From OEM to Self Made PC

Index


Preface

Basically you sell or donate your PC when you buy a new one, but in case it was different. I replaced more and more components over time until it was a complete “new” and my final last PC. It is normal that geeks or gamers changing PC components from time to time but I thought I write an article about it how a OEM PC changed from 2005 to 2012 a very individual PC.

Back then I decided to not buy a OEM PC anymore due to the lack of upgradebility. Mostly the OEM Mainboards cropped at the RAM slots and doesn’t have such a functionality like retail Mainboards. The electrolytic capacitors on the Mainboard are more standard or sometimes also weaker. So at special circumstances the Mainboard last as long as a retail Board. Additionally the cooling FANs are pretty standard and relatively loud. And so on.

The most known OEM manufacturers using good OEM power supplys of FSP or HEC but some also of Seasonic (at least in Germany or Europe).

So far so good. 🙂 2005 I had the opportunity to got a PC for a reasonable price over my father that at this Time still worked at SIEMENS. SIEMENS has a shop special for employees named “Für uns” (For us) were they can get SIEMENS devices of a lower price than “normal people”. That PC wasn’t a rocket but was able to play my games that time a bit smoother.

This was the initial setup 2005 for 500 EUR:

And here’s the look of the PC these days:

Unfortunately I have no photos of the interior because I started photo shooting much later.

Please note: I don’t took for every component upgrade a photo. I will some times show a photo of the final upgrade result.


1. Upgrade

Sound Card

First step was it to upgrade to a discrete sound card because the on board sound codec is boring standard and doesn’t satisfy me as an audiophile person. The reason is that most of the Realtek on board sound chip solutions doesn’t use high quality digital-analoge converters and also cheap filter capacitors. In result you can hear the so called ripple voltage that is produced by surrounding magnet fields of the other components. It’s that buzzing sound when you wear headphones or turn up the volume very loud on your speakers and e.g. moving the mouse.

Only (retail) Mainboards in the higher price segment use much better on board Realtek sound solutions. But they can’t really beat discrete sound cards.

Because I wanted more than standard sound I took over my Creative Sound Blaster Live! 1024 Player of my old PC. To enjoy 5.1 surround sound I bought short after 5.1 headphones of Trust. But then I figured out that the SB Live! 1024 Player can only stereo. Badly researched! That’s why I had additionally bought a Creative SoundBlaster Live! 5.1 LS.

CPU Cooler

I have always been a noise-sensitive person. From my first self made PC that I made with 13. years I automatically give thoughts about the noise level of my PCs. In the 2000’s nobody gave thoughts about silent PCs and there were also no special silent components. There was only the option to tweak the FANs by tinkering a resistor to the power wire.

Like in the year 2000 the noise level of the PC bothered me because it was just a standard 80mm FAN of the EKL boxed cooler and run at high RPM. The heat sink was made of Aluminium with a copper core. On this PC I was able to tweak the FAN speed in BIOS but even at 25% speed it wasn’t quiet. In the latest PC Games Hardware magazine these days I read an test of the Thermaltake Silent Boost K8. This cooler was quiet and cooled the CPU effectively. So I bought this cooler and PC was finally quiet at the CPU.

Graphics Card Cooler

At delivery there was very weak VGA/chipset cooler with a 40mm axial fan built into the heatsink (for example). To perform a sufficient cooling the fan had to be run at very high RPM, so it produces also a high noise level. The other side is that these coolers also have a very weak bearing and because it’s hang upside down the bearing break very fast also due to the fast speed.

At first I tried a custom cooling solution made of a ZALMAN ZM-NB47J Northbridge Heatsink and a  PAPST 412 F/2H 40mm fan. The cooling power maybe has been enough but the look wasn’t that good. That’s why I swapped it at the end with a Zalman VF700-CU VGA cooler that also had VRAM heatsinks packet within. I also tried some other coolers like the Cooler Master Cool Viva and Arctic Cooling ATi Silencer 2 Rev. 2, but these doesn’t fit due to blocking capacitors.

