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Building the Perfect Beast (Part Five) (1 Viewer)


WF Veterans
Why do folks like me set themselves up for all this frustration? I don’t know. I do know that the job isn’t done until it is up to specs. Everyone sets their standards, I set mine a little higher than most.

I spent a lot on my new computer, recently built and chugging along. But through Microsoft’s shady steering and quasi hostage taking, I was forced to upgrade my operating system. Anyone who has built PCs, or even upgraded in any way, knows Microsoft’s track record with releasing buggy software then “fixing” it later. Hence, my desire to initially stay with Windows 7.

But I now needed to upgrade to “optimize my experience” (as the hacks for the Evil Empire would say). Y’know, so I could actually use all the features of my recently purchased hardware.

I remember when earlier versions of Windows cost hundreds of dollars. A few years ago, Windows 10 upgrades were being “given away”. What happened? Well, it turns out that your user habits are valuable information that can be monetized. Whoever has that information can sell it. Do you have that information, and do you get paid for it? No, and no. Microsoft and it’s affiliates do.

Microsoft likes to call it “telemetry”, to track your user habits and better tailor your OS to fit your needs. In the old days, we used to just call it spyware. In the drug pusher business, they like to say, “First one is free”. Maybe like that joke that there is no such thing as a free puppy? Regardless, Win 10 has problems, but I have to use Windows 10. I’ll fix their mess later.

There is this dodge that if you buy a copy of Windows as a “system builder”, you can get a copy at a significant discount. I did. $25 bucks on eBay, with the COA and product key. Full copy of Win 10 Pro on CD.
Yes, I saved a ton of money (retail for my disk is $130), but there is no such thing as a free lunch. After installing, I found out that my disk was from 2015. Four years old. It needed to do a TON of updates. I had to uninstall and reinstall a few drivers. PITA. But, in the end, it worked.

For my hot-running CPU, I only briefly considered replacing my current heatsink / fan with a similar, upgraded model. The only way to increase thermal effectiveness is with bigger radiator fins and / or a bigger fan. Of course, all this heat is being radiated into the case, which is stupid. AND, the bigger the cooler, the more it interferes with the case air flow (making everything else hotter).

I used a liquid cooler in my previous system. I had just heard good things about the stock AMD cooler that came with my CPU that I thought “upgrading” was not needed. Well, time to grab my credit card and stop being a cheapskate. Water coolers almost always are superior. They don’t “leak all over the place”, they’re a closed-loop, reliable, easy-to-install solution. I should have just gone that route from the start.
The unit I purchased set me back about $90. It was a middle-grade product from Corsair. There are similar products from companies like Cooler Master that only run $55. You can also buy upgraded models with huge radiators for $150 on up. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

My unit had the standard “cold plate” (thermal transfer pad), medium radiator and two fans to cool the radiator. It did increase the overall noise of my set up. The fans tend to ramp-up, and oscillate when it detects extra cooling is needed. A little irritating. But worth it. I had to re-position my rear case fan to vent out of the top (which is thermally better anyway). Simple 90 degree rotation.
My CPU temps dropped about 7c at idle, and 10c under stress. Not huge drops, but enough to make me a lot more comfortable. And the motherboard temp dropped a couple of degrees, too.

I mentioned “under stress”. I recommend downloading some kind of benchmarking program to test any system you build. You have to have solid numbers that relate to performance. Otherwise, it’s just cool lights, buzzing and guessing on your part.

A company called Cinebench has a free program you can download that tests your system’s overall performance. It’s accurate and adequate for most users. However, I’ve been using a product called 3DMark. It’s geared more toward gamers, and 3D graphics performance. They used to be free, but now the company charges $25. For a geek like me, it’s a worthwhile expense.

For most of y’all, you need a benchmark to see first if your system is performing well. Then, if it is not, look at the numbers and figure out what is dragging it down. For example, I mentioned dual channel memory. If you put the sticks in the wrong slots, your 8 gigabytes of memory will only be working like 4 gigs. Figure out what’s wrong (or not optimal), and make it right.

