Geeks With Blogs
ICaramba Miguel Castro's blog about .NET and its effect on National Security, the Eco-system, and his daughter's sleeping patterns.


Click here for part 1part 3, part 4, part 5

OK, so you probably read the horror story with the online PC builder.  I figured by now you want to see the happy ending (don't get any ideas).  After my refunds were processed by the PC builder from Hell, I set out to build my own rig from scratch.  Coincidentally, my friend Eric Harrison turned me on to an issue of Maximum PC which has just hit the shelves.  It described in detail a project that Maximum PC seems to undergo on a yearly basis called, Dream Machine.  In this issue, they described their Dream Machine '07 so it seemed to give me a place to start and also a list of components that seemed to work well together.  Well, to make a long story short, I built my own version of the Maximum PC Dream Machine '07.  I say my own version because some of the components I purchased varied a bit but those decisions weren't made without extensive research and long IM conversations with my friend, Richard Campbell.  I started buying components little by little instead of all at once.  There was a perfectly logical reason for this and it paid out.  The case I wanted - badly - was indeed the one used in the Maximum PC '07; it was the CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000.  However, this case was not scheduled to arrive in the states until Sept. 1st.  For this reason, I held out in buying the components that were most likely to decrease in price as time went by; these were the CPU, video cards, and RAM.  I decided to go with a slightly lesser CPU than the magazine rig did and also than the one I originally ordered from the online builder back in the months of hell.

Originally I spec'd out my rig with the online builder with an Intel QX6800 which was a 2.93 Extreme Quad-Core Processor.  At the time I was ready to build my new rig, this processor went for about a grand, but the QX6700 which operated at 2.66ghz went for just over 500 bucks.  After researching a bit, I discovered that the QX6800 is simply a factory over-clocked QX6700.  The X signifies an unlocked multiplier and the QX6700 had its multiplier set at 10, while the QX6800 had its multiplier set at 11.  The speed of the FSB was identical.  For this reason, I went with the lesser CPU and had my sights on some serious over-clocking.  Because of this I also made the decision to water cool.  This had me nervous at first but extensive conversations with Richard made me fee a little better.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I still was nervous as all hell, but no guts no glory.  I went with all same water cooling equipment that Maximum PC did with their rig.

The other differences in our rigs were at the video card, RAM, and hard drive levels.  Maximum PC went with the NVidia 8800GTX Ultras while I went with a couple of NVidia 8800GTS cards, each with 640 meg of RAM.  I did this primarily for the price difference; using Richard's formula of "shoot for 85% of maximum available speed for 50% of price and avoid 75% stupidity".  Another difference with my rig is in the RAM.  Maximum PC went with the Corsair Dominator PC1000 and only 2gig, while I went with Corsair XMS2 PC6400 but with 8gig.  I preferred the larger amount of RAM for better futurization and at a fraction of the cost.  Their RAM is priced at around $600 for 2 gig, while mine was about $370 for 4 gig.  The hard drive specs in our two rigs is also a bit differently.  They stuck 4 Hitachi 1TB drives into their rig, the first two running in a RAID 0 configuration and other two individually.  I went with four drives as well but two of them (the system drives) are Raptor 10K RPM drives running in a RAID 1 configuration (mirroring).  My other two drives are Hitachi 1TB drives also running in a RAID 1 configuration.  I also went with a couple of lightscribe-capable DVD ROM burners while they went with a Blue-Ray/HD-DVD combo drive that runs over a grand (mine were 40 bucks each).  I used the same motherboard that Maximum PC used after researching it a bit and seeing that it really is one of the highest rated motherboards in the 775 socket family - I'm talking about the EVGA n680i A1 Motherboard.

The rest of this article describes the equipment in detail and the building process for your education and entertainment.  I will tell you right now in case you're wondering - I loved building it and I'll always totally build my own rigs for now on till the end of time.

