My new computer

My 7600GS video card died a gradual death the past three months; first the DVI port went bad and then the VGA followed. I had an older 6200 (non-powered) that I could use, but that really crippled the machine. I could not find a replacement for the 7600; motherboard’s have moved from AGP to PCI-Ex, so there aren’t many AGP cards out there now.

After spending a month trying to track down a replacement card, we decided to go ahead and do a full systems upgrade. Listed below is the new computer’s specs and some of the fun I had during this upgrade.

Hardware Specs

Processor, motherboard and memory

I wanted to stick with Intel and the E8400 is very overclockable. This was the first 775 proc I’ve ever installed; it was weird to see the pins on the motherboard instead of the proc. I was a little concerned about seating the processor in the board; I really had to force it when locking it down to the mother board.

The UD3L has been very stable. It came one BIOS revision back, but that was easily fixed using Q-Flash. I just downloaded the new BIOS code to a USB key, and then Q-Flash read the update from the key — no floppy needed! 🙂

The Corsair Dominators have been extremely stable and fast. The UD3L automatically set them to 1066MHz but it set the voltage to 1.8V. The Dominators specify 2.1V so I increased the voltage manually. I didn’t see any problems at 1.8V, but to eliminate potential problems areas during the build, I set the voltage to the suggested 2.1V.

CPU Cooler

The Rosewill RCX-Z775-EX cooler is amazing! It is large (like a small high-rise building on the motherboard) but it does an incredible job keeping the processor cool. My CPU temps only rise about 3 degrees on load; I should have no problems overclocking if I want to in the future.

Also, another great feature: the cooler does not use the standard Intel pins to connect it to the motherboard. This cooler includes a mounting bracket that goes on the back of the motherboard and then the cooler screws into the mounting bracket. This cooler is going nowhere, even when I set the machine upright. 🙂

As always, I used Artic Silver instead of the included paste. And I also remembered to remove the blue backing on the cooler prior to install; some of the people on the NewEgg reviews forgot to remove the backing and then complained about high temps. 🙂

Power supply

I initially wanted to buy a Mushkin 550W power supply, but it didn’t look like it came with a floppy drive connector. So grabbed the Rosewill power supply instead. This was my first experience with multi-rail power supplies, and at this point the jury is still out on multi-rails.

I had some problems with the Rosewill PS. Sometimes, there was a delay starting the machine; I’d press the power button and then 3-5 seconds later the machine would finally power on. Also, it had problems powering my system:

  • I attached my four Antec LED (green) case fans on one of the peripheral (Molex) lines. The fans seemed to run much faster, brighter and louder than they did on my previous Antec PS.
  • I tried to attach two IDE drives to the second peripheral line but the machine wouldn’t POST. It didn’t matter which drive was added, the machine just wouldn’t POST. These drives work fine on other machines/power supplies, so I know it is not the drives.
  • I swapped the lines (fans on the weaker line, drives on the stronger line) and everything seemed fine. That really didn’t make sense, because all four rails are rated at the same 20A. The only thing I could think of is that one rails is overpowered and one rail is underpowered.

I wasn’t comfortable running my system on a power supply that may have voltage or current issues, so I decided to RMA it back to NewEgg and get the Mushkin (since I really didn’t need the floppy drive to flash the BIOS). In buying the replacement Mushkin, I went ahead and got the next larger model with higher wattage and Active PFC — oh yeah, did I mention it was modular? 🙂 When I got the Mushkin, I was amazed how nice looking the power supply was! And the cooling fan contained 4 LED lights — which just happened to be green! And that matched my case fans. 🙂

Video card

I bought the 9500GT because it was cheap and it allowed me to get a new hard drive (which is great, BTW). Unfortunately, this card is my weakest link — it is not powered and my Windows Experience is only 4.4 (4.9 games). It has handled all of my games so far, but I do see tearing at times and at one point in a game the level contained floating dust and I lost my good frame rate.

I’m looking at upgrading the card soon; just not sure what to get yet. I’m looking at an XFX 9800GT, but I’m a bit concerned about power. All of the latest cards require 24A power and my PS only has 20A rails; however, RailFusion is supposed to be able to provide up to 38A so I’m more concerned about the heat issue.

Fan Controller

Because my fans were running faster and louder, I spent $12 on the Thermaltake XController. This single 5.25″ bay peripheral allows me to dial the fan speed up and down as needed. I can have the fans run slower when I’m not doing anything major or turn them up during gaming sessions. Each knob also has LEDs which change color depending on the fan speed — Blue when running low fan speed, Green for moderate speeds and Red for fast speeds. It really made a difference in the noise of my machine and hasn’t significantly affected the cooling. Perfect! 🙂

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