My benchmarking was primarily an exercise in avarice. I needed to see how my system ranked compared to other geek builders. My first run showed that I ranked just below average. Disappointing? Not really. Everyone that uses this utility is an enthusiast that paid for it. But I tweaked my system, including overclocking my CPU and video card, and I was soon at the 52% rank. Not bad at all considering what I spent, and that most others spent a lot more.

And I know they spent more. 3DMark shows the specific hardware configurations. Most every system with a higher score had parts that were hundreds of dollars more, for a marginal performance gain. I chuckled when I saw some of those system scores with $800 video cards, barely beating mine. Some were actually lower. Earlier, I mentioned making sure that your CPU, memory, mobo and video card were all in sync? Not everyone got that memo.
You wanna be on the top of that board, be ready to spend 10 to 20 thousand dollars on your rig. Not me, brah.

But, my system was running cool, stable and performing very well.
Mission accomplished (?) Just one more thing…

Now that I’m using my computer, without a care in the world, Microsoft is tracking my data. Maybe selling it later? Or just storing it so it can be hacked some day by a third party. Maybe you don’t value your privacy much. I find it not acceptable.

These jerks have made it very difficult to turn off most of these spying features. The controls are hidden all over your OS. And, if you don’t disable them properly, Windows actually turns them back on. I kid you not.
If you have a lot of time, patience and luck, you can probably do the research and turn off most of the telemetry yourself. I know when to call in re-enforcements. I found a product called O&O Shut Up 10. It has an easy-to-use interface that lets you choose which of the dozens of invasive policies that you’d like to disable. It also recommends which are less onerous, giving you options (ya hear that Microsoft? OPTIONS?! Freedom? Eh, pearls to swine). Oh, and Shut Up 10 is free. Just don’t be a putz and disable your antivirus or auto-updates by mistake.

Well, that was a long, strange trip. But it’s not quite over. I still had to throw-together my son’s “gaming rig” from leftover / secondary parts. His PC was 6 years old, and it won’t be herculean to improve on that thing’s performance. And how will my new computer work under day-to-day demands?

This, and more, in the next installment.


WF Veterans

I never got back to how my son's system went together, and how my newly assembled system is running.

My tower is running fine. Pretty much flawless (knock on wood). The latest software and firmware run the system so efficiently, I don't even tweak it any longer. The auto-cooling does cycle annoyingly high from time to time, but I'm often playing my music so loud I don't hear it. 100% stable, running within parameters, and it will run anything I throw at it. Might need it's first upgrade in 2 to 3 years.

My son's Frankenbox does just what it needs to. Handles the games he likes (Subnautica, Stormworks and Kerbal Space Program), and could probably run higher-end stuff okay. One case-cooling fan is a bit loose, and I can hear it vibrate. I told him it's his now, and he can fix it (all he has to do is tighten a damn screw). He'll need to upgrade from the Windows 7 I loaded soon, and get a better graphics card in a year or two. But, he has a job now, so that's on him.

The cool thing is, once again I demonstrated to him how thrift, efficiency and a bit of work gets results. He could buy a new gaming computer in a couple years for $1,000. Or, upgrade this one for 1/4 the price. I'm pretty sure which way he'll go.

Oh, and pics:
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The Fox
Senior Member
Reading your writing always feels like being part of an open conversation. Refreshing. It's what I aim for in my own writing.

My PC is also six years old. Had a friend of mine from our apartment complex come over and help me take out the top graphics card. It was going bad and causing my monitors to lose signal. Being in university, the only game I still play on it is Rocket League; school and work is what's keeping me from getting a new rig. I wouldn't have the time to make much use of it, so I haven't bothered.

Like Kerbal Space Program and Subnautica, Rocket League isn't *that* demanding of a game either. I'll probably have to get a new rig at some point in the next couple years (especially since I'm still on the recently discontinued Windows 7) but if I do, it's just going to be middle-of-the-road.

Lastly, you do a good job of being detailed, without making the subject matter inaccessible to the layman.

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