DVD Burner

The ex factory delivered LG GWA-4160B DVD Burner produces some issue at reading of some special DVDs and Audio CDs. Also the burning quality wasn’t the best ether anymore. So I bought a new one, the SAMSUNG SH-W162C DVD±RW that was on the 1st ranking in the PC-Welt magazine these days.

RAM

In 2005/2006 512 MB weren’t particulately enough for some games and because Gothic 3 was bet at the ready and known as a pretty performance eater, I upgraded up to 1 GB in proactive manner. Without hesitation I bought a »PNY 1-GB DDR1-400 PC3200 RAM kit« with two 512 MB sticks. I was skeptical about the me unknown brand PNY but got good results at play.

Mainboard

Same issue here like at the graphics card. Due to the broken ball bearing I had to change the chipset cooler. Firstly I tried a pure passive cooling solution with a Zalman ZM-NB47-J cooler, but got worries about overheating and upgraded after short time to the »ichbinleise nForce4« chipset cooler. Times later I figured out that my worries were unfounded.


2. Upgrade

The second hardware upgrade was made exclusively because of the eagerly awaited Gothic 3 by Piranha Bytes.

Processor

Because Gothic 3 profits of dual core CPUs I decided to buy an AMD Athlon64 X2 3800+ (Manchester) processor with 2 cores @ 2 GHz. In doing so, I kept very much to the performance index or buying guide of my favourite magazine at the time, Gamestar.

Graphics Card

Also the »PCPartner Radeon X600 Pro« had to make way for a new graphics card because it got to its performance limit. Here I chose the Sapphire Radeon X1900GT 256MB Dual-DVI ViVo. Gothic 3 had run with the X600 Pro too but only at minimal details and not that smooth. Additionally the X600 hadn’t support Shader 3.0 that I needed for other games. The X1900GT hadn’t get high framerates in Gothic 3 too but a better quality and a slightly smoother gameplay at mid details. But the bad performance of the game wasn’t of the graphics card, it was a generally problem due to a bad optimization by Piranha Bytes. Therefor the X1900GT shines in other games.

Power Supply

New processor and graphics card fine and dandy but what about the power consumption and delivery? It brought me some worries. Maybe the ex factory 350 watts PSU wasn’t powerful enough. It was indeed very close because by a PSU calculation the PSU had to deliver min. 279 watts – 329 watts were recommended. After a bit of research my choice was a be Quiet! BQT P6 Dark Power Pro with 430 watts (that I still own and refurbished). It offered enough power, still had reserves left upwards, was very quiet and had modular cable management.

I still got this PSU and refurbished it with new capacitors. This model was known for its leaking caps and following defects. And indeed there was 1 leaking cap and 1-2 swelled.

Mainboard

To increase upgradability I swapped the mainboard. But due to a small budget and good performance I bought the same mainboard again but of a different revision. My ex factory ASUS A8NE-FM/s was revision 1.01 and the new one was 2.00. There are two differences: Revision 2.0 had 4 RAM slot instead of only 2 and a passively cooled chipset. That’s why I said my worries were later unfounded. 🙂

RAM

Some day you become addicted to “RAM madness” because 1 GB were not enough for me some day. So I bought curtly 2 »Crucial Ballistix BL2KIT6464Z402 DDR1-400 PC3200« RAM kits 2x 512 MB each kit (2 GB in summary). Now all RAM slots were assigned. 🙂


3. Upgrade

I wasn’t really satisfied for the longer term. I spend enough money and thought about to buy a bigger TFT monitor. But I had a bad feeling of that. Suddenly I got the idea to buy again a new graphics card and processor. Splendid Idea!

Processor

I make always sure the I chose the “perfect” combination of CPU and GPU (graphics card) so none of both thwart each other. These days the AMD Athlon64 X2 4200+ (Toledo) with 2 cores @ 2.2 GHz seemed a good choice for the following GPU.

