I’ve been building my own PCs since around 1996. That’s about… 20 years of custom PCs! About every 3 years, I build a new one. This year, I decided to build a killer streaming rig. After much deliberation and shopping, I collected all the parts and put together my latest creation – a Skylake-based Core i7 rig! Read on to find out more!
Normally, I build a pretty “middle of the road” budget PC. I tend to drop around $500 for all the major components – motherboard, CPU, RAM, and GPU. This tends to build a pretty decent rig that lasts a few years, while not breaking my budget. This year, however, I ended up with a bit more cash in my technology budget, and I was able to justify the cost of something more “eXtreme” because of all the streaming I’m doing for our YouTube channel. My budget was thus about double what it normally is.
I hate shopping, but I LOVE shopping for computer parts. I don’t know what it is, but comparing all the little details of the various components and working up price/performance estimates makes me happy. For this build, I had a whole bunch of stuff to replace:
|Component||Old Part||New Part|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z77 Pro4||GIGABYTE GA-Z170XP-SLI|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-3470 (Ivy Bridge)||Intel Core i7-6700K (Skylake)|
|CPU Cooler||Intel Stock||Corsair Hydro Series H60|
|RAM||G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 1x8GB DDR3||HyperX Fury 4x4GB DDR4 PC2400|
|GPU||XFX FX-795A-TNFC Radeon HD 7950 3GB||MSI GeForce GTX 980TI 6GD5T OC 6GB|
The motherboard was probably the hardest to pick. I went back and forth several times trying to figure out what was different between a dozen or so models. For the most part, they all seemed pretty identical, or had totally impractical differences, like 2 gigabit NICs. Why do I need 2 gigabit Ethernet ports on a desktop PC? I’m sure that makes sense for someone, but not me. Used to be you’d pay extra for stuff like RAID or SLI support, but now it seems like that’s standard on practically every board.
The RAM was graciously provided by Kingston HyperX – we met with them at PAX South and they shipped me a SSD for evaluation. I told them I was about to do a build, and they said “sure, we’ll send you some RAM for evaluation!” Awesome, and thanks again guys!
CPU-wise I opted for the i7, and I was kind of torn between the locked multiplier and the unlocked “K” series variant. Originally, there was a way to overclock non-K series Skylake chips, but recently Intel closed that loophole. I’m not much of one for overclocking, but I decided to get it to mess around with anyway. The RAM from HyperX left me with a little bit of extra room in my budget.
I’ve never done liquid cooled before, and I had originally planned on getting a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo and air-cooling. There was quite a discount on the H60, though, and I’ve always been curious… so I pulled the trigger!
GPU-wise, I was really nervous about buying a card this expensive. Usually a $200 GPU is pretty pricey for me, but that 980ti is just such a beast! I couldn’t say no. I actually grabbed it during a Black Friday sale, and I’ve been using it in my rig since last November.
I’m keeping my old case, a Cooler Master HAF XM. I’ve got a 600W modular Cooler Master power supply as well. All my drives (several SSDs and a SSHD, plus a Blu-Ray burner) are transferring over from my previous build too.
The Big Box ‘o Stuff
It’s like Christmas! Except for computer parts! And it’s February! Crap, did I forget Valentine’s day? Crapppppp…
Here’s a shot of the inside of the case prior to the surgery:
The 980ti’s already in there, since as I mentioned I’ve had it since November. Check out the painter’s tape tags on my SATA cables – the SATA cables route through the back side of the case, and I wanted to make sure I got them in the right order after the new motherboard was in. Thus, I tagged them prior to removing them from the board.
Tearing Down & Rebuilding
Step one is to remove the old motherboard, no big deal. Just yank out the cards and all the cables, undo all the screws, and we’re good to go. I always extract my old motherboard with the CPU and RAM still mounted in it, so that I can take it as a unit to some other system if I so choose.
After that, I unpacked the new motherboard and slotted the CPU. Quick rant: I REALLY hate these new Intel sockets with all the pins. Trying to latch them makes the most HORRIFIC sound in the universe. Like nails scratching on chalkboard, but the chalkboard is a $400 chunk of really fragile silicon.
When I started work on the heatsink side of the H60. It was a little tricky to get situated properly, and at first I wasn’t sure that it was really making contact with the CPU, but a little wiggle convinced me that it was really on there good. Man, talk about what must be some really tight tolerances…
Mounting the motherboard back in the case is a snap. I love this HAF XM case, it’s really easy to get the wires routed around behind the motherboard bracket, where they don’t interfere with airflow.
The board came with this little plastic cage called a “G Connector” that holds all the case hookups (power LED, power switch, reset switch, etc) in one place. It’s a simple thing, but it is a cool differentiator.
Everything’s all connected and buttoned up, so it’s time to power on!
Check out those sweet red LEDs. Awwwww yeah. Nothing says “pimp” quite like a good red LED and a lit-up audio pathway(?)
The first POST took a solid 2 minutes. I had long enough to go “Okay, what went wrong,” get back under my desk and open the case, and start scratching my head before it finally booted.
Blargh, Windows 10!
Then the Windows logo appeared! Yay! Except then it went into a BSOD loop, with the error
INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE. Time for Google on my phone.
There were a lot of suggestions about “
INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE after motherboard upgrade” out there, but most didn’t seem to do much for me. The BIOS was configured properly, I’d plugged the OS disk into the first SATA port, and everything seemed to be reading fine.
Finally, I tried booting in safe mode, which is not easy in Windows 10. I had to go through several screens of advanced options. I thought I would install the chipset driver and maybe that’d help things out. Unfortunately, my mouse (Logitech MX518) refused to work and the Intel driver installer had no keyboard support. Drat!
However, rebooting after being in safe mode (and doing practically nothing…) worked! Hooray!
My mouse continued to behave erratically until I installed the Logitech software. I have no idea what was causing its issues, but it’s on notice now. It’s old, so I’ll probably swap it out for a newer model soon.
Testing & Conclusions
I ran some burn-in tests by using Prime95 alongside FurMark. That pegged my CPU and GPU at 100%. The GPU got to around 79 degrees Celsius before starting to throttle. The CPU, however, stayed in the high 50’s. I think that H60 is doing a great job!
With the changeover complete and the issues resolved, I may mess around a bit with overclocking the CPU. It’s running so smoothly now though that I hate to mess with it :P In the meantime, you can check out the results of the build by watching us stream on YouTube!
One final “thanks!” to Kingston HyperX for hooking me up with some of the parts for this build!