Building a Threadripper system...
For some time I have been feeling limited by my existing computer system and I have finally gathered the considerable amount of money required to fund a new system based on the second generation Threadripper CPUs. This system was eventually built in June 2019 and I have written up the build process on this page as both a reminder to myself of the process that I went through to accomplish my goal and hopefully also to produce a document that will be useful to other amateur computer builders. I have enjoyed the entire process immensely and I am now profiting from the amazing power of an almost leading edge consumer computer system from mid 2019. And it looks like 3rd generation Threadripper may not be coming out in 2019 after all so this makes my build especially sweet!
Selecting the components...
It is always a mistake to look for too much advice about building a new system as you will invariably get contradictory advice. So my strategy has been to follow advice from a couple of experts who have genuinely gained my respect and then more importantly to form my own opinions and then act on these opinions with conviction. This process allowed the creation and purchase of the following component list. These purchases were funded both by savings over quite some time as well as the sale of older computer equipment on EBay:
- CPU: The heart of this build is the Threadripper 2950X. The 2970WX and 2990WX are just too expensive and I did not have the patience to see what will happen with prices when 3rd generation Threadripper eventually hits the market. The 2950X is a 16 core, 32 thread processor which means compiling large applications such as libreoffice, testing vlc-git builds, building kernels, and experimentation with transcoding using new video codecs will become very, very easy. Linux is a great OS for Threadripper and with Slackware -current I have the most modern kernel that should run nicely with a still fairly recent CPU.
- Motherboard: The 2950X is allied with an MSI - MEG X399 Creation eATX TR4 Motherboard. This is an epic motherboard that I have seen used online by builders that I trust and it comes with almost limitless possibilities for future expansion. My definitive choice came when I noted that it was this board that was sent to early reviewers of the Threadripper series by AMD, and if it was good enough for AMD it is certainly good enough for me! A special bonus with this board is a software / hardware 11 gradation switch for overclocking which I am keen to experment with as a complete novice overclocker...
- Cooler: Cooling Threadripper has set the Internet afire with disputation for some time and eventually I made my own choice which is to use a Corsair - H150i PRO 47.3 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler. This is a 360mm rad with a smaller head which will not completely cover the TR4 socket but I am prepared to live with this as full coverage coolers all still have so many issues in 2019. (And yes I am pointing my finger fair and square at the Enermax Liquitech TR4 cooler! And more recently also pointing a finger at the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360 RGB which is built for TR4 and has noisy fans and a very breakable plastic connection...) This is my first time with an AIO cooler but I had no great problems with the installation.
- Case: This is a Corsair - Obsidian Series 500D ATX Mid Tower Case. Although not rated for an EATX motherboard I have seen it fit such a board and it looks like a good, solid, no nonsense case. Importantly as well I have seen that my 360mm radiator fits quite nicely into this case. So an easy choice for me...
- RAM: I am not a fan of RGB or inflated RAM prices so I have actually already bought 2 kits of CORSAIR Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 3000 (PC4 24000) Memory Kit Model CMK16GX4M2B3000C15 for a total of 32GB RAM. I am used to working with 16GB and the extra 16GB is to enable me to rekindle my work on Virtual Machines and even allow me to extend this work. 3200 speed RAM in mid 2019 is still a little high in price and as for 3600!!.
- SSD: I have built with the last mechanical drive I will ever use and the plan for this build is to use a single 2TB SSD drive. Specifically the Crucial - MX500 2 TB 2.5" Solid State Drive and it is good to see that these drives have now reached an almost reasonable price! There is still a great deal of FUD concerning the life of these drives but consider that this particular drive has a TBW (Terabytes Written) company spec of 700TB. So if I write 20GB per day (this may average out over the year!) I will have total write of 7,300GB per year, or 7.3TB roughly. So potentially a 90 year life for the drive, I suspect that my 5 year plan of using this system should be safe enough. If prices come down over the next 2 years or so I may even invest in another but I will wait and see how my disk usage pans out first.
- Power Supply: Never again will I wrestle the octopus of a non modular power supply into a case and this PSU is a Corsair - RMx 1000 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply. Should be enough power for my needs and FWIW the Gold Rating is nice. For the first time I will be experimenting with overclocking so a biggest power supply (and a big cooler) should be an asset.
- Graphics Card: I play some games but my life does not revolve around gaming. on the other hand however I would like to work further with hardware GPU encoding using FFmpeg. With both of these thoughts in mind I have purchased an MSI - GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6 GB GAMING X Video Card. I could probably get away with a non Ti card but what the heck!