Building the SuperRig

The coolest case ever

Since I mentioned earlier that I waited until the case I wanted was available in the states, I'll start there.  If you're wondering whether any case is worth putting off the reset of your machines, you have not checked this case out.  It's the CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000 and it's awesome.  It is a large case, make no mistake about that.  But let me tell you, after bleeding from hands just to swap memory, you learn a whole new appreciation for a case that has tons of working room in it.  As you can see from the picture on the right, it has real purdy handles on top and bottom.  These are not only great for carrying it (it is heavy), but keep it lifted off the floor a couple of inches.  The top grill is the fan vents for the three exhaust fans on top.  I removed these but more on that later.  The case has a beautiful steel finish with a gloss black front door than can be changed to open in either direction.  Both sides of the case come off with one lever in the back.  I love this thing so much, I bought a second one and gutted my secondary workstation to put into this case.  That workstation is currently a P4/AGP rig but it also undergoing a rebuild - albeit a lesser one as it will end up being a dual-core, single video card rig.

The back of this case shows you that the power supply goes at the bottom.  This is cooler than you might think.  There is no worry about the weight of the power supply and makes for a cleaner case.  You'll also note that there is a rear exhaust fan as well.  Don't let all these fans scare you.  The inside of the case's sides have sound proof foam pre-installed and it makes this thing very quiet.  See those two holes at the top?  That's right - it's pre-drilled for water cooling, though I didn't use these.  Believe it or not, I kept ALL the water cooling equipment inside the case.

See how nice the sides are?  Very clean stainless-steel finish - I know, I sound like a friggin commercial.  The inside is absolutely awesome.  That center piece is a removable wind tunnel for the video card but my configuration called for removing it.  The 5 drive bays have this click-in technology where you literally just slip the DVD drive in and click it into place.  The bottom right contains the 6 drive bays, of which I used 4.  They are removable bays which allow you to secure the drive in place then simply slip each back in.  Just to the left of the drive bays is the intake fan.  The case has two fan filters underneath that very easily slide out for cleaning.  The intake fan is nice and large but in my case it did not stay there.  This is where it starts getting cool - no pun intended.  I used that area (as pictures will later show) for my water cooling pump.  This is the same configuration used by the folks at Maximum PC but they simply eliminated the fan.  I used it elsewhere.  See, this case is missing an active cooling solution for the hard drives, but not mine.

Hard Drives

As you can see here, I removed the drive bays and I said earlier, I only used 4; the top three and the left most bottom one.  Then I used the space left by the two right most bottom drive bays and slipped the fan into it.  I even managed to place a screw into it to hold it down.  Now, not only did the fan not go to waste, it's actively cooling the drive bay area.

Of course, in order to maintain active air intake and hard drive air cooling, I am limiting myself to four hard drives, but I really don't think I'll be needing more for this rig due to the drives I am using.  I chose two separate RAID 1 arrays, giving me the fault tolerance which allows me to sleep good at night.  My first array is the boot/application array and consists of two Western Digital Raptor 10,000 RPM drives, each 148gig in size.  These drives really were meant for this purpose, and not data storage since their size is a bit more limited.  The RAID 1 mirroring configuration allows any one drive to fail and not cause an interruption.  Of course, upon replacement of the faulty drive, a re-mirroring commences automatically.  With my system currently configured the way I want (more about that later), I have 50 gig free in this array.  If the situation ever arises where I would need more space in my system array but want to maintain the speed of the 10K RPM drives, I can always configure a RAID 0+1 array where a set of two RAID 0 arrays can give me 300 gig of space and mirror each other in a RAID 1 configuration, but of course I would lose the ability to have the fan in the space where the last two drives would go.  y second RAID 1 array in my current setup is my data array and consists of two Hitachi 1 TB (yes, that means terabyte) drives.  The density of these drives make then very fast, actually coming pretty close to the Raptors.  These drives also have a 32meg cache, as opposed to the standard 16meg cache typically found on drives of lesser size.

The drives easily screw into each of their bays and the bays just slip back in. This was a great design on the part of CoolerMaster.  It allows you to prep the drives externally but more importantly, the removal and insertion of the drives casings does in no way interfere with any other case components.  This is more I can say about many cases where the drives also slip out but sideways, forcing you to remove cards just to install or replace hard drives.

The second picture here is already hinting that I went the liquid route when it came to cooling this rig so I guess I can start talking about the now.     

Click here for part 1part 3, part 4, part 5

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 3:13 AM | Back to top

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