The Desktop Rebuild–Part 3

This is the last part of this series, at least for now. If you haven’t seen Part 1 and Part 2, feel free to check them out.

After I got through Part 2, I was working again. In fact, I continued to chocotaley install a few things, but for the most part, I could get productive quickly, working on writing, email, even code. I did install Visual Studio, SQL, and SSMS by hand, mostly to be sure they were the right versions I needed.

However, things weren’t great. The two monitors I showed from Part 2 were OK, but the not great. I missed my third monitor, especially when I had the second one in portrait more. I decided I needed to just upgrade things again. Not everything, just the video card.

I tried my two older cards, shown below, in various combinations, but every time I added them to the motherboard, I couldn’t boot. Remove them, and things worked again. After 4-5 tries, I thought it was time to abandon this path.

Photo Jun 27, 12 54 11 PM

I’ve been stretching my budget slightly. I’ve had a few expenses here, and while this is tax deductible, it still costs real money. I got a few recommendations for video cards, including this Quadro K1200, which looked great. However, another $300 right now would likely get my wife a bit more upset than I’d like.

I looked around the Internet a few times at night and found some other cards that would support 3 monitors, at a more reasonable cost. In the end, I decided to switch from ATI to NVidia and got a EVGA GeoForce GT740 card with two DVI and one mini HDMI out. Quite a few people had used this for workstations and it seemed to support 3 monitors well.

Photo Jun 27, 12 54 16 PM

This was a large card, and the first one I’ve ever owned that needed its own power connections. Hardware has changed. This is also a card with 4GB of memory, which is a long way from the first computer I built after college that had 4MB of main memory.

Installing the card was easy. It slipped in, I connected it to power and my desktop booted right up. Well, I had a CMOS error, but I cleared things and then it booted. The mini-HDMI cable was a tight fit, but I managed to get it in there.

One note on cables, go longer. I got a 3ft mini-HDMI to HDMI and it wasn’t quite long enough. I had to rearrange monitors a bit, which is OK, but I should have just gotten a 6 foot cable and then secured the extra.

I downloaded the NVidia driver before I’d shut down the machine, so I booted to a single monitor, installed the driver, and things worked right away. I configured things and ended up going with a 3 monitor config that has the center one in portrait mode.

Photo Jun 27, 1 00 12 PM

It’s been a few days and so far everything looks and works great. I’ve rebooted a few times, taken the desk up and down multiple times, and connections are solid, hardware is working, and I can get back to getting work done.

I ran a test using UserBenchMark and got great scores everywhere but video and then only for gaming. Overall, this is a much faster machine, and seems to work smoother. I’ve had zero issues with the hardware and Windows 10 seems more stable since the fresh installation.

2016-06-27 13_08_24-Asrock Z170 Extreme6 Performance Results - UserBenchmark

My Windows Experience Index also changed dramatically.  The old machine was a 5.1, mainly due to graphics, with the other scores in the low 8s. The new score is 7.9, with graphics holding things back, but I have a third monitor now and more CPU and RAM resources.

Summary

Here are the changes I made. Note I’m not recommending these items. I got some recommendations from Glenn Berry, and they worked well for me. This stuff changes often, so check with friends and do your own research.

Old

  • MB – Gigabyte, circa 2010-ish
  • 24GB RAM
  • 256 boot SSD, 512 SSD, 2x1TB HDD
  • ATI 512MB RAM graphics card, circa 2010
  • ATI 1MB graphics card, circa 2012
  • Corsair 600W power supply

New

ASRock Extreme6 motherboard – $109 (after rebate)

Intel i7-6700k – $269

32GB Memory – $50

Cooling fan – $30

EVGA Video – $110

That’s $620 for a fairly substantial upgrade.

I’m pretty happy for now, and I suspect this will last for some time. If I change anything, it will be adding another graphics card because I need video stuff (or I buy Doom 4) and getting a larger power supply.

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2 Responses to The Desktop Rebuild–Part 3

  1. rsterbal says:

    You are lucky to have Glenn Berry’s ear. I think my next machine will be somewhat like yours, but I like processing video and store hundreds of gigabytes of photos, so my hard drives will be larger.

    In a VM world would you like to have more RAM?

    Have you ever tried to have your portable device act as a secondary screen?

  2. way0utwest says:

    More RAM, interesting. I had 24GB before, which seemed to run 2 SQL based VMs (1 8GB, 1 4GB) and 2 GB Linux VM just fine with no slowdown on the host. I went to 32 because I didn’t want 16 and the cost between 24 and 32 was like $30-40. No reason to mess around. I am likely to have 3-4 VMs always running, so we’ll see how this works, but I have 2 slots free so I could go to 48GB for another $75 or 64 for $140.

    I’ve never had my iPad or laptop as a second screen for the desktop. I have connected to VMs on the laptop from the desktop, or from the laptop to the desktop, but that’s it. I have 3 large screens, usually because I am looking at a few things at a time and sometimes want another screen for Spotify/Twitter/video/whatever.

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