- Monitor: My existing monitor has been looking a little tired for a while now and I was keen to replace it to at least match the new GPU. I have limited space available so the biggest I can probably fit here will be a 24" monitor. Best appears to be an LG - 24UD58-B 23.8" 3840x2160 60 Hz Monitor and this is the quite stylish looking monitor that I have purchased.
It was an exciting time to be even planning such a build and I am confident that the completed build will easily cater for my computing needs of the next 4-5 years. And then the plan will be to ruthlessly sell it off and start the process again. So June 2024 there will be an old Threadripper CPU for sale on EBay!
Assembling the Threadripper build...
There is little point in me writing up great details of my own build process as both part selection and build technique have been borrowed heavily from a great YouTube clip. Have a look there to see a real professional at work! However I will add a few notes of interest here where I encountered difficulties or made a few changes:
- Thermal paste: I removed the thermal paste that came with the Corsair AIO and applied my own Artic Silver Thermal Compound. After a great deal of thought I applied a larger than normal blob right on the 'Z' of Ryzen. Too much debate on thermal compound online but I have made what I believe is a well considered decision and I will replace this paste in 12 months time.
- AIO Athleticism: A small grumble at Corsair which I can see mirrored on a few forums, it requires some considerable work to get the Corsair logo on the radiator head upright when the radiator is mounted at the front of the case. Thanks goodness there is the ability to swivel the hoses near the radiator head but design could be improved here for sure. Also I could have missed it but where are the arrows that indicate fan air flow direction for the rookie builder?
- AIO Connections: There is some controversy as to where the pump and fan connections to the motherboard should actually go. I decided to follow the Corsair manual and I have plugged the radiator head connector into the motherboard CPU fan connection and the radiator fans directly to the shrouded connectors coming off the radiator head. The other choice would be to connect the radiator head connector to the dedicated Pump motherboard connection and the radiator fans directly to the motherboard. I will watch this one but I suspect it actually makes little to no difference.
- Xpander-Aero M.2 PCIe card: So more of a slight note of bewilderment than an actual issue that I have encountered during this build. This being the bundling of a very nice M.2 drive extension PCI card with the motherboard. Drive possibilities with the Corsair 500D and the MSI - MEG X399 Creation combination are already 2 mechanical SATA HDDs, 3 SSD drives and 5 M.2 drives. Enough for my needs so I have this nice PCI card still wrapped in plastic and wondering what I will do with it? (Mind you it looks like installation of this card requires access to a PCI power connector at the base of the motherboard which is actually blocked by the PSU shroud in the Corsair 500D.) I would have been happier with a couple of tubes of grizzly thermal paste...
- Stupid things I did... Since I took my time with this build there were really only two stupid things that I did, both of which I can now laugh at. Firstly I have never installed an SSD and I will not confess the amount of time I spent trying to mount the SSD inside the nice mounting device on the back of the motherboard until I finally realised that it actually goes on the outside! The next gem was me getting prepared to return the monitor as DOA until I realised that there was an on / off toggle switch craftily concealed at the base of the monitor. Luckily only 2 stupid things on an otherwise fairly straightforward build.
Apart from the small quibbles above the Threadripper build went very well with a first time successful POST and boot to BIOS. The only alteration I made initially to the BIOS was to load an XMP Profile to get the maximum RAM speed rather than the 2100 speed that came out of the box. Happy to turn that off if there is any instability but I should be right having purchased decent RAM and a more than decent Motherboard. Installation of Slackware -current was also relatively pain free although it took a little while to achieve a non-UEFI installation from USB. To return my Slackware installation to its full strength tends to take a week or two of tinkering.
I will not formally benchmark this build as others with more wisdom than me have already done this with similar builds. The general result has always been: Threadripper builds are fast! The build achieved successful POST on June 8th 2019 so I will spend the next few weeks assembling some sample compile times of 'heavy' applications such as QT5 and Wine as well as some test video encodes using FFmpeg and 'standard' easily downloadable media files. It will also be interesting to look at the cooling capacity of the 360 AIO during all of this. More fun to come by the look of it!
So finally the end of this build process, a process that was carefully planned for over a 6 month period. Some of the joy in the process has been the need to save a substantial amount of money and in this process I rationalised the computer equipment I have and I now have a clearer vision of what I actually need. Goodbye to all optical drives, goodbye to the 'spare parts' cupboard, goodbye to abcde, goodbye to a lot of areas of computing that were formerly my passion and welcome to a more exact focus on what I want to accomplish now in the computer world. And now to get started on exactly that!
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?