made on Ebay and how much simply junked. I suspect these details may not reveal any great new wealth on my part!
|This build is currently being broken up, I include dispersal details above...|
Thermaltake 420 Watt non modular PSU (with case)
Disposal: No market for either so recycled
|Motherboard||Asus M4A77TD AM3
AMD AM3 Athlon™ II/Phenom™ II/Sempron™ 100 Series Processors
Supports AM3 45 nm CPU
Chipset: SB710/ AMD 770
12 x USB 2.0 port(s) (6 at mid-board, 6 at back panel, black)
Disposal: Sold on EBay for $25
|CPU||AMD Athlon II X4 630 2.8GHz Quad-Core (original CPU)
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz Black Edition Hex-Core (upgrade CPU)
Disposal: Sold on EBay: Phenom $81, Athlon $45
|RAM||4GB Kit 2 X Kingston 2GB PC3-10600U DDR3 RAM (KVR1333D3N9K2/4G)
Disposal: Sold on EBay for $8.30
|HDD||Samsung HD103SJ (1000GB/7200rpm/32M)
Disposal: Too old so eventually recycled...
|Graphics Card||Galaxy NVidia GTX220 PCI-E 1GB DDR2 128bit
Disposal: No market for this so recycled
And that is the build, a build which is currently almost comletely dispersed either to a new home or recycled. When I looked at this build and its current almost complete lack of any monetary worth I have resolved to break up older computer builds much, much sooner than the 8 years seen with this build. A better target would be an absolute maximum of 5 years before replacement and this is what I will be aiming for with my upcoming Threadripper system. Another strategy will be to keep the original boxes, manuals and extra cables etc which seems to guarantee a better second hand sale. Much to learn from this experience still.
I have learnt a massive amount about building computers from this very modest beginning and this particular build served me, and my wife, well for many, many years. It ran Windows 7 perfectly and also had no issues running Slackware Linux with either Fluxbox (my usual desktop) or a full KDE setup. What it faltered on was most of my work with video and audio transcoding particularly when the new kids on the block: hevc and libaom were being used. Also a weak point was compiling major applications such as vlc, FFmpeg, LibreOffice as well as being pretty poor with building and rebuilding the Linux Kernel. Full screen movie playback was also particularly poor.
I had obviously outgrown this system a while back and that is why this build was pulled apart and sold off: to partly fund a new Threadripper system. (And indeed when this Threadripper build is place a similar fate awaits my other, working build which is an AMD FX 8370 system with substantially less limitations than the build on this page.) However despite my many errors and shortcomings when building this system I think that at the very least it provided a good, solid start to a more hands on experience with the world of computers.
It has been immensely educational to revisit this old system and then write up my findings. Certainly one of the big lessons comes when old technology is sold and seen by many to be of such small monetary value! It would be good to hear from others who have perhaps taken the time to revisit their own faltering, early efforts in building computers! Certainly it would make me feel a little happier at seeing my own early errors and shortcomings...
Please feel free to contact me with any errors of fact that you have found on this page, any errors of opinion will probably remain uncorrected. In the meantime I am having a great time mucking around with computer hardware, what about you?