Graphics Card

Out with the X1900GT and in with the HIS Radeon X1950 Pro IceQ3 Turbo 512MB Dual-DVI TV-Out.

A picture below.

CPU Cooler

My new CPU was still cooled by the old »Thermaltake Silent Boost K8« for a while that kept the CPU on a max. temp of ~65°C, what was too high. 5°C more and the PC were shut off by itself. For that reason I had to buy a new CPU cooler and chose the ZALMAN CNPS9700-LED. Not really a bargain but very efficient that time – also at low fan speed. The ZALMAN cooled the CPU in idle at ~37°C.

Case

Actually I wanted to mod the Fujitsu-Siemens case with a window kit and insulation mats. Due to the U-shape of the case cover I canceled that idea and bought a new case. Here the RaidMax Smilodon catched my eye. Really awesome case these days!

I also swapped the ex factory fans (1x transp. 80mm blue LED & 1x transp. 120mm blue LED) with quieter and more durable fans and add some more. In this case I choose two 80mm Coolink SWiF-801 Basic Super Silent, one 80mm SilenX Ixtrema Pro IXP-54-14B Blue-LED and one 120mm SilenX Ixtrema Pro IXP-74-14B Blue-LED. Both Coolink fans were connected to my PSU that controlled the fans automatically. Both SilenX fans were manually controlled by my Akasa AK-ALL-01BK AllInOne-Panel. They ran at lowest speed of 1300 rpm. Additionally I installed a blue neon tube of Sunbeam.


4. Upgrade

Case

No big upgrade. To minimize the noise level despite of a window, I installed some isolating mats. But I figured out that this don’t help because the noise travel through the window. As known Plexiglas is a bad noise isolator. 🙂

Sound Card

Because Windows Vista was at the ready and my old »Creative SoundBlaster Live! 5.1 LS« already produces issues in Windows XP after hibernation wake up, I bought after years a new sound card. Here I chose again a sound card of Creative the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Music.

Misc

To increase the USB connectivity I installed an additional USB 2.0 PCI card with a NEC chipset.


5. Upgrade

Mainboard

IT technology is advancing more and more. Computers getting always faster and games and programs needing more and more performance. For that reason I bought a complete new setup after 3 years. I always had good experience with ASUS until these days, so that’s why I bought a ASUS M3A48 Pro mainboard with AM2+ socket.

Processor

CPUs with 2 cores were standard these days, but I wanted more and took a 4 cores CPU – again of AMD. On the new mobo worked an AMD Phenom X4 9550 (Agena) with 4 cores @ 2.2 GHz from this time on.

RAM

There had to be also 2 GB of RAM again but this time not of Crucial but of Kingston. In this case Kingston HyperX Blu DDR2-800.

Graphics Card

As we all now the most new games needing more and more graphics performance. At this time Gothic 4 was at the ready. For that reason I bought also a new graphics card the HIS Radeon HD 4850 IceQ4 512MB. This card was not only sufficiently fast but also very energy-saving and affordable. The GPU cooler was the same like on the old card maybe it has proved to be successful.

Case

On this point I removed the isolation mats and installed a decoration foil in chequer plate style. To the blue light to come more into one’s own. The rest I assumed from the old one.


6. Upgrade

RAM

Did I already mention that games and programs are getting more and more hunger of more performant hardware? 🙂 RAM is a part of it. At these days 2 GB RAM were standard, 4 GB were optimum and 8 GB+ were luxus. So I upgraded up to 4 GB.


7. Upgrade

CPU Cooler

Somehow the ZALMAN was get to loud yet for me after time (max. 3.1 sone). That’s why I bought the EKL Alpenföhn Groß Clock’ner Blue Edition that cooled despite of a low noise level of max. 1.1 sone much better.

Processor

Parallel to the cooler swap I also swapped the CPU from the »AMD Phenom X4 9550« to the AMD Phenom II X4 945 (Deneb, AM3).

