First Build [of the year, to commission]

2 minute read

So, I decided to pick a doozy of a time to get into building PCs for other people. Stock shortages, constant new generations of tech, deceptive benchmarks, scalpers, all the things that make parts procurement difficult.

An understated PC in a black case

Honestly this was part of what made the early stages of this commission difficult, and interesting to learn from; having to present pragmatic options to a client that had as much time pressure as performance requirements made for an interesting experience. No solution is likely ideal but this was a definite case of “A good choice now is better than the perfect choice eventually.” With this in mind we eventually, after a few rounds of revision, settled on a balanced build in a slightly expanded budget and the process of hunting for GPUs in stock began. Along the way I learnt a fair bit about the process this’ll be taking and some tooling, also that LawDepot will never stop emailing you if you dare make an account, and will barely stop when you cancel it. Overall it was nice to be going through this with someone happy to play along with the process and give feedback on it.

Final note before the build itself, I’ve no real notes on how to best acquire hardware right now, it’s all a bit hit and miss and I didn’t do anything super fancy like set up webscraping bots, though I am keeping this in mind for future builds.

A collection of PC parts: a Corsair TX750M power supply, a Ryzen 5 3600, an ASUS TUF B550 motherboard, an ASUS TUF 5600XT GPU, some Corsair RAM, a HDD and a 970 EVO, below these is a Meshify C from Fractal Design

Parts were quite nice to work with once acquired, stock coolers for Ryzen are stong but the fact they don’t clip onto the premounted mounting system for AM4 was the most minor of inconveniences, though I’ll say semi-modular power supplies are almost nice compared to pure modular ones.

The motherboard with CPU, cooler, and GPU wired into the PSU while sitting on the box with a keyboard plugged in

Using the motherboard box as a “testbench”, initial installation of the core components was fine, though testing it and throwing the OS on revealed some optimisation points in the ergonomics of my set up.

A view over the PSU of the huge distance across the room to the connected screen

Yeah. I intend to work on that in future, my sight is good but it’s still not an ideal distance to be setting up BIOS at, especially with that being a 1440p monitor. One thing that did turn up during final testing was a brief mystery around the SATA HDD not showing up. This was until I remembered the way that, at least ASUS, motherboards handle PCIe lane assignment and worked out I’d plugged into SATA 5 not SATA 1 as I’d thought.

Okay, how I thought 5 was 1 is not something I’ll even try to defend, but the PCIe lanes is interesting, basically the boards support either multiple high speed M.2 interfaces and 2 SATA ports, or a full set of 6 SATA ports, and you just jump things differently to configure this. Now with only one hard drive and an M.2 SSD we’re obviously going to want the former configuration… but that just means plugging into the right port. Easier said that done when the GPU was already in place.

So, a lot learnt, mostly on my process, both before and during the build and refreshed my mind on the little foibles and bugbears of building a PC nearly a year after my last major project, but mostly this was a by the numbers sort of a build in the end. The next build blog will likely be the Pantheon overhaul unless I get another commission in the meanwhile and expect a lot more hijinks and weirdness from that as a third system joins the family.