The first Phenom had a problem with the Cool’n’Quiet instructions that prevent the CPU to provide the needed performance fast enough after wake up from the lowest stepping. That occured performance issues in games and in some setup this bug occured also complete system freezes. With the Phenom II could AMD fix the problem.

But I still had a AM2+ mobo and couldn’t push the Phenom II to it’s limits. More about that later.

Drives

My SAMSUNG DVD burner made me some issues after time. The disc tray closes immediately after opening. That was occured by a broken tray sensor or switch. I bought again a drive of SAMSUNG that also showed that issue after a time – despite of a newer revision. Not really good for SAMSUNG.


8. Upgrade

I think you already know that issue with the growing hardware appetite. That’s why I bought a complete new setup after 2 years again. A new mainboard, CPU, RAM and graphics card – almost all.

Mainboard

Finally I bought a AM3 socket mainboard so I can take the »AMD Phenom II X4 945 (Deneb, AM3)« to its limits. My favourite specialist magazine PC-Games Hardware ranked the MSI 870A-G54 in best cost-benefit ratio, so I bought it. But no surprise. You got these days for 84 EUR 6x SATA-III (6GB/s), 2x USB 3.0, 2x PCI-Express 2.0 x16 (1x 16 and 1x 4 lanes), gigabit Ethernet and 7.1-channel sound codec. But last one is still banal standard and not used by me.

RAM

In the beginning of 2011 the RAM prices were that low I bought a 8 GB RAM kit of Muskin for 70 EUR.

Drives

Remember the second sucking SAMSUNG DVD burner mentioned above? I had enough of SAMSUNG drives and bought one of LiteON. Done its job very well! But one downer: CDBurnXP doesn’t want to support this burner so I had to change my burning program.

Hard Disk

With that big data today 500 GB disk space are to low. To store more data I treated my self an additional HDD with 500 GB of Samsung. As my existing Seagate Barracuda LP ST3500412AS which I had bought not too long ago and replaced for a »Seagate Barracuda ST3250410AS 250 GB«, the new Samsung EcoGreen SpinPoint F3 (HD503HI) is also an ECO HDD. That means that the platters spin with 23% lower (5600 rpm instead of 7200 rpm) and be quieter than regular ones.

Graphics Card

You can never get enough 3D acceleration power – mostly -, so I bought again a new graphics card. Besides my old AMD Radeon 4850 became an old grandpa and hadn’t enough power anymore in some games. I replaced grandpa Radeon 4850 with a youngster the Sapphire HD 6850 1-GB that runs 50% faster and ate just 13 watts more (127 instead of 114 watts).

Case

In the meantime I also replaced the rear 80mm and front 120mm SilenX Ixtrema Pro fan with respectively a »Sharkoon Silent Eagle Blue LED«.


9. Upgrade

Case

Some day I don’t was satisfied with my old RaidMax Smilodin case anymore. That fact that I had to open the front door every time to get access to my DVD burner and USB ports bothered me. The design of the case was very nice and extravagant but now I wanted something modest with a complete black interior. That’s why I bought the BitFenix Shinobi Window. Here I carried over the front 120mm Sharkoon Silent Eagle fan and additionally bought an 120mm AeroCool V12XT BlackLine Edition for the back side (also with blue LED).

Power Supply

To supply my following components with enough power, I upgraded my power supply from 430 watts to 580 watts. This one is again of beQuiet! and named Straight Power E8 CM (still working in 2022!).

RAM

Over time the Mushkin RAM screwed and caused Bluescreens. So I bought thank to the low RAM prices these days near the end of 2011 8-GB of Kingston of the HyperX Blu Edition line. At this time that RAM only costs 40 EUR! The Mushkin RAM I RMA’d and put it after in the PC of my mother.


10. Upgrade

RAM

The left 2 GB RAM of the PC of my mother I put in my PC. So I had 10 GB RAM in summary. The modules were of the same Kingston series.

Drives

To need less discs for backup I bought an LG BlueRay burner, the LG BH10LS38. This burner costs 78 EUR these days.

Graphics Card

And again I replaced my graphics card. 🙂 This time to a HIS 6950 IceQ X Turbo 2-GB. This card worked 85% faster than my old 6850.

HDD/SSD

In the meantime my HDD got slower and slower despite of routinely maintenance. Because SSDs were finally affordable I bought me a SAMSUNG SSD 470 (MZ5PA128) SSD with 128 GB disk space. The performance difference were enormously!

Sound Card

A friend made my mouth water with a World of Warcraft headset. This headset had a voice changer named VoiceFX on board and was only supported from the X-Fi Titanium series. Very funny feature! I also wanted it and replaced my sound card from my »Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Music« to a Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium.


11. Upgrade

HDD

At this time I streamed often videos from my PC to my ASUS O!Play HDP-R1 Mediaplayer in the living room. While this time the PC had keep run. Due to a lower energy consumption I bought a NAS (Network Attached Storage) the QNAP TS-210 and put my two 500 GB HDDs in it.

Now my PC lacked of a second hard drive for my files and games. For that reason I bought a second SSD the ADATA AS510S3-120GM-C with 120 GB disk space.

Processor

Actually my »AMD Phenom II X4 945« with 4 cores @ 3.0 GHz were enough but I wanted more and bought an AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition processor with 4 cores @ 3.4 GHz and open multiplier. With the open multiplier it’s easier to overclock the CPU because you have not to touch the Front Side Bus or Hyper Transport clock but rather you can just overclock via the CPU multiplier. The benefit here is that none other component is affected like by overclocking over the Front Side Bus oder Hyper Transport Clock. But, I never overclocked it. 🙂

Case

My PC was already quiet with the Sharkoon and AeroCool fans but I wanted more quieter. So I gone away of a extremely illuminated case and bought and replaced the front, CPU and rear fan with a 120mm beQuiet! Silent Wings 2 (now Pure Wings 2). I also removed the Akasa All-in-One Bay because the card reader section was broken and the Akasa was used as fan control for only 2 fans. So I connected the front and rear fan via a Y fan cable of CubiTek and let control them over the mainboard. For a discreet case illumination I used a LED bar with ca. 17 blue 5 mm LEDs that I originally bought as footwell lighting for my car.


12. Upgrade

Mainboard, Processor & RAM

For many years – since my first self made PC in 1999 – I used and supported AMD of conviction and loyalty. But since my internship 2012 at ATELCO (German wholesale and retail company for computer entertainment electronics that is now a part of the German K&M Computer GmbH) I changed totally my sight and opinion to Intel. That doesn’t mean I hate now AMD but I realized on hardware tests on customer PCs, that Intel and also Nvidia are almost still the best choices for best and pure gaming performance (05/2022). Interestingly I always had a small feeling of dissatisfaction while using AMD CPUs. With my new Intel Core i5-3570 CPU I’m really happy for the first time in my live!

The Core i5-3570 only had 4 cores @ 3.4 GHz base clock (Turbo clock 3.8 GHz), but thank to the better architecture it consumed less energy but a high performance. During my old »AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition« converts with 145 watts computing power into heat the »Intel Core i5-3570« did it with max. only 77 watts! This CPU was cooled by a Thermalright HR-02 Macho that I still got.

A new CPU also means a new mainboard – in most cases. For that reason I chose a ASRock Z77 Pro4 mainboard. I always avoided ASRock in the past because there was a time they made mainboards with outdated technology and stupid layouts. But I have to say that ASRock molted very well! The board ran very good and stable, but the fan control was a bit rough but SpeedFan smoothed it. And the best of all: My issue with the hybrid power saving is gone!

Before I still used my old 10 GB of »Kingston HyperX Blu DDR3-1333« RAM. But in fact that the RAM prices were still low in November 2012 I bought a 16 GB Kingston HyperX Genesis DDR3-1600 RAM kit. The performance boost was in benchmarks clearly visible.


13. Upgrade (last recorded)

Graphics Card

I spend some money and because some graphic cards were quite affordable in first quarter of 2013, I decided to by a new one. Basically I never played that much in the past and also the present day, but because it was a “AMD Gaming Evolved: Newer Settle Reloaded” sale with 2 free AAA games I had to take it! There was Tomb Raider (2013) and Bioshock: Infinite within the package. I already bought the Collector’s Edition of Tomb Raider so I donated the AMD version to a friend of mine.

Ah, btw. I the graphics card was a Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 XT with Boost 2-GB. 🙂 This was a bit over 44% faster thank my old »HIS HD 6950 IceQ X Turbo 2-GB«. Also the 7870 switched the GPU in a deep sleep state (AMD ZeroCore) when the monitor gone in standby. In this time the graphics card consumed just a couple milliwatts.

Mouse and Keyboard

Because it annoyed me to change the batteries of my Logitech MX 3200 Laser desktop set and I always wanted a keyboard with a nice display, I bought the Logitech G510 keyboard and Logitech G700 mouse. I know, the mouse was radio version again but could also be used with a USB cable.

Speaker

It’s whopping 12 years ago I bought new speakers for my PC. Due to a 19% discount sale on Amazon on specific Logitech products I immediately bought a new Logitech Z623 2.1 sound system – that I still got. Now it’s finally all in black. The plastic chassis of my old »YAMAHA YST-MS50« 2.1 sound system was already yellowed and the sound wasn’t good anymore either.

Headset

And as is often the case, my Roccat Kave 5.1 Surround Sound Headset broke exactly one month after the warranty expired. Roccat wasn’t even accommodating enough to help me out here. So 70 EUR is for the ass.

In May I decided to by a new one. But I was unsure if I buy a 5.1 headset again or just in stereo. Because I had read that the virtual surround sound of high end sound cards do a better job than “real” surround sound headsets. Firstly I bought a Speedlink Medusa NX 5.1 headset but was very disappointed of it, so I brought it back to the seller. After a bit of research I saw the Sennheiser PC 330 stereo headset that I immediately bought.


To 03/2020

…I kept the PC in this setup for a while. In the meantime I had also replaced some components like the graphics card that I replaced with a MSI Geforce GTX770 Twin Frozr 2GB and added two SAMSUNG SSD 850 Evo 250GB SSDs. Now I got 3 SSDs in my system. I also replaced the »Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium« with a Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Titantium Fatal1ty (that still works) because there’s a EMF shield on this sound card that protects against electro magnetic field (ripple voltage) that was inducted into the sound card before.

In addition to it I moved the complete hardware from the black Bitfenix Shinobi in the white one of my old HTPC. This case has no window anymore. Additionally I changed the cooling conception a bit, so now blowing 2 fans in the front into the case and on the top 2 fans pull the hot air out. On the CPU cooler is no fan anymore because the 2 at the top are enough. I hope it’s also in English the “chimney principle”. 🙂

I donated that PC to a friend.

On the end that was the final setup:


From 04/2020

After 9 years and some saved money I thought before the new economical crisis comes I buy a new PC. And as we can see in May 2022 there is a crisis. The inflation in Germany rises and due to the stupid COVID plandemic there’s a computer chip shortage. At the time (25th May 2022) it’s extremely hard to get a Raspberry Pi or generally a IoT device. But I had luck to get one of the last left ODROID N2+ for 118,40 EUR at Reichelt.de.

Okay, back to topic. 🙂 I bought a new Case, Mainboard, CPU, RAM and Graphics Card. Fans, Power Supply, Sound Card, SSDs and BluRay burner are the same.

I also have to say that I moved in July 2019 completely to Ubuntu Linux. Gaming is in some cases a bit tricky but it works – sometimes even better than in Windows.

Here the new setup:

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